iPhone 13 Pro And Pro Max Review: You Couldn’t Possibly Take A Bad Photo

iPhone 13 Pro And Pro Max Review: You Couldn’t Possibly Take A Bad Photo
Image: Apple
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I’ve now spent a few days using the iPhone 13 Pro and Pro Max, and I just have to make one thing clear before you start reading this review: these phones have no business being this good.

Apple’s iPhone 13 range hit shelves in Australia on Friday, but there’s too much to unpack across all four phones, so this review will focus on the two that make you feel like quitting your day job and becoming a full-time photographer. For a review of the iPhone 13 and iPhone 13 mini, head over here.

I Have A Bone To Pick With The Team Behind The iPhone 13 Pro Max

The iPhone 13 Pro Max is absolutely a kick-ass phone, but I’ve got some beef with its design: it’s simply too big.

The iPhone 13 Pro weighs in at 204 grams and the iPhone 13 Max is 240 grams.

The iPhone 13 Pro is 146.7mm×71.5mm×7.65mm and the iPhone 13 Pro Max is a whopping 160.8mm×78.1mm×7.65mm.

Both devices are thicker and weigh more than their immediate predecessors.

Carrying it and using it to text, swipe or even hold up to your ear to talk, the iPhone 13 Pro Max is just way too big and weighs more than is comfortable to hold. It’s a shame, because it ruins the entire experience of the photographic beast that is the iPhone 13 Pro Max.

I just wish my opinion on the device wasn’t tainted before I took it for a test drive, because the iPhone 13 Pro Max camera setup is phenomenal. Let’s take a look.

The iPhone 13 Pro And Pro Max Camera

Both phones vary in size, price and battery life, but they both pack the same camera setup. There’s also feature parity across all four phones.

Camera With 3 New Lenses

There is a new wide lens with larger pixels – it’s got 1.9 micron pixels, so even more light lands. The ultrawide is a new lens and a new sensor with variable focus for macro shots (more on that below). And the telephoto lens is another new lens – the largest one to feature in an iPhone. The iPhone 12 Pro packed 2x zoom, the iPhone 12 Pro Max boasted 2.5x and the new iPhone 13 Pro and Pro Max have 3x to let you get heaps closer to the subject.

Highlights of the exceptional camera are better low light performance, better segmentation and a Night Mode that kicks absolute butt. Night Mode is now supported on all three of the cameras.

iPhone 13 Pro Max review Night Mode pic 3
Image: Asha Barbaschow
iPhone 13 Pro Max review Night Mode pic 1
Image: Asha Barbaschow
iPhone 13 Pro Max review Night Mode pic 2
Image: Asha Barbaschow

The Power Of Macro

Thanks to the updated ultrawide lens, macro has enabled us to push even closer to subjects.

This opens up something you couldn’t do before – you can zoom right in on your subject and the iPhone will automatically change the lens to capture details you just couldn’t have captured before.

The camera swapping lenses takes some getting used to, however, and often happens just as you’re about to hit capture.

This feature isn’t just available for stills; macro applies to video, it applies to slow motion and it applies to time lapse shots.

iPhone 13 Pro Max review macro
Image: Asha Barbaschow

A Shout Out To Photographic Styles And Cinematic Mode

It would be doing the iPhone 13 Pro Max an injustice by neglecting Photographic Styles and Cinematic Mode. (We discuss these features further in the iPhone 13 review).

Photographic Styles is a new feature that allows you to play around with the style of photos you want to take. Think filters but before you take the photo – and you can’t revert it back to an ‘original’.

It allows you to decide on the default ‘feel’ of your pics, with options to modify the contrast and vibrancy, and play around with warm and cool levels.

photographic styles
Image: Asha Barbaschow

Cinematic Mode, meanwhile, is a video feature. It builds on the introduction last year of Dolby Vision and allows you – either while you’re filming or in post-production – to determine the focus of the scene. You can select what gets the focus with a tap of the person or object, thanks to the two lenses, to create a depth map.

Apple is basically pushing this experience as democratising cinematography.

Both phones have Portrait Lighting with six effects: natural, studio, contour, stage, stage mono and high‑key mono. Live Photos and Panoramic modes still exist, and the shots you can take are more vibrant, to say the least.

ProRes Ready, Not ProRes Functioning

When the iPhone 13 range was unveiled, one feature, in particular, that gained a lot of attention was ProRes, but it won’t be available on all models or even in your hands just yet.

ProRes is an advanced video format used widely in the film and television industries to offer higher colour fidelity and less compression. In the iPhone 13, this is possible via the new camera and advanced video encoders and decoders powered by the A15 chip.

The iPhone 13 Pro Max is ProRes ready, so this iPhone 13 Pro Max review can’t give you what you want on ProRes.

The Other Features

ProMotion

ProMotion has been on the iPad for a few years now, but Apple has finally brought it to the iPhone.

After reviewing both the iPhone 13 Pro and Pro Max, it’s clear they both adjust refresh rates depending on what you’re doing. This means at every opportunity at rest, the iPhone tries to preserve battery life and as soon as the display is touched, it gets a boost. It’s capable of 120Hz a second (great for game play) and drops to 10Hz to preserve battery life. But it also means video can be watched back at the frame rate it was recorded.

Same Look And Feel

The phones have the same squared off look as the iPhone 12 devices. The stainless steel sides are glossy, and the iPhone 13 Pro and Pro Max come in graphite, gold, silver or Sierra blue. The notch is also 20% smaller.

You already know how I feel about the weight.

On the inside, the iPhone 13 Pro and Pro Max pack an A15 Bionic chip. The A15 means 6‑core CPU with two performance cores and four efficiency cores, 4‑core GPU and a 16‑core Neural Engine. Basically, it allows the phone to perform really well.

They also boast more power-efficient components, a larger battery and power optimisations.

After seven hours, at full charge, full brightness, full volume and streaming straight from Amazon Prime, the iPhone 13 Pro Max had 34% battery left while the Pro only had 12% left, and it died not long after. The iPhone Pro Max was basically factory standard, while the Pro was logged into every app I use, receiving all notifications and performing the standard Apple iPhone background tasks, so I feel this is a more realistic glance at the battery life.

Apple claims the iPhone 13 Pro will last up to one-and-a-half hours longer in a day than iPhone 12 Pro, and iPhone 13 Pro Max will last up to two-and-a-half hours longer in a day than iPhone 12 Pro Max.

Both the iPhone 13 Pro and Pro Max made it through the day playing some Candy Crush, scrolling Instagram, watching too many TikToks and taking a handful of photos. But when you’re pressure testing Cinematic Mode and streaming video, you can drain the battery real quick.

They both charge quickly enough, too. As an iPhone lifer, the only issue is the USB-C connection that the included charging cable comes with, adding another cable to the mix.

The caveat with this review is that they’re both brand new devices, so you’d hope the battery would be capable of going an entire day without reaching for a charge or switching on low power mode.

Stay tuned for an in-depth hit on the battery life across all four iPhones.

1TB Is Ridiculous

Both the iPhone 13 Pro and iPhone 13 Pro Max come in 128GB, 256GB, 512GB and 1TB storage options. I couldn’t possibly imagine reaching 1TB, but if you make a dozen videos a day, you might.

new phones
Image: Apple

The Verdict?

In 2015, I opted for the larger of the two devices — the iPhone 6 Plus — and I’ve never returned to a smaller screen. Before the iPhone 13 Pro and Pro Max landed in my hands, I was assuming I’d choose the Max to be my every day phone. But I was wrong.

Both phones are brilliant, and the larger screen on the Pro Max allows you to be convinced you’re a professional photographer. But it’s just not made for someone 5’1” whose hands are in proportion.

I can’t hold it without feeling like I need to use two hands and it definitely won’t fit in the pockets of women’s jeans. I don’t feel the phone is secure when I’m running and, because I have to hold it constantly, I feel like I’m about to drop a phone that is actually worth more than my car.

Besides, the iPhone 13 Pro can do everything the Pro Max can do. At the end of the day, this is a phone and not a camera.

After spending a few days with all four iPhones, my favourite is the iPhone 13 Pro, but the battery life on the iPhone 13 is better and the camera (if you’re not a camera nut) is more than fine, and that’s enough for the flagship to come in solid second place. Third is the iPhone 13 Pro Max, which leaves the mini to sit at fourth.

And that is the level of nitpicking I’ve had to go to when it comes to reviewing and ranking the iPhone 13 range.

iPhone 13 Pro And iPhone 13 Pro Max Pricing

Now the review is out of the way, it’s time for the brutal truth that is the Aussie dollar.

iPhone 13 Pro

From Apple’s website, the iPhone 13 Pro will set you back $1,699 for the 128GB model, $1,869 for the 256GB, $2,219 for the 512GB model and $2,569 for the 1TB model.

To get the iPhone 13 on a plan with TelstraOptus or Vodafone, head over here to choose the right one for you.

iPhone 13 Pro Max

From Apple’s website, the iPhone 13 Pro Max costs a cool $1,849 for the 128GB model, $2,019 for the 256GB, $2,369 for the 512GB model and $2,719 for the 1TB model.

To get the iPhone 13 mini on a plan with TelstraOptus or Vodafone, the pricing can be found here.