Xiaomi 13 Ultra is the smartphone with the most advanced photography sector ever made

It is the ultimate expression of smartphone photography in existence today. Large sensors and brighter optics than the average modern camera phone.

They called it Xiaomi 13 Ultra, as if to add another piece to the Xiaomi 13 family. We would have chosen another name, also because the phone that was announced today has very little in common with the flagship presented in Barcelona.

It is a telephone, but it is also the maximum expression of photography on a smartphone existing today, with every single aspect taken to the extreme, even touching on some fixed points on which the Chinese company had never wanted to intervene. An example? The USB 3.2 port at 5 Gbps, when for years even on the top of the range Xiaomi has always decided to put the USB 2.0 port to favuor its super-fast charging, which on Xiaomi 13 Pro has reached 120 Watts.

On Xiaomi 13 Ultra we switch to the standard power delivery, then we go down to 90 Watts, 20 volts and 4.5 amperes, but full compatibility with all chargers on the market arrives and a dedicated cable is no longer needed.

The decidedly particular design also changes: the screen is slightly curved but the phone has a square frame, with slightly rounded edges to facilitate grip.

The back panel coating resembles leather, but it is a second-generation, highly resistant, antibacterial and scratch-resistant synthetic material: according to the company, it resists fingerprints, does not yellow over time and above all the resistance to bacteria reaches 99%.

Despite the dimensions and a more resistant metal body than the one used on the previous generation, the weight remains contained: it is not a feather, it is 227 grams, but it is lighter than both the Galaxy S23 Ultra and the iPhone 14 Pro Max. The whole phone, like the base and Pro models, it is IP68 certified.

The profile is very particular, with the thickness gradually increasing in the camera area where Xiaomi makes no compromises and has used both large sensors and brighter optics than the average of modern camera phones. Xiaomi 13 Ultra is a smartphone, but it is the closest thing to that concept of smart camera that Samsung in the past, then Panasonic and finally Leica itself, have repeatedly chased.

Before going into the details of the photographic part, let’s spend a few words on what is the starting point: a Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 combined with 16 GB of LPDDR5x RAM and 1 TB of storage with File Base Optimization, the storage memory management system developed from Xiaomi together with Western Digital and introduced last year on Xiaomi 12. Also present is the 12 GB / 256 and 16 GB / 512 version, and we don’t know which versions will arrive in Italy in a few months.

Xiaomi 13 Ultra, as we wrote before, also has a USB 3.2 Gen 1 port which guarantees not only fast file transfer but also Display Port video output in 4K at 60Hz.

If the processor at the base is the same as the Xiaomi 13 Pro, the dissipation system totally changes, which uses for the first time a home-developed solution that is based on the circulation of liquid inside a structure that has many small tunnels.

The water concentrates in the area to be dissipated and, exposed to heat, turns into vapour which then returns to the liquid state after cooling down.

According to Xiaomi this solution is three times more effective than a traditional vapour chamber system, and this allows you to reach even 10 watts of dissipation in a very small space. The choice of this particular system is linked above all to maintaining performance during video recording: according to Xiaomi, the phone is able to record in 4K at 60p continuously without losing frames, precisely because the heatsink is able to discharge the heat produced by the sensor from 1″.

The battery is 5000 mAh, recharges at 100 watts with cable and 50 watt wireless charging: the company for its management has used the homemade Surge G1 chip coupled to the new Surge P2 for recharging.

The novelty, in terms of use, is the new hibernation mode which is activated when the phone has 1% of remaining charge and uses the last drop of energy in the cell to offer an additional 60 minutes of standby time and 12 minutes of phone calls.

The 6.73” screen is obviously OLED, an LTPO with variable frame rate from 1 Hz to 120 Hz equipped with two particularities that currently represent a novelty in the sector.

In fact, we are in front of the first screen with a peak brightness of 2600 nits, 1300 nits in standard conditions, with 12-bit colour depth.

Xiaomi has not gone into detail, but we believe it is a native 10-bit screen with 2 dithering bits for which the ability to reproduce 67 billion shades of colour is declared. According to the company it has been calibrated according to the new CIE 2015 colorimeter standard, a variant that also takes into account the stimulus of the eye and age.

The screen is compatible with HDR10, HDR10+ and is also Dolby Vision certified, which is essential because the phone is capable of recording video in 4K at 60p in Dolby Vision as well.

For those who suffer from screen flickering at low brightness, DC Dimming is integrated but for those who don’t want it, Xiaomi has increased the PWM driving frequency to 1920 Hz, so as to completely cancel the effect.

The screen is not produced by Samsung but by CSOT, or by TCL, using a new organic material.

Xiaomi 13 Ultra is above all a camera, and it is here that Xiaomi together with Leica worked to improve the good things they had already done with Xiaomi 13 Pro. The thickness of the phone hides a group of four lenses for which Leica has tried to achieve a ambitious goal, to keep a large 50 megapixel sensor and a relatively bright lens.

Leica has tried to compress the design of the lenses as much as possible, especially the 8-element one used for the main sensor which is 1”.

The sensor is the same IMX989 used by the Xiaomi 13 Pro, but this time, in addition to the Hyper OIS stabilization on the Leica sensor, it has also added a two-stop variable diaphragm in front of the first micro lens.

The blades start from an aperture of ƒ/1.9 and then close quickly to ƒ/4.0 lengthening the depth of field and reducing the incoming light. The main 50 megapixel sensor has 1.6 micro meter pixels that can be grouped into four to become a 3.2 micro meter super pixel, and this time thanks to the new Xiaomi lens it manages to exploit the entire sensor size without any image crop.

Another fundamental novelty is the possibility of shooting in RAW even at 50 megapixels. Xiaomi 13 Ultra allows you to write two types of RAW files: a smooth RAW, which starts from a single shot and a 14-bit Ultra RAW which contains the information of multiple shots and can count on a wider dynamic range. Xiaomi and Leica have been working with Adobe who will integrate lens profiles into Lightroom and Photoshop.

The peculiarity of the optical group is linked not only to the main 1″ sensor with variable aperture but also to the adoption of a large 50 megapixel sensor for the other three lenses, the ultra wide, the medium tele and the tele.

For these, a Sony sensor was always used, the IMX 858, slightly smaller than the main one but larger than that of most competitor smartphones. Leica started as a lens base from its Sum micron structure, and came up with a new method of processing high-precision lenses that achieves precision of one micron.

The lenses, remember, are not in glass but in COC (Cyclic Olefin Copolymer) on which a new antiglare layer has been applied which should eliminate lens flare and purple fringing.

To be precise, we find a 12 mm ultra wide f/1.8 with autofocus capable of also functioning as a macro, a stabilized 75mm f/1.8 and a 120 mm f/3 periscopic stabilized, therefore an optical 5x. No other phone has four such large sensors paired with such bright stabilized lenses.

Compared to Xiaomi 13 Pro the floating lens of the tele disappears, however Xiaomi managed to obtain the same result by bringing the focus point of the ultra wide closer for the macro bringing it to 5 cm.

In the next few days we will have the opportunity to do a very thorough shooting session, so we will be able to give our first impressions on focus speed, shutter lag and above all general yield, even if the implementation of Leica’s Vivid and Authentic modes bode well: remember that the latter leaves the photo as a photographer would like it, therefore without destructive filters and with a very natural look & feel.

Xiaomi has also introduced two software innovations: the first is a 35 mm Street Photo mode and the second is the Fast Shot shooting mode, which takes a photo in just 0.8s starting from the phone on standby: just press twice the power key. The point of focus has to be pre-set, but this mode is useful for stealing a shot on the sly, without being seen.

The photographic connotation is also given by the special kit that Xiaomi has created for 13 Ultra, a kit that will be sold in a limited edition and at the moment we don’t know if it will also arrive in Europe.

Inside there is a leather case equipped with a holder for an adapter capable of accommodating standard 67 mm photographic filters, a smart choice that allows for the first time to adopt the same filters used on cameras on a phone without limits of any kind.

There is also a grip, with Bluetooth connection, which allows you to use the phone as a real smart pocket camera and there is a cap for the lens, as well as a safety leash.

Last, but not least, the video: it would have been a shame not to take advantage of this hardware also for video, and in addition to the 8K shooting on all the lenses on Xiaomi 13 Ultra we find the 4K at 60p in HDR Dolby Vision and also the possibility to record 10-bit LOG video with the possibility of loading LUTs on the phone to directly see the result on the screen.

As we have written, in-depth impressions, videos and also an in-depth photo report will arrive in the next few days. Xiaomi 13 Ultra will also arrive in Italy in a few months: we don’t know the Italian price yet, but in China it will cost 5999 Yuan, 6499 Yuan and 7299 Yuan. The kit will be on offer for 799 Yuan and is a limited edition.