Everything You Need to Know about LiDAR on the iPhone 13

Have you wondered which iPhones have LiDAR and how you can use it to take better photos and videos? I’ll explain everything!

When the iPhone 13 Pro models came out, a LiDAR Scanner was mentioned as a tool for better Night mode portraits. A new sensor that improves photography piqued attention, but there was little explanation of what LiDAR really is. I'll help you understand it, give you tips on how to use it to take better low-light photos, and even show you a futuristic app that uses it.

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What Is LiDAR

LiDAR stands for Light Detection and Ranging and is mainly used for measuring distances via a pulsed laser. It is the same technology that helps self-driving cars detect their surroundings. Other purposes for LiDAR are to better sense depth in order to take improved Portrait mode photos and for the new cinematic video mode. 

LiDAR also plays a vital role in 3D scanning and augmented reality. Since rumor has it that Apple is working on VR glasses, we may see more uses for LiDAR in the future. In the last section of this article, I’ll show you how to make your own 3D scans for free!

Which iPhones have LiDAR?

The iPhone 12 Pro, iPhone 12 Pro Max, iPhone 13 Pro, and iPhone 13 Pro Max all have LiDAR. Not only that, but the 4th and 5th generation of iPad Pro 12.9-inch also has it. We can expect that future pro models of iPhone and iPad will all include LiDAR sensors too. 

People often wonder if iPhone 13 has LiDAR. Unfortunately no, only the pro models of the iPhone 13 have the sensor. If you have an iPhone 12 or 13 Pro or Pro Max, you can find it on the back near the cameras. It looks like a black circle.

iPhone Lenses
Photo credit Apple: https://www.apple.com/iphone-13-pro/  

How to Use LiDAR on iPhone 12 Pro & iPhone 13 Pro Models

One reason that the iPhone 12 and 13 Pro take such great photos and videos is the LiDAR sensor. Some compare LiDAR to Face ID because it works by sending waves of light pulses showering the subject with infrared dots that can all sense and measure each other. This helps your iPhone create a field of points that can map out distances between objects in that space. This works in low light as well, making the LiDAR-equipped iPhones have significantly better Night mode photos. 

It isn't currently possible to activate LiDAR, but understanding how it works can help you take advantage of it when you take photos and videos. The LiDAR sensor is only available on the rear cameras, so make sure you are using them and keep your subject within 16 feet or 5 meters. There is no LiDAR sensor in the front-facing camera, and it doesn't work at greater distances. To learn more about your iPhone, sign up for our free Tip of the Day newsletter.

Explore the Power of LiDAR With Scaniverse

Scaniverse (free) is a great app that uses LiDAR to scan the world. It is a fun way to record real-world objects and spaces and creates high-quality 3D models of them. For most people, this can just be a fun way to capture something in 3D instead of just taking a photo or video. 

The models can be compared to 3D photos on Facebook or 360-degree videos on YouTube. Gamers and 3D designers can export these scanned models to popular 3D formats such as FBX, OBJ, USDZ, and LAS. They can also be viewed in augmented reality. Let’s take a look:

  1. Download Scaniverse.

    Download Scaniverse.
  2. Open it.

    Open it.
  3. I highly recommend that you watch the tutorial by tapping this.

    I highly recommend that you watch the tutorial by tapping this.
  4. Tap NEW SCAN to start scanning.

    Tap NEW SCAN to start scanning.
  5. Tap RANGE.

    Tap RANGE.
  6. Adjust it as necessary, it will show you what the range scans with red light.

    Adjust it as necessary, it will show you what the range scans with red light.
  7. Tap the shutter button.

    Tap the shutter button.
  8. Follow the instructions.

    Follow the instructions.
  9. When you are done, tap the shutter button to stop the scan. There shouldn't be any stripes left.

    When you are done, tap the shutter button to stop the scan. There shouldn't be any stripes left.
  10. Pick the Processing Mode, in this case, I'll tap Detail. This can take a long time.

    tap Detail.
  11. Tap Save.

    Tap Save.
  12. Here you can edit, measure, adjust, view, name, and share your scan.

    Here you can edit, measure, adjust, view, name, and share your scan.

As you can see, my scan was not good at all. This app takes some getting used to and I recommend watching the tutorial before you start.

LiDAR may seem like a strange concept because it’s so new and abstract, but it mostly just enhances your iPhone or iPad’s amazing photo capabilities. Since there is nothing for you to do to turn LiDAR on and off, you don’t have to worry much about it. Just keep in mind that keeping your subject close will result in the best low light photography on your pro model of iPhone 12 or 13!

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Author Details

Olena Kagui's picture

Author Details

Olena Kagui

Olena Kagui is a Feature Writer at iPhone Life who lives in Hawaii. With a BA in International Relations from Anglo American University, Olena traveled the world. She has lived in Ukraine, the Czech Republic, China, and the USA. Olena won an excellence award for a controversial article, got a grant to blog from a war-zone, and published a short fictional story. She hopes to publish a full-length novel and continue writing up a storm on her blog The Travel Bug Bite! When she’s not typing or flying, she is loving on animals, crafting bizarre creations, and devouring all-you-can-eat sushi.