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Home / News / iPhone 13’s Cinematic mode makes focus shifting a breeze

iPhone 13’s Cinematic mode makes focus shifting a breeze

Rack it up, Hollywood-style

Apple made a big deal of the iPhone 13 and 13 mini‘s camera system – and not just because it features the biggest sensor pixels yet on an iPhone.

More on that later, but what really grabbed our attention from Apple’s presentation was video – or more specifically Cinematic mode, which aims to recreate the “rack focus” technique used in Hollywood movies and TV shows. Put simply, rack focus is the use of in-focus and out-of-focus areas of the image to direct the viewer’s eye; by shifting sharp focus from one character to another, or to an object, a cinematographer can subtly guide the viewer’s attention.

It’s an effect you’d have struggled to reproduce on any iPhone to date, but on the iPhone 13 it’s baked right in – and it works automatically, shifting focus when it detects an on-screen face look away. You can also control it manually by tapping on the face or object you want to shift focus to in real-time. Oh, and Cinematic mode also uses Dolby Vision HDR to lend more dynamic range and colour detail to your videos. We can’t wait to give it a go and “really make those Instagram Stories sing” as Tim Cook might say.

The iPhone 13 Pro and Pro Max take things even further on the filmmaking front, with extremely high-quality ProRes footage supported, as well as the ability to manually control the bokeh levels on video (using algorithms, not optics – the bokeh effect is replicated digitally rather than achieved naturally by aperture, lens and distance).

The iPhone 13’s camera has been given a significant all-over boost, now including sensor-shift optical image stabilisation and larger sensor pixels to boost low-light performance by almost 50 percent in the wide camera. Both the ultra-wide and wide cameras remain 12MP, but chasing ever-increasing megapixel counts has never been Apple’s style. The company’s approach is rather to gradually build and perfect on the previous model’s camera – and that’s why the iPhone’s camera is consistently one of the best smartphone snappers around.

Profile image of Sam Kieldsen Sam Kieldsen Contributor


Tech journalism's answer to The Littlest Hobo, I've written for a host of titles and lived in three different countries in my 15 years-plus as a freelancer. But I've always come back home to Stuff eventually, where I specialise in writing about cameras, streaming services and being tragically addicted to Destiny.

Areas of expertise

Cameras, drones, video games, film and TV

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