Five years ago, in 2013, the Nokia Lumia 1020 was introduced with a 41MP camera. And the latest Huawei P20 Pro is the first smartphone after the Nokia Lumia 1020 to have such a high-resolution camera. In between, a number of camera-centric smartphones that claimed to offer a DSLR-level picture quality were launched, but most couldn’t deliver. I still remember how unreliable the Asus ZenFone Zoom was. The Kodak Ektra was even worse.
Huawei is making a similar pitch, by trying to convince users to ditch their DSLRs for its P20 Pro. Well, it may seem bold, but the P20 Pro‘s camera is something to brag about. After all, the P20 Pro is the first smartphone market to feature not two but three Leica-branded cameras on the back. In the review below, we put the Huawei P20 Pro camera through its paces, testing it against competition as well the DSLR which it hopes to replace. This review focuses only on-camera performance in various settings, including low-light. The photos included in the review are original shots, but resized for the web.
Huawei P20 Pro camera review: The Basics
Huawei P20 Pro aims to deliver an advanced camera experience, something you have never experienced before on a smartphone. Instead of two cameras, Huawei uses three cameras on the back — a 40MP RGB camera with a f/1.8 aperture, a 20MP monochrome camera with a f/1.6 aperture, and an 8MP telephoto camera with a f/2.4 aperture. The P20 Pro uses a 1/1.7-inch sensor, which is significantly larger than the sensor in any smartphone right now. For comparison sake, Google Pixel 2 XL has a sensor size of 1/2.55 inches. Bigger sensors mean the picture quality will be much better as they capture more light.
Then there’s a 20MP black-&-white sensor and a 40MP RGB sensor which work in tandem to increase photo sharpness. However, unlike previous Huawei smartphones, there’s a third telephoto lens, allowing the phone to use a 3x optical zoom (or 5x hybrid zoom). The three cameras also come with laser autofocusing and a colour temperature sensor, which makes sure white balance is accurate. You can choose between 40MP and 10MP camera resolutions on the device. The default camera mode is 10MP – it essentially combines the information from four adjacent pixels into one, which translates to better photographs in low light conditions.
Huawei P20 Pro camera review: How good is the Portrait camera mode?
The P20 Pro’s Portrait mode works like a magic. In my testing, I was able to take picture-perfect portraits without losing out on details. I tried using Portrait mode to take an image of an old lady who I found was selling flowers in front of the temple. As you can see in the image, the portrait mode on the P20 Pro was able to blur the background, and the focus is clearly on the subject. The P20 Pro manages to capture fine details and that’s what I needed from a smartphone camera. You can check out camera samples below:
Huawei P20 Pro camera review: Can it pass the low-light test?
Huawei P20 Pro excels in taking pictures in low light. To find out, I did some late-night photography at Delhi’s Connaught Place with the P20 Pro. Thanks to a large sensor, I was able to capture some of the best shots in low-light with bare minimum noise. The P20 Pro captures so much more depth and details in the night shots that it almost hard to believe. This gives the P20 Pro another edge over other smartphones in the same league. It is worth mentioning that the autofocus of the P20 Pro can be rather good in low-light conditions as well.
Huawei P20 Pro camera review: Outdoors performance
The easiest way to test any smartphone camera is to take as many as photographs in natural light and I exactly did that with the P20 Pro. Not to my surprise, the P20 Pro captures photos with natural-looking colours. Yellow looks yellow, red looks red, blue looks blue… and so on. Details are high, regardless you look at clicked shots on the phone’s screen or a large-screen TV. If you click a lot of outdoor shots, especially buildings, monuments, and landscapes, there is no better option than the P20 Pro. In the below camera samples, you will notice some exceptional contrast and colour reproduction.
Huawei P20 Pro camera review: How does the camera do indoors?
Just how good are the Huawei P20 Pro’s images? Well, to find out I shot these below images in controlled lighting. As you can see yourself, Huawei P20 Pro can take steady shots with plenty of detail in them. In auto mode, photos are well exposed with good dynamic range.Automatic white balance is also accurate and the camera does not saturate colours, something I love about the P20 Pro.
Huawei P20 Pro camera review: Can it beat Samsung Galaxy S9+
Even though they both use different camera techniques, I thought it would be fun to compare the two phones. All the photos are captured using the default camera mode, and no post-processing or editing has been done. I shot the photos using the auto mode enabled on both the devices.
In normal light, and using automatic settings, both phones are capable to show enough details without having to edit photos. But you will notice slight differences in colour reproduction and sharpness. Compared to the Galaxy S9+, I found the P20 Pro was able to produce sharp photos with more natural colours. You can yourself see the amount of detail in the P20 Pro’s shot without even zooming in.
Both smartphones have a telephoto lens for optical zoom effects. The Galaxy S9 Plus’ dual-camera enables a 2x optical zoom, whereas the P20 Pro’s triple cameras offer 3x optical zoom. As you can see in the below picture, both produce good results. But when you look closely at the shots, you will clearly see the difference. I noticed the P20 Pro’s shot was a bit sharper, boasting rich colours and better contrast overall.
Low light performance
Some may feel that the Huawei P20 Pro should be the winner in this round as well, I completely disagree, but I do admit that it is a close tie. In this round at least, Samsung Galaxy S9 Plus does a good job in offering richer details even in low-light. There’s more detail captured by the Galaxy S9 Plus compared to the Huawei P20 Pro, and colours are more realistic I feel. Just to make it clear, I took this shot in pitch dark with only the screen of the TV as a source of light.
Huawei P20 Pro camera review: Can it trounce Canon EOS 600D?
Huawei P20 Pro has been pitched against a professional camera, and it ain’t a joke. So, I went ahead and compared Huawei P20 Pro to Canon EOS 600D (I know, it’s an old champ now). To test the P20 Pro against the Canon EOS 600D, both devices were used to shoot an old plater lying on my terrace. Sure, Huawei has come rather close to create depth-of-field but, it still can’t beat a DSLR. Zoom in 100 per cent, though, the advantage of a DSLR is clear. There’s far more detail in the image taken using a Canon EOS 600D. But, again, the P20 Pro gave a tough fight to a professional DSLR and that’s worth mentioning.
Do you want to know more about the Honor P20 Pro? Feel free to ask us. Huawei P20 Pro will go on sale in India on May 3 via Amazon at a price of Rs 64,999.