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Huawei Mate 30 Pro camera review: Low-light king!
Huawei Mate 30 Pro
What we like
What we don't like
Last year’s Mate 20 Pro was an incredible device for smartphone photography thanks to its three great rear camera sensors and powerful software. Thus the Mate 30 Pro had some big shoes to fill. With the competition focusing more and more on great camera systems, Huawei faced intense pressure to knock its flagship out of the park.
Has Huawei succeeded, has it made the Mate 30 Pro the best? Find out in Android Authority’s Huawei Mate 30 Pro camera review. (Our full review of the featured device is available here.)
Full-resolution camera samples are available via Google Drive.
Editor’s note: We updated this review to clarify that the units we tested were Chinese models running pre-production software. Huawei also reached out to state that an OTA update coming in late October will improve performance when shooting video at night. We updated the relevant section to reflect this and we will retest the phone after the OTA arrives.
- 40MP sensor
- f/1.8 aperture
- 1/1.54-inch sensor-size
- 18mm (35mm equiv.)
- 40MP sensor
- f/1.6 aperture
- 1/1.7-inch sensor-size
- 27mm (35mm equiv.)
- Optical Image Stabilization
- 8MP Sensor
- f/2.4 aperture
- ¼-inch sensor-size
- 3x optical zoom
- 80mm (35mm equiv.)
- Optical Image Stabilization
- 3D TOF camera
- 32MP sensor
- f/2.0 aperture
- 3D TOF camera
- 4K/UHD at 60fps
- 1080p at 960fps
- 720p at 7680fps
Having three focal-lengths is standard in 2019, thanks to LG making it mainstream, but Huawei has made some interesting decisions that let the Mate 30 Pro stand out from the competition. Its 40MP main sensor isn’t the 12 nor 48 that we see from the current flagships, and even more interestingly the sensor size is far larger, too. The 1/1.7-inch sensor allows for more light to be captured, leading to increased low-light performance.
The 40MP 1/1.54-inch ultra-wide camera is a cut above the rest of the industry, right now — not only in the pixel-count but also the sensor-size. Typically, the main camera will have a bigger sensor than the other lenses on a given phone, but not this time. The ability to shoot UltraHD video at 60fps is also available on this ultra-wide lens, making it the most powerful in a phone thus far.
What made the Mate 20 Pro’s camera so appealing to me, personally, was its feature-rich camera app — packed with modes and settings, it satisfied my inner shutterbug. I didn’t like that it was covered in tacky textures, which made it look dated.
For the Mate 30 Pro, Huawei cleaned up the interface — tossing the dated design details and introducing a much cleaner look with simpler buttons and text.
Continue reading: 10 best photography apps for Android!
The mode carousel should be familiar to those coming from almost any other recent phone. Below the mode selector, you’ll find the shutter button front and center, flanked by the gallery preview to the left and camera-flip button on the right. Quick toggles and the settings button are on the top of the phone when the phone is in portrait orientation, with the zoom slider on the right-hand side.
The total number of shooting modes is staggering — 17 to be exact: aperture, night, portrait, photo, video, pro, slow-motion, panorama, monochrome, AR lens, light painting, HDR, time-lapse, moving picture, stickers, documents, and dual-view.
Performance in the app is fantastic, with super-smooth mode switching. We did notice a weird issue that happens when taking a picture and quickly switching to the gallery to view it. The phone displays a “Processing” message and sometimes it needs a few seconds to load the image. This may be a software issue and hopefully it’s going to be fixed by the time the device hits global markets.
There is a particularly useful feature that lets you use the waterfall display as a shutter button when taking selfies, just in case you were using the opposing hand. The problem is it’s pretty awkward to use in real-world scenarios since the phone is so slippery. It’s responsive, sure, but just unergonomic.
Master AI, which is Huawei’s scene-detection tool, is enabled by default. It adjusts colors and contrast based on the scene at hand. It works quite well, but can sometimes push the colors a bit too much in my opinion.
- Ease of use: 8
- Intuitiveness: 8
- Features: 10
- Advanced settings: 10
The Mate 30 Pro really shines in daylight. Its processing chops allows it to retain details across the entire image, even in bright light. Colors pop more for a far more fun image, overall.
Even the rescued shadows retain accurate color.
A great example of this is the photo of my yard (the first). The phone captured detail in the sky, with light clouds and cables, along with the markings on the wall, the neighbour’s door, and the bushes in the garden. Accurate colors span the image, even in shadows cast by the bright sky.
The Mate 30 Pro captures colors incredibly well, balancing a fun look with accuracy. In the shots of the plants, the flowers really were that vibrant, and the Iceland logo really was that orange.
If I had to give one criticism, it would be that the phone could do a better job of getting the sky to be just right. For some reason, there’s a cool cast over the images taken in slightly lower light, where there wasn’t in real life.
Continue reading: Don’t fall for the 100MP camera hype
Let’s be honest, the Mate 30 Pro isn’t going to beat the P30 Pro‘s periscope telephoto design in terms of zoom. However, it doesn’t fair badly considering the lack of crazy optics. The 8MP telephoto camera captures a surprising amount of detail for such a “low resolution” sensor, and it surprised me.
I found the image of the chimney to be really crisp, considering the fact that it was more than seven meters above my head. The separation of the bricks and tiles on the roof is distinct without being oversharpened. This results in a clean image that’s easy on the eyes.
Capturing crisp detail is easy work for the Mate 30 Pro, as demonstrated here. I tested the camera against bricks, road, distant objects, plants, and even my cat! Results show an incredible level of detail, without the oversharpening artifacts that we’ve come to associate with some smartphone cameras.
Capturing crisp detail is easy work for the Mate 30 Pro.
The shots of my cat and of the bush show intricate details in full clarity, even when zooming in far beyond what you would in a regular viewing experience. In particular, my cat’s eyes are pin-sharp from a distance, and you can already feel how soft she is just by looking at the image!
Good landscape shots are a cinch for the Mate 30 Pro, thanks to the wide focal-range between the three main camera sensors. Capturing the feeling and energy from a given scene is not easy to do, but Huawei seems to have cracked it. From the dull and dingy street looking down at the car dealership, to the crisp, clear view across the park — this phone gets the job done.
Having a 40MP ultra-wide camera really helps. Many ultra-wide setups are of a lower resolution than the rear sensor, but Huawei has done something unique here and made their ultra-wide camera the same resolution as their main shooter.
Continue reading: Photography terms explained
This results in crisp and clear photos with a vast field of view and plenty of detail and dynamic range. A good example of this is the shot of the two flower-posts with a valley up to a clothes store. The camera manages to keep the sky exposed, whilst providing plenty of detail in the brick walls and flooring.
Portrait mode on the Mate 30 Pro, whilst not on Apple or Google’s level, is still pretty good. Focus roll-off is plenty realistic, making for a more believable effect than many devices offer. This is where objects further away are blurred more so than those closer to the subject.
Focus roll-off is realistic, making for a more believable effect.
Edge detection is an area that could do with some improvement in terms of its consistency. In a lot of shots, it was quite accurate, but the lady’s arm in the shot of the bar is glowing with some fuzziness to the edges. Similarly, my arms seem to have strange, off-putting artifacts on the edges, too.
That said, the photo of the lady in front of the car park is very impressive. The edge detection, colors, focus roll-off, and sharpness are all on-point to create a very pretty image — one of the best portrait shots that I’ve ever seen from a phone.
Huawei’s camera app hides HDR in its “More” tab, but HDR seems to be built into the normal shooting mode, meaning you often won’t see a huge difference between normal and HDR shots of the same scene. The feature is very powerful and can be quite aggressive on the Mate 30 Pro.
It captures an incredible amount of detail in the highlights and shadows on all three cameras. It can look a bit dramatic if you’re not used to heavy-HDR, but Huawei has tried to cut down on the amount of glow that you typically get around objects in this mode.
Continue reading: This is why 100MP smartphones seem like a terrible idea
Even in super harsh situations, this device captures so much information in the highlights and shadows. You would typically expect smartphone cameras to stumble here due to the small sensor size, but Huawei’s processing coupled with its 1/1.7-inch sensor means that nothing is a challenge for this beast.
Take note of the shot of the tall buildings. The phone is being pointed towards the sun, yet it still captured all of the details from the building, whilst maintaining accurate exposure of the clouds.
Low light is the Mate 30 Pro’s speciality, which is no surprise given Huawei’s track record. Its impressive hardware and even better software come together to create images that I wouldn’t have thought possible.
Let’s start with the shot of a factory behind the beach. In a vacuum, the image doesn’t seem all that impressive — but this was in pitch-black darkness. My eyes could not see the sand in front of me, yet the Mate 30 Pro could. Despite this unbelievable feat, it still manages to keep the trees and factory exposed well enough to not look majorly out of place. This is the stuff of dreams.
Low-light is the Mate 30 Pro's speciality
Next, the shot of the train station bridge. This was shot on the 8MP telephoto camera. However, as you can see, the railings and signs can be easily read, and details in all but the harshest of shadows are detailed, too.
Finally, the images of the car park and the town are impressive. They manage to provide detail, while maintaining dynamic range — all whilst seeing stuff that my eyes couldn’t. The Mate 30 Pro is the undisputed king of low-light.
These selfie shots highlight the quality from the Mate 30 Pro’s high-resolution selfie camera. I found sharpness to be a particular strong point, which is clearly shown in my hair and t-shirt in the garden shots. Dynamic range is impressive on the selfie camera, too — an impressive quality given the small sensor size.
Continue reading: Best pop-up camera phones and slider phones in 2019
When you’re in photo mode, and you switch from the rear camera to the front, the phone will automatically put you in portrait mode, meaning that your selfies should come out looking fancier from the get-go.
Skin-smoothing is something that I had to disable straight away due to the super unrealistic look that it gives. Since this is the default setting, new users will have to be careful when getting hold of the Mate 30 Pro for the first time.
Update, October 4: Huawei reached out to inform us the Mate 30 Pro will receive improved low light video capabilities through an update coming this month.
Video from the Mate 30 Pro isn’t the best-in-class, in my opinion. It’s a little bit shaky and doesn’t quite match what Samsung and Apple are doing with their hardware and software stabilization. Exposure and colors seem to be spot on, and the phone doesn’t have an issue with focusing. But the quality of the image itself lacks sharpness, and can end up looking blurry and mushy at times. Dynamic range also falls apart in anything but good conditions, as shown in the video footage of the terrace top.
Overall, the video is hit and miss with the Mate 30 Pro, a shame considering its other fantastic scores.
At least with the current firmware, low-light video really falls apart. It often resembles nothing more than a blurry mess. To get good video from the Mate 30 Pro, you really need ample lighting. This may change once Huawei updates the Mate 30 Pro later this month. If that happens, we will update this review.
There are a few shooting modes in the slow-motion mode, including up to an eye-watering 7680fps option at 720p. Slow motion on the Mate 30 Pro is, by far, the best example of the feature that I’ve ever seen. It doesn’t quite make up for the sub-par video, however.
The success of the Mate 20 Pro set an incredibly high bar for Huawei to clear, and I think the company managed it by the skin of their teeth. This phone doesn’t tick every box: video still has a ways to go, but the awesome detail and insane low-light performance make this my go-to when I want to take an image.
If Huawei manages to fix its video issues, they could be in line for the best camera on any smartphone.