The iPhone 13 Pro has an automatic macro mode but getting the best close-up photos tends to require a bit more effort than simply aiming and snapping the picture. Anyone that has played around with a DSLR camera and a macro lens knows how challenging it can be to get everything lined up just right and tweak the settings while maintaining focus, even when using the best gear.
Apple’s iPhone 13 series saw big upgrades to photo quality. The main camera of every size and model received the improvements that were reserved for the iPhone 12 Pro Max in 2020. That means sensor-shift stabilization, a larger image sensor, and a wider aperture are found in all four models. The iPhone 13 Pro series includes a 3 times telephoto and, for the first time, the ultra-wide camera is graced with autofocus, allowing the camera to get sharper photos, helping dramatically with extreme close-ups.
Both iPhone 13 Pro models have macro capability, allowing the camera to focus on items that are very close to the lens. With the iPhone 13 Pro Max, and even with the slightly smaller sized iPhone 13 Pro, the body of the phone can block a large amount of light which makes it harder for the camera to focus and hurts image quality. Of course, it’s possible to move further away and tap the ‘1x’ or ‘3x’ button to zoom in. However, that actually uses a digital zoom and Apple hasn’t mastered that technology to the degree that Google and Samsung have.
For the best photo, stay on the ‘0.5x’ setting and just get closer, adjusting lights, or moving the camera and subject to avoid shadows as much as possible. Apple added the option to show a macro icon in the lower-left corner when the camera detects the subject is very close. Tapping the flower icon switches macro mode off, so it shouldn’t be touched when it appears if the plan is to focus close to the lens. This feature is most useful when taking a photo with an intentionally blurred foreground for creative effect. For a macro shot, it’s possible to get even closer than Apple’s stated 2-centimeter minimum focus distance if time is invested in getting everything just right. While the edges might blur, the center can be held sharp, even closer than 1.5 centimeters.
iPhone 13 Pro Macro & Lighting
When using macro mode on the iPhone 13 Pro and Pro Max, lighting the subject can be difficult since the phone is so close, potentially casting a shadow on the subject. The flash helps when shooting macro videos and cupping a hand or curling some paper around the end of the phone reflects more light. Unfortunately, using the flash with photos can be frustrating. Apple apparently didn’t consider the need for flash with macro photos and the results are often overly bright and blurry. Moving back an inch or so helps, although that then negates the value of the macro.
There are other ways to get light onto the subject, including backlighting. Using a piece of paper or a mirror to reflect light below the camera can help. A clip-on LED ring flash accessory, which is quite affordable, can also make a huge difference, providing even lighting from all around the subject. The Halide app provides a bit more control of macro and tends to manage the flash better than Apple’s camera in macro mode. While it takes time and patience to get close-up photos of some items, the best approach to taking good iPhone 13 Pro or Pro Max macro photos is to choose the ultra-wide camera setting, and then experiment with different angles and lighting.
Next: How The iPhone 13 Pro Max’s Cameras & LiDAR See The World
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