Written by 6:37 pm Science & Technology Views: [tptn_views]

Xiaomi’s 13 Ultra camera kit is more fun than it must be

As long as there have been smartphones, there have been goofy-ass mashups between phones and cameras.

We’ve had cameras that clamp to your phone or attach by magnets. We’ve had accessory lenses and shutter grips to make your phone act more like a camera. We’ve had cameras that were also form of phones. None of them have been adequate to persuade the masses, and everybody seems to have settled into an agreement that phones can just appear like phones and cameras can just piggyback in your mobile data as needed. A sane world is a just world, etc.

I used to be able to close that specific chapter of the digital photography history book when Xiaomi announced its 13 Ultra with a camera accessory kit for an additional 999 yuan (about $137, though eBay resellers are asking for around $200). “Oh ho ho!” I chuckled smugly. “Not this old chestnut again!” Six months later, the joke’s on me since it’s actually really good — it’s only a shame that the camera and kit aren’t officially sold within the US and certain never can be.

The key to this particular phone / camera mashup’s success — and I can’t overstate the importance of this feature — is that you just don’t appear like an absolute dingus using it. It’s all relatively low profile, not less than until you begin using the filter holder, but that’s on you.

At its core, the kit features a normal-looking phone case and a shutter grip that slides on while you want it and clicks into place. It’s easy to take the shutter off when you wish to use your phone like a traditional phone. The grip’s two-stage shutter connects to the camera via Bluetooth. There’s also a wrist strap attachment, and if there’s a single most underrated camera accessory, I believe it’s the standard wrist strap. I need one on every phone.

There’s a mostly ornamental screw-on lens cap and the aforementioned 67mm filter adapter. I snapped the grip into place and headed to certainly one of Seattle’s favorite tourist destinations to Do Photography for a few hours.

I once heard an outline from a mushroom forager that it’s worthwhile to “get your eyes on” while you’re on the hunt. You go to your foraging spot and begin looking, but sooner or later, one other sense kicks into gear. You start spotting the morels or whatever you’re after more easily.

In my experience, photography is like that, too. Anytime I am going right into a situation intent on Doing Photography, I’ll struggle for a bit, after which I “get my eyes on” and begin seeing higher photos. And there’s something about having a camera-shaped thing in my hand that helps me get my eyes on.

That was the case not less than once I walked around Seattle Center on a sunny Tuesday afternoon with the Xiaomi 13 Ultra. Sure, the camera grip makes it more comfortable to carry the phone while you are taking a photograph. And the physical shutter button helps you retain more attention in your subject somewhat than on the screen. But not less than 50 percent of the kit’s utility — not less than for me — is straight-up in my head. It helps put me in a photography mindset faster, very similar to a dedicated camera does.

Crucially, the 13 Ultra can be an absolute unit. There are 4 rear-facing cameras, certainly one of which incorporates a huge one-inch-type sensor. There are 5x and three.2x telephoto lenses, plus an ultrawide. The most important camera also features a 2x crop zoom. It’s a smorgasbord of camera hardware, and the software backing it up ain’t too shabby, either. It’s all Leica-branded, all the way down to the colour processing, which it is best to take with a grain of salt. But I’ll be damned if I didn’t take a few of my favorite portraits of the past yr with this thing.

Of course, the 13 Ultra suffers from the identical problems that trip up even the most effective modern phone cameras. It has a tough time freezing moving subjects in dim light, occasionally goes HAM on color saturation, and doesn’t at all times hold onto high quality detail in addition to a camera with an even bigger sensor. (Take a have a look at the kiddo’s hair within the shot above.) And the vignetting in among the portrait mode settings goes just a little hard for my taste. But it’s easily certainly one of my favorite mobile cameras of the past yr, and I dearly wish we could buy it within the US.

You don’t need a top-of-the-line camera to take nice photos. You actually don’t need a elaborate camera grip on your phone to enjoy taking photos with it. But Xiaomi’s tackle the old phone-is-a-camera concept is the neatest one I’ve come across, and I believe it helped put me in a mindset to take higher photos. If there’s an adjunct — magnet, clamp, grip, or whatever — that helps you enjoy taking photos along with your phone, then that’s a reasonably good thing in my book. It’s just a pleasant bonus if it doesn’t make you appear like an enormous dingus.

Photography by Allison Johnson / The Verge

[mailpoet_form id="1"]