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Amazon Black Friday Deal: Fujifilm Instax Mini Camera Savings

Amazon Black Friday Deal: Fujifilm Instax Mini Camera Savings

Fujifilm Instax cameras can make perfect stocking fillers for young photographers who love Instagram as well as all things retro.

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Fujifilm Instax Mini 11 in Offers

 Instax Mini 11

 

The Amazon Black Friday sale has kicked off early and two popular Fujifilm Instax Cameras are amongst the cameras and lenses discounted. 

For the next four days, you can save up to 32% on the Instax Mini 11 in ice white which comes bundled with a case, 10 shot mini-film, photo album, display stickers, batters and a user manual. It’s currently available for £77 (was £113.99). 

The other Fujifilm Instax camera on offer is the Instax Mini 9 which comes with 10 shots and is currently priced at £56.99 (usually £74.99). 

For more camera deals, click the button below which will take you to Amazon’s Black Friday Deals. You can also find more information on instant cameras in our round-up: Best Instant Cameras & Printers

 

Amazon Black Friday Camera Deals

MPB Start Shopping

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New gear: Fujifilm Instax Mini Evo Hybrid

The new Fujifilm Instax Mini Evo Hybrid

Fujifilm has unveiled its latest instant camera, the Instax Mini Evo Hybrid. Unlike most Fujfilm Instax models, this one combines a digital sensor with analog printing capabilities. The pairing allows users to store, edit, and select which shots they want to print. The camera uses the brand’s Instax Mini format film, which costs around $0.75 a shot if you buy it in multipacks.

This isn’t Instax’s first foray into the realm of hybrid cameras. The Instax LiPlay also combines a digital sensor with analog printing capabilities. But the Mini Evo Hybrid has a lot more features to offer in terms of creative photography. Let’s take a closer look at how it stacks up against our other favorite instant cameras.

Mini Evo Hybrid features

The Mini Evo Hybrid includes 10 integrated “lenses” and 10 “film effects”, giving photographers a lot of creative options when they shoot. The available lens effects include “Normal,” “Vignette,” “Soft Focus,” “Blur,” “Fisheye,” “Color Shift,” “Light Leak,” “Mirror,” “Double Exposure,” and “Half-Frame”. In terms of film effects, shooters can choose from “Normal,” “Vivid,” “Pale,” “Canvas,” “Monochrome,” “Sepia,” “Yellow,” “Red,” “Blue,” and “Retro”.

Most of these effects are pretty self-explanatory. But if you want a closer look, the video above does a good job showing off examples of quite a few. The Double Exposure, Half-Frame, and Light Leak effects in particular look fun. It’s also cool to see that you can combine film and lens effects, for added creative potential.

Storage and battery life

The new Fujifilm Instax Mini Evo Hybrid
The Instax Mini Evo Hybrid looks a lot like one of Fujifilm’s X-mount digital cameras. Fujifilm

Internally, the Mini Evo Hybrid can store up to 45 shots. But users can expand storage via a microSD card slot. In addition to saving photos on the camera itself, you will also be able to send them directly to your smartphone or smart device via Bluetooth using the Mini Evo app. The app also offers remote shooting options.

In terms of power, a built-in Lithium-Ion battery should allow you to print about 100 images per charge, according to Fujifilm.

Camera design

The new Fujifilm Instax Mini Evo Hybrid
The rear of the camera offers a 3-inch LCD. Fujifilm

The unit has a stylish vintage look with its black “leatherette” and silver accents. It even has an adorable “film advance” lever, used for making prints. The 3-inch LCD screen on the back of the camera lets photographers select shots, add creative frames and make small edits to their images before they print. There is one odd omission, though: The camera doesn’t have Instax’s classic selfie mirror on the front of the camera lens.

Price and availability

The Mini Evo Hybrid will launch alongside a new Instax film line called Instax Mini Stone Gray, which features a gray border instead of the traditional white one. The Instax Mini Evo Hybrid will be available in February 2022 for $199.95. The new film stock will also be available in February 2022 for $14.99 per pack. 

We loved working with Instax’s last hybrid Instant camera and look forward to getting the Mini Evo Hybrid in our hands in the new year.

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Apple iPhone 13 mini Audio review

Very close to its larger sibling

The Apple iPhone 13 mini was released in September 2021 along with the rest of the iPhone 13 line. Except for its size, it shares all the same features as the other iPhone 13 models when it comes to audio, and it is all powered by the same  A15 Bionic chipset.

With the device sharing the same audio specs as the other iPhone 13-series phones, one would expect the iPhone 13 mini’s test results and scores to be identical to the others. We have confirmed this by putting the iPhone 13 mini through the DXOMARK Audio test protocol.

Key Audio specifications include:

    • Two speakers (up front-firing, and bottom side-firing)
    • Audio zoom
    • Dolby Atmos
    • Voice Isolation and Wide Spectrum microphone modes (for calls)
    • User‑configurable maximum volume limit

Test summary

Apple iPhone 13 mini Audio review 1
Apple iPhone 13 mini

Apple iPhone 13 mini Audio review 2

75

audio

Playback

Pros

  • Very consistent performances among all attributes
  • Pleasant tonal balance, with added low mid warmth compared to previous iPhone generations
  • Precise localizability and very good wideness despite stereo being inverted

Cons

  • Stereo is still inverted in Music app, as it is with all iPhones
  • Bass distortion at maximum volume

Recording

Cons

  • Dark Timbre, lacking brightness and clarity
  • Below average SNR and intelligibility
  • Impaired distance rendition

Given the identical results, we are posting only this short article on the iPhone 13 mini. For the full set of measurements and the complete analysis, please click on the link below and read the audio review of the iPhone 13 Pro Max.

Go to the audio review of the Apple iPhone 13 Pro Max.

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Billingham Mini Eventer review – Amateur Photographer

Billingham Mini Eventer review - Amateur Photographer

It may be pricey, but this shoulder bag brings a touch of luxury, says Andy Westlake

Billingham Mini Eventer at a glance:

  • £380
  • 36 x 16 x 30 cm (external)
  • 33 x 10 x 21 cm (internal)
  • 1.26 kg weight
  • Holds a camera and 3 or 4 lenses
  • Padded pocket for 11-in tablet
  • www.billingham.co.uk

Billingham is one of the best-loved British photographic brands, thanks to its classic-looking yet rugged bags. The firm doesn’t come up with new products very often, so when it does, there’s good reason to take notice. This year’s new arrival is the Mini Eventer, which as its name suggests, is a smaller version of the premium Eventer shoulder bag.

Billingham Mini Eventer review - Amateur Photographer 4

On the back of the bag there’s a document pocket and a luggage strap

Billingham Mini Eventer key features:

  • Shoulder pad  A matching SP50 shoulder pad comes as standard; with the Hadley range, this is a £38 extra
  • Removable insert  The generously padded camera insert can be taken out quickly and easily, allowing the bag to be used for other purposes
  • Luggage strap  A strap across the back allows the bag to be slipped over the handle of a wheeled suitcase for easier transport
  • Weatherproof  Both the main compartment and the rear document pocket are secured by weatherproof zips

Compared to the popular Hadley range, there are a few significant differences. The bag’s main compartment is closed via a dual-pull zip, with a fold-over flap providing extra protection against the elements. This approach provides greater security than the Hadley’s simpler lidded design, if not quite such quick access. The base is covered with a thick layer of leather, which promises even greater toughness and longevity, and accounts substantially for the higher price.

Billingham Mini Eventer review - Amateur Photographer 5

The main compartment has a zip closure, and there are two accessory pockets on the front.

Last but not least, the removable camera insert includes a richly-padded pocket for an 11-in tablet. If you can’t visualise what this means in terms of size, it’s also a perfect fit for your weekly copy of Amateur Photographer magazine. But you can’t quite squeeze in a 13-in laptop, which feels like a missed opportunity in a bag this size. Note the design means that if you remove the camera insert, you lose the tablet compartment at the same time.

In other respects, this is a pretty uncomplicated design. Two good-sized front pockets provide storage for personal items or accessories, while a flat back pocket is ideal for travel documents. The wide strap offers plenty of scope for adjustment for different body shapes and is complemented by a comfortable carry handle on the lid. But there’s no way of fitting add-on end pockets.

Billingham Mini Eventer review - Amateur Photographer 6

You can expect to fit a full-frame camera and three lenses inside, including a telezoom up to 30cm long

In terms of capacity, the Mini Eventer will hold a full-frame camera without a vertical grip, along with three or four lenses. For example, I was able to fit a Sony Alpha 7 IV with 24-105mm f/4, 16-35mm f/4 and 100-400mm f/5-6.3 zooms, with the latter neatly filling the 21cm internal depth. Two smaller primes could occupy the same space.

Billingham Mini Eventer review - Amateur Photographer 7

The Billingham Mini Eventer comes in a choice of five colour schemes

As always with Billingham, the materials and construction are first-rate. The firm’s signature three-layer cotton or nylon canvas boasts a waterproof rubber middle layer, so there’s no need for a separate rain cover. Brass and top-grain leather fittings complete a luxurious feel. The choice of attractive colours includes sage green, navy blue, classic khaki, and discreet all-black.

Billingham Mini Eventer: Our Verdict

There’s no getting away from the fact that this bag is very expensive, but this reflects its sheer quality. You can be confident that it’ll last for years, if not decades, and keep your kit protected from the worst of the British weather. With its winning combination of practicality and style, it could be a great Christmas gift for the photographer who has everything.

4.5 stars

Also consider: the Billingham Hadley Pro 2020

Billingham’s Hadley Pro 2020 remains one of our favourite shoulder bags for its sensible size and capacity, timeless style and impeccable build quality.

Billingham Mini Eventer review - Amateur Photographer 8

The Billingham Hadley Pro 2020 in navy blue

The Hadley Pro 2020 hold a little more camera kit than the Mini Eventer but doesn’t have a laptop/tablet compartment. Available in a choice of seven colour schemes, it costs £260.

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Billingham reveals Mini Eventer shoulder bag

Billingham reveals Mini Eventer shoulder bag

October 26, 2021

Premium British camera bag maker Billingham has added a new shoulder bag to its range. Positioned slightly upmarket of the firm’s popular Hadley series, the Mini Eventer is designed to carry a small DSLR or mirrorless setup, along with an 11in tablet. It’ll be available in a choice of five colour schemes – khaki/tan, navy/chocolate, sage/chocolate, khaki/chocolate, and all-black – and costs £380.

Billingham reveals Mini Eventer shoulder bag 9

The Billingham Mini Eventer comes in a choice of five colour shemes

Size-wise, the Mini Eventer sits in between the firm’s Hadley Small and Hadley Pro designs. In terms of capacity, the bag will hold a full-frame camera and three or four lenses in its generously padded and removable insert. With an internal depth of 21cm, there’s enough space for a telezoom as large as a 70-200mm f/2.8 or a 100-400mm. A couple of pockets for accessories are found on the front, and there’s a zipped document pocket on the back.

Billingham reveals Mini Eventer shoulder bag 10

On the back, you’ll find a zipped document pocket, and a strap for slipping the bag over the handle of a wheeled suitcase

As usual, Billingham has used its signature 3-layer canvas, which is waterproof and never needs reproofing. A top-grain leather base adds extra protection. Other features include a zip-close main compartment and a luggage strap on the back, while an SP-50 shoulder pad is provided as standard (with the Hadley series, this is a £38 extra).

Billingham reveals Mini Eventer shoulder bag 11

The main compartment has a zip closure, and there are two accessory pockets on the front.

Like all Billingham bags, the Mini Eventer comes with a five-year guarantee.

Billingham Mini Eventer key specifications:

  • External dimensions:  36cm x 16cm x 30cm
  • Internal dimensions: 33cm x 10cm x 21cm
  • Weight: 1.26 kg
  • Capacity: 5 litres

Billingham kindly provided us with a review sample of the Mini Eventer prior to its release, and it’s a really lovely bag that offers a step up in luxury from the Hadley range. We’ll be publishing a full review soon.  

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MindShift Gear Filter Hive Mini Review

Traditional glass filters are useful tools for landscape photography, but you need to pack them carefully to avoid breaking or scratching them. Many of the filter cases I’ve tried before are heavy, bulky, and fairly expensive. Today, I’ll review the Filter Hive Mini from MindShift Gear, which aims to fix those issues.

MindShift Filter Hive Mini Filter Pouch
MindShift Gear’s Filter Hive Mini

These days – no judgment – a lot of landscape photographers don’t carry around big filter kits and prefer to replicate everything in post-production (except probably a polarizer). For my own photography, I admit that I’ve had a set of NDs and graduated filters for years but would often leave them behind and just bring a polarizer to the field instead. If that applies to you, you may not need a dedicated filter holding pouch like this.

However, as I mentioned recently, I’ve now switched most of my landscape photography kit over from digital to film. Filters matter a lot more in analog photography, especially when shooting slide film or black and white, and I’m currently carrying along a lot more filters than I used to. Plenty of digital photographers rely on extensive filter kits, too. In either case, it’s important to store your filters somewhere that’s lightweight, well-protected, and easy to access.

My previous solution was to use NiSi’s hard-shell storage case that I’ve had for years (shown below). And while this case is perfectly fine and does a good job protecting filters from being crushed, it’s heavier than I’d like and has scratched the edges of my softer resin filters over time. Also, the slots in the NiSi case are too small for a specialty “orange polarizer” filter that I’ve been using with film, since it’s thicker than a modern filter. I felt like I needed a different solution.

NiSi Case Front Bending
NiSi hard case for comparison

I didn’t directly seek out the MindShift Gear Filter Hive Mini, but it popped up as a “suggested accessory” while I was buying a separate filter. Since it looked well-made and was only $32, I decided to add it to my cart. It’s since become one of my most-used accessories.

Specifications

  • Product Type: Filter holding pouch
  • Capacity: Four internal sections
  • Max Filter Size: 100x150mm
  • External Material: Nylon with water-repellant coating and polyurethane coating
  • Internal Material: Plush nylex lining
  • Dimensions (WxHxD): 18.5 x 11.5 x 4.0 centimeters / 7.3 x 4.5 x 1.6 inches
  • Weight: 97 grams / 3.4 ounces
  • Price: $32 at publication of this review

Features

One of the main features of the MindShift Filter Hive Mini is that it’s much lighter than a hard-shell filter holding case at just 97 grams / 3.4 ounces (measured). It also takes up very little space in a bag because of how flat it folds.

Filter Hive Mini Back View

Yet the pouch is still quite sturdy. The front and back “walls” of the Filter Hive Mini have a protective insert that makes the whole thing reasonably rigid – not 100% resistant to bending, but not bad. It’s solid enough that I don’t feel worried about my filters when I throw the Mini into my backpack, which is what I care about. Of course, photographers who need something fully crush-proof would be better off with a hard-shell case instead.

Upon opening the Filter Hive Mini, the first thing that stood out to me is that the internal dividers are as soft as a microfiber cloth (though not exactly the same material as one). Rather than scratching your filters, they’re more likely to clean them. And this held true in practice; none of my filters so far have gotten scratched in the Filter Hive Mini after several months of use.

MindShift Filter Hive Mini Interior

Another feature to note is that the Filter Hive Mini’s four internal sections are color-coded with blue, green, red, and orange. This makes it easy to organize your filters so long as you remember to put them back into the same color-coded section each time.

There’s a larger version of the Filter Hive Mini which is simply called the Filter Hive, but it’s too big for my needs. It has six rectangular filter sections and six circular filter sections, but as you can see below, it’s not nearly as compact as the Mini. Although the larger capacity can be nice if you’re carrying a bigger filter system, I also wish that MindShift made a “medium” size that carried 6-7 filters but still folded small like the Mini.

MindShift Filter Hive Larger Standard Version
The larger “Filter Hive” that holds six rectangular filters and six circular filters

A slightly hidden feature of the Filter Hive Mini is that there are small openings at the bottom of both sides. Your filters themselves are never exposed to the outside world (they’re held in place by a lining higher up), but this is an elegant solution to the problem of dirt and debris getting trapped in the filter holder over time. Even in sandy conditions, grit won’t collect in the pouch, because it falls out of the openings instead.

Other features of the Filter Hive Mini include the velcro flap attachment (no zippers that could scratch the filters) and a handle at the top if you want to attach the case to the outside of your bag. Lastly, the Filter Hive Mini is made of water resistant fabric, which isn’t really necessary for this type of product but I suppose is better than the alternative.

Overall, the Filter Hive Mini feels like it was designed, or at least refined, by working photographers. It’s not flashy, but it is extremely functional and gets out of your way while shooting. The build quality is excellent, and I’ve had no issues with fabric tearing or fraying so far. If the baseline specifications work for you – four 100x150mm filter holding sections and a semi-hard-shell protective lining – the Filter Hive Mini is hard to beat.

Conclusion

I enjoy it when I can review a piece of gear that isn’t hundreds or thousands of dollars but still makes our lives easier as photographers. And while not everyone these days shoots with a kit of traditional glass filters, those who do will find the MindShift Filter Hive Mini to be an excellent way to carry them. It’s a well-designed product that packs along easily and will protect your filters in everyday situations.

That said, I wouldn’t recommend it if you expect your filter kit to be subjected to big crushing forces (maybe falling off an airplane’s cargo ramp) or if you simply need to carry more than four rectangular filters. A hard-shell case has compromises of its own but does offer more extreme protection, whereas the bigger MindShift Hive has more than double the capacity of the Mini.

Hiker with camera backpack
A good filter pouch for the backpacking landscape photographer

Otherwise, the Filter Hive Mini is an excellent product. I’ve personally been using it for the past few months and consider it one of my new favorite pieces of gear. The balance of weight, capacity, and protection are spot-on for my landscape photography needs, and I’d recommend it very highly to any photographer in a similar situation.

With the current supply chain issues, the MindShift Gear Filter Hive Mini may not be available at all retailers at the time I publish this review. However, it has been cycling in and out of stock at various stores in recent months, so I’ll put a link to several different places to buy it below. At the time of publication, the Filter Hive Mini costs $32 regardless of where you get it, and you should be able to find it in stock somewhere.

Let me know below if you have any questions!

Auto Draft
  • Features
  • Build Quality
  • Handling
  • Size and Weight
  • Value

Photography Life Overall Rating

Photograhy Life Gold Award

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MindShift Gear Filter Hive Mini Review

Traditional glass filters are useful tools for landscape photography, but you need to pack them carefully to avoid breaking or scratching them. Many of the filter cases I’ve tried before are heavy, bulky, and fairly expensive. Today, I’ll review the Filter Hive Mini from MindShift Gear, which aims to fix those issues.

MindShift Filter Hive Mini Filter Pouch
MindShift Gear’s Filter Hive Mini

These days – no judgment – a lot of landscape photographers don’t carry around big filter kits and prefer to replicate everything in post-production (except probably a polarizer). For my own photography, I admit that I’ve had a set of NDs and graduated filters for years but would often leave them behind and just bring a polarizer to the field instead. If that applies to you, you may not need a dedicated filter holding pouch like this.

However, as I mentioned recently, I’ve now switched most of my landscape photography kit over from digital to film. Filters matter a lot more in analog photography, especially when shooting slide film or black and white, and I’m currently carrying along a lot more filters than I used to. Plenty of digital photographers rely on extensive filter kits, too. In either case, it’s important to store your filters somewhere that’s lightweight, well-protected, and easy to access.

My previous solution was to use NiSi’s hard-shell storage case that I’ve had for years (shown below). And while this case is perfectly fine and does a good job protecting filters from being crushed, it’s heavier than I’d like and has scratched the edges of my softer resin filters over time. Also, the slots in the NiSi case are too small for a specialty “orange polarizer” filter that I’ve been using with film, since it’s thicker than a modern filter. I felt like I needed a different solution.

NiSi Case Front Bending
NiSi hard case for comparison

I didn’t directly seek out the MindShift Gear Filter Hive Mini, but it popped up as a “suggested accessory” while I was buying a separate filter. Since it looked well-made and was only $32, I decided to add it to my cart. It’s since become one of my most-used accessories.

Specifications

  • Product Type: Filter holding pouch
  • Capacity: Four internal sections
  • Max Filter Size: 100x150mm
  • External Material: Nylon with water-repellant coating and polyurethane coating
  • Internal Material: Plush nylex lining
  • Dimensions (WxHxD): 18.5 x 11.5 x 4.0 centimeters / 7.3 x 4.5 x 1.6 inches
  • Weight: 97 grams / 3.4 ounces
  • Price: $32 at publication of this review

Features

One of the main features of the MindShift Filter Hive Mini is that it’s much lighter than a hard-shell filter holding case at just 97 grams / 3.4 ounces (measured). It also takes up very little space in a bag because of how flat it folds.

Filter Hive Mini Back View

Yet the pouch is still quite sturdy. The front and back “walls” of the Filter Hive Mini have a protective insert that makes the whole thing reasonably rigid – not 100% resistant to bending, but not bad. It’s solid enough that I don’t feel worried about my filters when I throw the Mini into my backpack, which is what I care about. Of course, photographers who need something fully crush-proof would be better off with a hard-shell case instead.

Upon opening the Filter Hive Mini, the first thing that stood out to me is that the internal dividers are as soft as a microfiber cloth (though not exactly the same material as one). Rather than scratching your filters, they’re more likely to clean them. And this held true in practice; none of my filters so far have gotten scratched in the Filter Hive Mini after several months of use.

MindShift Filter Hive Mini Interior

Another feature to note is that the Filter Hive Mini’s four internal sections are color-coded with blue, green, red, and orange. This makes it easy to organize your filters so long as you remember to put them back into the same color-coded section each time.

There’s a larger version of the Filter Hive Mini which is simply called the Filter Hive, but it’s too big for my needs. It has six rectangular filter sections and six circular filter sections, but as you can see below, it’s not nearly as compact as the Mini. Although the larger capacity can be nice if you’re carrying a bigger filter system, I also wish that MindShift made a “medium” size that carried 6-7 filters but still folded small like the Mini.

MindShift Filter Hive Larger Standard Version
The larger “Filter Hive” that holds six rectangular filters and six circular filters

A slightly hidden feature of the Filter Hive Mini is that there are small openings at the bottom of both sides. Your filters themselves are never exposed to the outside world (they’re held in place by a lining higher up), but this is an elegant solution to the problem of dirt and debris getting trapped in the filter holder over time. Even in sandy conditions, grit won’t collect in the pouch, because it falls out of the openings instead.

Other features of the Filter Hive Mini include the velcro flap attachment (no zippers that could scratch the filters) and a handle at the top if you want to attach the case to the outside of your bag. Lastly, the Filter Hive Mini is made of water resistant fabric, which isn’t really necessary for this type of product but I suppose is better than the alternative.

Overall, the Filter Hive Mini feels like it was designed, or at least refined, by working photographers. It’s not flashy, but it is extremely functional and gets out of your way while shooting. The build quality is excellent, and I’ve had no issues with fabric tearing or fraying so far. If the baseline specifications work for you – four 100x150mm filter holding sections and a semi-hard-shell protective lining – the Filter Hive Mini is hard to beat.

Conclusion

I enjoy it when I can review a piece of gear that isn’t hundreds or thousands of dollars but still makes our lives easier as photographers. And while not everyone these days shoots with a kit of traditional glass filters, those who do will find the MindShift Filter Hive Mini to be an excellent way to carry them. It’s a well-designed product that packs along easily and will protect your filters in everyday situations.

That said, I wouldn’t recommend it if you expect your filter kit to be subjected to big crushing forces (maybe falling off an airplane’s cargo ramp) or if you simply need to carry more than four rectangular filters. A hard-shell case has compromises of its own but does offer more extreme protection, whereas the bigger MindShift Hive has more than double the capacity of the Mini.

Hiker with camera backpack
A good filter pouch for the backpacking landscape photographer

Otherwise, the Filter Hive Mini is an excellent product. I’ve personally been using it for the past few months and consider it one of my new favorite pieces of gear. The balance of weight, capacity, and protection are spot-on for my landscape photography needs, and I’d recommend it very highly to any photographer in a similar situation.

With the current supply chain issues, the MindShift Gear Filter Hive Mini may not be available at all retailers at the time I publish this review. However, it has been cycling in and out of stock at various stores in recent months, so I’ll put a link to several different places to buy it below. At the time of publication, the Filter Hive Mini costs $32 regardless of where you get it, and you should be able to find it in stock somewhere.

Let me know below if you have any questions!

Auto Draft
  • Features
  • Build Quality
  • Handling
  • Size and Weight
  • Value

Photography Life Overall Rating

Photograhy Life Gold Award

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Fujifilm Instax Mini 40 Versus Polaroid Go: What Is the Best Mini Instant Camera?

Fujifilm Instax Mini 40 Versus Polaroid Go: What Is the Best Mini Instant Camera?

Fujifilm has been dominating the instant camera market for quite some time now. The Instax division from Fujifilm is its most profitable sector when it comes to the photography industry. However, a familiar brand called Polaroid is once again on the rise and aims to take its place back on top of the market. 

Polaroid is the original instant camera manufacturer, and the brand name has endured despite major transitions in the industry. The Impossible Project revitalized the company and has now started to produce new and interesting instant cameras. The company’s latest cameras include the Polaroid Go, an instant camera that might be the smallest one on the market right now. 

The Polaroid Go offers a wide range of features, including autofocus. Along with its super compact size, it could be a brilliant option for many looking for a good instant camera. Unfortunately, the biggest problem with the Polaroid Go is the fact that the film it uses is quite unreliable. In contrast to that, the Instax film produces much better results, and this could put the Fujifilm Instax Mini 40 ahead of the Polaroid Go camera. 

The only downside to the Instax Mini 40 is the lack of control. The camera doesn’t really offer much in the way of features, and the flash is always switched on. If you’re interested in seeing how both cameras perform, the video linked above goes into much more detail and also includes a side-by-side comparison of the results. 

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Blackmagic Design URSA Mini Pro 12K: What’s It Like To Shoot A Commercial With A 12K Camera?

Blackmagic Design URSA Mini Pro 12K: What's It Like To Shoot A Commercial With A 12K Camera?

So what’s it like to shoot in 12K video? This was just one of the many questions I had which inspired me to take the Blackmagic Design URSA Mini Pro 12K out for a spin and see how it would perform in the real world.

Despite the fact that I use Blackmagic Design’s DaVinci Resolve Studio to do the bulk of my post-production work, I had, prior to this point, not gotten an opportunity to use any of the Blackmagic Design cameras in my cinematography work. Just one of the many product lines in the photo and video world that I was aware of, but hadn’t yet gotten a chance to get my hands on. A number of my colleagues use the Blackmagic Design Pocket Cinema Camera 6K Pro or one of its predecessors, so I’ve always been curious. And when Blackmagic Design recently slashed the price on the URSA Mini Pro 12K to $5995, my curiosity got the better of me and I reached out for a review unit so that I could put it through its paces.

Now while I will briefly touch on some of the jaw-dropping technical specs of the camera, this is not going to be an overly tech-laden review. One, there are people in the world with far cleaner lab coats than my own that are better suited to comb through a camera pixel-by-pixel to produce mathematical conclusions. Instead, as a working photographer and cinematographer, what interests me far more is how a camera performs within the confines of a real-life workflow. My article a couple of weeks ago detailed how, when shopping for a camera, I am far less interested in the statistics on the spec sheet, and far more interested in whether the camera can provide me with dependability, ease of use, and versatility. In short, I want to know that I can trust a piece of gear and that it will provide added value to my workflow. I only had the URSA Mini Pro 12K for three weeks, so I can’t give a definitive answer on long-term dependability. But I put it through more than enough trauma over the course of those weeks to answer most of the other questions I had going in as well as get a clearer vision of where the camera could potentially fit in a professional workflow.

Blackmagic Design URSA Mini Pro 12K: What's It Like To Shoot A Commercial With A 12K Camera? 12

The Tech Specs

As I said, I won’t bog you down with too much detail about the tech specs as you can easily read those elsewhere online. But here’s a brief recap. The Blackmagic Design URSA Mini Pro 12K comes with a Super 35mm CMOS sensor with an effective resolution of 12,288 x 6,480, or roughly 79.6 megapixels. It advertises 14 stops of dynamic range and a native ISO of 800. It records in 12-bit Blackmagic RAW (more on the recording formats later). It can record 12K Anamorphic up to 75fps and windowed DCI 4K up to 240fps. It has two 3-pin XLR jacks and a touchscreen interface built-in. The camera body weighs 5.62 pounds or 2.55 kg and currently retails for $5995. It’s a lot of camera at a very reasonable price.

So with all the numbers out of the way, let’s get on to the larger questions which prompted me to want to try out the 12K in the first place.

What Are The Benefits Of 12K?

Now, no matter how hard I try, I have still yet to find the perfect camera. And despite it being a proven fact that no such camera exists, it doesn’t stop me from hoping that one day I will find one system that can do all, and do it while weighing no more than an oversized paperweight. This dream will never come true. But a man can dream.  

Because no camera is perfect, I tend to shoot my motion projects on a large variety of cameras. Whichever is right for the project. Some require a run and gun approach with a small build and excellent autofocus. Others require maximum image quality and require a small army of technicians to operate. Each job is different, so it’s hard to set out a one size fits all list of demands for a camera to achieve.

But there are a few specific requirements that I have that I wanted to see if the URSA Mini Pro 12K could solve. For one, I am both a photographer and a cinematographer. And while 95% of the time, I am going to be capturing still and video with separate devices at separate times, I do, on occasion, like to be able to do both concurrently by shooting video then pulling still frames from the video to act as additional still content. This need is why the prospect of 12K was of interest to me. While it’s possible to pull frames from 4K, or even 1080, the more megapixels the better for most of my still photography. So having 12K video to pull from could be a tangible advantage.

The URSA Mini Pro 12K also has the ability to grab a single still frame. Its smaller brother, the Blackmagic Design URSA Mini Pro 4.6K G2, records still frames as DNG files to a separate folder. However, the URSA Mini Pro 12K, it should be noted, records stills as a Blackmagic RAW frame. This is a proprietary format so you will need to check to see if your chosen stills editor can work with the files or whether you might need to use third-party software to process. I, for example, use Capture One which I don’t believe is currently capable of processing Blackmagic RAW still frames.  So I would need to adjust my approach.

From a pure photography standpoint, I would personally be far more likely to shoot stills with a dedicated still camera simply for ergonomic and workflow reasons if my objective was to focus on still photography. But, from a motion standpoint, being able to snatch a single still with the same camera you’re going to use to capture video has other strategic advantages. Specifically, imagine you are doing a scene requiring extended visual effects. You can lock off your frame and capture a still frame in 12K to use as a plate for later compositing. Then, use the same camera to shoot the video portion for easy combining in post. Being able to use the same tool for dual purposes can make for a smoother post process.

But, stills aside, of course, this is a 12K video camera. This means that even if you have no interest in stills at all, you are working with an astronomical amount of detail in your video files. But with the distribution market still moving from 1080 to 4K at a snail’s pace, is 12K even necessary? And, as a fellow cinematographer asked me, can you even tell the difference? 

Well, whether or not the 12K is necessary is completely subject to the details of your own workflow. I think, in practical terms, the best usage for 12K is for projects requiring extensive visual effects work where detail and the ability to resize assets are critical. At this point, I don’t know that most people are going to turn to 12K to shoot an extended talking heads dialogue scene. But let’s say you were doing a detailed shot of a beer bottle or something else tangible and you really wanted to show off every feature of the product. This is where the added resolution might be a good option for you.  

Additionally, starting with more resolution allows you to crop in further in post without losing detail. Similar to stills where I use more megapixels for shots requiring added detail or heavy adjustments in post, the added video resolution of the URSA Mini Pro 12K provides you with additional options. At 12K resolution, if your deliverable is only 4K or 1080, you can literally crop into only a small fraction of the frame and still maintain a sharp image.

This added room for cropping also comes into added play with the URSA Mini Pro 12K because it does not have in-body image stabilization. So, if you are one who likes to shoot wider then stabilize in post, starting with maximum resolution gives you the most flexibility.

Or, of course, you can just shoot everything in 12K with the lowest compression and luxuriate in the phenomenal image quality.

Shooting In Other Formats Beside 12K

I decided to use the URSA Mini Pro 12K on a commercial project to see how it would perform. Prior to shooting my project, I did extensive tests with all of the various formats to see for myself what the difference was in quality. The camera can record in 12K, 8K, 6K (cropped), or 4K. Within each of those, you can further control quality, and more importantly file size, by choosing a level of compression that best works for you. 12K 5:1 compression was the highest setting. 4K 18:1 compression was the lowest. Curious to see if I could tell the difference with my naked eyes, I did a quick and decidedly non-scientific test to shoot the identical subject with every possible format combination and judge the drop-off in quality. 

As you might expect, the 12K 5:1 is clearly the best. The images were crazy sharp and detailed. Very beautiful. But, what I was pleasantly surprised to find was that, even when I reduced the resolution and upped the compression, I was still left with very usable video options. None of the formats produced what I would subjectively consider unacceptable results.  And there were only minimal dropoffs from one compression setting to the next in most cases. And that’s assuming the drop-off was visible at all.

So, for that reason, and to conserve space, I opted to shoot the body of my project in 8K with 8:1 (the second best) compression. I was going to finish the project in 4K, so 8K gave me a bit of wiggle room for cropping. I ended up not really needing to do a great deal of cropping, but was still left with the benefits of capturing in the higher-resolution format then downsampling for output.

To test out the camera as well as my earlier stated interest in pulling still frames, I shot a second complimentary spot in 12K 5:1. These would be much shorter clips rather than extended takes. The objective would be to capture moving portraits of each actress that would highlight the clothing and provide me with both video and still frames simultaneously. The 12K worked a charm for this purpose without any significant issues with data rates or dropped frames. I’ll get more into storage demands in a moment, but as odd as it is to say in a review of a 12K camera, one of the best features is that you don’t always have to be shooting in 12K. This versatility means you can do a lot of different kinds of jobs with the same camera and only bring out the big guns when you need the extra resolution.

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Storage Options

It might be the smallest, literally the smallest, feature on the URSA Mini Pro 12K, but one thing that I really appreciated about the design of the camera was that it allows you to record directly to external SSDs. Between my cinema cameras and my mirrorless DSLRs, I have a rather healthy collection of CFast, CFast Express, and SD cards of various speeds and sizes. They work great and I have no real complaints other than that the CFast cards in particular are, shall we say, not exactly inexpensive. My usual workflow is to capture to a card, then transfer the data to a Samsung T5 SSD for editing. Well, the URSA Mini Pro 12K lets me skip that step as it allows you to plug an external SSD directly into the camera and record straight to it. Since I have a gazillion of these T5 drives lying around on my desk, this means that I already had all the storage necessary to capture video at the highest quality. The camera does have dual-slot SD/SDHC/SDXC (UHS-II) recording options. But, I shot my entire project straight to the SSD which allowed me to just unplug it from the camera and plug it into my computer at the end of the shoot, and immediately get to editing.

In addition to the time savings, this could potentially be huge cost savings. I have a Canon R5, for example, which shoots beautiful 8K video. But while my CF Express card is voluminous enough to shoot stills all day without needing to be offloaded, it can only shoot roughly 6 minutes of 8K Canon Raw before filling up. Sure, I could just buy a bigger card or opt to record to the Atomos Ninja V Plus with its SSD instead. But this is both an added expense and potentially an added headache as the Atomos records from the R5 in ProRes Raw which doesn’t play so nice in DaVinci Resolve Studio. I wish all cameras had this external SSD recording option as it provides another real tangible benefit.

Oh, and one quick note on file size since, understandably, the first thing you are likely to say after “wow 12K” is “whoa how much storage will that take up?” Without a doubt, I wouldn’t say the files from the URSA Mini Pro 12K were small. But I would say they are comparable to other cinema cameras I’ve shot with. Especially if you take the time to consider your compression rate when shooting, the file sizes themselves are surprisingly manageable. Sure, if you shoot everything in 12K 5:1, you might run out of storage fairly quickly. But shooting my project in 8K 8:1, I found very little drop-off in image quality while maintaining a storage footprint similar to what I’m used to with other systems. Even going to 18:1 compression produced usable results. I didn’t do this for my project, but in the basic tests I ran, I would say that it is a realistic option if storage demands are of primary concern.

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Blackmagic RAW

Now one thing that may be a limitation or may not, depending on your workflow, is that the URSA Mini Pro 12K only records in Blackmagic RAW as opposed to including ProRes recording like some its smaller siblings. So if you prefer a different recording format, this might pose a limitation. Personally, I knew I was already going to be working in DaVinci Resolve Studio, so that wasn’t a problem. Also, I was specifically interested in working in Blackmagic RAW to see if it would solve a practical issue that pertains to my specific workflow.

I work with a number of different camera systems in a number of different resolutions and codecs. Some play nice with my computer. Some, not so nice. Not meaning to pick on my R5, it’s not even a cinema camera after all, but since I just mentioned it in the previous section and it’s top of my mind, I’ll use it as an example. The files it creates are gorgeous. But my computer really seems to dislike the codec on a personal level. Like the level of animosity is palpable. Not just in 8K either. Even some of the 4K formats have their hiccups. Some of the files playback with ease, others playback with a stutter step worthy of an NFL halfback. This can make editing very difficult without taking the time to create proxies or make other adjustments to my workflow.

Because Blackmagic Design is the same company behind both DaVinci Resolve Studio and the URSA Mini Pro 12K (and, by extension, the creator of Blackmagic RAW), I was hoping that, by keeping it all in the family, that it would lead to a far smoother editing workflow. Surely, if one company owns the entire pipeline, it should be able to optimize the experience?

I am very happy to say that this theory proved to be true. I have a respectable computer system, but not a fully decked out one by any means, yet even the 12K footage from the camera played back in DaVinci Resolve Studio without any struggle. The Blackmagic RAW files also proved to be quite malleable in post. Making raw adjustments was a breeze and these workflow improvements did not go overlooked.

As I said, your experience might differ, especially if you don’t use DaVinci Resolve Studio. But, if you are already connected to the Blackmagic Design ecosystem, recording in Blackmagic RAW is probably going to be a benefit rather than a drawback. 

Ergonomics

One more thing that could be a benefit or a drawback, depending on your shooting style, is the body format. This is not a camera built to be a run and gun vlog-style camera. This is a system meant for full professional production. Ideally, you’d be working with a team, but, if not, you will at least be working in a scenario where you can take the time to set up your shots and light and compose them properly. It’s not that you can’t run and gun with it. Its button layout and length make it comfortable to shoot within an ENG shoulder-mounted fashion. It’s just that the weight means you might have to consider just how much you really want to handhold it versus setting it up on sticks.

The 12K unit that I reviewed came with the Blackmagic Design Shoulder-Mount Kit and spent a fair amount of my production perched atop my right shoulder as I kept my eye pressed to the Blackmagic Design URSA Viewfinder. I really like a shoulder mount setup. Especially with larger cinema cameras. Trying to hold the camera out in front of you, mirrorless SLR style, for extended periods of time might do wonders for your bicep definition, but not much for the stability of your footage. This is also important because again there is no in-body image stabilization in the camera. If you opt for the EF mount as opposed to the PL mount of the base model, you can fit it with Canon EF lenses that have in-lens stabilization. But otherwise, you are going to want to factor in how you plan to keep yourself stable when shooting. 

There is, of course, a certain benefit that comes with a heavier body. While a heavier body might be more challenging to handhold for extended periods, the added weight does help to reduce some of the micro jitters you so often see when holding a super lightweight camera. As remaining production time became sparse, I increasingly turned to handholding several of the shots for my projects and, despite testing my grip strength, I was happy with the results.

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Buttons And Knobs

Blackmagic Design departs from the usual push and hold button layout of most other cameras I’ve worked with in favor of a switch system for many of their controls. You turn the camera off and on as well as adjust things like ISO with these silver switches. It’s a very logical layout as it makes it easy to figure out what changes you are making while giving you access to your most frequent adjustments without having to open the menus.  

My first impression was that the switch system might pose a liability as it might be easy to accidentally bump the switches and make unintended changes while shooting. This shouldn’t happen. But I am clumsy. So I like to idiot-proof my cameras to protect myself from, well, me. I did actually accidentally hit the on-off switch once while I was working with the URSA Mini Pro 12K. But thankfully this only happened one time and didn’t prove to be nearly the issue I thought it could be over the course of my weeks with the unit. The convenience of having access to all my settings without going into the menu far outweighed the odds that I would accidentally flip a switch.

Built-In NDs

Is it possible to start a movement to pressure all camera manufacturers to just make built-in NDs standard practice on all cameras going forward? While I have both a matte box and my fair share of both glass and screw in NDs, absolutely nothing beats the efficiency of being able to just dial in the NDs right from the camera body. For a video shooter, if you are going to shoot day exteriors at all, ND’s are a necessary part of your kit. So why not build them into the camera so you have them with you at all times? It’s one less thing to worry about. Applying the NDs in the URSA Mini Pro 12K is as simple as turning a knob on the left side of the camera which gives you from 0 to 6 stops of filtration. A small but valued feature of the camera.

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Power

The unit I shot with was powered via the Blackmagic Design V-Mount Battery Plate. The plate is an add-on accessory, but a must-have if you are considering purchasing the camera. It also comes in a gold mount version. The camera definitely knows how to consume power, requiring a lot to maintain 12K and 8K processing. But I didn’t find the power demands prohibitive. I have three 90 watt hour V mounts batteries and only went through two during the course of a shoot day. The camera also has the ability to be plugged directly into the wall via the power adapter. So, were you to use the camera for an extended interview or a circumstance where it needs to run all day, this would be a potential option as well.

Menus

Despite being a filmmaker for over 20 years now, this is the first Blackmagic Design camera I have ever used. Yet it took me no more than five minutes to figure out how to get the camera operational. Having used so many different cameras throughout my career, I really value it when I am able to pick up a new camera system and have it figured out relatively quickly without needing a deep dive into the product manual. The layout of the menu in the URSA Mini Pro 12K is incredibly easy to navigate. No digging into submenu after submenu just to do the basics. Everything you really need is right there on the touchscreen in an easy-to-understand format. Switching between resolutions and compressions, popping on false color, or a preview LUT, it’s all right there in the menu system without you having to waste a lot of time looking for it.

I’m a big fan of simplicity in camera systems. It’s not that I don’t know how to do the more complicated deep dives into camera systems. But that doesn’t mean I should have to. I like to keep photography simple. So I personally really appreciate it when a manufacturer lets you do the basic stuff as quickly and efficiently as possible. The Blackmagic Design menu layout is one of my favorites so far.

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Image Quality

This is the most subjective category. Like I said earlier, I am not the one to do extensive lab tests to try and compare one camera’s image quality to another. I simply go by whether or not the camera is returning the image that I want or not. Is it up to my standard as that is the only standard that really matters to me in the end? The images from the URSA Mini Pro 12K were terrific straight out of camera. Since this is my first experience shooting with Blackmagic Design, I wasn’t 100% sure what to expect. But I definitely was not disappointed. The native ISO is listed at 800. After speaking with the Blackmagic Design reps, I opted to shoot at ISO 400 and straight out of camera I got the image I wanted with minimal fuss and minimal noise. The colors, especially the skin tones, were exactly where I wanted them. I only did minor color grading after the fact for my own aesthetic reasons, but could have easily gone with the straight out of camera footage without skipping a beat.

Value

I think the best feature of the camera is the price point. With the recent price drop, getting all these features and capabilities in a camera for less than $6,000 is great value for the money. There are, of course, several other options for cinema cameras. Some of those options have definite advantages over the URSA Mini Pro 12K. But those advantages come at a cost. I think for a budget-conscious filmmaker looking to get the most bang for his or her buck, the URSA Mini Pro 12K is a terrific value. Nowhere else will you get this much camera for that low of a price. The image quality easily competes with competing cameras that come at ten times the cost. And for the dedicated videographer/cinematographer, the image is going to be far superior to anything you will get out of a mirrorless SLR hybrid.

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Pros Versus Cons

I like to provide as much detail and context as possible when discussing the merits of a piece of equipment, but as I realize many people just want the bullet points, here they go.

Pros

  • Image quality
  • Versatility to go from 12K to 4K
  • Variable frame rates
  • Manageable file sizes despite resolution
  • Blackmagic RAW
  • Recording to external SSDs
  • Easy playback of even 12K files in Davinci Resolve Studio
  • Built-in NDs
  • Color rendition. Especially skin tones.
  • Accurate exposure monitoring
  • Menu layout

Cons

  • Heavy
  • No ProRes Recording
  • Flip switches have the potential to be a problem, although I didn’t experience it much in my testing
  • No IBIS

Summary

In summary, I was very impressed with my maiden voyage shooting with Blackmagic Design and the URSA Mini Pro 12K. It has the feature set I’ve come to expect from far more expensive cameras for a fraction of the price. It provides a great deal of versatility, whether you want uber resolution or a 4K workhorse with perks. It offers an accelerated workflow by being able to record directly to SSD at manageable file sizes in a raw format that plays very nicely in DaVinci Resolve Studio. This is probably not the camera for you if you are looking for a run and gun autofocus beast that you can vlog with. But if you can take your time and are producing assets in a more controlled environment, you would be hard-pressed to get better image quality, even at ten times the price. Definitely worth the investment.

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iPhone 13 and 13 Mini Review: Mid-Range Prowess Continues

iPhone 13 and 13 Mini Review: Mid-Range Prowess Continues

iPhone 13 and 13 Mini Review: Mid-Range Prowess Continues 19

For Apple, the iPhone 13 and 13 mini are supposed to be the easiest foray into the best the company has to offer, and that means the results have to speak for themselves.

Like the iPhone 13 Pro and Pro Max, these two phones also come with better camera systems. It’s a familiar refrain every year, only this time, it bears more weight because the phones aren’t all that different from the iPhone 12 and 12 mini that came before them. There are also no gaps as far as what the 13 and 13 mini offer. Shoot photos on either one and you should get the same result.

The promise has always been that, despite not going with one of Apple’s Pro variants, you would still come away satisfied with the results from its less advanced tier of handsets.

Design and Camera Features

There isn’t much to say about the aesthetics here. These phones are highly similar to their predecessors. Yes, there is a smaller notch at the top, though still no less noticeable, and the Ceramic Shield screen is supposed to be more rigid in staving off scratches and nicks. After using these phones for 10 days, I’m not convinced about that yet.

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I’m also not a fan of glass on the back. Not only because they become fingerprint magnets, but also for the issues they can cause over grip. For a photographer using either phone without a case, the potential to slip inevitably increases. I preferred the matte finish on the edges, where even a tighter grip didn’t leave a visible print behind every single time. All this said, most will put their phone in a case, making these complaints largely moot.

On the inside, there is a lot to consider. For starters, the new A15 Bionic chip and image signal processor gives these phones the same kind of power their Pro brethren can harness. Key to this is how the primary 12-megapixel wide (26mm equivalent) image sensor is the same size as the one in the iPhone 12 Pro Max. Apple switched to a Dual-Pixel autofocus instead of the phase-detection it utilized in the past. Sensor-shift optical image stabilization (OIS), introduced in the 12 Pro Max, also comes into play here, too.

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The 12-megapixel ultra-wide (13mm equivalent) is back, essentially unchanged from that of the previous generation. Apple didn’t extend the 13 Pro/Pro Max Macro mode to this lens by way of an automatic switch via the primary lens. Those phones let you move in as close as two centimeters to capture an image, but you won’t be doing that with the 13 and 13 mini.

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The lack of a telephoto lens means you won’t be zooming in — optically, anyway — toward a subject, either. Nor will you get ProMotion, what Apple calls its 120Hz screen refresh rate for smoother navigation. And forget about shooting anything in ProRAW, as that format is exclusive to Apple’s Pro iPhones.

What you will get is better choices for internal storage, starting with 128GB as a base, and going up to 256GB and 512GB.

Charting a Different Upgrade Path

Apple likes to present each iPhone generation as a marked improvement over its predecessor. I would say it’s better to look at it from a wider viewpoint: two years or longer. For example, the iPhone 11 came in one size, as there was no mini at that time. It started at a paltry 64GB of storage and came with a screen that isn’t as vibrant as the Super Retina XDR the iPhone 13 models have. Of course, that hasn’t changed, and the iPhone 11 is still available as a budget option.

Apple also says the image sensor on the iPhone 13 and 13 mini primary camera is 47% larger than the one on the iPhone 11. The wider f/1.7 aperture should also bring in 87% more light. Given the 11 also never had an ultra-wide lens, it’s all gravy as far as being able to shoot with that kind of perspective on these phones.

I also have to throw in the iPhone SE (2020) into this because it’s limited to one camera that has no chance of producing the same results that an iPhone 13 mini can. Put the two side-by-side, and the 13 mini not only has a larger 5.4-inch display, it’s also lighter to wield. Granted, there is a big difference in price: the SE starts at $399, whereas the 13 mini starts at $699. With that kind of discrepancy, you should expect that big performance gap.

Software Features

Without the extra goodies the Pro models have, Apple did at least include one key element to bridge the divide in the form of Photographic Styles. When you first launch the Camera app, you can choose to go through the process of selecting the style you like to go with for your photos. If you don’t see it, go to Settings -> Camera -> Photographic Styles to get there.

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These aren’t filters, but rather differences in tonality and temperature that set a baseline. That way, it’s your starting point every time you launch the Camera app. You can still freely adjust the tone and warmth for every image before shooting it, or even select a different style for any one particular shot when necessary. The automated part of this is that the style applies itself to the photo by what’s in it. Capture a scene with multiple people, and it will make those adjustments for each individual, rather than paint a broad stroke over all of them equally. It can’t do that in the same way for objects or animals, so the effect does have its limits.

Apple hyped its new Cinematic mode a lot more, presenting it as a new Hollywood-esque way to shoot mobile video. Outside of that, the rest of the camera interface will look familiar.

Image Quality

Primary camera

Smartphones have pretty sophisticated processes in how they assess and render a scene. Apple says it positioned the A15 Bionic to push its Deep Fusion and Smart HDR 4 algorithms to do it properly every time. In my testing, I found this to not be the case because of one unpredictable variable: lighting.

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I was impressed with the images the iPhone 13 and 13 mini could produce, and I only bristled at how pervasive luminance turned out to be. This wasn’t about which style I was shooting with, it’s a fundamental flaw of the camera system itself. And it’s not specific to these phones because I saw the same thing happen with the 13 Pro and Pro Max, which I discuss in my review. It’s hard for me to say how much the average user would take issue with it, especially since these two models are, in my opinion, more likely to end up in people’s hands than the Pro models are.

But when it’s obvious, it’s hard to miss. A lot of conditions won’t present these challenges, unless there’s plenty of contrast. Apple’s penchant for color and tones, be they skin, fur, fabric, and hard surfaces, apply throughout. The detail is there, as is the relatively soft texture. In many cases, photos will turn out just fine.

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iPhone 13, Portrait Mode

Except, like my experience with the 13 Pro and Pro Max, dynamic range proved to be a hurdle these phones also had to consistently jump over. Light sources could wash out easily if Apple’s Deep Fusion placed more emphasis on detailing the shadows. A scene with a very bright light and a dark setting would force Apple’s software to pick a side, and invariably, that side is going to be on the darker side.

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The inability to shoot in RAW doesn’t make it any easier. Third-party apps would have to step up with better rendering to address this shortcoming. It’s just frustrating to capture excellent shots with one element routinely popping up to affect them visually.

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Ultra-wide

If you’re coming from any of the more affordable or mid-range iPhones that predated the iPhone 12 and 13 models, you will appreciate having a second lens with a 120-degree field of view. Sometimes, physically stepping back to frame something isn’t possible, and that’s where the ultra-wide camera is so convenient.

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It is hindered by its f/2.4 aperture, so low-light shots will be more challenging, but the results aren’t going to be bad. That’s what I found in most instances, and ultimately, I’m not sure I noticed a massive difference between these two phones and the 13 Pro and Pro Max ultra-wide cameras. Apple also finally enabled the ultra-wide lens to shoot in Night mode, making it possible to try capturing a scene once night falls.

Coming from an iPhone X, XR, 11, or SE, just having this lens and that flexibility is a significant addition, and worth considering, even if Apple was pretty late to the game in adding both features compared to its competitors.

Night and Low-Light

Since the primary lens and sensor mirror that of the iPhone 12 Pro Max, results are likely going to come out looking similar, too. I never got to use that phone, so I can’t say for certain, but what I can say is that the iPhone 13 and 13 mini can deliver good results when the lighting is right. Shoot a scene with reflected light or well-lit building or street and images should come out looking quite nice.

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As I have already mentioned, dynamic range and luminance are problematic throughout, though. Much like I experienced with the iPhone 13 Pro models, these two phones also struggle with keeping visible light sources in check. Lamps or bulbs in your shot will wash out, and the more prominent they are in the image, the more they stand out in a negative way. Also, the further away the subject is in a night shot, the worse the cameras render the details in that scene. It’s why cityscapes and faraway street scenes may come out with very mixed results.

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I keep pointing to older iPhones because that’s where the results make the most sense. Try shooting the same night scenes with those past devices, and you will see that progress has indeed been made here. Apple just needs to get a better handle over what its software is doing with each photo. Not being able to shoot in RAW (unless you try a third-party app) doesn’t offer an alternative, and the company’s style selections have little impact in making night and low-light shots look better.

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Video Features

The iPhone has been a stellar video recorder, a distinction that’s also extended to the less expensive versions over the years. Apple applied both Dolby Vision HDR and Cinematic mode to both the iPhone 13 and 13 mini. The latter is the newer feature, and it’s a lot like Portrait mode for video by adding bokeh to a scene that you could control both during and after you’ve recorded the clip.

It’s not especially good in low-light or night scenes, where focusing can feel a bit erratic, but the feature certainly holds promise. The issue is that it’s limited to 1080p at 30fps, and only works with the primary lens, so your ability to truly push this feature is a bit limited from the start. Meanwhile, ProRes is exclusive to the Pro iPhones, so you can’t take advantage of file compression to shoot a lot of high-quality video, and take up less space on your phone’s storage.

Apple’s Mid-Range Prowess Continues

I recognize that calling these phones “mid-range” is stretching things a little, but we know which of Apple’s phones are the flagships, and these two aren’t it. Still, the iPhone 13 and 13 mini are easy to like for how well they can shoot relative to where they stand against others. The litany of third-party apps help fill some functional and performance gaps, which is always nice.

I just wish Apple would be more proactive in dealing with the output issues that I feel are pretty obvious. Competitors are doing better handling night shooting and luminance, though may struggle more with matching how Apple renders people in any average shot. For now, the iPhone 13 might come out on top, but competitors do some things better than Apple currently is. If Apple can get dynamic range right, it would have a camera that really is tough to beat, especially at this level.

iPhone 13 and 13 Mini Review: Mid-Range Prowess Continues 32

Are There Alternatives?

It will be interesting to see what Google does with the Pixel 6, and if its pricing will fall more in line with the iPhone 13 and 13 mini. It’s unlikely Google could match what Apple is doing on the video side, but all bets are off when it comes to still images. Google’s Night Sight is superb, and works really well on more affordable devices like the Pixel 5a.

Samsung has been taking its mid-range phone cameras more seriously in recent years, and it shows in devices like the Galaxy A52, among others. Chinese brands are also making big inroads and pushing more innovation in mobile photography than we’re generally seeing on this side of the pond. OnePlus, Vivo, Xiaomi, Huawei, and Oppo are all constantly trying to one-up each other, leading to some fascinating results for those who end up shooting with them.

Should You Buy It?

Yes, but only if you’re upgrading from an older iPhone. If you have the iPhone 12 or 12 mini, you can hold off — unless you have a hankering for Cinematic mode. The bigger difference comes from a wider gap of time, meaning you will feel a much greater imaging impact if you’re coming at the iPhone 13 or 13 mini from an iPhone that came to market in prior years. From that perspective, there is a lot to like here.

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