What Is iPhone 13’s Cinematic Mode (and Why Should You Care)?

What Is iPhone 13’s Cinematic Mode (and Why Should You Care)?

One of the key features of the new iPhone 13 series is called Cinematic Mode, and it’s a feature designed to make the iPhone 13 a viable camera for cinematographers. Smartphone cameras are evolving rapidly, and a lot of Apple’s focus this year has been on improving the iPhone’s already great video cameras. Here’s everything you need to know about iPhone 13’s Cinematic Mode.

What is Cinematic Mode?

Cinematic Mode is a new video shooting mode available on all new iPhone 13 series smartphones that lets the phone intelligently shift focus from one subject to another. The iPhone 13 can also track a moving person in the frame and keep the focus on that person.

One of the most exciting features is the iPhone 13’s ability to anticipate when someone is about to enter the frame, and then to focus on them when they appear. This makes shooting films a lot easier and lets you worry more about the framing than focus-hunting issues.

What Is iPhone 13’s Cinematic Mode (and Why Should You Care)?

The best part is that you can change the focus or adjust the bokeh effect even after you take the video. Apple says all of the cameras on the iPhone 13 series can be used with Cinematic Mode, which also supports Dolby Vision HDR.

How does Cinematic Mode work?

From a technical standpoint, Apple says that your iPhone 13 will capture high-quality depth data at 30 frames per second in Cinematic Mode. This allows the phone to determine the exact distance between the camera and various subjects in the frame. Couple that with some machine learning magic from Apple’s Neural Engine (a part of the A15 Bionic SoC on the iPhone 13) and you have a camera that can pick what to focus on and when to apply focus transitions.

For those who don’t trust algorithms to focus correctly, there’s an option to manually lock focus on a subject, and the iPhone 13 will continue to track that subject throughout the scene.

The good thing about Apple’s attempt to bring this feature to a mass-market device such as the iPhone is that people like you and me will be able to try creative shots without spending a lot on professional gear.

What are Cinematic Mode’s limitations?

In typical Apple fashion, Cinematic Mode is only available on iPhone 13 series phones. Your older iPhones don’t have it. That may not be a big deal for most people, but for people who shoot a lot of videos, this could be a good reason to upgrade. Apple says this feature works thanks to the A15 Bionic SoC, which can handle far more intense workloads than its predecessors — which is probably why an intensive video mode such as Cinematic Mode isn’t being made available on older iPhones.

Even on iPhone 13 series devices, Cinematic Mode is restricted to 1080p (full-HD) quality at 30fps. If you want to use this mode with 4K 60fps footage for the highest quality, you’re out of luck at the moment. Maybe iPhone 14 will bring that in, provided Apple deems the next version to be powerful enough to handle that workload without excessive battery drain.

Of course, the biggest thing to note is that we’ve only seen Apple’s claims about Cinematic Mode. Once it’s been tested and reviewed, we’ll have a better idea of just how useful it really is.


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