Now, for the most interesting bit – a look at the triple-camera setup of the P20 Pro. As a quick refresher, the three cameras on the back of the phone are as follows: 1x 40MP RGB sensor (f/1.8), 1x 20MP monochrome sensor (f/1.6) and 1x 8MP telephoto (f/2.4).
For this section, I’m going to look at three main areas – general image quality, the new zoom feature, and low-light performance.
General image quality
Before diving into the new telephoto lens, what is general image quality like with the P20 Pro out of the box? Above you can see 16 shots taken with the primary 40MP sensor in various scenarios and lighting environments. Not all shots are at the native 40MP size as you can’t use the zoom feature at that resolution, but even the 10MP images look sharp on a 4K monitor.
Overall quality is very good – there’s no denying that. The camera auto-focuses, takes and processes images very quickly, meaning you can get the photo you want without much fuss.
However- and it pains me to say this – I think the images could be a lot better if Huawei hadn’t gone overboard with the on-camera processing. Once you take a photo, a very aggressive sharpening algorithm is applied and, while it can sometimes help in a well-lit environment, a lot of the time it makes images look less natural and slightly artificial.
Colours are also boosted slightly too much in attempt to make images look vibrant and rich. I’m all for eye-pleasing images that aren’t necessarily 100% true-to-life, but I do think the P20 Pro takes it a step too far.
Don’t get me wrong, it’s an impressive camera capable of taking some very detailed shots. I just feel the hardware has been slightly let down by the software here.
I really like the zoom features of the P20 Pro, however. There are three different levels of zoom available at the press of a button in the camera app – 1x, 3x and 5x zoom. 1x zoom equals no zoom – it’s a standard wide-angle photo taken with the RGB sensor at 10MP. 3x zoom, however, switches over to that new telephoto lens, while the 5x zoom is actually a hybrid mode that combines the data from the telephoto lens with the 40MP RGB sensor to give an even closer shot of your subject.
However it works, the images that come out are very impressive. I found that 3x zoom takes slightly sharper photos than the 5x mode, but with both you still get a tremendous amount of ‘punch in’. For those interested, 1x zoom is equivalent to a 27mm focal length, 3x zoom is equivalent to 83mm, while the 5x mode is equivalent to 135mm.
Image quality is obviously not as good at 5x zoom as it is using the wide-angle lens, but I think the amount of detail retained – while zoomed so far in – is incredible. Out of all the phones I’ve used, the P20 Pro has to have the best zooming abilities.
The last area I want to touch on is night mode. Huawei made this quite a prominent feature at the launch event, and the impression I got was that it works by keeping the shutter open for up to 6 seconds for improved low-light performance, while the phone’s AI can automatically stabilise the image so there’s no motion blur introduced.
However, after using it plenty of times, it seems to me that night mode is more of an extravagant HDR mode, as it appears during the course of those 4 or 5-second long ‘exposures’, the phone is actually taking multiple images at different brightness levels and intelligently combining them.
I have to say, the results are mixed. I found night mode actually works best before it gets to night-time, with some twilight shots of the Eiffel tower (as above) looking really sharp with great dynamic range. However, when it gets to the very late hours of the day, with just a few streetlamps to provide any ambient lighting, I found photos taken on auto mode can look better, despite the high ISO levels.
When it works, it works really well and the low-light images look fantastic. It is also worth saying that the image quality on the photos taken in auto mode is very, very impressive as well. However, for every good night mode shot, I found I would get a couple images that just don’t look as good as the auto mode.
Lastly, coming to battery life, the P20 Pro retains the same 4000 mAh battery as the Mate 10 Pro. It is no surprise, then, that the battery life is excellent.
I will start by saying it is not quite as good as the Mate 10 Pro as the P20 Pro has a slightly larger, slightly higher-resolution display, but I still found myself getting to 10pm and having around 40% of battery left after a full day’s use.
In short, the P20 Pro will last longer than any other flagship on the market right now – if we exclude the Mate 10 Pro, of course. Even if you do need to top up in a hurry, the P20 Pro’s included charger supports Huawei’s Super Charge technology which can get you to around 50% capacity after a 30 minute charge.