Skip to main content

The iPhone 13 Pro is why you'll care about macro photography in 2022

iPhone 13 Pro Max
iPhone 13 Pro Max (Image credit: Apoorva Bhardwaj / Android Central)

Apple often doesn't do new things first, especially in the smartphone space. But there's no denying that an iPhone launch often sets the tone for the coming year of flagships. We've seen it countless times before: With the move away from 3.5mm headphone jacks in 2016, and more recently with the facial recognition tech and in-box chargers.

Every Android manufacturer — especially the big ones like Samsung, Xiaomi, and Oppo — wants to invite comparisons with Apple's handset. Some, like Huawei, have even tried to out-iPhone the iPhone, doubling down on ideas like 3D Touch, which eventually turned out to be technological dead ends.

And so, as we hurtle towards the 2022 release cycle, macro photography looks likely to be the next major iPhone feature borrowed by the best Android phones of the next 12 months. The iPhone 13 Pro can capture impressive close-ups thanks to its upgraded ultra-wide camera, as AC's Harish Jonnalagadda writes in his review:

I used dedicated macro lenses on over a hundred Android phones, and most of the time, they're not worth the effort. However, there are a few devices like the Mi 11 Ultra that rely on the 50MP wide-angle lens to take macro shots, and they do a good job getting close to the subject. The iPhone 13 Pro Max utilizes a similar system; as the wide-angle lens has autofocus, it switches to macro mode when you're close to an object, letting you take photos from just 2 cm away.That said, I had a lot of fun using this mode on the iPhone 13 Pro Max, and the only thing that's missing is a dedicated toggle to enable or disable the feature. Right now, it's done automatically, but there are a few scenarios — mainly at night — where the macro mode isn't quite as good, and in these situations, I want to be able to turn it off manually.

Once again, Apple isn't the first to do this — Huawei's P20 Pro was pulling similar photographic tricks back in 2018 — but it is the first to position it as a significant selling point and a vital part of the smartphone camera arsenal.

OnePlus Nord 2 camera

Source: Alex Dobie / Android Central (Image credit: Source: Alex Dobie / Android Central)

Android phones have included macro in the past, but few have taken it seriously.

Android manufacturers have plenty of experience with macro cameras, but these have largely been an afterthought — 5-megapixel or 2-megapixel units that produce grainy shots, the quality of which quickly degrades in lower light. I've called them "sticker cameras" before because they're about as useful as a sticker on the back of a phone to the average user. Even great phones like the OnePlus Nord 2 have fallen victim to ever-multiplying numbers of these sticker cameras. The idea is sound, but few phone makers think to back it up with the necessary hardware muscle.

While macro photography in the iPhone 13 Pro is sure to accelerate the adoption of dubious quality macro shooters in mid-range Androids, it should also push makers of high-end devices to pay attention to this neglected area of photography. In terms of the optics of a smartphone camera, it's not difficult to tweak your ultrawide lens to allow for a nearer focal length. Samsung, for instance, already does this to an extent with its "focus enhancer" mode on the Galaxy S21 Ultra, which automatically switches to the ultrawide camera when the camera's subject is closer than a few centimeters. A natural step up would be to adapt the ultrawide shooter to pull double-duty as an iPhone-style macro shooter in the upcoming S22 Ultra.

Huawei P20 Pro

Source: Alex Dobie / Android Central (Image credit: Source: Alex Dobie / Android Central)

Android manufacturers like Huawei, Samsung, and Xiaomi now include periscope telephoto cameras that let you capture distant subjects in sharp focus. If you've used this kind of camera, you'll know how this added diversity changes the way you think about taking photos on a phone.

If done right, macro capabilities in a phone camera can be just as useful and creative as telephoto, super-telephoto, or regular ultrawide. That's especially true when paired with high-quality video capabilities of the kind Apple's new flagship can boast. Apple's adoption of the feature is sure to push it more towards the mainstream as a feature that's just expected in phones over a certain price. And if that happens, anyone buying a high-end phone will be better for it.

Alex Dobie
Executive Editor

Alex was with Android Central for over a decade, producing written and video content for the site, and served as global Executive Editor from 2016 to 2022.

21 Comments
  • They sure love Apple on this Android site.
  • Why shouldn't they? Apple sites often talk about new Android stuff coming out.
  • Bec whenever Apple adopts an existing feature they make it better and then it becomes mainstream by other manufacturers.
  • It's the old adage, if you can't beat them, join them.
  • I enjoy macro photography and welcome the advancements in hardware/software on mobile devices. However, I prefer advancements in zoom. Something about getting a usable image of a bird (for example) from my phone really hypes me up.
  • Couldn't agree more... camera zoom needs to be more of a priority...
  • Camera Zoom is worthless if the pixels are tiny. You're going to zoom into the bird, but the image will be so bad that there isn't a point in doing anything other than posting it to Social Media, where it will be destroyed even further. If you care about zoom, then skip this year's upgrade and spend that money on an entry-level DSLR, instead. They do that... FAR BETTER. Even the 20x Zoom on the best Galaxy is a mess of oversharpening. IMO, smartphones simply aren't equipped for zoom photography. They're best at short to medium range where the device doesn't have to overcompensate for the hardware. I want decent-good zoom shots. Not simply the ability to zoom in up to 20, 30, 50, or 100x. What good is zoom if the pictures are unusable. Not to mention, if the bird is in flight, you're unlikely to be able to focus on it over a large distance, anyways. It's going to be a blurry, then oversharpened by the camera processing, and just look bad.
  • Yes, there are limitations, but even on my S21 Ultra I was able to get some quality 10-20X grabs of sea birds fishing for breakfast off shore this summer. The images won't be in National Geographic, but they are meaningful to me.
  • How about changing the title to "The iPhone 13 Pro is why I'll care about macro photography in 2022"?
  • It isn't, I'm on an Android site because I own an Android phone.
    This site is a joke.
  • The article correlates Apple’s marketing prowess with where we can expect Android OEMs to invest their R&D dollars in the near future. Alex Dobie has been contributing here for a long time and I have always enjoyed his articles and appearances on the APC.
  • Nope. This infomercial is they typical rewriting of history. The owners of Androidcentral should quit as they're beyond saving when it comes to selling out.
    I own an S21U and I have been taking amazing macro shots for the whole of 2021. That is the game changer this site should be writing about, but instead they run Apple's errands and undermines the ecosystem in every single writeup about Samsung products and hails Apple as the industry leaders.
  • I too have enjoyed taking macro shots on my S21 Ultra! When I read this article I thought that a side by side comparison between the iPhone 13 Pro and S21 Ultra would be interesting. 🍻
  • Those already exist, go to YouTube and see.
  • iPhones can focus up closer than Samsung devices. They also deliver shots that are less processed and have more natural colors. They're going to be superior for macro photography. The fact that you can "take macro shots on your S21U" is not up for debate. I can "take Macro Shots on my Galaxy Note 9," too. The iPhones are just better at it than most Android phones. Samsung has decided to invest heavily in zoom, which is frankly not a great place as the smartphone form factor cannot accommodate the type of camera hardware needed to produce zoom photos that are as good as the Macro Photos out of an iPhone 13 Pro. That's ignoring the other benefits of the iPhone Camera System: ProRAW, ProRes, the better Portrait Mode, LIDAR, a better front flash (still flabbergasted that Android OEMs haven't at least closed the gap with that - it's been forever), etc.
  • ProRaw is a proprietary solution for a problem that didn't exist.
  • Yeah, I've seen that these sites and commenters on them always find the same confirmation bias nonsense and sticks to that, supported by the BS marketing terms out of the latest Apple infomercial keynotes.
    The classic hits like, complete denial on image quality on iPhones is sad. Especially on supposed Android sites. Brainwashing everyone into thinking Gcam and its massively under exposed default is usually the next incoming lie.
  • A joke, indeed... Has been for a while now, and the joke's only getting more comical with age
  • I used iPhones for many years. They are great. But i have switched to Android a few times over the last decade. And i just did it again last month. The fold 3 is really nice and i made a full switch. iPhone cameras are amazing (huawei mate20 pro was great when i had my last switch). The new iPhone camera features are getting irrelavent to mass market. When would i really need to take macro shots? All i can think of is taking photo of coins? Which are becoming more of an antique anyways. Needless to say making a film! Post adjustable focus? Whaaattt... May be im wrong. But anyways. See u iPhone in a few years when you make that change to usbc and fingerprint touch ID.
  • Old I already can do that on my s21 ultra. But this lame website likes to talk only about iPhones
  • I've had a phone macro lens for about four years now. Macro photos really aren't that big a deal. The biggest use I've found for them is to read the TINY numbers on some of the little pill batteries. 😁