What is Apple's new Cinematic Mode?

Cinematic Mode
(Image credit: Apple)

Yesterday saw the official launch of the iPhone 13 (along with a whole other host of new Apple products, including two new iPads and the Apple Watch 7). While many of the updates were certainly interesting, a lot of them were par for the course, with upgraded camera sensors and longer battery lives across the iPhone 13 models. However, there was one newly announced feature that made us sit up in our seats – Cinematic Mode. 

Billed as a way to mimic professional cinema cameras, Cinematic Mode looks like it could be a game-changer for content creators – but what exactly is it? And how does it work?

• Read more: iPhone 13 vs iPhone 13 Pro (opens in new tab)

Cinematic Mode takes its cues from Apple's long-established Portrait Mode, which mimics the shallow depth-of-field and bokeh that you can capture with 'proper' cameras and lenses that are set to a wide aperture. 

Using the multiple lenses on the rear of the phone, Portrait Mode is able to see depth (just as your two eyes give you a better perception of depth than if you were to close one). It then builds a 'depth map', figuring out which subjects are closer and which ones are further away. After that, it's simply a case of identifying which parts of the frame are most important (i.e. the subject's face) and focusing on that, letting the rest fall away into artificial blur). 

Cinematic Mode essentially works in the same way, but is even more clever. When a user is filming their subjects, Cinematic Mode's AI will detect faces and points of interest, putting them in clear focus and casting the rest into artificial bokeh. Interestingly, the AI is so advanced that if a subject moves their gaze away, Cinematic Mode will readjust its focus to an object within the subject's line of sight.

However, you don't have to rely on Apple's AI if you don't want to. Cinematic Mode not only enables the user to change focus at they're recording by simply tapping on the screen, you can also adjust focus after the fact as well. This means that users can have total creative control over Cinematic Mode – or they can simply sit back and let the AI work its magic. 

When the iPhone 13 (opens in new tab) series is launched, Cinematic Mode will be limited to 1080p at 30 fps. However, we wouldn't be surprised to see this bumped up to 4K at some point at an Apple event at some point in the future…

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With over a decade of photographic experience, Louise arms Digital Camera World with a wealth of knowledge on photographic technique and know-how – something at which she is so adept that she's delivered workshops for the likes of ITV and Sue Ryder. Louise also brings years of experience as both a web and print journalist, having served as features editor for Practical Photography magazine and contributing photography tutorials and camera analysis to titles including Digital Camera Magazine (opens in new tab) and  Digital Photographer (opens in new tab). Louise currently shoots with the Fujifilm X-T200 and the Nikon D800, capturing self-portraits and still life images, and is DCW's ecommerce editor, meaning that she knows good camera, lens and laptop deals when she sees them.