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Huawei P30 Pro smartphone hands-on review

Huawei reinforces its claim to the smartphone photography crown with the new P30 Pro

Note the square lens on the left of the three camera lens array; that’s the folded optics telephoto. The fourth ToF camera is below the triple

Key points:

  • Quadruple cameras: three photo cameras plus a ToF (Time Of Flight) 3D sensing camera
  • No more mono camera
  • Radical new SuperSpectrum 40MP camera sensor enables remarkable low light capability
  • Longer 125mm (5x) telephoto lens thanks to clever folded optics
  • Mate 20 Pro style 16mm (0.6x) ultra wide-angle lens
  • Almost 100% 6.5 inch display apart from a ‘tear drop’ style micro-notch for the selfie-camera
  • On-screen optical fingerprint sensor (don’t worry it’s better than the Mate 20 Pro’s)
  • No 3D face-sensor (Mate 20 Pro) so face-unlock will be less-efficient and less-secure
  • Mate 20 Pro style extra-large 4200mAh battery and fast 40W Supercharging
  • Mate 20 Pro style wireless charging with reverse charge mode
Notice the 10x zoom indicator.

Improving on the already remarkable P20 Pro

A year ago Huawei built on its already established reputation for photography innovation in smartphones with the P20 Pro. This was the first triple-camera smartphone, featuring a 40 megapixel sensor and a mono camera, plus remarkable low-light capabilities. It also brought AI smartness to the fore.

Today, Huawei has unveiled the P30 Pro, and what a successor it is. I’ve had the privilege of being briefed by Huawei in advance, which included hands-on use of pre-production samples, though no images taken with these were allowed to be retained.

A radical new image sensor and a cleverly implemented telephoto camera, plus a fourth ToF camera/sensor, top the list of exciting new features the P30 Pro can boast. Here’s my hands-on preview:

Seeing in the dark and that new sensor

It was widely speculated that Huawei would opt for Sony’s new 38 megapixel Exmor RS IMX607, which features a modified Bayer filter array that incorporates white, as well as red, green and blue (RGB) pixel filters. White (colourless) filters increase light transmission and the effective sensitivity of the sensor.

Using the P30 Pro to shoot in almost complete darkness and this is the result.

 

The darkness test scene taken with a Mate 20 Pro

So imagine our surprise when we were told that the P30 Pro uses a sensor that substitutes all the green filters in the Bayer array for yellow filters. Yellow filters transmit substantially more light than green filters. You could call this a RYB filter.

Huawei says this enables the effective maximum ISO sensitivity rating of the sensor to be raised from ISO 102400 on the P20 Pro and Mate 20 Pro to 409600 ISO, or two stops (EVs) extra sensitivity. That’s four times more sensitivity.

To back up this seemingly outlandish claim Huawei invited us to use pre-production P30 Pros in an almost completely darkened room. Lo and behold, the P30 Pro was able to record discernable images in what appeared to be almost total darkness.

I also tried a Mate 20 Pro at the same time and virtually nothing recorded on the image.

Under those conditions the picture quality wasn’t great but I’d certainly be thankful of being able to take a picture, without the need for flash, in certain circumstances, when a typical camera would be unable to.

I can’t wait to see for myself if the extra sensitivity of the sensor can be harnessed to improve quality in more realistic low light shooting conditions.

You might think that using yellow instead of green Bayer Filter Array pixels would be a recipe for chromatic disaster. While we were unable to bring shots taken with the pre-production sample devices away with us to show you in this preview article, examination of the P30 Pro results in-phone at the time revealed no obvious colour anomalies.

Indeed, top pro photographer and Leica ambassador, Alex Lambrechts, who has used the older P20 Pro extensively, told me the colour and tonal quality he has been seeing in P30 Pro images is discernibly better than the P20 Pro.

We just have to find out if that’s because the P30 Pro’s new 6.47 inch AMOLED display is better, or maybe the camera and the display are both improved. Alex also says the photographic aperture blur/bokeh effects are processed in a more pleasing way.

What is the ToF camera for?

We’ve already seen a ToF camera on Huawei’s sub-brand model, the Honor View20. Samsung followed this example in its Galaxy S10+.

So what is ToF? It stands for Time of Flight – think of it as a kind of radar or sonar using invisible LED or laser light, transmitted in pulses. This light is reflected back and the time it takes to return to the ToF camera sensor can be calculated in real time as a distance between the phone and whatever reflected it back to the phone.

ToF cameras are like digital cameras and they have thousands of sensor photosites and each one can record a distance value, building up a three-dimensional view of what the camera sees. And it can do this in real time.

It’s really accurate and potentially better than existing optical image-reliant measuring apps, like Google Measure. You will be able to use it to measure in one and two dimensions and also three, for volume.

ToF capability will also boost the power of AR (Augmented Reality) where 3D computer-generated animated graphics are blended with a real scene.

The Honor View20 prioritises the use of its ToF camera for gaming; you can model your own body and a game can then sense your body motion for real-time avatar control.

I understand that on the P30 Pro the ToF camera aids the optical cameras to more-precisely sense object boundaries so artificial background blur/aperture algorithms make less mistakes. I suspect that the ToF camera can also assist in focusing and object/scene sensing in dark conditions.

Folded telephoto optics

The P30 Pro’s extra-long 125mm (native optical 5x) equivalent telephoto lens camera would have required an unsightly lump in the phone’s otherwise slimline form. Telephoto lenses, by their very nature, have to be long. So Huawei and Leica went for a folded-optics arrangement.

Folded optic lenses in other more conventional digital cameras have also been around for a long time and for the same reason, to fit a powerful telephoto lens into a slim camera body.

This means the lens elements are stacked 90 degrees between the front and back of the device. A key benefit is that there is less of a compromise on the optical design forced on engineers trying to keep the optics as short as possible.

To enable the lens to see in the same direction as the other cameras, a 90 degree prism is used at the top of the lens stack, resembling a periscope. You can tell which is the tele lens because the prism is square rather than round on the camera array.

As far as I know this is a first for a contemporary smartphone. Apple did patent a folded optic layout for an iPhone optical zoom lens a couple of years back, though it hasn’t been demonstrated yet. The P30 Pro telephoto lens is a fixed-focal length lens, though seamless bybrid optical and digital zooming is possible in conjunction with the other cameras from 16mm (0.6x) to 125 mm (5x).  A lower resolution 10x tele mode is also provide and there is even a 50x mode for emergency use.

The P30 Pro’s telephoto camera has a resolution of 8MP, is optically stabilised (OIS) and has a native optical equivalence to a 125mm lens, or 5x the main 27mm (1x) 40MP camera lens. 10x and 50x digital zoom options are available. The ultra-wide camera is equivalent to a 16mm lens (full frame), or 0.6x.

There is another tweak to the main camera, which now has a faster (brighter) aperture of f/1.6 compared to f/1.8 on the P20 Pro and Mate 20 Pro.

The P30 Pro next to a Mate 20 Pro

Comparing the P30 Pro with the P20 Pro and the Mate 20 Pro

P30 Pro P20 Pro Mate 20 Pro
Screen size 6.5 inches 6.1 inches 6.4 inches
Resolution 1080 x 2240 1080 x 2240 (408ppi) 1440 x 3120 (538 ppi)
Curved edge display Yes No Yes
Camera 1 40MP SuperSpectrum 27mm f/1.6 (1x) 40MP 1/1.7” 27mm f/1.8 (1x) 40MP 1/1.7” 27mm f/1.8 (1x)
Camera 2 20 MP 1/2.7” 16mm ultrawide f/2.2 (0.6x) 20MP 1/2.7” 27mm f/1.6 MONO (1x) 20 MP 1/2.7” 16mm ultrawide f/2.2 (0.6x)
Camera 3 8MP 135mm f/3.4 OIS (5x) 8MP 1/4” 80mm f/2.4 OIS (3x) 8MP 1/4” 80mm f/2.4 OIS (3x)
ToF camera sensor Yes (back facing) N/A Front facing proximity
Selfie camera 32MP 24MP 26mm f/2.0 24MP 26mm f/2.0
Face/selfie depth sensor N/A N/A IR dot projector
Laser focusing Yes Yes Yes
Chipset HiSilicon Kirin 980 HiSilicon Kirin 970 HiSilicon Kirin 980
Battery 4200 mAh 4000 mAh 4200 mAh
Supercharging 40W 22.5W 40W
Wireless charging 15W with reverse mode N/A 15W with reverse mode
Headphone socket No No No
Fingerprint sensor In-display (improved) Front below display In-display
Water/dust resistance IP68 IP67 IP68

 

Other features

Fingerprint sensor

The in-screen fingerprint sensor on the Mate 20 Pro was a cool entry on the features list and a headline-grabber, but in reality it was slower and less-reliable than the P20 Pro’s conventional scanner built into a button-like pad below the display.

Huawei P30 Pro showing in-screen fingerprint scan position

The P30 Pro also has an in-screen fingerprint scanner but I am cautiously optimistic it has been significantly improved after trying it on a pre-production device. It’s also further down the display, which – personally – I feel is a more sensible position.

 

I certainly hope my initial impressions are confirmed because the P30 Pro doesn’t inherit the 3D face sensing IR dot projector of the Mate 20 Pro, which makes that phone fast and secure at face-unlocking, even in darkness.

The P30 Pro relies solely on the selfie-camera, which is less secure and not likely to work in low light.

Power

The P30 Pro borrows all the power goodies from the Mate 20 Pro, including the huge 4200 mAh battery, 40W charger, wireless charging and reverse wireless charging so you can top-up other devices from your phone. With Huawei’s more efficient HiSilicon Kirin 980 chip-set, more processing grunt isn’t at the cost of huge battery drain.

Display

Resolution remains at 1080 x 2240 for the AMOLED screen, which is marginally larger (6.47 inches) than the P20 Pro, so you don’t get the super-fine res display of the Mate 20 Pro, but it’s an impressive looking display, nonetheless.

Huawei P30 Pro

It’s also a curved-edge display, which may polarise opinion. I like this because it makes Android Pie 9 gesture navigation from the sides of the display more comfortable. However, it will severely limit your choice of screen protector options.

Miscellaneous

The Infra red transmitter or IR Blaster has been retained, however, rumours that a headphone socket had made a return are only half-correct; the lower-spec P30 (not the Pro version) gets the headphone socket.

Huawei are constantly tempting us with mesmerising new colours and the P30 Pro has a suitably cool selection, including a pearlescent white, which is my favourite.

Initial conclusion

As a photographer, the radical new RYB sensor and the folded optics 125mm telephoto, with Leica genes, is very exciting indeed. I’ll post my feedback on using a production device as soon as possible; we’ll be provided with a production P30 Pro for testing after today’s launch event.

The loss of the P20 Pro’s mono camera will frustrate some. It’s a polarising issue, but my personal view is that I can convert colour to mono effectively in post-processing, with especially good results when shooting RAW. Therefore, the ultra-wide camera, first introduced with the Mate 20 Pro, is very much worth the change. But I do concede this view is not universal.

The fact that the P30 Pro gets much of what was, until now, exclusive to the Mate 20 Pro is also very welcome.

I’m also looking forward to finding out what the fourth ‘camera’ – the ToF camera/sensor contributes and if it makes noticeable improvements to the photographic capabilities of the P30 Pro.

There’s so much to report back on! Watch this space.

 

 

Triple-camera P20 Pro smartphone launched by Huawei

Press release issued by Huawei

HUAWEI Unveils the HUAWEI P20 and HUAWEI P20 Pro, Breakthroughs in Technology and Art to Redefine Intelligent Photography

PARIS – March 27, 2018 – At an exclusive launch event held today at the iconic Grand Palais, HUAWEI Consumer Business Group unveiled the much-anticipated HUAWEI P20 and HUAWEI P20 Pro. The HUAWEI P20 Pro features the world’s first Leica triple camera and both devices include unprecedented AI advances, combining technology and art to bring to life a groundbreaking smartphone experience.HUAWEI set new expectations for smartphone photography with the launch of the HUAWEI P9, the first Leica dual camera. With the debut of the HUAWEI P20 Series, HUAWEI makes capturing professional quality images a truly effortless experience for everyone.

“We look for inspiration from artists to continuously evolve our approach to design and innovation,” said Richard Yu, Chief Executive Officer, HUAWEI Consumer Business Group. “The HUAWEI P20 Series builds on the legacy of our collaboration with Leica. With a breakthrough triple camera on the HUAWEI P20 Pro, an advanced dual camera on the HUAWEI P20, and powerful artificial intelligence on both, today’s most vibrant consumers can capture and share the brilliance of the world around them.”

Achieving DxOMark’s highest overall scores¹, the HUAWEI P20 Series includes advanced, intelligent camera systems that bring consumers features that ultimately enhance every part of the smartphone photography experience.

Key features of the HUAWEI P20 Series include:

  • An advanced camera system to capture more light, more details and more beauty, featuring a revolutionary Leica triple camera and 5x Hybrid Zoom on the HUAWEI P20 Pro, and a Leica dual camera on the HUAWEI P20;
  • Innovative photography features, including Master AI with AI-driven professional photography and HUAWEI AIS (AI Image Stabilization), a powerful AI stabilization technology;
  • A timeless design with barely-there bezels and all-new gradient colors;
  • Ultimate performance, featuring the NPU on Kirin 970 and EMUI 8.1 based on Android™ 8.1 for a premium and smooth user experience.

HUAWEI also unveiled the PORSCHE DESIGN HUAWEI Mate RS (Race Sport). Continuing its collaboration with the exclusive luxury brand, the PORSCHE DESIGN HUAWEI Mate RS features Porsche Design’s signature functional design language and HUAWEI’s cutting-edge technology and craftsmanship.

An Exquisite Combination of Art and Technology for the Fashion Forward
The HUAWEI P20 Series features a striking, fashion-forward aesthetic. Most notably, the HUAWEI P20 and HUAWEI P20 Pro come in all-new, exclusive, fashionable colors, Twilight and Pink Gold, achieved by applying several layers of NCVM* optical coatings underneath the glass back, so light hitting the surface refracts and creates a vivid, yet gradual change of hue. The HUAWEI P20 and HUAWEI P20 Pro are also available in Black and Midnight Blue.

The 5.8-inch screen HUAWEI P20 and 6.1-inch screen HUAWEI P20 Pro feature ultra-thin bezels and impressive screen-to-body ratios for better viewing experiences with more on-screen information, whether reading or gaming. The HUAWEI FullView Display seamlessly blends with rounded edges, making the device comfortable to hold.

Inspired by Light and Technology, a Stunning Device Designed for Every Photography Fan
The HUAWEI P20 Series reflects the art of light, with camera features that enhance the smartphone photography experience. The HUAWEI P20 Pro features a Leica triple camera with the highest total pixel count on a smartphone available in the market – the camera configuration is comprised of a 40 MP RGB sensor, a 20 MP monochrome sensor and an 8 MP sensor with telephoto lens. It also features a color temperature sensor for better color reproduction. With f/1.8, f/1.6 and f/2.4 wide aperture to capture crisp, clear details, the HUAWEI P20 Pro also includes a brand new Leica 3x telephoto (VARIO-SUMMILUX-H 1:1.6 – 2.4/27-80ASPH) lens for long-range photography of up to 5x Hybrid Zoom. The HUAWEI P20 Pro’s highly sensitive image sensor captures low light photos with up to ISO 102400.

The HUAWEI P20 builds on its predecessor’s foundation with a Leica dual camera featuring a 12 MP lens with a pixel size as high as 1.55 μm, and a 20 MP monochrome lens, enhancing the HUAWEI P20’s ability to capture photos in low-light settings.

The HUAWEI P20 Series devices support six-axis stabilization and 960fps super slow motion, which is 4x higher than the standard 240 fps and captures details that cannot be seen with the naked eye. With Ultra Snapshot mode, the devices can capture an image in as little as 0.3 seconds by just double clicking the down volume button, even from an off screen.

Master AI Photography Experience for Everyone, Everywhere
With the Kirin 970 processor, the HUAWEI P20 Series automatically identifies more than 500 scenarios in 19 categories and selects photography modes and camera settings to deliver incredible, professional-looking images – even for novice photographers. In addition, HUAWEI AIS steadies handheld night shots for incredible long exposure images without a tripod. Brand new to HUAWEI’s advanced camera system is 4D predictive focus. In this mode, the camera predicts moving objects and focuses on them with extreme efficiency to capture minute details of objects in motion. In addition, the HUAWEI P20 Series features AI-Assisted Composition, providing intelligent suggestions to frame group shots and landscapes.

The HUAWEI P20 and HUAWEI P20 Pro feature a 24 MP selfie camera** with AI beautification and 3D portrait lighting – the result is beautiful selfies with healthy-looking skin tone adjustments, delicately outlined facial details and realistic 3D feature enhancements.

Additionally, the HUAWEI HiAI Ecosystem enhances a variety of app experiences. For instance, the HUAWEI P20 Series includes on-device Prisma processing, which supports real-time filter recommendations based on scene and object recognition – the calculation speed is three to four times that of the cloud version.

In partnership with Google, the HUAWEI P20 Series supports Google ARCore delivering advanced AR capabilities.

Collaboration with Porsche Design Delivers a New Level of Luxury and Technology
The PORSCHE DESIGN HUAWEI Mate RS combines Porsche Design’s signature brand aesthetic with HUAWEI’s mobile engineering expertise setting a new standard in luxury smartphones. The PORSCHE DESIGN HUAWEI Mate RS features a Leica triple camera with the highest total pixel count on a smartphone available in the market – the camera configuration is comprised of a 40 MP RGB sensor, a 20 MP monochrome sensor and an 8 MP sensor with telephoto lens. This is the world’s first smartphone equipped with microcapsule PCM – an aerospace cooling technology for maintaining a safe temperature. In addition, the PORSCHE DESIGN HUAWEI Mate RS features an innovative in-screen fingerprint sensor which allows consumers to wake up the device by floating their finger above the display, while touching the sensor to unlock the device is lightning fast. The back fingerprint sensor can also be used to unlock the device or to access a second, secure space. The 6-inch OLED 2K curved screen PORSCHE DESIGN HUAWEI Mate RS is available in Black, and for the first time, in an eye-catching Red***.

Introduced on the HUAWEI Mate 10 Series, the HUAWEI P20 Series and PORSCHE DESIGN HUAWEI Mate RS feature TÜV Safety Certified HUAWEI SuperCharge. Both the HUAWEI P20 Pro and PORSCHE DESIGN HUAWEI Mate RS have a 4000 mAh battery – the HUAWEI P20 features a 3400 mAh battery – with AI-powered Battery Management. The PORSCHE DESIGN HUAWEI Mate RS is the first HUAWEI smartphone to enable quick wireless charging.

Pricing and Availability
The HUAWEI P20 Series and PORSCHE DESIGN HUAWEI Mate RS are immediately available globally.

Model Version EUR (includes tax)
HUAWEI P20 4 GB + 128 GB 649
HUAWEI P20 Pro 6 GB + 128 GB 899
PORSCHE DESIGN HUAWEI Mate RS 6 GB + 256 GB 1695
PORSCHE DESIGN HUAWEI Mate RS 6 GB + 512 GB 2095

The new HUAWEI P20 Series devices are compatible with two new audio accessories: HUAWEI FreeBuds and HUAWEI Active Noise Canceling Earphones.

* Non-conductive Vacuum Metalizing
** 24.8 MP sensor
*** Available in Mainland China

¹ Highest overall DxOMark scores in the mobile camera category – HUAWEI P20 Pro: 109; HUAWEI P20: 102.