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HUAWEI P30 Pro camera review: Next level optics, low-light champion
Huawei’s P30 Pro is effectively a Mate 20 Pro with a better camera system, but, oh my, is this camera system impressive. With a super high-resolution 40MP standard lens, a wide-angle lens, and an impressively engineered 5x optical telephoto lens, it’s hard not to get more than a little excited about HUAWEI’s latest flagship.
While the technology in this device is exciting in concept, we took it for a spin to see how it performs in everyday life. Is the supposed 5x optical telephoto lens truly lossless? Even more aspects of this camera system make it truly unique, so let’s jump in to our full HUAWEI P30 Pro camera review.
HUAWEI P30 Pro camera specs
- 40MP main (27mm) camera
- f/1.6 aperture
- 1/1.7 inch sensor
- 20MP wide (16mm) camera
- f/2.2 aperture
- 1/2.7 inch sensor
- Optical Image Stabilization
- 8MP 5x optical telephoto (125mm) camera
- f/3.4 aperture
- 1/4 inch sensor
- Optical Image Stabilization
- TOF 3D camera
- Dual LED flash
- Phase-detection autofocus
- Video: 4K, 1080p, 720p
- Features: Aperture mode, Night mode, Portrait mode, Pro mode, AI filters, slow-mo, panorama, time-lapse, stickers, 5x optical telephoto zoom, 10x AI zoom, 50x zoom
- 32MP camera
- f/2.0 aperture
- Video: 1080p, 720p
- Features: Portrait mode, Aperture mode, Night mode, Auto-HDR, Sticker, AI beautification, filters
HUAWEI P30 Pro camera app
It’s clear HUAWEI created this phone for people who want to get the most out of their images. While the app is fairly simple for those who simply want to snap a photo and let the phone do all the heavy lifting, there’s a huge number of settings to tune image capture to your liking. The carousel on the bottom will quickly guide you to more common modes like video, portrait, and aperture modes, while more complex options are nested in the settings menu. There’s also a toggle for rapid switching of wide, standard, 5x telephoto and 10x zoom modes, which is useful if you need to capture images more quickly.
- Ease of use: 9/10
- Intuitiveness: 8/10
- Features: 9/10
- Advanced Settings: 8/10
The more light a camera sensor gets, the cleaner the image is and the more quickly the shutter can close, freezing the image in time with less blur. That’s why it’s fairly easy to get sharp images during the day. However, HUAWEI cameras have long been focused on quality shots in lower lighting conditions — something the HUAWEI P30 Pro absolutely nails.
In brighter lighting conditions like daylight, the HUAWEI P30 Pro tends to overexpose images just a bit. Clarity is good, and there is minimal motion blur, but areas of the image are brighter than they appear in real life. This can be solved by manually reducing the exposure, but most consumers will just want to open the camera app and tap the shutter button. While overall quality is quite good, exposure is a bit of a problem, just like it was on the HUAWEI Mate 20 Pro.
The color from the HUAWEI P30 Pro camera is a bit de-saturated, and most consumers probably won’t like it as much as the punchier options on the market. While this gives you more flexibility in editing, the dynamic range algorithm HUAWEI employs in this device makes the luminance of nearly all colors higher than usual, causing images to look a bit washed out.
While I appreciate the colors from this camera aren’t drastically oversaturated as we’ve traditionally seen in options from OEMs like Samsung, I think HUAWEI could find a better balance that makes more consumers happy with the color profile.
Detail from the HUAWEI P30 Pro is very, very good. While the company has removed the monochrome sensor the HUAWEI P20 Pro used to show so much detail, the P30 Pro’s new RYYB sensor pulls much more detail out of the red color channel than most devices. This results in sharp images that reveal more in some areas than most other smartphones.
The 5x telephoto lens is optical, so detail is just as good as at 1x, and even the 10x AI zoom looks fantastic thanks to HUAWEI’s algorithms. Detail is not quite as good between 1.1 and 4.9x, but the AI processing does a good job at filling in detail the camera can’t perceive naturally.
The HUAWEI P30 Pro is very good for landscape photos, bringing a high amount of detail and high dynamic range. Color remains a problem in some areas, but the high dynamic range which affects this also lets you to see more in the image. HUAWEI should probably tune its algorithm to increase saturation and contrast just a bit while taking landscape shots, but otherwise it’s quite satisfactory.
Portrait mode / Aperture mode
HUAWEI put two different kinds of portrait mode in the P30 Pro: Portrait mode and Aperture mode. Portrait mode will simply cut out the subject and blur the background, while Aperture mode allows you to manipulate data like depth of field and focus point, even after you’ve taken the image.
The HUAWEI P30 Pro also comes equipped with a time-of-flight sensor to more easily distinguish the subject from the background of the image, and it can even read depth to more accurately blur the background of an image. This results in some great subject and background separation that looks fairly natural. It doesn’t do quite as good a job as the Google Pixel 3, but it’s still better than most other flagship smartphones right now.
Portrait mode does a good job of separating the subject from the background, but the face smoothing and over saturation are a bit over the top. Aperture mode does a much better job of slight saturation, while retaining a good amount of detail on the face. Even though this mode is not for portraits, in particular, it does a better job at portraits than portrait mode.
HUAWEI does a fairly decent job at high dynamic range with its camera. While it’s quite a bit better than HDR on the Samsung Galaxy S10, the P30 Pro’s HDR processing tends to make images a bit washed out, by raising the luminance in nearly all colors. This can make it more difficult to distinguish the background from the foreground.
However, the HDR is not overly aggressive and it actually creates nice foreground and background exposure. For pure information transfer, it’s great.
Low-light imaging is where the HUAWEI P30 Pro really shines (no pun intended). I’ve personally never seen a phone camera capture as much light in dark scenes as the HUAWEI P30 Pro. It seems to find light even in completely dark areas. The auto mode on this device does a better job than the Pixel 3 using its “Night Sight” mode, and if given just a tiny bit of light, images show minimal noise.
It’s hard to overstate just how good this device does in low light situations. If you’re looking for a camera that can excellently capture you and your friends hanging out late in the evenings, this is the device to get.
The HUAWEI P30 Pro has a 32MP selfie camera, and it is very good. It’s high in detail, but doesn’t seem over sharpened. Dynamic range is good, and doesn’t feel over processed. This is definitely one of the best selfie cameras I’ve used.
Interestingly, colors are better from the selfie camera than from the main shooter — probably because it tries to keep color in skin tones. If you’re a heavy selfie taker you’ll probably love this phone. It also has a selfie portrait mode, which does quite a good job with just one camera.
The HUAWEI P30 Pro shoots pretty fantastic video. Standard 1080p video is stabilized with a combination of OIS and EIS and feels smoother than nearly any other smartphone we’ve tested. Exposure and color are great in video as well. The phone defaults to 60fps, though you can select 30fps — the default in low-light situations normally.
The HUAWEI P30 Pro video stabilization is so stupidly good. It feels like it's on a gimbal walking through Morocco.David Imel
Just like in photos, there is hardly any noise to be seen in low light. This is extremely surprising because while a smartphone sensor usually struggles quite badly in low-light circumstances, the HUAWEI P30 Pro flies ahead.
HUAWEI P30 Pro camera review overall score: 8.65/10
The HUAWEI P30 Pro has one of the best camera systems we’ve ever tested. Its wide, standard, and optical telephoto lenses make it extremely versatile, its low light capabilities are best in class, and its new RYYB sensor pulls in a huge amount of detail.
Huawei’s color science could use just a bit of work, but for most people, this is will be a fantastic camera system.
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What do you think about the HUAWEI P30 Pro camera? Let us know your thoughts in the comments section below!