Before finding the Huawei P30 Pro, I was confident to tell everyone that Google Pixel 3, like its two predecessors, had the best camera for smartphones. Now, I'm not so sure.
The P30 Pro is not a complicated phone: it has a familiar and fast Kirin 980 processor, the same dimensions and a unique crystal design as all other flagship phones, and the same additional features as wireless charging and waterproofing. It is a very direct rival to Samsung's Galaxy S10 Plus, although without a headphone jack or the additional high-resolution screen. Europeans can take a 128GB P30 Pro for € 999, with many providers that include it with a free Sonos One speaker.
What distinguishes the Huawei device is the black set of cameras on its back. It offers unprecedented zoom capabilities, rivals Pixel's epic dynamic range and embarrasses the iPhone with nightly photos. You can not buy a Huawei P30 Pro in the United States, but if you're interested in mobile photography, this is a device you'll want to know. Because the P30 Pro is opening the way that everyone else will follow, it is showing the future of photography on a phone that is available today. And, for once, the device that fulfills that role is not that of Apple, Samsung or Google.
] So what's special about the P30 Pro camera system? Much. From the four sensors on the back, the holder-grabber is the new periscope lens arrangement in the camera with telephoto: a prism reflects the incoming light 90 degrees sideways channeling it through a series of Lenses on the body of the phone that would be impossible to fit into the slim chassis of a smartphone otherwise. This is the reason why the lower aperture appears square, and the benefit of this configuration is a true 5x optical zoom.
Combining image data from the telephoto lens With the camera and the 40 megapixel main image sensor, Huawei produces what it calls a Hybrid, although without losses, according to the company, 10x zoom. I do not strictly agree with Huawei, since I see a certain loss of sharpness once it approaches 10x and more, but the degradation of quality is small . With good light, I have obtained some legitimately usable images of this camera when zoomed in up to 32x. There's not much to say about this, except "wow". The P30 Pro has taken a traditional weakness of smart phones, the ability to approach distant subjects, and has made it a strength. Earlier this year, I tested an Oppo prototype with the same periscope camera technology, and by the end of 2019, we are likely to have numerous phones from Chinese manufacturers with similar capabilities. However, as of today, Huawei is the unrivaled champion.
And all this wild zoom action is just the appetizer.
Above the telephoto camera is the main image sensor, which now has a RYYB sub-pixel configuration (red, yellow, yellow, blue). Why yellow sub-pixels instead of green ones? Huawei says they absorb red and green light and, therefore, help the sensor to collect 40 percent more light. I am intimately familiar with the performance of the P20 Pro camera from last year, which had the traditional RGB sub-pixel layout, and the 2019 model marks a major improvement in the quality and exposure of the image. I attribute it largely to the new RYYB sensor, which is favored by the addition of optical image stabilization in the P30 Pro, available in both the main and telephoto cameras.
The big boost that Huawei's hardware improvements can deliver, The company has worked some algorithmic magic on top of the new sensor to produce what is, in simple terms, the best low-light camera ever placed inside a smartphone. In the past, I have complained about Google's night vision, which is era a truly revolutionary breakthrough for night photography. But the Huawei P30 Pro outperforms Night Sight in its automatic camera mode. Where Google asks for three or four seconds of stability to get a good exposure in the dark, Huawei's new camera produces much better images in a fraction of a second. Look at these comparisons and let the vast abyss of quality sink in:
Night Sight on the Pixel raised the level of what we might expect from dimly lit mobile photography a couple of levels above Apple's iPhone and Samsung's Galaxy devices, and Today, Huawei has a phone that makes Night Sight look ugly and rude.
Huawei has its own Night Mode and has a Pro Mode and has a Master AI setting that adjusts the colors and sharpness in relation to the scene it identifies , but I do not feel the need of any of them. This is simply an excellent camera in its default state. But the advantages of the P30 Pro never combine: you get excellent night shots or an incredible zoom, not both at the same time. This is because the telephoto camera has a smaller and less capable sensor and a smaller aperture (f / 3.4 versus f / 1.6) than the main one.
Many people asked me if Huawei is overprocessing the images of the P30 Pro with as much intensity as it did with the P20 Pro last year. The answer is no, but I still find the company too aggressive with its mix of fuzzy grain suppressors and sharpening additive. The appearance of oil paint, of which the iPhones and Galaxy devices are so guilty, can infiltrate the P30 Pro shots: when photographing crowds, I often end up with faces of people who seem to be deliberately stained to protect their identities. The scenes with many intersecting lines, on the other hand, suffer from an excess of sharpening in which the finest details begin to appear crispy instead of crispy. You can choose to shoot RAW in Pro mode to bypass Huawei's processing options, but then you lose much of the powerful and desirable JPEG processing the phone does to achieve its excellent night shots.
It seems to me that the Google Pixel camera still retains the finest detail of any phone camera. In a photographic comparison of croissants, Huawei was very close to Google, but the Pixel was the one that really conveyed the flaky texture of the pastry shop, while Huawei presented a less grainy but also less realistic image. White balance and Google's exposure calculations are also more accurate, although Huawei has improved with a new AI-driven HDR + image processing on the P30 Pro that calculates an exposure map for each image and intelligently adjusts each segment of the scene. The faces in the shade receive an increase in exposure, while super bright things, such as the sun or a light bulb, slow down so as not to turn off the lights.
My settings for Most common image With this Huawei phone are the deep blacks, which tend to come out a bit discolored and amplify the contrast and saturation with a touch. (If you use the AI Maestro configuration, that will be done automatically by you, but I still do not trust each shot). I also find that daytime photos tend to have a slight red tint, but that is only apparent under close scrutiny with the Pixel with which I am already familiar and satisfied. In general, the main camera of the P30 Pro absorbs a lot of details, and its images are beautifully extended with the light edition.
Compared to the iPhone XS or Samsung Galaxy S10, the Huawei P30 Pro is a clear winner. Samsung has a pronounced tendency to oversaturate its images, while Apple's camera can not compete with the much larger Huawei phone sensor. The P30 Pro captures more detail, has a wider dynamic range and is useful in a wider set of scenarios. When you try to take pictures in low light, the iPhone XS presents a blank black canvas, and the Galaxy S10 only offers outlines, while the P30 Pro makes everything look like daytime.
The focus with the P30 Pro is faster than with the Pixel 3 or any other phone camera you have tested. Especially in low light, the Huawei camera is incredibly fast and responsive, thanks to the newly added 3D depth sensor on the back. It works by following the same principle as Apple's Face ID technology on the front of the iPhones, creating a depth map of the things in front of it. That helps the main camera focus more accurately, enhances the portrait mode with graduated bokeh that intensifies as it moves away from the subject and allows the measurement of augmented reality of things like height, depth and volume.
Displays 1080p images of the Huawei P30 Pro.
The only disappointment with the Huawei P30 Pro cameras is that their video quality is no match for their still photography. I find the stabilization, if you are not zooming, and the sound recording is excellent. However, the quality of the video image is quite poor, without details. The habit of smoothing Huawei images really flattens the textures of the videos and has a rather artificial appearance. The iPhone probably remains the leader when it comes to recording videos, with Samsung in second place.
Finally, Huawei also launches a wide-angle camera on the back and a super high-resolution selfie camera, both of which are fine, but by no means as remarkable as the rest of the company's image hardware. The Huawei camera application is quick to start and operate, and is generously borrowed from the Apple camera interface, and does a good job of keeping additional modes and functions out of the way if you just want to take a picture fast
On the phone, the P30 Pro is based on the Kirin 980 processor (same as last year's Mate 20 Pro), with 8 GB of RAM and at least 128 GB of storage. This is a fast phone, which offers some of the best game response and performance capabilities I've found on Android. But I've also run into a couple of errors, especially with the Twitter application and multitasking view, which have sometimes become a visual confusion.
Huawei's EMUI software is still what it is: more frustrating and annoying than useful. They are small things, like not letting me go down the quick setting screen on the lock screen to turn on the flashlight. Or not having the double press of the power button as a camera shortcut. Or the persistent reminders to enable HiCare, disable the background update of my most used applications, log in to a Huawei Cloud account and grant all the permissions of invasive data that the company wants. If Huawei could find some cold, as Samsung did this year with One UI or as OnePlus has been practicing for years, their phones would be much more attractive.
The first thing I did with the P30 Pro was to download Nova Launcher and the Reduze icon pack, both free in the Google Play Store. With Gboard replacing the preloaded SwiftKey and discarding some annoying notifications, I managed to restart this phone and make it feel like an Android phone instead of a Huawei device. Obviously, that's something that nobody should have to do, but, in all honesty, I'm willing to accept the bachy onboarding as compensation for the incredible performance of the Kirin 980 chip and those wild cameras on the back. However, I can see why some people do not want to make those commitments.
The performance of Bluetooth and Wi-Fi of Huawei is exceptional. Connecting my wireless headphones to this phone is faster than with any other device, except the iPhone and its AirPods made to measure gadgets. Synchronizing a Withings step tracking clock with the P30 Pro is also much faster than with Google Pixel 3. The underground system in London has Wi-Fi in all stations, but most Android devices are too slow to identify the network, and often a connection just like the train that leaves each stop. With the P30 Pro, I am connected before the train arrives at each station. This wireless speed perfectly complements the phone's overall fluidity, which gives the P30 Pro a real sense of modern technology.
All The above is backed by a huge battery of 4,200 mAh that lasts more than a day and a half, no matter what you throw at it. Sessions of marathon games, one-hour photo sessions, wireless music listening, extended YouTube streaming, everything that would exhaust the lower volume phones and ask for a power cord will be taken with the P30 Pro. Huawei Underline this strength for the phone with the addition of a fast 15-watt wireless charge and a 40-watt SuperCharge supercharger that gets the battery from 0 to 70 percent in 30 minutes. Reverse wireless charging is also available, in case you want to complete your Galaxy Buds from the P30 Pro.
The only hardware that I do not like about the Huawei P30 Pro is its screen. I do not mind the notch, which is the smallest thing that can be done, with Huawei even removing the handset for a magnetic levitation approach that vibrates the screen to generate sound. This works surprisingly well, with calls that sound clear, loud and even better than numerous Android alternatives with conventional headphones. The problem is that the 1080p panel of 6.47 inches is of a quality markedly inferior to that of the Samsung Galaxy S10 or Mate 20 Pro last year. When a blank screen is shown, for example, its curved edges exhibit a bluish shadow. The default automatic brightness of Huawei also tends to be too weak, forcing me to push it every night.
I like that Huawei has reduced the curvature of the sides of the screen of the P30 Pro from the extreme curves of the Mate 20. Pro, but the screen is not yet flat enough for a totally comfortable use. This is a phone with an aspect ratio of 19.5: 9, that is, it is already lengthened, and then the lateral curves are cut a little more in the usable space.