Please don’t say I’m arrogant because what I say is true. I am the European champion, so…I think I’m a special one.

Legendary football manager Jose Mourinho made “the Special One” a special term when he gave a press conference in 2004. He gave the term a meaning that went well beyond the words in it. The Special One henceforth was not just written in capitals but also referred to someone or something that was more than just special – it was used to refer to something that not everyone would like but whose quality could not be denied, even by its critics.

xiaomi 13 pro review

The Xiaomi 13 Pro is the Special One of phone cameras. It is that simple. Not everyone is going to like it. But finding actual fault with it is a difficult task.

Xiaomi 13 Pro Cameras: There’s a lot of Leica in the specs

The Xiaomi 13 Pro has been broadly positioned as a phone designed for photographers. That is a very bold claim in an era when phones are being identified more with photography than “regular” cameras. There are many phone cameras right now that would give your regular point-and-shoot camera a good run for its money in terms of image quality. The iPhone is incredibly consistent with realistic colors and the Lord of videos, and the Pixel series uses computational photography to add details that most cameras miss. Samsung’s Galaxy S series has made high-quality 10x zoom a thing, even on phones. So what is so special about the Xiaomi 13 Pro?

Some would say the tag of Leica, a legendary name in photography and the favorite camera brand of many photographers, makes the Xiaomi 13 Pro special. It is certainly a huge name to be associated with. But then we have seen Leica on phones before (from Huawei from 2016-2022), and big phone brands are not always synonymous with great photography, as Motorola’s experience with Hasselblad taught us. Just having a label or a few filters is not enough – the phone has got to feel as if it has a strong element of the camera brand associated with it.

What makes the Xiaomi 13 Pro special is the sheer level of Leica involvement. All three cameras on the back of the phone come with Leica’s “professional optical lenses.” But that’s not all – there are two photographic Leica styles with different color signatures, four special portrait modes inspired by Leica, four Leica-specific filters for taking and editing pictures, and six Leica photo frames.

xiaomi 13 pro design

There is some serious camera hardware on board as well. The Xiaomi 13 Pro is the first smartphone in India to come with a one-inch sensor, the Sony IMX 989, with Xiaomi’s Hyper OIS for greater stability. The phone is also the first to come with a “floating” telephoto lens with OIS that has 3.2x optical zoom and 70x digital zoom, but thanks to a “focal shift” feature, it has a focus range of 10 cm to infinity. Rounding off the Leica troika at the back is an ultrawide sensor with a 115-degree field of view. All three camera sensors on the back are 50 megapixels each, shades of the Xiaomi 12 Pro. The selfie camera in front is a 32-megapixel one but has no Leica flavoring.

In short, you are getting a lot of Leica for your money, and unlike in other devices, this time, it comes parked on top of perhaps the best camera hardware in the smartphone market.

Xiaomi 13 Pro Camera Performance: There’s a lot of Leica here as well

xiaomi 13 pro camera

All that hardware and software come together to deliver some outstanding photography from the three cameras on the back, especially if you are a Leica fan. You get two photographic styles – Leica Authentic, which focuses on realistic colors, and Leica Vivid, which slightly boosts saturation levels. The difference between them is subtle – Vivid will brighten up some colors but is not going to give you the kind of hyper-saturated shots that you get from many Android flagships. We went with Leica Authentic for most of our snaps. And just like in Leica cameras, we found that the color signature by default favored darker shades a little, making them somehow appear a little richer – something which really leaped out at us in black and white shots taken with the camera. The Xiaomi 13 Pro is also impressively quick in shooting as well as processing snaps – a task at which some flagships can lag sometimes.

The one-inch sensor delivers very good photographs, with plenty of detail and typical pleasant-but-still-realistic Leica colors. It might not seem too different from snaps taken by other flagships in normal light conditions, but it comes into its own as darkness descends. We got some very good low-light pictures with the main camera, with not much lens flare and very low noise. Best of all, the Xiaomi 13 Pro does not try to light up darkness or deliver yellowish, warm snaps at night. You do get slightly rich colors, and detail levels are very impressive, but none of it seems “manufactured” by software, as is the case with many of its competitors.

Xiaomi 13 Pro Camera Performance: The floating telephoto lens is special

xiaomi 13 pro camera review

The real star of the camera show, according to us, however, is the “floating telephoto” lens. The 3.2x optical zoom is very handy, and while the 70x digital zoom is of limited use beyond 20x, the changing focal lengths make this one of the most versatile lenses we have seen on a phone camera. You can actually use it as a sort of substitute for a macro lens, as you can get up to 10cm close and then hit the 3.2x optical zoom to get a really close-up snap of a subject. Yes, the ultrawide sensor lets you get comparatively closer (5 cm), but it does not have OIS, which makes telephoto a great option for macro stills and videos.

The floating lens also gives you portrait photo options, four of which have been specially designed by Leica – a 35 mm black and white, a 50 mm swirly bokeh, a 70 mm portrait, and a 90 mm soft focus. The 35 mm Leica black and white is going to be the favorite of the hardcore Leica fan brigade as it adds a rich Leica shade to images taken by it. And while it is grouped in the Portrait section, it actually takes excellent street shots as it is as wide as a classical 35 mm camera. Among the other options, the 50 mm swirly bokeh is likely to be preferred by those who lose classic portraits, while those wanting the subject to be slightly closer would prefer the 70 mm option. The soft focus 90 mm option will likely appeal only to those who want somewhat artistically blurred snaps. The point to note, however, is that the results in each mode are high quality and not just token effects. We can see people not ever moving away from the 35 mm black-and-white mode – it is that good.

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Xiaomi 13 Pro Camera Review: Matching a one-inch point and shooter

The ultrawide is a decent snapper, too, and handles colors and details well. At the same time, the 32-megapixel selfie takes very good selfies with good colors and detail (but no Leica options whatsoever, in portrait or other modes). Still, both those cameras are relatively minor players in comparison to the main sensor and the floating telephoto. The phone takes very good videos, too, with support for 8K videos and Dolby Vision, but there is no Leica touch here, which is not really surprising when you consider that Leica is not known for its video prowess. The front-facing camera also does not support 4K videos, which might disappoint some. It is in shooting stills, however, that the Xiaomi 13 Pro stands out as perhaps being one of the best in its zone.

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Not everyone will like the typical Leica color signatures or the black-and-white mode on the device, but it is quite in a league of its own. The four special filters (again, we like the two black and white ones the best) and the special Leica frames are the perfect icings on the Leica photographic cake. Truth be told, even if you stick to the normal modes and use that one-inch sensor, you will get amazing snaps. We would say the performance is close to what we would get from a 1-inch point and shooter in Sony’s RX100 series, and that is saying something!

Xiaomi 13 Pro hardware and performance: Pretty much a classic flagship

The cameras might grab all the headlines in the Xiaomi 13 Pro, but there is much more to the phone beside them. As we covered in our preview of the device, the Xiaomi 13 Pro is an out-and-out flagship in every sense of the word. You get a premium design with a curved glass front, aluminum frame, ceramic back, and a very distinct camera unit with Leica branding. The phone features an outstanding 6.73-inch AMOLED display with 2K resolution, exceptional brightness, and a totally adaptive 120 Hz refresh rate. The Xiaomi 13 Pro runs on the current Android flagship chip, the Qualcomm Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 processor, and is backed by 12 GB of LPDDR5X RAM and 256 GB of UFS 4.0 storage. A 4820 mAh battery keeps the phone ticking and comes with support for 120W wired fast charging, 50W wireless fast charging, and even 10W reverse charging. The phone runs on Android 13 with MIUI 14 on top of it.

xiaomi 13 pro specs

There is no official dust and water resistance in the Indian version of the phone (the global version has an IP 68 rating), and some might find it a little heavy at 229 grams. Still, the Xiaomi 13 Pro radiates premiumness in hand and on the spec sheet.

It performs like a flagship too. With that processor, display, and speakers that support Dolby Vision and Dolby Sound, we got a great gaming experience, and viewing shows and videos was a treat too. The phone easily plays titles like Genshin Impact and Call of Duty at the highest settings without any lags or frame drops and does not heat up either. The speakers are not the loudest we have heard, but the audio quality is excellent, and the display is right on par with the one on the Samsung S23 Ultra. 5G works smoothly out of the box.

xiaomi 13 pro battery

The battery will see off close to a day of heavy usage if you keep the resolution maxed out and will get through a day easily if you bring down the resolution to FHD+. The 120W charger in the box will charge the phone from 0 to 100 in about 20 minutes, so even running out of battery is an extremely temporary inconvenience. And while MIUI might not be everyone’s cup of tea, we had no problems with MIUI 14 with its relatively cleaner interface and zero ads. This being a photography-first device, we appreciated the wide variety of shooting and image editing options that came preloaded on the phone. We just wish Xiaomi could work out a way of showing previews of the image in the filters themselves instead of making us choose a filter to see its impact on an image.

Xiaomi 13 Pro Review Verdict: Is it worth purchasing?

The Xiaomi 13 Pro is available in a single 12 GB/ 256 GB variant at a price of Rs 79,999. That puts it right in the premium flagship mix alongside the likes of the Galaxy S23 and the iPhone 14. We would, however, not consider it to be a real competitor to those devices because it comes with photography features that no one else has – the one-inch sensor, the floating telephoto lens, the Leica effects, and all. In fact, we would consider the Pixel 7 Pro to be its closest competitor in terms of photographic spirit. At around Rs 84,000, it comes with a relatively less powerful processor, much slower charging (with no charger at all), and a display that’s not in the same class. What makes it a worthy rival is the fact that it, too, comes with a special stress on photography, although in its case, it is the software doing the magic more than the hardware.

xiaomi 13 pro review verdict

Whether you should invest in the Xiaomi 13 Pro really depends on how much you value the photographic side of it. Yes, it packs in some very formidable hardware, and it is well-crafted too. Still, suppose it is a purely Android flagship experience that you are seeking. In that case, the likes of the OnePlus 11 and the iQOO 11 will give you the same processor, very good displays, decent cameras, and super fast charging at much lower prices. And yes, video creators will still get much better video from an iPhone 14.

So why should one purchase the Xiaomi 13 Pro? The answer is simple: for great photography. Or, to be more accurate: Leica photography. As we said in our preview, this is the first phone that we have been equally at ease while using as a flagship phone as well as a high-class camera. Although it is unlikely to be everyone’s cup of tea – spec chasers will think it is too expensive for the specs, stock Android users will scoff at MIUI – it will definitely appeal to the crowd that knows and appreciates a Leica, which includes most photographers we know. Even that price tag of Rs 79,999 would not be considered too high for a Leica smart camera running Android. The Xiaomi 13 Pro is simply the most Leica-ble phone ever made.

We can almost see it sitting in a press conference, muttering apologetically, “Please don’t say I am arrogant because what I say is true. I am the first phone in this market with a one-inch sensor. I am the first global phone with Leica professional optical lenses. I am a photography champion, so…I think I am a Special One.

It is.

Buy Xiaomi 13 Pro

  • Perhaps the best cameras on a phone
  • Brilliant display
  • Smooth operation
  • Premium design
  • Super fast charging
  • Competitors offering the same chipset at lower prices
  • No Leica features or 4K support on selfie camera
  • No official IP rating
Review Overview

Xiaomi 13 Pro review: It packs in flagship-level hardware. Still, will that be enough for it to make its presence felt as a "photographer's phone" in a market where users already have the likes of the iPhone, the Galaxy S series, and the Pixel series?

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