There have been ridiculous mashups between cellphones and cameras for as long as there have been smartphones.
There have been cameras that magnetize to your phone or clamp to it. To make your phone behave more like a camera, there have been additional lenses and shutter grips available. We’ve had cameras that functioned something like phones. Everyone appears to have come to the consensus that phones can just look like phones and cameras can just piggyback on your mobile data as needed because none of them have been persuasive enough to persuade the majority. A just world is a sane one, etc.
As soon as Xiaomi launched its 13 Ultra with a camera accessory kit for an additional 999 yuan (about $137, while eBay resellers are asking for nearly $200), I was prepared to put an end to that particular chapter of the history of digital photography. “Oh, ho ho!” I laughed arrogantly. “Not this tired chestnut once more!” The joke is now on me six months later since it’s actually extremely nice; it’s just a shame that the camera and gear aren’t and probably never will be officially available in the US.
The fact that you don’t appear to be a complete idiot using this phone/camera combination is crucial to its success, and I can’t emphasize how important this function is. Everything is discreet, at least until you start using the filter holder, but that is your fault.
The kit’s main components are a typical-looking phone case and a shutter grip that you can slide on and off as needed. When you wish to use your phone as a standard phone, you may remove the shutter with ease. Bluetooth is used to connect the two-stage shutter on the grip to the camera. There is also a wrist strap attachment, which in my opinion is the most underappreciated camera accessory of them. I desire one for each phone.
A 67mm filter adaptor is also present, along with a screw-on lens cap that is primarily decorative. I fixed the grip and went to a popular tourist spot in Seattle to practice photography for a couple of hours.
A mushroom hunter once told me that you need to “get your eyes on” what you’re looking for. You walk to your foraging location and begin searching, but eventually another sensation comes into play. You get better at finding the morels or whatever it is you’re looking for.
That’s how I’ve found photography to be as well. Every time I enter a setting with the intention of taking images, I first struggle, but eventually “get my eyes on” and begin to see better pictures. Additionally, something about holding a camera-like object in my hand makes it easier for me to focus.
That was the situation at least when I used the Xiaomi 13 Ultra to go around Seattle Center on a lovely Tuesday afternoon. Yes, the camera grip makes holding the phone while taking a picture more comfortable. Additionally, the tactile shutter button encourages you to focus more on your topic than the screen. Nevertheless, the kit’s usefulness is at least 50% mental, at least for me. It facilitates my transition into the photography mindset more quickly than a dedicated camera.
Importantly, the 13 Ultra also functions as an absolute unit. One of the four rear-facing cameras has a sizable one-inch-type sensor. There is an ultrawide, a 3.2x and a 5x telephoto lens. A 2x crop zoom is also included with the primary camera. It’s a veritable buffet of camera technology, and the software supporting it isn’t bad either. Even the color processing is Leica-branded, so you should treat it with caution. But I’ll be darned if I didn’t capture some of my best headshots over the course of the previous year using this device.
Of course, the 13 Ultra has issues that even the best modern phone cameras can’t overcome. It struggles to capture moving subjects in low light, occasionally oversaturates colors, and struggles to capture fine detail as well as a camera with a larger sensor. (Observe the child’s hair in the photo above.) Additionally, some of the portrait mode settings’ vignetting is too strong in my opinion. I sincerely wish we could get it in the US, as it is without a doubt one of my favorite mobile cameras of the previous year.
To capture beautiful pictures, you don’t need a top-of-the-line camera. You can enjoy snapping pictures with your phone without necessarily needing a sophisticated camera handle. However, Xiaomi’s interpretation of the traditional “phone is a camera” idea is the smartest one I’ve come across, and I believe it has influenced my desire to take better pictures. In my opinion, it’s an excellent accessory if it makes using your phone to take images more enjoyable (whether it’s a magnet, clamp, grip, or something else). If it doesn’t make you appear like a gigantic dingus, it’s just a pleasant bonus.