The camera is definitely a long one to talk about. Let’s first do a quick rundown of its specs. The Huawei P20 has dual-cameras with Leica optics once again, by the way:
- Dual-rear facing camera
- 12MP 1.55µm, 1/2.3-inch RGB sensor with f/1.8 lens
- 20MP black/white sensor with f/1.6 lens
- Phase and laser autofocus
- Selfie camera
- 24MP f/2.0
We have all of our sample pictures uploaded to the Flickr account here, so have a look at that if you’re interested. All of the metadata are included as well, so you know the settings that we used to take these pictures.
Huawei didn’t learn from their mistake though, as all of the pictures’ metadata is filled with gibberish that describes what mode that picture is taken. Messing up with the description of the picture is indeed an issue for us who upload pictures to image hosts like Flickr.
The dual-Leica cameras return once again, and it still uses the stereoscopic dual-camera system. In case you missed out on our post regarding the differences of dual-camera systems, you can check it out here.
The Huawei P20 has a little play room, actually. While Huawei listed the rear-facing camera to be 12MP + 20MP, it is defaulted to 12MP at 4:3 aspect ratio. We actually know why. Remember when Huawei advertised how well the P20 can take long exposure night shots without having to use a tripod and still appear sharp as ever? And also the lossless 2x zoom?
Thanks to some software magic, the P20 is able to downscale from 20MP to 12MP and use those leftover megapixels to create a sharp image. We noticed this while taking night shots as it locks down the image size to 12MP at 4:3 only and we cannot take 20MP night shots.
The picture quality in itself is surprisingly fantastic. I first realized its fantastic colors when I took a picture of a custom PC with full RGB lights. It looks fantastic. Colors are on point – and since we take all pictures in 12MP size, the images appear really sharp even with my super-shaky hands with a 4-second exposure shot.
For this picture, I selected night mode manually and its shutter speed to auto. The P20 automatically goes for a 4-second exposure shot with an ISO of 400 only. The picture turned out great while my hand is shaky.
I’m not much of a selfie person. Taking a few quick shots reveals that the selfie camera isn’t particularly doing well. Taking a selfie in low-light conditions reveal that the image will appear blurry. The room is lit up by yellow light, so in terms of color accuracy, it’s done right.
I really do wish that Huawei will include an autofocusing selfie camera, actually.
The AI on the other hand, is useful when it does detect the image. Integrating real-time image recognition and changing scene modes instantly is not an easy feat, and Huawei actually makes use of the technology very well – but only when it detects the scene.
While the AI is a tad bit aggressive, for certain shots like a price tag, it changes between text and document scanning. Sometimes, it’ll go in close-up mode too – which is quite frustrating given that it’ll automatically zoom 2x for close-up but doesn’t zoom back out once it doesn’t detect close-up anymore.
Speaking of the document scene, take a look at what the Huawei P20 does when it detected a bottle of chemical’s label!
In portrait mode, there’s a new option to add 3D lighting mode. It detects all of your face’s contours and adds a virtual light that casts directional light and shadows. This feature is mostly used for professionals who want their images to stand out more – and I have to say, it really looks fantastic. Credits to Mr. RexTech for being such a great model.
Also, if you the AI detects a scene, it doesn’t ask you if you want to use that scene mode or not – it’ll force you to use that scene mode directly. You’ll have to manually tap the “x” button to quit the scene mode. Quite annoying sometimes as certain objects that I tried taking pictures with were detected as food and I had to manually tap the scene away.
Disabling AI will put an end to these little issues, but that means you’ll never have any of these scene mode optimizations at all. Navigating through the interface is easy, but slow. Changing between scenes manually requires a lot of swiping and tapping, which is not optimal at all – which leads us to the next part.
Camera app UI
While the app did get a cleanup, there’s quite a lot more left to be desired. For example, the scene mode selection is now hidden on the far right side of the carousel of modes. The wide-aperture mode that we spoke of here is now moved to the far left side of the carousel of modes.
Even switching between selfie and rear-facing camera is not that straightforward. That option is only available in certain modes – which means more screen tapping.
The camera UI in general does work – but has a learning curve due to its complexity and number of features available. Though if you don’t plan on using all of the manual modes and such, the UI works fine.
There’s actually 960fps slow-mo feature here on the Huawei P20 as well. It works slower than what Samsung has on their Galaxy S9 and S9+ but is a lot simpler to use.