Over in Paris, Huawei launched its two newest premium phones: the Huawei P30 and P30 Pro. I had the opportunity to spend a couple of hours with the latter in one of the most beautiful places in the world, Uluru in the Northern Territory. Allow me to share my close encounter with the cameras of the Huawei P30 Pro camera.
Huawei P30 Pro Camera – well four actually
This is a quad camera phone, with three kind of conventional cameras on the back, plus a special “Time-of-Flight” camera. That last one apparently captures depth information which can be used by the processing engine to create special effects in portraits and so on.
The other three are for wide angle, standard and telephoto.
The standard lens uses a new 40-megapixel sensor which Huawei has labelled “SuperSpectrum”. The company says that it is far more sensitive than previous sensors, allowing it to be wound up to an ISO setting of 409,600. By default it outputs 10 megapixels, so there are four pixels to capture light for each output pixel. You can change it in the settings to output 40 megapixels. I guess you’d only do that if you have a compelling reason for super detailed resolution.
This camera has an aperture of f/1.6 and a 35mm-equivalent focal length of 27mm.
The next camera is a 20-megapixel wide angle unit. Very wide angle: it comes in at 16mm in 35mm-equivalent terms. Its aperture is f/2.2.
Finally, the telephoto camera uses a periscope system to increase its focal length to 135mm equivalent. It is an 8-megapixel unit with a relatively slow f/3.4 aperture.
The phone can combine the output of two cameras at once to generate intermediate levels of zoom.
Zooming on the Huawei P30 Pro
But first, I note that switching between the main camera modes is easy. The app always fires up showing a zoom level of “1x” on the indicator at the bottom of the app screen. That denotes the standard 27mm-equivalent camera. Tap that and it jumps immediately to “5x”, and that means the 135mm-equivalent camera. Tap again and there’s an AI-assisted “10x” “hybrid” zoom. It’s kind of a digital zoom, but it apparently combines data from the main and telephoto cameras. Tap yet again and the camera flips over to the wide angle camera. The app shows “Wide” on the screen. A final tap takes you back where you started.
And, of course, you can choose any level of intermediate zoom by pinching or unpinching the screen. Furthermore, you can go beyond 10x all the way to 50x, although clearly that comes at the cost of the phone having to make stuff up. So, of course, it looks soft and fuzzy.
I should note that I asked Huawei if the camera app in the phone available for testing was final, and it said no, that it wasn’t yet. So, there may be further tweaking before the phone hits the shelves, and indeed even after that.
For example, there are many app functions, and some were not yet fully implemented. The main scroll bar across the bottom of the app gives access to Photo and Video modes, of course, plus “Aperture”, “Night”, “Portrait” and “Pro”. At the end is “More” from where you can choose a whole bunch of other features, such as Time Lapse, Slow Motion and quite a few filters.
“Portrait” uses that timing camera to help it work out how to optimise the picture. “Aperture” attempts to fake various apertures from f/0.95 through to f/16 by trying to adjust the appearance of the depth of field. How well that works is going to depend a lot on the image. Small apertures presumably try to bring out of focus stuff into focus. That can only by my means of some form of sharpening and I can’t say that it was particularly successful. Fake larger apertures are more successful. They can defocus elements of the image it decides are distant. If it can identify them. Sometimes it does, other times it doesn’t.
“Pro” leaves everything on auto but allows you to make manual adjustments on one or more of ISO, white balance, shutter speed and focus. You can also dial in some exposure compensation in this mode. And, also, you can have the phone record RAW images in addition to JPEG. That only works in “Pro” mode. Here are the main options in Pro mode:
Photos at night
“Night” mode was quite fascinating. Like the previous generation of Huawei phones, it works by taking multiple frames over several seconds using different brightnesses and then combines them. But with the Huawei P30 Pro it uses AI technology (so says Huawei) to align these frames, so you don’t have to use a tripod. As we’ll see, it is capable of some impressive results. I should add that out of a couple of dozen “Night” mode shots I took hand-held, only one was badly smeared.