Over the past few years, camera technology in smartphones has made giant strides but taking good pictures in low-light conditions has always been a challenge not just for the handset industry but the camera industry as a whole.
Last year, Google awed us all with the launch of Pixel 3 by providing the solution to the low-light dilemma with Night Sight feature, a software improvement that can take crisp photos in minimum surrounding light.
Moving forward in the same year, no other phone including Apple’s iPhone XS Max could come close to Google’s smartphone in low-light photography. Samsung tried to bridge the gap in 2019 with its Galaxy S10 Plus’ triple camera setup but night sight still remained an undefeated champ until the launch of Huawei P30 Pro.
Ever since Huawei joined hands with Leica to improve the camera experience, we have seen the birth of some awesome camera phones. The lenses that are manufactured by the German optics company and the software and chipset (Kirin) created by the Chinese smartphone giant mesh well together in the Huawei’s flagship phones to deliver outstanding performance.
This year, the RYYB sensor which according to Huawei works effectively due to Kirin chipset’s optimization can even see in the dark. Though with good results, there are also some challenges for the photographers using P30 Pro which we will discuss later.
We finally got the opportunity to test the camera prowess of the much-hyped Huawei P30 Pro, so let’s find out if it can really see what our eyes can miss.
Summary of the Camera Technology
We have previously explained the camera of Huawei P30 Pro, but let’s just recap to refamiliarize ourselves. The smartphone comes with the following camera specs:
- 40MP (27mm) Wide Angle Lens, f/1.6, OIS, 1/1.7 inch sensor
- 20MP (16mm) Ultra Wide Angle Lens, f/2.2, 1/2.7 inch sensor
- 8MP (125mm) Telephoto, 5x optical Zoom, f/3.4, OIS, 1/4 inch sensor
- ToF (Time of Flight) 3D sensor for depth perception
As compared to P20 Pro, the main 40MP camera, also called SuperSpectrum or RYYB sensor, comes with 40% higher light sensitivity and the aperture has also been improved from f/1.8 to f/1.6 which allows more light to reach the sensor. Together, the two upgrades allow the smartphone to take better pictures in low light with less noise.
The smaller f-stop of P30 pro’s main camera also results in faster shutter speed which coupled with of OIS (Optical Image Stabilization) and EIS (Electronic Image Stabilization) provides the better handheld camera result by reducing the blurring from shaky hands in long exposure shots.
The smartphone’s ISO sensitivity setting has been also been improved from ISO 102,400 to 409,600, making it an ideal device for low-light photography to date.
Apart from a better low-light camera, the company has also managed to squeeze 10x hybrid (AI) zoom in the smartphone that can go upto 50x digital zoom.
Huawei has left no stone unturned to create an excellent camera phone but can it live up to its hype? Let’s see if it Huawei P30 Pro is worthy to be the low-light camera king of 2019.
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.
Standard Auto Mode
The 40MP SuperSpectrum camera has created a new pathway for smartphone cameras. It collects more data from the same scene due to the presence of RYYB sensor which makes it much more effective in low-light.
When it comes to camera performance at night, Huawei P30 Pro has left us in a daze. In the standard auto mode, the smartphone provides good color reproduction and balanced exposure.
In the above image, you can see that the SuperSpectrum camera has managed to take in all of the colors on the Bahria’s Eiffel Tower and has not mashed them together.
Huawei has finally toned down the excess sharpening of the image in P30 Pro and now we get a realistic photo which is neither too soft nor too sharp.
Here’s an image that was taken after midnight when we could only rely on the faraway lights.
In the image, you can clearly observe the texture of water and how light is dispersing on the lake’s surface to an illusion of a starry night. Moreover, P30 Pro’s camera has also captured a lone star on the sky to the left side of the Minar-e-Pakistan, a surprising feat for a smartphone camera.
The only thing that annoys us about the primary lens is that the lights from the street lamps in the above photo have been disseminated across the image.
You can clearly see this problem in the following shot.
While the camera can disperse the light from a strong source, thankfully it does not show the same behavior with the fairy lights which are commonly used for decorations.
Though fairy lights in the above photo are not distinguishable, you do not end up with an overexposed shot which can be a great help especially if you are doing wedding shoots with your phone.
P30 Pro has also kept the colors natural and you cannot miss the details of the objects including the buildings and trees that far away from the camera. That is why it is a great companion for indoor shoots as well in a darker setting.
While we are on the topic of preservation of details, see how P30 Pro’s main camera has frozen the moment and you can see the water droplets static in the air and the water surface reacting to the shower created by the dancing fountain at night.
Ultra Wide Angle Shots
In P30 Pro, Huawei has replaced the Monochrome sensor with 20MP, 16mm-equivalent, f/2.2 ultra-wide camera which covers more than 120 degrees field-of-view.
The ultra wide-angle sensor can capture more as compared to the main camera but loses not just details of the subject but also leave the bluish hue in the image.
If you look at the following two images, you can observe that the main camera has kept the smallest details of the subject while the ultra-wide lens has washed out its true colors.
The ultra-wide angle lens is quite unpredictable. The following picture was taken at dusk with the ultra-wide-angle camera and you can see that the smartphone has changed the color of the sky which appears in three different shades while lights faraway have started to merge with the sky as well.
It has also preserved the details of the objects that are only at the front while the objects at the sides and the lights at a far away distance are smooth.
In the following landscape shot, you can again see how the sky’s color has changed from black to blue.
Just like the primary sensor, the ultra-wide lens also struggles against the light and the lamps or any other sources of light end up being overexposed in the image. The camera saturates the colors of the image making it look like a picture edited with the help of social media filters as you can see below.
Huawei P30 Pro comes with a dedicated Night mode, which enables the user to take long exposure shots. During the launch event of the smartphone, Huawei proudly presented a phone whose camera can see even without the presence of light and in our testing, we found this claim to be true.
The following image has been taken through night mode in a pitch black setting where we couldn’t see the colors of the grass ourselves.
It was quite surprising to see that P30 Pro has not just managed to capture a subject without an external light source but also has kept the colors and details of the grass blades completely natural.
The Huawei AIS (AI Image Synthesis) helps to get sharp images without a tripod at night. During our testing, we did not feel any need to use the Pro mode of the smartphone for long exposure shots as you can take the same quality image via default night mode.
In comparison with auto mode, night mode takes in more light and illuminates the subject while controlling the light and preserving the original colors.
If you look at the two images below, you can see that although Huawei P30 Pro’s camera has managed to take an image in the extreme low-light condition, you can see more details and better color reproduction in the photo taken with night mode.
The following image was also taken in a completely unilluminated setting where even one’s eyes could not clearly see what P30 Pro captured.
Interestingly, the camera has darkened the grass at the front, creating a realistic shade of the building on the ground while maintaining details of the main building as well as the one in the background.
The following image has also been taken in the same low-light condition:
One of the biggest weakness of Huawei P30 Pro’s camera is that it tends to scatter the light at night, resulting in overexposure that covers up things like neon signs, street lamps, etc. This is where AI HDR+ mode comes in to save the day.
The P30 Pro’s AI HDR+ mode not just bring back the original colors of the subject in focus but also controls the light to bring out the details accurately. It successfully brightens the dark areas and lightens the dark regions to provide more balanced exposures in the photograph.
As you can see below, the auto mode has smoothened the image, giving a warmer tone to the entryway whereas in AI HDR+ mode, you can clearly see the lamps and the realistic colors of the bricks.
Below, you can you see how the neon sign which reads “Haveli” and the surrounding walls have been overexposed in the auto mode but in HDR mode, you can clearly make out the sign as well as there is a good balance between the color red and the dark surroundings.
It is a great feature which is effective against backlit backgrounds or subjects because of its good understanding of exposure and light. It can also help to take a great picture indoors especially in cafes which are known for their use of yellow lights.
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You can use AI HDR+ feature for artistic pictures featuring neon paints or lights. This mode will also come in handy to shoot in well-lit spaces or alleyways at night.
Huawei P30 Pro comes with a new periscope lens which makes it possible to take 5x optical zoom, 10x hybrid zoom and much hyped 50x digital zoom. The digital zoom in the device takes the focal length to the equivalent of 16mm-1343mm and thus can capture what is quite far away from the photographer.
While we admire the optical and hybrid zoom of Huawei P30 Pro, we had to struggle with the 50x digital zoom at night. Here’s a picture of Minar-e-Pakistan shot in auto mode:
Just like the other images shot in auto mode, the camera has maintained the details of the subject in question. Now here’s what happens when we use the 5x optical zoom while standing at the same place.
With the 5x optical zoom, you can clearly see the outlines of the Minar, even details, that can’t be noticed by the naked eye have been captured by Huawei P30 Pro.
We experienced no loss of details and the image does not get pixelated even after you zoom in on the computer screen. But one of the drawbacks of the zoom capabilities is how it cannot stay true to the light’s original color.
In the image above, you can see how the phone’s telephoto lens has kept the light at the top much cooler than the one below. It shows the camera’s struggle with the light source while you are zooming in on the subject.
At night, as you try to zoom further, it becomes hard to capture a clear picture of the subject as it is hard to keep the camera stable in one’s hands.
It is the same for the 50x digital zoom in low-light conditions but on the brighter side, you can see that Huawei P30 Pro’s camera has preserved the green color at the top in all the shots of Minar-e-Pakistan.
P30 Pro’s telephoto lens also distorts the image to make it look like a two-dimensional painting, removing the intricate details of the subject you are trying to capture. Have a look at the two images below to clearly see the distinction.
Here you can once again see how the 5x optical zoom can help preserve the details of the subject at night and you can also observe that it has tried to smoothen the image to produce sharp details.
Even if it cannot stay true to the original colors, P30 Pro’s camera managed to capture the image of the helicopter and in the 10x optical zoom, you can even see the number 1821 written on it clearly.
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Huawei P30 Pro can be a very useful companion for those who love attending concerts at night. They can use the 5x optical and 10x hybrid zoom to take photos of the faraway stage.
Capturing Moving Objects at Night
We also tried to shoot the pictures of some moving objects at night in low to pitch-black settings and observed that even with AI, it cannot effectively freeze the moment for us to capture
The Portrait feature on Huawei P30 Pro is not too aggressive and thanks to the ToF sensor, is very good at edge detection. But when you are taking portrait shots in low-light, the noise starts to creep in as you can see in the image below:
The picture was taken after midnight in Greater Iqbal Park without the help of any light source. Though the camera was able to see in the dark, details of the primary subject overlapped with the noise which can especially be seen on our team member’s face.
On the contrast, the background blur in the following image is too aggressive which makes the scene look a bit artificial. Additionally, there is no noise in the image and you can clearly see the facial details of the subject.
These two pics lead us to the conclusion that the lights play a major factor in calming the portrait effect at night. In pitch-dark scenarios, P30 Pro will capture the portrait image but will suffer from the loss of some details.
Just like any other Huawei smartphone, P30 Pro can take good selfies in the dark owing to the inclusion of flash. We tried taking a picture in extremely dark conditions without using the flash and the flagship device managed to pull through. Even though the picture lacked details, you won’t miss out on creating moments with your friends.
The low-light features in P30 Pro also extend to the videos and the SuperSpectrum camera can help to shot illuminating videos in the dark but unlike still photos, you have to be mentally prepared to see some patchy shots.
The ToF sensor does a good job to identify the subject closest to the camera and focuses on it throughout the video. The following video was shot approximately 262 feet above the ground in low-light conditions and you can see that even though the camera has covered much of the background, it is still focused on the main subject.
It captured the voice of our team member without any problem and muffled the sound of air.
You can also use the 15x zoom while shooting a video but instead of getting a clear shot, you will be getting a pixelated view of the object you are trying to shoot with a lot of background noise. At the same time, if you are not thinking of using the P30 Pro camera’s zoom for videography, then it is alright to play with this feature to see what your eyes failed to capture like the volleyball game below:
The front camera of Huawei P30 Pro is also capable of taking great videos at night. Though it lacks optical stabilization at the front, it offers great image and sound quality. The user will need to hold the phone very steady while shooting a video with the front camera.
As you can see above, our team member’s face is always in focus and her sound was clearly captured by the microphone without a need for the mic.
If you are shooting a professional video at night, remember to not solely rely on P30 Pro’s capability to see at night.