Photography is a big passion of mine, there’s something so amazing about capturing moments in time and being able to pour over them years later. I often have a camera with me on days out and it’s almost always a DSLR as I think the end result from a professional camera is pretty unbeatable. It does get a little annoying sometimes since a large camera plus at least one lens is pretty heavy, so I always dream of the day I can get the same kind of results from something that fits in my pocket. I currently have a Canon G7x that doesn’t quite cut it for me, and I upgraded to the iPhone 8 Plus hoping that could achieve some decent results – sometimes it does, but for me it’s still not enough. When the Huawei P20 Pro came out I was excited to see if this was what I had been waiting for, and if a phone camera could really ever produce content at a similar level to my trusty DSLR, and I very quickly convinced Three to lend me one to have a go.
Huawei P20 Pro Camera Review
If you’ve read my brief review of the Huawei P20 camera you’ll know I wasn’t overly impressed. The camera capabilities were good, and I love being able to shoot in raw on a phone (check out my first post if you’re not sure what that means!), but overall it still wasn’t the same. The Huawei P20 Pro however really is a step up. It takes everything great about the P20 and ramps it up several gears, and the results are really impressive. Huawei have been quoted saying they “designed the P20 Pro to offer the best smartphone photography experience to consumers” and I think they may be right. You can read all about the technical specs elsewhere because the numbers don’t mean much to me, but I’ll let the results speak for themselves. These photos are all straight from the phone, completely unedited.
One of the really exciting things about the P20 pro is the scene recognition. The P20 Pro will analyse whatever you’re photographing, and recognise it as one of 19 scenes, from pets to food, portraits to blue skies. It then automatically sets the correct settings meaning you should get the best shot. Most of the settings I tried worked really well, although on some scenes the colours did get way too saturated for me (see below).
I think this feature is really great for people who aren’t too familiar with things like shutter speed and aperture, as it will choose the best settings for the shot, much like the auto setting on a DSLR. As someone who uses a camera in manual mode I think I’d want to experiment a little more with the settings and find my own style/preferences. It does give great results quickly though, no need to spend time changing the settings to get the perfect picture. The P20 Pro has some brilliant setting options, but it is pretty overwhelming at first compared to a normal camera phone.
Beauty Mode on the P20 Pro
One thing I do not love about this phone is the beauty mode that comes on as default when you take a selfie. Without getting too into it (because that would be a whole other blog post) I’m just not very comfortable with how easy it is to completely change your own face. I know lots of people use extra apps to airbrush their photos, remove blemishes etc, but this comes on automatically and it feels a bit much. You can have it set on a scale from 1 – 10, and at 10 I can barely recognise my own son. Not a fan.
Comparing the P20 Pro to a DSLR
It’s really hard to get a fair comparison here when you’re dealing with unfavourable light conditions and a moving target, but it did highlight a lot of the differences (and the pros and cons of each) quite well, so here are a few comparison pictures.
Left is DSLR photo, totally unedited. Right is the unedited photo from the P20 Pro, and underneath is the finished DSLR photo – edited in Lightroom.
You can see below that patchy bright sunlight is not ideal for any kind of camera, and it’s normal for most phone cameras to be better at balancing the subject and the sky. With a little tweaking of the exposure the DSLR photos are better, but for skies and landscapes the P20 Pro performed just as well – possibly even better in this light. For me there is still a big difference with portraits, and the P20 Pro doesn’t deliver quite the same level of sharpness and clarity at a lower aperture.
As I’ve complained about before with my iPhone 8 Plus, the results with the Huawei are hit and miss, and for every decent photo there’s probably 3 not so great ones, but this is often the same with a DSLR if you’re not a complete pro (and I’m not). I think that if I had played around with the P20 Pro for a while longer I could get some better results out of it, and equally the more you practice with whatever your chosen camera is the better your photos will become.
Overall I was really, really impressed with the Huawei P20 Pro, and I took a few shots that I would happily post on my Instagram feed alongside my ‘proper camera’ content. When we came back from the park after taking these photos I couldn’t wait to show Adam some of the pictures, and I really think they blow most camera phones out of the water especially in terms of depth of field. With a little tweaking and editing the end result would really be pretty good. I’m still not quite ready to part with my Canon because for me the results still aren’t good enough to really rely on, but if I had one of these in my pocket I’d definitely be tempted to leave my big heavy camera at home a little more often.