The phones have the same boxy look as the 12 series. The stainless steel sides are shiny, and the back has one of four matte finishes: graphite, gold, silver, or Sierra blue. The Sierra Blue iPhone reads light gray in some lighting, and in another lighting, it looks like Carolina Blue from UNC Tarheels.
The notch is 20% smaller. It is not that wide, but there is still a notch. It’s fair to say that it bothers me 20% less.
Both phones are thicker and weigh more. The 13 Pro gains 15 grams, and the 13 Pro Max packs an additional 12 grams. I noticed the extra weight the most when I used the 13 Pro. Both phones have Apple’s Ceramic Shield on the front and an IP68 rating for dust and water resistance.
ProMotion on the iPhone 13 Pro is stellar.
The 13 Pro has a 6.1-inch screen, and the 13 Pro Max has a 6.7-inch. In everyday use, the displays are noticeably brighter. The displays have what Apple calls ProMotion, which means that the iPhone, for the first time, supports a high refresh rate. Depending on what is displayed on the screen, the refresh rate changes between 10 and 120 Hz. This is a similar approach that Samsung took with the Galaxy S21 Ultra. In use, the screen looks stellar. Animations look fluid, graphics crisp, and even mundane things like font preview look better.
iPhone 13 Pro and iPhone 13 Pro Max: see Apple’s largest mobile flex this year
The iPhone 13 Pro has a longer telephoto camera.
The main camera has a new sensor, the largest ever installed on an iPhone. It has a faster f1.5 aperture lens, which equates to the better light gathering. The ultrawide has a new autofocus sensor and a lens that also improves light gathering. And lastly, the telephoto camera has a new sensor and lens with a 3x longer optical zoom.
Using iPhones Pro resulted in brighter photos, but the improvement wasn’t always obvious. I also noticed that the photos had fast shutter speeds, which resulted in better freeze action, like when I took a photo of people on bikes.
Also, taking a photo in Night mode was faster and worked with the 3x telephoto camera. The iPhone 11 and 12 series had a quirk in that the camera reflected light sources. That quirk is still there on the 13 Pro and 13 Pro Max, especially if there are string lights in your shot, but overall, it’s better.
The iPhone 13 Pro cameras bring you even closer to your subject.
The 13 Pro and 13 Pro Max have a new macro mode, which kicks in automatically when you get within a few inches of the subject. To test the cameras and the Macro feature, I brought the iPhone 13 Pro Max and iPhone 13 to the Feast of the Field, part of the annual Euphoria foodie event in Greenville, South Carolina. This resulted in a delightful camera test.
The way macro photography works is that as you get closer to the subject, the camera automatically switches from the panoramic to the ultra-wide one. Now that the ultra-wide has autofocus, you can fix the focus on something that’s just an inch away.
Velvet Caviar cases avoid the common problem of iPhone cases of interfering with charging or making it more difficult than necessary.
The company offers its line of great chargers that work extremely well, but if you’re happy with their approach to charging, the case works perfectly with wireless chargers and others.
The case never gets in the way of reliable wireless charging, as it’s slim with high-quality materials, and the graphic designs don’t get in the way either.
The bottom line
Finding a phone case that mixes reliable protection with a stylish look is never easy, especially for a recently released high-tech device like the iPhone 13 Professional Max.
Velvet Caviar achieves the much sought-after feat. The designs are eye-catching and unique; you will stand out. Better yet, the quality of the case materials is there. We feel protected every day, and we don’t worry about drops or scratches, or worse.
Aside from the 3x telephoto zoom, the other big feature at play on the iPhone 13 Pro is macro photography. Normally, when you focus closely on an object, the phone loses focus and becomes blurred. It just can’t handle the focal length. The iPhone 13 Pro, on the other hand, can switch to the zoom lens to give it a very close focus on objects. This starts automatically, and while the result doesn’t always work, when it does, the results look great, with a ton of detail like stitching on a crochet piece or individual veins on a sheet.
The only downside is that since this is fully automatic, you can’t manually force the phone into macro mode, so if you’re trying to shoot macro on a moving object like a wind-blown flower, it’s easy to get kicked in and out of macro mode.
Last but not least, when it comes to photography, are low light photos. The iPhone 13 Pro has a night mode that takes effect automatically when it detects that the lighting conditions are not ideal. It works largely by increasing the automatic exposure so that a photo that could have been immediately broken will take five to seven seconds to let in more light for a better clarity image. The result is that photos taken at night and in dark rooms are much lighter than usual, with better color accuracy. There is some loss of detail and mud, but it is still an impressive result in most shots I took.
Cinematic mode is compatible with front and rear cameras. It’s a clean effect that adds movie-like blur to the background. It works best when focusing on faces, but it tends to crash with objects. You also get Portrait mode, which adds the bokeh effect to front and rear shots. It’s clean, and I ended up taking several photos outside and playing with the background.