Tech reviews

Testing Xiaomi 13 Pro with Leica camera: Not for everyone

What’s in a name, one might ask. Quite a lot, Xiaomi knows. And that’s why it has teamed up with Leica, one of the most iconic camera brands in the world, for its latest Xiaomi 13 Pro. Centred around the camera system co-engineered with Leica, Xiaomi hopes the Leica tag on its new flagship will be enough to justify the Rs 79,999 price point, one of the highest ever for a Xiaomi phone. But is that enough? Here’s my review after using the device for nearly two weeks.

Xiaomi 13 Pro: Who is the target consumer?

Xiaomi hopes those who aspire to own a Leica camera might pick this up. Well, it is more affordable than a full-fledged Leica camera and offers more flexibility. More importantly, Xiaomi is flexing some muscle in the smartphone camera game, where it has not enjoyed the respect and awe Samsung or a Google Pixel commands. The Leica brand is a good way to change that perception. In my own experience, Xiaomi and Redmi phones offer excellent camera performance, across price points. Interestingly, this phone will also have a limited run, as Xiaomi is importing it into India. So don’t be surprised if it goes out of stock a few months down the line.

This is one of the best cameras I’ve used recently on a phone– definitely the best in a Xiaomi device (Image credit: Shruti Dhapola / Indian Express)

Xiaomi 13 Pro: What’s the camera experience like?

This is one of the best cameras I’ve used recently on a phone– definitely the best in a Xiaomi device. It will also push my expectations in future flagship devices. And I say this as someone currently using the Galaxy S23 Ultra as my primary phone, with an excellent camera, especially when I consider that 10X zoom. But there are areas where the Xiaomi 13 Pro truly shines.

The first would be the macro mode–the best I’ve used on an Android device. If you love getting close to your subject and want to try out macro photography, Xiaomi 13 Pro doesn’t disappoint. For instance, the picture of the strawberry below shows the seeds clearly, even the texture of the berry is visible. And I took this with the most unsteady hands, crouched on uneven ground.

Macro shot of a Strawberry (Image credit: Shruti Dhapola / Indian Express)
With the orange flower, you can see the purple anther and the filament. This is a difficult shot taken during a windy Sunday afternoon (Image credit: Shruti Dhapola / Indian Express)
Even with the red flower, the details are crisp and sharp, though I didn’t go too close. (Image credit: Shruti Dhapola / Indian Express)
The tiny green leaf is also clearly visible. (Image credit: Shruti Dhapola / Indian Express)
Finally, the spider web inside the bird’s nest is clearly visible with details intact, even though I could not get too close to the nest since it was at a height. (Image credit: Shruti Dhapola / Indian Express)

This phone shines in portrait mode, a critical area given the Leica name. The portrait mode lets users shoot in Black and White (equivalent to a 35mm lens), a Swirly Bokeh (equivalent to a 50mm lens), Portrait (75mm lens equivalent, which is when the camera zooms in) and a soft focus mode (equivalent to a 90 mm lens). The black and white portraits will appeal to the purists, and they come out excellent, adding an old-school charm that is missing with smartphone photos these days.

I took several B&W photos of my son, and two are my favourites. One is where he directly looks into the camera, the light and shadows perfect, his gaze steady, a rare capture considering the subject. The second is where he is perched on his father’s shoulders, taken at night in poor lighting. Yes, portrait modes work well even in low light.

I also took portraits of strangers in my testing — often at a distance, and the results were always fascinating. For instance, the black-and-white one below is taken at a farm outing. What I love are the shadows, the way the lines on the man’s face are visible, and of course, the fact that taking this shot required minimal effort from my side. In the other photo of a balloon seller, the result is just as impressive. The camera does create a subject-background segmentation, even though my angle is far from ideal.

The only negative I could see in some portraits was that the skin tone was slightly on the redder side. Oh and speaking of skin, if you prefer more ‘filtered’ photos, this phone will disappoint. One of the first portraits I took of my husband’s colleague got the comment that her skin was terrible. This camera makes no effort to retouch, as it keeps the picture authentic, which many might not appreciate.
The Xiaomi 13 Pro also has a formidable night mode — definitely one that can hold its own against other flagships. The photos appear well-lit, but not unnaturally bright, the details are visible and noise is minimal.

Of course, regular photos on the Xiaomi 13 Pro are excellent, and when you zoom in on the screen, you can see the details. For instance, in the photo below of the plant with the ornamental swing, I can see details of the rope’s texture as I zoomed into the photo.

And photos I took with the phone during a Lodhi Garden outing were impressive. I love the fact that the phone keeps the sky shades authentic– not an unnatural blue. Even the Leica vibrant is more honest, and the reds are lovely.

What I miss on this phone is the zoom feature, which is not that great. That’s one feature, which I have grown to love thanks to the S23 Ultra. Of course, not everyone relies on zoom at all times, but the Samsung phone has made me realise its value. The selfie camera is also great, especially if you are using it in bright outdoors. The videos I took on this are excellent as well, though nothing special.

Another aspect I noticed was that the phone got a bit warm on the sides, with prolonged camera usage. But this was the case with my main phone as well.

Xiaomi 13 Pro review: What about the display and performance?

The Xiaomi 13 Pro runs the Qualcomm Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 processor with 12GB RAM and 256GB storage. That’s enough for most users, and the performance is at par with most flagships. I ran Genshin Impact at the high settings for graphics, and the phone worked without any issues or noticeable heating.

I’m not fond of the curved display, given the number of accidental touches that keep taking place, especially when I’m watching something. The slightly glossy ceramic back of the Xiaomi 13 Pro does not help with the grip either. And yes, that camera bump is huge. A cover is a must with this phone.

The display and audio quality are excellent. The content on the screen is perfectly legible in bright sunlight. The phone ticks most boxes when it comes to performance and expectations in the flagship area. It also comes with a big 4820 mAh battery, which will easily last a whole day. The 120W fast charger in the box will juice this up in 20 minutes flat. As always, Xiaomi has packed another phone with the best-in-line specifications.

Xiaomi 13 Pro runs Android 13 based on MIUI 14 (Image credit: Shruti Dhapola / Indian Express)

Xiaomi 13 Pro: What about the software?

It runs Android 13 based on MIUI 14. I’m not a fan of the extra apps on a premium phone, but then Xiaomi is not the only brand guilty of this. MIUI 14 is supposed to offer better RAM optimisation, the ability to erase/remove objects from a photo in the gallery app itself, along with more wallpapers and widgets for personalisation. I tried using the erase feature for a photo, but frankly, this is no Google Magic Eraser. I didn’t notice any unnecessary notifications or ads during my testing.

Xiaomi 13 Pro is certainly one of the best Android camera phones I have used recently (Image credit: Shruti Dhapola / Indian Express)

Xiaomi 13 Pro: So what’s the verdict?

This is a phone firmly pegging its fate around its camera. Is this a good enough replacement for those who dream of a Leica camera, but can’t afford one? I can’t answer that, given I have not used a Leica in my life. But the Xiaomi 13 Pro is certainly one of the best Android camera phones I have used recently. The problem is that so are most other top flagship Android phones with pretty good cameras — the S23 Ultra (review), OnePlus 11, and the Pixel 7 Pro (review).

So where does the Xiaomi 13 Pro fit in? If you are looking for more ‘authentic’ photos, and don’t mind if the sky isn’t always a vibrant blue in your phone’s photos, if you love portrait shots, then this is the device to consider. This is not a camera phone for everyone, especially those who want more ‘social-media’ ready photos.


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