Huawei P30 Pro Camera Review: A photo beast that can shoot everything

Huawei P series had this reputation of being the cheaper version of the flagship segment focusing only the photographic enthusiasts. In terms of price and specs, it has always remained behind the famous Mate series but in 2019 Huawei P30 Pro comes with some topline features which no smartphone on earth has introduced yet. Its magical cameras and much polished AI algorithm have outranked the competition, and thus the price is comparatively higher this time.

Would spending over $1,000 on a device (depending upon the version) that promises a camera formation and features no one has used till now be a worth taking risk?

There are so many compelling features that are amazingly lucrative and apart from the 50x zoom — the major selling feature — Huawei has given us another way to brighten up our photos with first of its kind RYYB instead of using conventional RGB technique.

We have always preferred Mates over the P series for being the powerhouse, but this time, P30 Pro gives multiple reasons to change our opinion.

For testing the real might of Huawei P30 Pro, what could have been a better place than the cultural city of Lahore where we spent days to learn if this monstrous camera stood true to the claims or not? Following is what we shot with the camera.

What P30 Pro camera packs inside?

  • P30 Pro comes with a set of 4 cameras on the rear; The primary sensor is 40 MP (27 mm) with f/1.6 aperture size and RYYB technique which gathers more light than the traditional RGB. Huawei calls its SuperSensing camera, and it comes with OIS.
  • The second lens is 20 MP ultrawide with f/2.2 aperture and 16mm focal length.
  • The third is 8 MP telephoto with f/3.4 aperture and 125mm equivalent focal length along with OIS. It’s a periscope design that enables a 5x optical zoom and 10x lossless zoom.
  • The fourth camera is TOF 3D sensor that is used for depth mapping. Its primary purpose is to create a clear distinction between the subject and the background.

On the front side it has;

  • 32 MP f/2.0 wide angle lens right in the notch for selfies

Note
All the images were taken without a tripod and flash. The camera result has not been altered and represents the true strengths and weaknesses of Huawei P30 Pro.

App Interface

For old Huawei users, the camera app interface is nothing new, but there are a few additions though, however, for everyone else, the interface is pretty easy to get used to with.

For the point and shoot photography, there is nothing much to worry about and only three toggle keys “AI”, “1x” (zoom button for 1x to 10x mode or the wide-angle shot) and the “shutter” will serve in most of the cases whether a day shot or a low light photo.

Huawei P30 Pro Camera App Interface
Camera App Interface

However, for some creativity, there are a plethora of modes to select by swiping left or right to choose from “aperture”, “night”, “portrait”, “video”, “pro” and of course it doesn’t end here. A little more digging under the “more” menu gives you tons of other tools to select for being a little bit more artistic.

We seriously think Huawei should give us an option to re-arrange these modes and toggle keys on the app interface because sometimes it becomes a nuisance to access a particular mode, especially in the “more” menu. In our case, we always had to look at the menu twice to pick the desired option, when we held the phone horizontally.

The uniqueness of Huawei P30 Pro is its telephoto lens which is first of its kind in a phone as of yet, but more on it in the later part.

Standard Wide Camera

Just above the squarish lens sits the primary 40MP camera that breaks the conventional approach of RGGB; instead, Huawei has introduced RYYB (Red, Yellow, Yellow, Blue) setup. Huawei claims it absorbs 40% more light with the new system for better fighting with the low light challenge, and boy; it works marvelously with OIS also onboard, way ahead than last year’s P20 Pro and even knocking out iPhone XS and Galaxy S10 Plus.

Ever since Huawei introduced machine learning, it has gone leaps and bounds. This newly developed 1/1.7” sensor and the internal algorithms work wonderfully well, and the results are some top-notch images ever produced by a smartphone.

Wazir Khan Mosque Picture with auto mode on Huawei P30 Pro
The main camera of P30 Pro keeps the colors natural while preserving the details of the subjects

Huawei P30 Pro does justice to the exposure and contrast in photos even it doesn’t fail in the low light conditions when others struggle. We tested the quad camera set up in almost every lighting condition, and the results were beyond our expectations. The balance between dark and bright areas are well balanced, as you can see in the image below:

Auto Mode on Huawei P30 Pro
P30 Pro can balance between dark and bright in auto mode

It tends to capture and maintain the natural colors without unnecessarily pushing them up unless you deliberately play with AI or Vivid colors options.

In the following image, you can see a clear difference between the picture taken with auto mode and the one shot with vivid color options. The colors of the latter photo are a bit saturated, suitable for social media posts, but at the same time, you cannot see any loss of details.

Picture with auto mode on Huawei P30 Pro
Photos taken with auto mode maintain the subject’s natural color

Picture with Vivid Color mode on Huawei P30 Pro
The colors of pictures in vivid mode are a little oversaturated

Super macro can let you go really close to very tiny subjects, but sometimes it is hard to isolate a single object from the entire scene. In the following picture, we had to take multiple shots that up close with our shaky hands to capture a single bean.

Image with Super Macro Mode on Huawei P30 Pro
It is hard to isolate and capture a single bean in super macro mode

At the same time, you do not face any issues while taking a picture of a group of miniature objects in macro mode.

Picture with Super Macro Mode on Huawei P30 Pro
It’s easier to shoot a cluster of small objects in super macro mode

We tried separating Vermicelli and capture a single string, but the phone’s super macro mode does not work at such a minuscule level.

Shot with Super Macro Mode on Huawei P30 Pro
Cannot isolate a single string of Vermicelli in super macro mode

Unlike the previous model, Monochrome is not a separate lens, and P30 Pro only relies on the software treatment for B/W photos.

Wooden Door Picture with Auto Mode on Huawei P30 pro
Picture in auto mode preserves the natural colors and details of the subject

Wooden Door Picture with Monochrome Mode on Huawei P30 pro
The picture loses some of the details in monochrome mode

Huawei P30 Pro confronts the sun or backlit areas quite adequately, the HDR mode or not AI is pretty helpful in such conditions to equally lit the foreground objects. Even when the subject is human the skin tones are captured with quite a balance; however, backgrounds turn overexposed.

In the following images, P30 Pro’s HDR mode has managed to control the sunlight to help the phone in capturing more details of the mosque.

Picture taken in Auto Mode aganist Direct Sunlight on Huawei P30 Pro
P30 Pro’s camera cannot capture details of the mosque due to the Sun in the background

Picture taken in HDR Mode aganist Direct Sunlight on Huawei P30 Pro
HDR mode can help to capture more details against the sun and any other well-lit backdrop

Picture of Bahira Mosque aganist sunlight in Huawei P30 Pro
The setting Sun does not compromise the image’s details in HDR Mode

In the low light conditions, the standard camera works equally good and maintains an outstanding balance between colors and exposure. At night, it by far exceeds the performance of P20 Pro and Mate 20 Pro, yet, the Galaxy S10 Plus bites the dust when shooting in the pitch black situation.

The following image was taken after midnight with only street lamps as the lighting source, and Huawei P30 Pro managed to take in more light due to its Superspectrum camera. We can see the last bit of details like the dispersion of light on the water surface, the reflection of the tip of Minar-e-Pakistan, a lone star in the sky, etc. quite clearly.

Minear-e-Pakistan Picture with Auto mode at night with Huawei P30 Pro
The main camera takes in more light to produce a well-lit image even at night

The camera has preserved the details of not just the minarets closer to us in the picture below, but also the ones that are far away. Though it disseminates light from an artificial source at night, you still get a well-lit image in the dark.

Badshahi Mosque Picture with Auto Mode on Huawei P30 Pro
P30 Pro’s main camera can even capture the distant stars at night

You can observe the same behavior in the image below; the light of the street lamps has been dispersed and can get in the way of taking some artsy shots.

Picture in dark with auto mode on Huawei P30 Pro
P30 Pro cannot control the effect of lights in auto mode

Picture at night with auto mode on Huawei P30 Pro
The background (Minar-e-Pakistan) is overexposed due to the dispersion of light

Although there is a dedicated night mode which takes few seconds to capture the shot, however, most of the times the default point and shoot will flawlessly work since AI kicks in automatically that brightens up the scene when there is extremely low light or no light. The autofocus on Huawei P30 Pro is remarkably quick in the low light conditions.

In the following images, you can observe that the auto mode has smoothened the subject in question and even though it has captured an image in the dark, it has lost most of the details. Super night mode, on the other hand, has salvaged those details even in pitch dark conditions.

Bahira Town Mosque Picture with auto mode on Huawei P30 Pro
In the pitch-dark setting, P30 Pro’s camera can take a clear photo but loses the details of the subject

Bahira Town Mosque Picture with Night mode on Huawei P30 Pro
Night mode does not only lighten up the subject, but it also brings back the natural colors and details in the photo

You can hardly see the pattern of the bricks in the image taken with the auto mode the dark but by using night mode, P30 Pro can not only reveal the hidden details but can preserve the natural colors of the subject.

Bahira Mosque Corridors picture with auto mode on Huawei P30 Pro
Fewer details in the auto mode at night

Bahira Mosque Corridors picture with Night mode on Huawei P30 Pro
You can see the pattern of the bricks and their colors with night mode

P20 Pro had a maximum ISO sensitivity of 102400 equalling Canon 5D Mark IV sensitivity, but Huawei further raised the bar by taking it to 409600. The combination of high ISO, new kind of sensor along with the AI optimization allow P30 Pro to take more brilliant shots in the worst lighting conditions.

For static objects, the camera works seamlessly, but we also tried to shoot some moving objects at night when there was no ambient light around. The following pictures show that it was still hard for P30 Pro’s AI to freeze the moments at night.

Picture of moving objects with auto mode on Huawei P30 Pro
P30 Pro has tried to freeze the moving object at night in auto mode

Picture of dog at night with auto mode on Huawei P30 Pro
Running dog captured at night in a pitch-black condition

Picture of cat at night with auto mode on Huawei P30 Pro
Running cat captured at night in auto mode

Super wide angle lens

Apart from that, the 20MP super wide angle lens, which gets activated from a toggle button, does a pretty good job by grabbing a vast area from not far away distance.

There are situations when color capturing shows strange variation. It frequently happens with the super wide-angle lens which brings in the unwanted cyan hue and undesirably changes the mood of most of the scenes.

You can see clearly see a bluish tint in the image taken with a wide-angle lens as compared to the standard wide-angle camera. The former has not only oversaturated the colors of the subject but also has given a cartoonish color which is nowhere near to the original one.

Wazir Khan Mosque Entrance Picture with auto mode on Huawei P30 Pro
The natural colors of the mosque can be seen in this image taken with the main camera

Wazir Khan Mosque Entrance Picture with Ultra Wide Angle Lens on Huawei P30 Pro
Ultra Wide Angle lens has put a bluish blanket on the image

You can also notice how the standard camera has even preserved the details of the minaret on the left while the ultra wide angle lens has smoothened the entire subject it resulting in an overall whitewashed image.

Wazir Khan Mosque Picture with Wide Angle lens on Huawei P30 Pro
The details of the mosque’s minaret can be observed in the auto mode

Wazir Khan Mosque Picture with Ultra Wide Angle lens on Huawei P30 Pro
Ultra Wide Angle lens has smoothened the details of the mosque especially the minaret on the left

 

Notice how the original colors belonging to the warmer tones have taken a blanket of a bluish color. Additionally, you also lose details on the sides in the ultra-wide images.

Mosque Picture with auto mode on Huawei P30 Pro
The natural color of the subject inclines towards warmer tones

Mosque Picture with Ultra Wide Angle lens on Huawei P30 Pro
Image taken with Ultra Wide Angle shifts the color palette towards cooler tones

 

Here you can see the stark contrast between the Superspectrum camera and Ultra-wide angle lens. The latter has not only changed the color of the sky but has lost almost all details in the image.

Park Picture at night with Auto mode on Huawei P30 Pro
P30 Pro’s main camera preserves the details of the image at night

Park Picture at night with Ultra Wide Angle lens on Huawei P30 Pro
Image taken with Ultra Wide Angle at night loses details and create a bluish hue in the sky

 

The Huge Zoom (5x, 10x, 50x)

Until today there was no practical example of optical zoom in a smartphone that could go beyond 2x or 3x due to physical constraint, but Huawei P30 Pro is the first to integrate periscope style lens mechanism that can zoom in up to 5x.

Technically, it’s not a zoom; rather, the phone switches to the telephoto lens when the 5x toggle button is pressed.

In between 1x and 3x, the phone makes use of the hardware and inbuilt software prowess for exercising digital zoom. Between 3x and 5x images from both the primary and telephoto lenses are combined and treated through AI for more refined images.

Beyond 5x up til 10x, the phone uses the combination of optical zoom and super-resolution processing. It takes multiple RAW images in this process which Huawei calls a lossless hybrid zoom. Although it is not lossless entirely, the variation is very tiny to ignore.

 

Going further, the P30 Pro can go as deep as 50x digital zoom which is interesting and fun to play with at certain times with better lighting conditions, but we experienced a considerable degradation of image when there was no ample ambient light around. Check out the following images to see the power of zoom in Huawei P30 Pro.

Eiffel TowerPicture with Auto Mode on Huawei P30 Pro
Standard Mode

Eiffel Tower Picture with 5X Zoom on Huawei P30 Pro
5X Zoom

Eiffel Tower Picture with 10X Zoom on Huawei P30 Pro
10X Zoom

Eiffel Tower Picture with 50X Zoom on Huawei P30 Pro
50X Zoom

 

Landscape Picture with auto mode on Huawei P30 Pro
Standard Mode

Landscape Picture with 5X Zoom on Huawei P30 Pro
5X Zoom

Landscape Picture with 10X Zoom on Huawei P30 Pro
10X Zoom

Landscape Picture with 50X Zoom on Huawei P30 Pro
50X Zoom

 

Practically speaking, we could obtain acceptable photos up till 35x, beyond that, it is a hit and trial with lots of wobbling to deal with even with the tripods.

ToF Sensor

The TOF sensor has a more significant role to play both in the day and low light photography. It assists the primary camera by creating a depth map for calculating the distance to the subject accurately that not only results in a quick focus — in a fraction of a second even in the low light — but also produces some really lovely portraits due to 3D mapping.

Notice how the ToF sensor has efficiently detected the edges of the subject, even their hair to only blur the objects that are far away. In the end, you get natural color reproduction and a less aggressive bouquet effect.

Portrait Mode in wazir Khan Mosque on Huawei P30 Pro
ToF sensor has carefully outlined the subject and we can observe no loss of details

Shot with Portrait Mode on Huawei P30 Pro
ToF sensor has recognized the far away object (mosque and pillars) and has not applied the blur on the nearer subject

Portrait mode on Huawei P30 Pro
Every strand of the subject’s hair has been carefully detected by the ToF sensor

Portrait Shot at night with Huawei P30 Pro
In the pitch-dark setting and without using flash, there is a lot of noise in the portrait shot and the camera loses the details of the subject

Front Camera

The front notch holds the 32MP lens for selfies which is not uncommon now since we have seen the similar megapixels in Vivo and couple more, but it is Huawei’s internal algorithm that fully utilizes the strength of the lens to produce some really sharp selfies. 

Selfie with Huawei P30 Pro
The front camera can take natural looking selfies

The followings selfie was taken in a pitch-black setting without the help of flash and even though the face of the subject lacks details, it still managed to capture the moment.

Selfie at night with auto mode on Huawei P30 Pro
The front camera can take an image without flash in the dark but cannot preserve the details in this setting

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