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iPhones go cinematic

This year’s new iPhones, announced last night, have a strong focus on videography, with all models being able to record in Dolby Vision HDR and a new Cinematic Mode feature.

At Apple’s California Streaming event last night, it introduced four updates to its iPhone lineup: the 13, 13 mini, 13 Pro, and 13 Pro Max. All four models have a stronger focus on low-light photography and feature a new Cinematic Mode for more professional-looking videos.

Apple says it has extensively studied cinematography and the powerful use of rack focus to create more engaging videos. Cinematic mode on iPhone records videos of people, pets, and objects with a depth effect with automatic focus changes, so users can capture cinema-style moments even if they aren’t professional filmmakers. For creative control, the focus can be changed during and after capture, and users can adjust the level of bokeh in the Photos app and iMovie for iOS, which is coming soon to iMovie for macOS and Final Cut Pro. 

Cinematic Mode in post-production, where users can select faces they’d rather focus on after the video is shot.

This makes the iPhone 13 line-up the only smartphones on the market able to edit the depth-of-field effect in video after recording. Enabled by the A15 Bionic processor and advanced machine learning algorithms, Cinematic mode records in Dolby Vision HDR. Both models also offer HDR video recording with Dolby Vision — from capture to editing and sharing — now supported at 4K up to 60 frames per second (fps) on all cameras. Users with an iPhone 13 Pro series device will have the option to shoot video in ProRes format, as well as edit it on device. This format is popular in the advertising industry and will make shooting ad content possible from a mobile device.

Stills have also been improved, with the iPhone 13 and 13 mini having larger sensors to let in more light – geared to taking pictures in low-light situations. The new Wide camera, with 1.7 µm pixels, comes with a bigger sensor than last year, and is capable of gathering 47% more light for less noise and brighter results. Sensor-shift OIS — a technology introduced in iPhone 12 Pro Max and not found in any other smartphone — also comes to the Wide camera on all iPhone 13 models, even in the 13 mini. It stabilises the sensor instead of the lens, so shots are more steady, while the custom-designed Ultra-Wide camera with a new sensor captures images with more detail in the dark areas of photos and videos with less noise.

The iPhone 13 Pro series devices feature a new Wide camera with a larger sensor, at 1.9 µm pixels, for less noise and faster shutter speeds. Coupled with the larger ƒ/1.5 aperture, the Wide camera on the iPhone 13 Pro models offer a big improvement in low-light situations, up to 2.2x when compared to the iPhone 12 Pro, and nearly 1.5x when compared to the iPhone 12 Pro Max. 

The larger sensor on the Wide camera captures nearly 50% more light, which helps for taking better Night mode shots.

The iPhone 13 series devices also give users greater control over the artificial intelligence and image signal processing they have at hand. Photographic Styles allows users to bring their personal photo preferences to every image, while still benefitting from Apple’s multi-frame image processing. Users can create preset and customised preferences, which work across scenes and subjects and, unlike a simple filter, intelligently apply the right adjustments to different parts of the photo to ensure the important elements, like skin tones, are preserved. 

The front panel has also changed: the notch is slightly smaller than before thanks to a smaller FaceID module. The entire iPhone 13 series features Super Retina XDR OLED displays, with the iPhone 13 Pro models receiving an adaptive refresh rate 120Hz display for smoother scrolling and gameplay.

iPhone 13 Pro design

The iPhone 13 devices will likely be available in South Africa towards the end of 2021. As pricing has remained the same as last year’s devices, the expected prices of the devices are:

  • iPhone 13 mini: R12 999
  • iPhone 13: R15 999
  • iPhone 13 Pro: R21 499
  • iPhone 13 Pro Max: R23 699
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