Xiaomi 13 Ultra camera review

One lens at a timeā€¦

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The Xiaomi 13 Ultra is not coming to India. Yup, the first sentence is enough to discourage anyone from reading ahead and rightfully so. However, the 13 Ultra, in the eyes of a techie, is not an ordinary smartphone. It’s pretty much trying to be a system camera at this point or the next big thing. So even though we may not be able to daily drive this thing ever, the Xiaomi 13 Ultra tells a great story; a story of Leica and Xiaomi's partnership.

This is mostly a camera review of the Xiaomi 13 Ultra because we only got a day and a half with the device. More so, you can even consider this a hands-on with the camera because it wasn’t tested in our conditions. That said, there’s a lot you can decipher about the Xiaomi brand just the way it’s treating its flagships and the Indian market.


There’s a colossal camera bump here. The clever people at Xiaomi have hidden it behind the smartphone’s contouring rear panel. It’s got a leatherette back with an inconspicuous incline just below the camera bump which makes room for the gargantuan camera tech inside. The bottom half where your grip meets the smartphone is like any other big-sized smartphone and it won’t communicate its thick upper to your mitts. It’s easy to believe that the Xiaomi 13 Ultra’s camera bump is no bigger than its Pro sibling or even the competition.

That thickness packs all the meat of the matter. With more megapixels, changeable aperture, big sensors and more lenses; it's got it all. The only question is, how good is the Xiaomi 13 Ultra camera? The short answer is it’s bloody good. The long answer you’re about to find out.

(All camera samples are on this Twitter thread if you want to see less compressed versions of it)

There are four cameras on this thing. Starting with the 1-inch sensor that also has a variable aperture housing the champion Sony IMX989 sensor. The other three lenses have a Sony IMX858 sensor which is also very capable. The second camera is a 75mm telephoto lens, the third is a 120mm super-telephoto and the fourth camera is a 122° ultra-wide, which also does macro shots. All of these cameras have 50MP and the entire thing is IP68 water and dust resistant.

These numbers are not here to tempt photographers and potential buyers but are rather thoughtfully handpicked in collaboration with Leica to deliver consistent performance. And it does. Shots across the lenses are uniform with natural sharpness and well-judged colour temperature by the tech inside. However, that consistency doesn’t come to the display. Unlike Vivo X90 Pro, Xiaomi hasn’t really worked with Leica to bring the display colours to match its camera chops.

If we were to nitpick between these cameras, the itsy-bitsy difference can be noticed between the ultrawide and the 1-inch sensor camera. Mostly to do with how each of these cameras handle exposure and highlights. The primary camera is tighter on exposure and handles colour remarkably well.

This is, again, us trying to find faults in the Xiaomi 13 Ultra’s camera. Toss away our Sherlock hats, and for point-and-shoot, this camera opens a world of possibilities. There’s every practical camera here with dollops of tech for nerds and photographers alike. This ultrawide shot of a subject with a beautiful tea plantation and the sky at the back is so well judged. The Xiaomi 13 Ultra managed to gauge texture without scrubbing or oversharpening the misty hills at the far end.

Even in low light, the camera catches all shades of grey and black remarkably. There’s a bit of noise and smoothening around the edges but that’s to be expected from a smartphone camera. 


It’s also a good reminder that the Xiaomi 13 Ultra is not meant to replace your system camera but rather complement it. You can use Xiaomi’s many lenses to frame your shots and understand tones before actually clicking with a mirrorless or system camera. The black and white filters in the gallery are some of the best. Even the Leica filters along with others are some of the best and most unique filters we’ve seen. 

Filters also add life and mood to the many shots from the Xiaomi 13 Ultra. The base photograph, even with Leica Authentic colour grade applied on top, has plenty of headroom to tinker and tweak the photo to your liking. Leica Vibrant was rather too moody for my taste but if you’re into bright tones then it’s a good mix of that with natural sharpness. Compared to the Vivo X90 Pro, Xiaomi has slightly moodier photographs. On the Vivo, you can play and edit the photos a bit more because of its admittedly brighter but also uniform colour grade.


Our favourite lens was the 75mm telephoto lens. It basically makes every portrait shot feel authentic and natural. There’s lower sharpness here but the overall composition of every shot felt natural. The Xiaomi 13 Ultra judges texture and detail superbly. If you take a portrait shot on the 1-inch sensor camera then the bokeh fall-off isn’t as gradual as any non-1-inch camera smartphone (say iPhone) but the lens blur is rather exceptional and natural because of the hardware. 


The 120mm super-telephoto lens is great. Almost as good as the Google Pixel 7 Pro and the Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra. It can go up to 10x zoom and still take a handsome shot. Xiaomi’s not trying to reach for the moon here and that’s the best practice. Till whichever point to stretch its zoom, there’s a capable shot waiting for you at the end. The 5x and 3.2x zoom shots are literally the sweet spots on the Xiaomi 13 Ultra.

Variable aperture is, to no one’s surprise, a fantastic tool for photographers. To a photographer, the 1-inch sensor with variable aperture is a godsend. It fixes the sensor’s shortcomings by closing up the aperture to f/4.0 from f/1.9. That shallow depth of field is (sort of) fixed. Even for videos where there is too much light, a faster shutter speed need not compensate for it. The variable aperture will let you keep your natural shutter speed and reduce that extra brightness.


Here’s a camera dump of all the shots we took from the Xiaomi 13 Ultra. These are the best ones, some are edited with filters to help you understand the playfulness of its camera quality. 


This is literally the biggest achievement in Xiaomi’s endeavour to be better than Apple, Google and Samsung. Dumping megapixels into a shot can only do so much. The Vivo X90 Pro is a proper example of how the 1-inch sensor makes digital photos look more like proper photographs and now Xiaomi ups the ante by adding a variable aperture. It’s also a bleak reminder that brands like Xiaomi and Vivo have been making meaningful steps to push smartphone photography. It's a hard sell in India with Apple and Samsung championing the premium smartphone market segment (and for good reason). 

Unfortunately, our time with Xiaomi was all but hurried. There’s more to talk about the camera. Especially with videos. The Xiaomi 13 Ultra can shoot 4K on all four cameras and also lets you link up more than four Xiaomi 13 Ultra’s and shoot simultaneously on all devices while monitoring all the output on the main device. Wild, right? It gets better! There’s a Camera Kit that Xiaomi sells in China that lets you mount 67mm system camera filters on its camera module. There’s also a shutter grip and all. You can see this Reel we made to know more.