Typically “Night” mode took five to eight seconds to gather light for its image. But I did try some on a tripod as well and the Huawei P30 Pro seemed to sense that it was on a steady platform rather than hand-help so it took some shots over time periods from 30 to 60 seconds. It didn’t try to do that when the phone was hand-held.
Finally, there was the regular everyday “Photo” mode, which is what most of us use most of the time. This was fully automatic, of course, but also “AI” assisted. You can switch the “AI” off if you like. Leave it on and it tries to identify the scene to optimise its settings. Conveniently, it tells you what it has decided.
That led to some amusing, but not inappropriate, results. It decided that the red desert around Uluru just before dusk was “Autumn Leaves”. The nearby Field of Lights art installation was a “Stage Performance”. It very frequently labelled landscapes “Blue Sky”. I would have liked to check out the mode for green grass and bushes because the AI on the previous generation of Huawei phones produced rather sickly results, but there wasn’t much in the way of greenery available.
For the stuff available for photography, the decisions made by the Huawei phone were generally apt. Here’s what the standard photo screen looks like.
Now, there’s a natural temptation to assume that the “Wide”, “1x” and “5x” modes are the real images, un-adulterated by digital processing (beyond the processing always required). That would only be two thirds right. Examining the output images, I noticed that those shot in “Wide” mode were always 20 megapixels in size. That’s the size of the sensor. Those shot at “1x” were always 10 megapixels, since I didn’t change it to 40-megapixel mode.
But those shot at “5x” were also 10 megapixels. Recall that the size of the telephoto sensor is 8 megapixels. So, the “5x” images are also “hybrid” images, constructed from the output of the telephoto camera and the 40-megapixel main camera.
Is that a problem? Well, no. The phone did a pretty respectable job producing those 10-megapixel output images. You might argue that perhaps hard edges were a touch too sharp, with a slight sense of contrast-enhancement sharpening. Me? I think it’s just the right side of being overdone. I was impressed.
Here’s a long shot of the “Rock”, using the standard camera:
And from the same place, here it is on 5x zoom:
Here’s a section of the same shot, cropped down rather than scaled. It’s a trifle edgy at the boundary, but nonetheless impressive. Remember, this was a phone taking this shot:
In this shot I used aperture mode, pushing the notional aperture wide open to f/0.95. The phone tried to work out which parts were far away so it could push them much further out of focus. But there’s only so much current generations of AI can do, so it missed the bit underneath the foliage. (But I did some quick experiments in other circumstances, and the phone handled them much better.)
It was after 8 pm in the desert. I had no idea Uluru was on the horizon, it being pitch black. But I took a handheld shot anyway and the following image was taken. The phone pushed the ISO to 65535 and used a shutter speed of 1/4 second. There’s
And then I tried “Night” mode. Again hand held. This time the overall exposure time was eight second! But the ISO was only 5000. The camera stitched together a lot of images and assembled the following photo. It’s sharper, clearer and the colours are far more realistic than the other. And still it’s hard to accept how cleverly the AI has aligned what must have been many images:
To conclude, here are two more shots using “Night” mode, this time at the Field of Lights art installation. They were taken fifteen minutes either side of 6am. It was pitch black when I took the first one. In both cases I had the phone on a tripod and in both cases the ISO was 100 and the image was assembled from a bunch of images taken over 30 seconds. This one used the standard 27mm-equiv camera:
And this one used the 5x zoom mode. Notice how the lights, now quite dim since they’ve been shining for hours since their last solar charge, are still clearly visible despite the looming dawn: