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iPhone 13 Mini cameras quick look: A big lead; check verdict now

iPhone 13 Mini cameras: The iPhone 13 Mini makes the most out of the sensor-shift stabilization system.
iPhone 13 Mini cameras: The iPhone 13 Mini makes the most out of the sensor-shift stabilization system. ((HT Tech/Amritanshu Mukherjee))

iPhone 13 Mini cameras: With an upgraded main sensor, the iPhone 13 Mini takes a big leap. More software tricks make this phone a photographer’s delight.

Should you upgrade to an iPhone 13 Mini? We are almost on the verge for delivering our take - it will happen soon. So far, the new iPhone 13 Mini has proven its worth as a reliable pocket companion, showing us better battery life and the trademark “iPhone performance”. But what impresses us even more is the ihone 13 camera, which has received beefier upgrades over the iPhone 12 Mini. Barring the iPhone 13 Pro Max, it is the iPhone 13 Mini that leaves us highly impressed.

Apple gave the standard iPhone 13 duo the most basic-seeming camera upgrades on paper. However, the little improvements go on to make a big difference and you will notice them if you are coming from an iPhone 11 or older. And, we aren’t hinting at just the new Cinematic mode -- the basic image quality has gone up a notch (Get it? The pun? The notch? Never mind).

iPhone 13 Mini camera at a glance

Similar to the last year’s model, the iPhone 13 Mini sports not one, but two cameras at the back. The main wide camera is rated at 12-megapixels with an aperture of f/1.6 and gets the new sensor-shift optical image stabilisation system. The second 12-megapixel camera is of the ultra-wide type, with a 120-degrees field of view and an aperture of f/2.4. Both of these are new image sensors in comparison to the iPhone 12 Mini cameras.

iPhone 13 Mini still photography

The iPhone 13 gets sensor-shift stabilization and larger image sensors.
The iPhone 13 gets sensor-shift stabilization and larger image sensors. (HT Tech)

With the larger new sensors in place, the iPhone 13 Mini is doing a very fine job in daylight. Under the bright sun, the main wide camera keeps on consistently shooting closer-to-natural photos. There are ample details and sharpness, nice exposure control, and fast focusing. The near-accurate white balance is a bliss for shutterbugs who care for colours.

However, the standard mode continue to have those signature yellow cast iPhones have been notorious for. On the iPhone 13 Mini, the Photographic Styles feature offsets that by some margin. For all the scenarios where the Standard mode wasn’t as lively as I wanted, switching to High contrast or Vibrant got me the results I wanted -- all while keeping the white balance and other aspects untouched. I found the “Cool” style helpful in eliminating the yellow case indoors.

When it comes to low light, the iPhone 13 Mini benefits the most. The larger sensor coupled with the new stabilisation system ensures stable yet clear photos without losing colour consistency. I found the camera bumping up the saturation during evening hours to make the skies look more blue than it actually was. Night photos look exceptional with that natural appearance -- just the right amount of exposure, correct white balance, and well controlled noise. Long exposure shots now have lesser waiting period. All of Apple’s AI algorithms (Deep Fusion and HDR) working in the background make the iPhone 13 Mini one of the most reliable smartphone camera systems I have seen in a while (excluding the iPhone 13 Pro Max).

iPhone 13 Camera Samples

Portrait mode photos are fine as long as you have ample lighting on the subject. The subject separation is fine and the artificial bokeh seem believable. What remains unnatural though are the darker background Portrait modes.

The front camera isn’t as capable as the main cameras but you can still get good looking selfies as long as you have ample lighting on your face. Selfies taken during evening hours against the sky throws up some grains and dampens the details.

iPhone 13 Mini videography

The biggest talking point in iPhone 13 series’ videography is the new cinematic mode. As advertised, the mode essentially brings Portrait mode-esque blurred background in videos, from both front and rear cameras. It works nicely as long as you have a simpler background with a lot of depth behind the subject. On busier backgrounds, the subject separation is erratic and can often eat up your edges of the hair, arms and clothes. That said, when the conditions are right, the Cinematic mode gives out cinematic style close up shots. This is mostly a gimmick and unless you vlog a lot, this is seldom of use.

iPhone 13 Mini 
iPhone 13 Mini  (HT Tech)

As for the standard video modes, the iPhone does what it does best, i.e., shoot video in exceptional quality unseen on other smartphones. We put the camera to test in both day and night conditions, in all the 4K modes as well as 1080p modes. And in all the conditions, the iPhone videos had natural white balance, great exposure controls, and impressive noise suppression. The new stabilisation system seems to make life easier if you have shaky hands like me. The lens flare still exists and so does the occasional yellow cast in indoor conditions, both of which require photographer skills to eliminate.

iPhone 13 Mini cameras quick verdict:

iPhone 13 Mini 
iPhone 13 Mini  ((HT Tech/Amritanshu Mukherjee))

With the new image sensor, updated stabilization system, smarter software algorithms, and an improved ISP on the A15 Bionic, the iPhone 13 Mini is a more reliable camera system to carry around. The Photographic Styles feature gives this phone an unprecedented advantage over its rivals from Samsung and OnePlus. I was happy to have control over the overall look of my still photos without messing up the skin tones and other key aspects.

Video performance easily seems second to none in the world of smartphones. The Cinematic mode is fun to play with it’s 1080p output coupled with the rough subject separation classifies it best as a gimmick. The front camera is the only place where the upgrades are absent and it shows the ageing hardware’s limitation.

To sum it up, the iPhone 13 Mini has one of the best, if not the best, camera systems we have seen on a smartphone under 1 lakh.

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