If you want the best cameras of any phone available today, your search ends with the Xiaomi 13 Ultra — with a large 1-inch sensor for the primary lens and four 50MP cameras in total at the back, it is a camera powerhouse like no other phone today. Having used the phone for a few months has reinforced this belief, and it still holds its own against the Galaxy S23 Ultra, Pixel 7 Pro, and iPhone 14 Pro.
Sure, a big part of what makes the 13 Ultra such a great camera has to do with the hardware; Xiaomi is using the largest lens ever fitted to a phone. But that's just one half of the story; the Leica collaboration this year has resulted in dramatic changes to Xiaomi's camera algorithms, and that allowed the 13 Ultra to edge out its rivals.
Even the design of the phone is clearly oriented toward its use as a camera, given the gargantuan circular island at the back and the finish that's designed to evoke the sense of holding a camera in your hand. But if you want to take full advantage of the hardware on offer, you may want to takt a look at the Xiaomi 13 Ultra Photography Kit. This kit is limited to Xiaomi China — where it's sold for the equivalent of $138 — and you can get it from global resellers for $129.
The goal with the camera kit is to turn the Xiaomi 13 Ultra into a full-fledged camera; therefore, it includes a case, a camera grip with its own shutter button, a lens cover, and a 67mm adapter ring. I'll start with the case, because it is exquisite. It mimics the feel of the leather back of the 13 Ultra, and the best part is that there's a textured coating on the sides that mimics the feel of a camera — and that green color option doesn't look all that bad either.
On its own, the case makes holding and using the Xiaomi 13 Ultra that much more comfortable. But where it comes into its own is with the camera grip; the grip easily slots into the bottom portion of the case, and there's a button that locks into in position. With the grip attached, the 13 Ultra transforms into a point-and-shoot, and it's significantly easier to use.
The camera grip contains a wireless shutter button and a control dial that lets you zoom in or out. This is particularly nifty as it lets you use the full versatility of the lenses on the 13 Ultra, and do so without having to interact with the screen. And just like a traditional camera, you can partially press the button to focus on a subject, and that makes shooting outdoors that much more straightforward.
Xiaomi also bundles a lens cover with the package, and while I haven't used it, I understand its utility. In a similar vein, I didn't find much utility for the 67mm adapter ring, but if you're an enthusiast and want to attach external lenses and filters to the 13 Ultra, this is an ideal way to do it.
Ultimately, the Xiaomi 13 Ultra camera kit is aimed at those interested in the phone primarily for shooting photos and videos. The fact that the phone isn't sold in the U.S. and most western markets limits its appeal significantly, and while Xiaomi stated it would launch the device outside of China, it isn't available in India, the U.K,, or any of Xiaomi's key global markets. In that vein, getting your hands on the Xiaomi 13 Ultra is already a costly proposition as it involves going the reseller route. Throw in an additional $200 for the camera kit and you're looking at a sizeable investment.
Is it worth it? That's something you'll have to answer for yourself, but having used the phone with the case and camera grip for a few months now, I'd highly recommend picking it up if you've already got the 13 Ultra or are interested in buying the phone. The camera kit unleashes the full potential of the 13 Ultra's cameras, and makes using the device that much more enjoyable.
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Harish Jonnalagadda is a Senior Editor overseeing Asia at Android Central. He leads the site's coverage of Chinese phone brands, contributing to reviews, features, and buying guides. He also writes about storage servers, audio products, and the semiconductor industry. Contact him on Twitter at @chunkynerd.