- The Xiaomi 13 Pro is Xiaomi’s latest flagship and is part of the tie-up between Xiaomi and legendary camera manufacturer, Leica.
- The phone boasts top-notch hardware worthy of an Android flagship, but the real stars of the show are the three cameras on the back tuned by Leica and with Leica lenses.
- The Xiaomi 13 Pro is being positioned as a phone for photographers and comes loaded with a number of shooting options. But will that and the hardware on board convince the serious snapper crowd to cough up the premium price tag it comes with?
Camera brands and phone brands have always had a rather rocky relationship. When cameras first appeared on phones, most camera enthusiasts and professional photographers, egged on by camera brands, dismissed them as a fad that was not even a patch on the “real thing” (DSLRs and point and shooters, not Coca-Cola). Fast forward to the current day, and not only have phone cameras literally made point-and-shoot cameras extinct, but they are now challenging DSLRs and mirrorless cameras, the “real things” of not so long ago. But they have always been phones with cameras. Leica and Xiaomi seem to be trying to turn that equation on its head with the Xiaomi 13 Pro, which actually is a lot of camera and a lot of phone.
Xiaomi 13 Pro: Camera first
Xiaomi and Leica have described the Xiaomi 13 Pro as a “phone for photography.” That is a new product segment, as most phones with good cameras – the Pixel 7 pro, the iPhone 14 Pro, the Galaxy S23 Ultra, and others – have mainly been marketed as great phones, with the cameras being a reason for their greatness. Their quality has been frequently hailed as “DSLR-like” (whether it actually is so is a debate for another day), but the cameras have still been part of a bigger package.
With the 13 Pro, Xiaomi and Leica are trying to turn that proposition on its head. The Xiaomi 13 Pro is being positioned unabashedly as a camera first, but with the convenience of a smartphone form factor and interface. The pricing is premium, but then Leica is a premium brand. “It is not just a premium smartphone; it is also a great Leica camera,” was how Anuj Sharma, CMO of Xiaomi India, described it. “Think of the camera specs, think of a Leica camera pricing, and then add the smartphone element to it.”
Xiaomi 13 Pro: A lot of Leica
He does have a point. There is a fair bit of Leica in the Xiaomi 13 Pro, way more than the Hasselblad in the OnePlus 11 (there, we said it!). It begins with the Leica Vario-Summicron 23 mm lens with f/1.9 aperture on the massive one-inch IMX 989 sensor on the main 50-megapixel camera with Hyper OIS on the back of the phone and then hits another level with the 75 mm floating telephoto Leica lens on the 50-megapixel telephoto camera, and ends with the 14 mm Leica lens on the 50-megapixel ultrawide camera.
That high-class one-inch sensor with Sony hardware and Leica tuning would be the deal-maker for many photography enthusiasts, but the other sensors are no pushovers either. There are plenty of Leica-infused shooting options in there, perhaps the most spectacular being in Portrait Mode, where the Leica magic comes to the fore with four modes with what Leica calls the Master Lens system coming into play. You get to choose from four styles – the classic 35 mm black and white lens, the 50 mm swirly bokeh lens, the 75 mm portrait lens, and the 90 mm soft focus lens. Leica has been legendary for its black-and-white photography, so it is hardly surprising that the 35 mm black-and-white lens option stands out.
The cameras actually come with two color styles, too – Leica Authentic Look and a Leica Vibrant Look, with the former being more realistic and the latter adding a bit more pop to colors for those who like those (many do!). There is even a night portrait mode and 3.1x optical zoom on that telephoto sensor. In short, you are actually getting pretty much what you would from a compact camera with a one-inch sensor, such as Sony’s famous RX100 series.
Xiaomi 13 Pro: You want an Android flagship hardware and design? You got it!
You are ALSO getting what you would from a premium smartphone. If Leica has added a lot of camera expertise to the Xiaomi 13 Pro, Xiaomi has pretty much thrown the hardware kitchen sink to accompany that camera setup. You get a 6.73-inch curved AMOLED display with 2K resolution and with a 120 Hz refresh rate that can switch all the way from 1 Hz to 120 Hz depending on the content on display.
The phone is powered by the current flagship favorite, the Qualcomm Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 chipset, with 12 GB LPDDR5x RAM and 256 GB of UFS 4.0 storage. There is a 4820 mAh battery keeping the phone ticking with support for 120W wired charging and 50W wireless charging, as well as 10W reverse charging. There is a 120W charger in the box as well. The phone runs on Android 13, topped with Xiaomi’s MIUI 14 skin. There is also a rather good 32-megapixel selfie snapper, although it gets overshadowed by all the camera goodness on the back and stereo speakers with support for Dolby sound. These are specs that would make any Android flagship proud.
The design is the flagship worthy too. Xiaomi has stepped away from the spherical camera unit on the Xiaomi 12S Ultra launched last year and has gone for a more square one. It juts out from the back, which is made of ceramic! The front is Gorilla Glass Victus, and the frame is metal. The phone is tall at 162.9 mm but is an impressive 8.38 mm thin. It weighs 229 grams but does not feel top-heavy, as some phones with large camera units do. We got the Ceramic White variant, and it radiates classy premium feels, although we rather liked the faux leather finish on the 12S Ultra, which we thought gave us more camera vibes.
Xiaomi 13 Pro: Two devices in one, and both premium ones, too
Based on our usage for a few days, the Xiaomi 13 Pro is the first device that we felt comfortable using as both a standalone camera as well as a standalone phone. The price will make many winces, but then this is a device that is targeted more at the serious photographer who appreciates a Leica experience than the casual point and snapper. Oh, and it happens to be a premium flagship phone too. Just in case you feel the need to bust benchmarks while taking a break from snapping the streets like the device’s brand ambassador, Steve McCurry. Spec merchants might quibble at the absence of a bigger zoom, but we suspect photographers will be too busy fiddling with the shooting options to notice.
Just how well it lives up to its immense promise (and price) will be revealed in our detailed review of the device. And the camera. Of course, there will be two reviews because the Xiaomi 13 Pro literally has the soul of two devices – and both premium ones – in a single frame: a proper Leica camera and a premium Android flagship.