Roughly half of Huawei’s P20 Professional launch occasion this week was devoted to the brand new system’s digital camera capabilities, reflecting the good deal of time and a focus the corporate has devoted to cell pictures. And the outcomes, now that I’ve had just a few days to check out the P20 Professional, aren’t far off from the lofty hype. Huawei has crafted a formidable contender for the crown of finest smartphone digital camera. I’m not but satisfied that it deserves that accolade, however I can say with certainty that the P20 Professional’s night time mode is a groundbreaking innovation that produces a few of the finest night time photographs ever taken with a telephone. Even the lauded Google Pixel 2 XL struggles to maintain up with the P20 Professional.
Touring across the metropolis of Paris, the venue of Huawei’s P20 announcement, I shot a bunch of informal photographs with the Pixel 2 XL and the P20 Professional. Under you’ll discover a collection of probably the most notable ones, beginning off with probably the most difficult state of affairs: nighttime pictures.
The way in which Huawei’s night time mode works is a technical marvel. The digital camera’s shutter is open for a full 4 seconds — throughout which era I get to see the picture publicity steadily rising till night time scenes begin to resemble daytime — after which all the data gathered is intelligently used to render a clear and sharp picture. I anticipated the outcomes from this course of to prove tender and blurry, however within the above pair of photographs, you possibly can see the Huawei telephone outdid the Pixel. With the P20, you possibly can nonetheless discern tree branches within the background, there’s extra colour (and rather a lot much less graininess) within the sky, and simply higher saturation all through the body.
One other instance the place the P20 Professional affords higher saturation and a a lot cleaner night time sky than the Pixel 2 XL. The Whole emblem and the background buildings are far more outlined within the Huawei shot. That does come at a worth, although, as Huawei isn’t shy about throwing in additional layers of sharpening and noise-reducing blur to make a picture pop extra. So that you lose a few of the naturalness of the Pixel picture, however you achieve a crisper image for sharing throughout cell units the place pixel-level element isn’t that essential. The notable factor about this seize is that the gent within the P20 Professional foreground saved strolling all through the 4 seconds of seize — Huawei’s algorithms are intelligent sufficient to account for such shifting objects and preserve them fairly fastened in place.
These are each amazingly good photographs, given the scant quantity of sunshine out there for the cameras to work with. Huawei as soon as once more wins the comparability by presenting a fantastically noise-free sky, judging the publicity higher, and giving a extra devoted illustration of the reflective floor of the pyramid.
That is the scene that I simply can’t recover from. The P20 Professional sky is a freaking masterpiece in comparison with the Pixel 2 XL sky, which serves as an excellent instance of the difficulty most telephones have with nighttime pictures. Not solely is the Pixel blotchy and ugly, it additionally blows out the luminous indicators on the buildings. Then once more, it does retain sufficient sharpness for the “hauts de seine” signal on the suitable aspect to stay readable — whereas the P20 Professional’s aggressive noise discount destroys that together with loads of small particulars within the body. In the end, although, for the commonest purpose of informal vacationer snaps, Huawei’s answer is simply going to supply extra pleasing outcomes for its person.
Zoom in actual shut on this one, and you’ll rightly declare the Google Pixel 2 XL the winner for its greater diploma of element preservation. The folks in that picture nonetheless look human, whereas within the Huawei shot, they appear to be they have been painted on with a thick brush. Nevertheless it’s not a complete Google victory as a result of the P20 Professional does a greater job of precisely exposing the purple bar signal and the road gentle on the high of the body. The Huawei picture additionally has a extra saturated look, with the purple reflections within the foreground catching the attention extra readily than these in Google’s picture.
Distinguishing between these two in good gentle could be unattainable, aside from one factor: Huawei’s Grasp AI processing. It auto-detects the form of scene you’re making an attempt to seize and aggressively processes the picture to fairly it up. Within the above instance, the P20 Professional caught a sniff of blue sky and determined to double down on that on the expense of foreground publicity. You’ll be able to see how problematic that turns into when taking pictures the Eiffel Tower, particularly as a result of Huawei doesn’t provide the choice to take away its processing for a extra pure look. So that you’ll must watch out about letting the AI make all the selections.
For probably the most half, Huawei’s AI-assisted picture alterations are for the higher. Right here’s an instance the place the P20 Professional digital camera detected the scene as “greenery” and boosted distinction and saturation accordingly. I can’t say that that is probably the most real looking shot ever taken, because the leaves earlier than me weren’t fairly as lush because the Huawei telephone presents, but it surely’s undeniably a satisfying, clear, and very sharp seize. The Pixel 2 XL shot seems to be flat and lifeless by comparability.
I’m beginning to really feel unhealthy concerning the Pixel being bullied at its favourite recreation, so right here’s a clear-cut Pixel 2 XL win to stability issues. Google’s signature HDR+ processing exposes the buildings within the distance higher and retains them far sharper than Huawei’s providing. I additionally favor the hotter colour stability that the Pixel offers, despite the fact that the P20 may need been a contact extra true to life on that event.
Coming again to the Huawei aspect of the ledger, this shot actually reveals off the P20 Professional digital camera’s energy in primary on a regular basis conditions. It as soon as once more seems to be much less pure than the Pixel’s, owing to its higher reliance on synthetic sharpening, however then it is actually a lot sharper throughout. What Huawei is doing is someplace between the standard oversharpening that much less achieved corporations like LG do to their footage and Google’s strategy of making an attempt to stay devoted to the outdated methods of movie pictures. Generally that pays off in spectacularly crisp photos just like the above, which lands simply shy of getting an excessive amount of processing.
My conclusion, which I’m certain you’ll discover unsatisfying, is that there’s no conclusive winner within the contest between these two cameraphones. I believe that the Huawei P20 Professional, Google Pixel 2 XL, and Samsung’s latest Galaxy S9 are in a league of their very own in the case of capturing low-light scenes. As standard, I want I’d introduced alongside a much less superior telephone simply to point out how far forward the Pixel and these two new flagship contenders are from the remainder of the Android discipline and Apple’s iPhone X. For now, all I can declare with surety is that Huawei’s P20 Professional has one of many high three cameras available on the market and it legitimately tempts me to place down the Pixel for some time and check out life the Huawei means.