Huawei P30 Pro Low Light Camera Review

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Huawei P30 Pro Low Light Result

Low light photography is always a challenge for smartphone cameras. 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. This year we have Huawei P30 Pro that is getting the title of “the low light king”.

Ever since Huawei joined hands with Leica to improve the camera experience, we have seen the birth of some great 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 latest flagship phone 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 see what our eyes can miss.

Huawei P30 Pro Camera technology

We have previously explained the camera of Huawei P30 Pro, but let’s 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 primary 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 enable 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 OIS (Optical Image Stabilization) and EIS (Electronic Image Stabilization), provides a better handheld camera result by reducing the blurring from shaky hands in long exposure shots.

The smartphone’s ISO sensitivity setting has 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 up to 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 Huawei P30 Pro is worthy of being the low-light camera king of 2019.

Note:
All the images were taken without a tripod and flash. The camera result has not been altered and represents the real 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 the 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 excellent color reproduction and balanced exposure.

Effile Tower Picture at night with Auto Mode on Huawei P30 Pro
The primary camera preserved the individual colors of the light at night

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 that 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.

Minar-e-Pakistan Picture with auto mode on Huawei P30 Pro
The main camera takes in more light and even captured the lone star on the sky

In the image, you can 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.

Picture in dark with auto mode on Huawei P30 Pro
The main camera has dispersed the light

You can see this problem in the following shot.

Picture at night aganist light on Huawei P30 Pro
Dissemination of light by the primary camera

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.

The Poet restaurant Picture at night with auto mode on Huawei P30 Pro
It does not struggle too much while capturing fairy lights commonly used for decoration

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 are far away from the camera that makes it a great companion for indoor shoots as well in the darker situations.

Picture in Indoor Lights with Auto Mode on Huawei P30 Pro
The main camera takes great pictures indoors as well as outdoors

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.

Dancing Fountain Picture with auto mode on Huawei P30 Pro
The main camera has frozen the water droplets which can be viewed in the image

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 in the frame 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.

Park Picture at night with Auto mode on Huawei P30 Pro
The main camera has managed to maintain the details and the colors at night

Park Picture at night with Ultra Wide Angle lens on Huawei P30 Pro
Ultra wide-angle has washed out the details and colors of the subject

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.

Shot at night with Huawei P30 Pro
The lights at the end are merging into the sky while the details at either side of the photo are lost

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 faraway distance are smooth.

In the following landscape shot, you can again see how the sky’s color has changed from black to blue.

Shot at night with Auto mode on Huawei P30 Pro
The ultra-wide-angle lens has changed the color of the sky to blue at night

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.

Gulberg Galleria Picture with auto mode on Huawei P30 Pro
With the auto mode, you can see the details of the shops on both sides

Gulberg Galleria Picture with Ultra Wide Angle lens on Huawei P30 Pro
Ultra wide-angle lens overexposed the lights and lost the details of the shops

Night Mode

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 in the dark, and in our testing, we found this claim to be true.

The following image has been taken through night mode in a pitch-black situation where we couldn’t see the colors of the grass ourselves.

Grass Picture at night with Night Mode on Huawei P30 Pro
The image was shot in a pitch-dark setting where even our eyes couldn’t see the color of the grass

It was quite surprising to see that P30 Pro has not just managed to capture the scene without an external light source, but it also 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.

Bahira Town Mosque Picture with auto mode on Huawei P30 Pro
The main camera managed to see the subject in the dark but couldn’t preserve the details

Bahira Town Mosque Picture with Night mode on Huawei P30 Pro
Night mode has not only kept the details of the subject but has also restored its original color

The following image was also taken in an entirely unilluminated setting where even one’s eyes could not see what P30 Pro captured.

Bahira Mosque Shot with Night mode on Huawei P30 Pro
Even while lighting up the subject, P30 pro has left the building’s shadow intact

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:

Night Mode On Huawei P30 Pro
Details like the pattern of tiles at the bottom of the water surface can also be observed with night mode

AI HDR+

One of the biggest weaknesses 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 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 see the lamps and the realistic colors of the bricks.

Mosque Corridor Picture with huawei P30 pro
(right) auto mode, (left) HDR

Below, you can 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 read the sign as well as there is a good balance between the red color and the dark surroundings.

Havlie Indoor Picture with Huawei P30 Pro
(right) auto mode, (left) AI HDR+

It is a great feature that is effective against backlit backgrounds or subjects because of its excellent 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.

Picture with HDR Mode on Huawei P30 Pro
HDR mode can control yellow light indoors

Telephoto

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.

Minar-e-pakistan shot with auto mode on Huawei P30 Pro
Image of Minar-e-Pakistan taken 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 see Huawei P30 Pro has captured the outlines of the Minar, even details that can’t be noticed by the naked eye.

Minar-e-pakistan shot with 5X Zoom on Huawei P30 Pro
5X Zoom

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.

Minar-e-pakistan shot with 10X Zoom on Huawei P30 Pro
10X Zoom

At night, as you try to zoom further, it becomes harder to capture the subject accurately with bare hands.

Minar-e-pakistan shot with 50X Zoom on Huawei P30 Pro
50X Zoom

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 images of Minar-e-Pakistan.

P30 Pro’s telephoto lens also distorts the image to make it look like a two-dimensional painting by removing the intricate details of the subject you are trying to capture. Have a look at the two images below to see the distinction.

Mosque Corridor Picture with Auto & 5X Zoom on Huawei P30 Pro
(right) auto mode, (left) zoom

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.

Badshahi Mosque with 5X zoom on Huawei P30 Pro
5X Zoom

Even if it cannot stay true to the original colors, P30 Pro’s camera was able to capture the image of the helicopter in the following photo. And in the 10x optical zoom, you can even see the number “1821” written on it.

Helicopters Picture at night with Auto mode on Huawei P30 Pro
Image of helicopter taken in auto mode

Helicopters Picture at night with 5X Zoom on Huawei P30 Pro
5x Zoom

Helicopters Picture at night with 10X Zoom Huawei P30 Pro
10X Zoom

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 could not effectively freeze the moment for us to capture

Picture of moving objects with auto mode on Huawei P30 Pro
We tried freezing the moving boat, but the main camera wasn’t fast enough

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
A cat passes by at night – auto mode

Portrait

The Portrait feature on Huawei P30 Pro is not too aggressive, and thanks to the ToF sensor, it is terrific. But when you are taking portrait shots in low-light, the noise starts to creep in, as you can see in the image below.

Portrait Shot at night with Huawei P30 Pro
Noise starts to creep in when you take a portrait in a pitch-dark situation

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.

In 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 picture, and you can see the facial details of the subject.

Portrait Mode at Night on Huawei P30 Pro
The background blur is a little aggressive while the details have been preserved

These two pics lead us to the conclusion that the lights play a significant 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.

Selfies

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 image lacked details, you won’t miss out on creating moments with your friends.

Selfie at night with auto mode on Huawei P30 Pro
Selfie was taken in the pitch-black setting without flash

Video

The low-light features in P30 Pro also extend to the videos, and the SuperSpectrum camera can help to shoot illuminating videos in the dark. However, unlike still photos, you have to be mentally prepared to see some patchy shots.

The ToF sensor does an excellent job of identifying 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 the subject 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 on 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, our team member’s face is always in focus, and the microphone captured her sound without a need for the mic.

 


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