Leica started a long term strategic cooperation in mobile imaging with Xiaomi, the world’s third-largest smartphone manufacturer, in 2022 with Xiaomi 12S series. Given Xiaomi’s track record on pushing the mobile technological boundaries in their recent smartphone models, this partnership should give both Leica and Xiaomi a major boost in the brand equity. The Xiaomi 13 series is the first Leica collaboration series to be made available in Singapore.
The Xiaomi 13 Pro camera system Leica “Vario-Summicron 1:19-2.2/14-75 ASPH” comprises three separate lenses: a 23mm wide-angle main camera with an ultra-large 1-inch IMX989 sensor, a 75mm floating telephoto camera, as well as a 14mm ultra-wide angle camera. Many Leica-influenced features are found in the system, like the two base shooting modes – Leica Authentic and Leica Vibrant. There are also simulations of four Leica portrait lenses – 35mm f/1.4, 50mm f/0.95, 75mm f/1.25 and 90mm f/2.2. Finally, there are also Leica filter collection available to apply to images.
When zooming from 14mm to 75mm and beyond, the lenses switch from one to another seamlessly, albeit with slight angle of view changes and colour shifts due to different sensors. And because the aperture among the three lenses vary from f/1.9 to f/2.2, which is considered quite consistent, I am able to capture great quality images across the optical range.
Exposure is generally conservative to prevent highlight clipping, and shadow areas deliver good detail. The camera system captures images that do not appear too compressed.
When it comes to computational bokeh, the Xiaomi 13 Pro achieves improvement in detecting edges but there are still some errors especially the hair and head accessories like headphones.
The camera hits a maximum hybrid zoom range of 70x, which is not as far-reaching as the 120x on the 12S Ultra. Even though the zoom range above 10x does not produce usable quality, it provides a level of versatility to the entire imaging experience, such that there is no need to compromise due to the lack of zoom reach.
A quick one-shot comparison with the Google Pixel 7 Pro and Samsung Galaxy S23+ reveals the following result.
With other built-in creative effects like magic zoom, time freeze, as well as VLOG modes with on-screen guides, creating impressive video cuts with the Huawei smartphones is a lot easier. I particularly like the Teleprompter mode where I could paste a script on the pop-up window and set the scroll speed. So essentially I can look at the display and read along while looking straight at the camera. I can also easily insert watermarks to deter image piracy, all these features without having to look for third party applications.
Besides the premium camera specs, the Xiaomi 13 Pro is in many ways a worthy flagship. It comes with IP68 water and dust protection, Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 processor, 522 PPI display supporting Dolby Vision and Pro HDR, 8K video recording, dual SIM with eSIM. The smartphone can be fully charged from 30% to 100% in 19 minutes with the 120W HyperCharge capability. The best part is that the 120W GaN charger is included in the package. Gone were the days of overnight charging, now I just charge it before going to bed.
The MIUI feels organic and responsive with subtle levels of haptic responses that make you feel the controls are mechanically operated. It also offers more customisation than most smartphone brands, like the ability to adjust the homescreen icon sizes, and choose the stock Android or MIUI control centre style. It is also intuitive enough to remove the clock display on the status bar when you have a clock widget on the homescreen.
The Xiaomi 13 Pro is an impressive smartphone to experience. Gone were the days of bloatware and ad-supported Xiaomi apps. The star of the phone is the camera system, no doubt about it. How many consumers can own an Leica imaging product? With the Xiaomi 13 series, you can now shoot artistic images processed with Leica imaging expertise. The smartphone MIUI also offers plenty of customisation to suit individual usage preferences, as well as flagship hardware performances to satisfy demanding users.
However, I am not willing to spend S$1599 for a smartphone. While the Leica camera system is impressive, photography is no longer a priority for my smartphone, but it should be good enough to help me capture the shots I want without constraints. In others words, the camera system need not be the best, but just good enough. And while the 13 Pro comes with a lot of UI customisation, they are not deal-breakers to me. I do like those additional features like the Teleprompter mode, and if I decide to do more scripted vlogs, I will probably get a Xiaomi smartphone. The 19-minute HyperCharge is insane, and the included 120W charger is versatile enough to charge laptops.