Perhaps the title is a little tounge in cheek but the new Huawei P20 Pro packs a lot of photographic power under an amazingly accessible hood. We may still be some way off mobile phones dominating the camera market but boy, with this device and others like it, they are getting awfully close.
When I first heard about the Huawei P20 Pro I was a little star struck. Triple Leica lenses!! Really. The reviews were great, awesome even. The camera at least could seem to do little wrong. Was the phone itself up to the job? In a word, yes. As a mobile communications device, the Huawei P20 Pro delivers. Great sound, a clear and bright screen, even in daylight (Samsung take note) and, given it's phenominal power, amazing battery performance. To be fair, I would have assumed that the battery would be seriously lacklustre but far from it, it's amazing. I really don't know how they've done it but I have yet to run out of battery power irrespective of usage. The lowest I've managed to get on a full days usage is just under 20% and that was with some serious usage. OK then, the screen must be crap? Sorry, but it's a great screen. Perhaps not up to Apple iphone X or Samsung S9 standard but way good enough for serious, long term use. What about the UI? After all, it is Chinese. Again, sorry to dissapoint, the UI is really good and I much prefer it to my old Samsungs UI. It's not hugely different of course, just subtedly better. All in all, I think this phone is a keeper.
So, how does the camera stack up, after all, that's the primary reason I chose the Huawei P20 Pro over the Samsung S9 and indeed, even the mega expensive Apple iphone X. Well, I'm not going to bore you with specs because you can get those anywhere. Suffice to say, the optics are simply amazing and even the supplied camera app does exactly what it says on the tin. Combined, this camera is a joy to use. Enough simplicity to make it a point and shoot for those that want it, advanced enough to provide photographers with pro features.
In order to do justice to the Huawei P20 Pro I am going to break this blog post down into two, maybe three seperate articles. The reason for this is simple. Firstly, I am still getting to know the phone / camera and as such I need to spend more time with it. Secondly, there's a huge amount of capability here and I doubt very much if one article will cover everything. Thirdly, opinions tend to change with time and usage so I may have a different perspecive on this device in say a couple of weeks time. Anyway, let's kick Part 1 off.
The first image I took with the Huawei P20 Pro was of the local church just down the road from here. The sky was a lovely blue and I thought this would allow the camera to shine with regards clarity and structure. I wasn't dissapointed, the results were really good for what was a simple point and click image.
The mode I chose here was PHOTO mode, the standard mode when you start up the camera application. Other options are APERTURE, NIGHT, PORTRAIT, VIDEO, PRO and MORE. This photo was not designed to be anything fancy, I was just keen to find out what I had in my pocket. The first things I tend to look for in camera optics is clarity and structure and whether there is any chromatic abberation. Here there is plenty of structure and detail in the image with no apparent artifacts or chromatic abberation. On first glance, it's as good as any image I might take with my Lumix GX80 or Canon G7X mkIII. The colours are really accurate, it's nicely focused and the aperture is wide enough to capture a really good sized image. There's also no barralling or distortion, verticals are vertical. All in all, a very nice job.
All very good, but I was now wondering how the Huawei P20 Pro would cope with indoor portraits. The opportunity to test the camera presented itself a few days later when I was having coffee with a friend at our favourite cafe, The Noble Tree in Torquay. This provided the perfect opportunity to test out another of the modes, NIGHT, which basically takes several bracketed shots (at different exposures) and then combines them to create a HDR image of the subject. The only problem is that this process, depending on the available light, can take up to 6 seconds to complete. That's no problem of course if you are photographing a static subject but a human being, that's not so easy! As it was, Paul did remarkably well to keep still and because there was a good amount of light available, the process took ony about 3 seconds or so. Nonetheless, it's still remarkably difficult to keep still for 3 seconds. The resulting image, which I have cropped, is show below. There's no additional processing applied to this image, it's straight out of camera.
The results were, quite frankly, amazing. My Lumix GX80 has IBIS (in body stabalisation) and 3 seconds exposures are certainly possible. Nonetheless, to get such an outstanding image from a hand held moble phone just blew me away. The colour and sharpness are pretty much spot on and the bracketed exposures really give you a lovely depth of tone. All in all, a big tick in the box for Night mode.
Moving on, I was keen to see what the Huawei P20 Pro could do in a studio environment with only natural lighting. Here, the only light source was a single window (facing north) which lit the subject directly face on. The Huawei P20 Pro was set to NIGHT mode again for this photo. While I have cropped it to a square format and done a little light processing, I have done nothing major as the results really didn't require it.
Again, the Huawei P20 Pro excelled in the low light of the studio environment. But what about a true night shot? Well, the only one I have taken that counts as a true night shot is shown below, this is of the shops up at Walnut Road in Chelston. I'll do a few more soon so that you can really see how it really handles night shots as this one was well lit.
Moving on, another setting on the phone is PORTRAIT and I was therefore keen to see how this handled a close up where lighting was reasonable, for example in a well lit room. This image, of good friend Luis from Le Club Franglais held at Le Bistro Pierre each Wednesday morning, is in B&W processed using Snapseed directly from the colour image taken that morning. The level of detail in this image is truly amazing.
Rather than make this review the longest in history, I'll prepare and publish a Part 2 soon where I will look at some of the other camera functionality under the headings APERTURE, VIDEO, PRO & MORE. I'll also take a look at it's optical / digital zoom capabilities in a little more detail. In the meantime, I hope that this short, hands on review has opened your eyes to what today's camera phones, andin particular, the Huawei P20 Pro, are capable of.
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