There’s a lot of politics surrounding the release of the Huawei P40 Pro and as a result, the first article we published after getting our hands on it had to be about life without Google services. This time around we want to get away from what the phone doesn’t have and focus on what it does have. This is the best quality phone camera I have used to date, bar none!

The hardware

The P40 Pro has a pretty substantial camera bump, in fact, it’s enormous. The lines are sleek and are designed to look the same as the phone itself. The reality is though, with the increasing expectations we place on our phone cameras that the hardware associated with the camera as well as the phone, in general, are going to increase in size.

Rear-Facing there is an array of lenses that contribute to the camera capability.

  • 50MP Ultra Vision Camera (Wide Angle, f/1.9, OIS)
  • 40MP Cine Camera (Ultra-Wide Angle, f/1.8)
  • 12MP SuperSensing Telephoto Camera (f/3.4, OIS)
  • 3D Depth Sensing Camera

The capability of this is truly outstanding, recently topping DxOMark (for what that’s worth these days) for both front and rear camera. Given what I’ve seen in the past from other phone cameras with high zoom, I was dubious of its potential. Ultimately I was pleasantly surprised with the fact that the 50x SuperSensing Zoom being able to at all produce a picture zoomed in that far while capturing some detail. Don’t get me wrong, the photos aren’t brilliant but for what is, essentially digital zoom, it’s ok.

Front-facing there is a 32MP Selfie Camera (f/2.2, Auto Focus) and Depth Camera. Personally, having a face for radio I’m not a big one for selfies. Despite my disadvantage there, I was actually really happy with some of the photos that the selfie camera produced.

Both the rear and front-facing cameras do a really good job at capturing true to life colour, great quality images whether you choose to use the automatic mode, or any of the other options available in the camera app.

The software

It really doesn’t matter how good camera hardware on a phone is, if the software is garbage then the camera will suffer due to usability. There are a ton of features in the Huawei camera software to explore including a number of photo and video modes that can produce photos near the quality of some DSLR cameras.

To get the photo’s from your phone to a computer for storage — Because we’re looking at life without Google — You’ll need to use one of the options available such as Dropbox or OneDrive to automate the upload of photos from your phone to the cloud. If that’s not to your liking, you can, of course, plug a cable into your phone and manually transfer them to your PC or laptop.

The array of available modes means users have a heap of automatic settings that help get the best photo possible in a point and shoot setup. The list includes Aperture, Night, Portrait, Photo (automatic), Video, Pro and “more” which holds more special options.

If you’re going to be taking lots of photos on any device, I can’t recommend strongly enough that you should get yourself a decent tripod. This extends especially to night mode given the long exposure time required to get a decent image. There is also some impressive AI that does background work to identify what you’re taking photos of as well as some intelligent collation of images and light capture for really stunning photos.

HUAWEI P40 Pro brings faraway subjects up close with 5x optical zoom, 10x hybrid zoom and 50x maximum digital zoom. For the first time ever, the 5x Optical Telephoto Camera in the HUAWEI P40 Pro includes an RYYB colour filter array to boost light intake and improve quality of zoomed shots. HUAWEI P40 Pro+ has a 100x SuperZoom Array with a new periscope design that reflects light five times, extending the light path by 178 percent to support 10x true optical zoom. The optically stabilised Ultra Vision Wide Camera and SuperZoom Array work in tandem with AI to realise Triple OIS+AIS for vastly improved photo and video stabilisation.

All of this results in an impressive user experience through the camera software which is as easy to navigate as any other phone camera software. Whether you choose to use the more complex modes requiring manual input, or the automated setups you’re sure to get great results.

The photos

There are a lot of great areas near my house to take a heap of photos but unfortunately, a bunch of them are currently shut due to the COVID-19 lockdown. I’ve had the phone for a couple of weeks now and taken a couple of opportunities during family walks or quick outings to grab some photos to try and show off the capabilities of this camera.

The array of lenses on the P40 Pro that we’ve already discussed means that the photographic and creative possibilities are endless. Probably the biggest furfy in the specs of the P40 Pro is the zoom capability, it works and pretty well but at full reach, you lose quality very quickly (think 5MP rear camera and a little digital zoom for good measure) and need to be using a tripod to get a steady photo. The photo quality at 25x was very good but degraded quickly from there. At 50x zoom, it’s not really good for any detail just an oversight or landscape image.

Using the standard photo mode is — aside from where most users will spend their time — going to produce a lot of great photos. The biggest point of interest for me is the capability of the camera to focus quickly and intuitively on the target subject whether it’s person, scenery or individual items. On the odd occasion that the focus wasn’t what I was after, tap on the target subject quickly brought the image to what I was after. A couple of photos I took seemed to be quite highly processed to a point where faces don’t look quite right – granted that could just be my face though!

Generally speaking though, the photos are excellent quality with good colour reproduction that presents very true to life. There is — true to form for all mobile phone cameras — some post-processing done on the photos to correct the colours and at times this also reduces or removes shadows at times through the amazing light capture ability of the multi-lens setup. The only truly bad, noisy photos I’ve seen from this camera were taken from a moving vehicle or trying to focus on a fast-moving target.

Portrait mode is somewhat of a highlight for me. The phone’s processing and focus on what you’re wanting (the people) is truly outstanding. The light capture is consistent with the other photo modes and produces excellent photos.

One mode that has come to prominence since the Pixel phones showed the way is night mode. The number of lenses on the P40 Pro means that there are extra pathways to capture extra light, perform colour correction and collate images to create the best possible images. I believe that this is one of the best night capable phone cameras I’ve ever seen.

To manage low light or night time photographs there has to be a lot of processing done. You’re dealing with a long exposure which requires a very steady hand or tripod. The light and colour capture can be troubling for processing to get it right and Huawei have done it very well. Particularly if you’re in low, or mixed lighting areas the colour really seems to pop on screen.

There is so much about the camera on the Huawei P40 Pro to be impressed by and that starts with the hardware. The combination and quality of lenses used, coupled with the aperture gives the phone great potential. Without great software though, great hardware means nothing.

The various modes in the software each have their own points to discuss, but the general capability of the camera stands out consistently. It’s that consistency that is so impressive across the board with all image capture in varying light conditions and capturing different targets.

It’s not by accident that a phone tops DxOMark like this has. Huawei has continued their previous pathway of delivering a brilliant camera experience on their top-end phones making this the best camera I have ever used on a mobile phone. Before we’re done with the review unit we’ll take a closer look at some of the hardware options and the daily use case with the Huawei software.

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Oldmike
Oldmike
3 months ago

I dont know Phil , no doubt they have pretty good cameras , and as you did point out in some pics , they do not get it right all the time , there are times i am really impressed with my P30 pro , for me the zoom is very good , but like all phones cameras , none of them are perfect. At times the pics look a bit soft on my phone , the portrait shot of your scone , in some parts of your face you can see detail , in other areas it is completely… Read more »