This blog entry is a continuation from my Huawei P9 review series. If you have not read my previous posts, please go to the following links: 1) Huawei P9 Review and 2) Long Exposure Shooting with Huawei P9

In this paricular blog review, I shall explore only one specific feature of Huawei P9, the Monochrome mode.

Why black and white, you ask? For photography-enthusiasts, especially street photographers like myself, at some point of our journey in photography we will stumble upon, and fall in love with the simplicity and elegance of black and white as a medium of photography. Without the distraction of colors, we open a whole new different world of images, which boldly emphasize on the subject content, drawing attention to the main idea of the image, as well as strengthening the subject expressions and overall emotional output of the image. Black and white is a different class of photography altogether, and is an art form by itself.


The Huawei P9 is the second photographic device to implement a full monochrome image sensor, considering the first camera was the Leica M Monochrom. The Huawei P9 has dual cameras (with one lens on each camera), one has the usual RGB color sensor, and the other has the monochrome sensor. The logic behind having a full monochrome sensor is quite straightforward, by removing the traditional colour filters in a typical RGB image sensor, the light will hit the image sensor at full spectrum, unfiltered, allowing the image sensor to collect full information with minimal losses. This translates to images in black and white which display greater sharpness, depth and clarity, hence the claimed superiority of utilizing a full monochrome sensor.

How do we define sharpness, depth and clarity? Sharpness simply means the ability of the lens + image sensor combination to resolve as much fine details as possible (per-pixel sharpness, even if you have not that large Mega Pixels count, if you have high quality pixels, you still get plenty of details). Depth can be achieved by having good contrast and tones, ability of the image sensor to differentiate highlight, shadow and midtones, resulting in smooth transitions. Otherwise, having poor contrast and bad differentiation between light and shadow will result in flat images. Clarity basically means, images that have both excellent sharpness and contrast, producing the "clear", life-like appearance.

I intend to explore the following items:
1) What is the advantage of using the Monochrome mode in the Huawei P9, versus the standard color mode which is converted to black and white later in post-processing?
2) What is my experience shooting in full Monochrome mode?

All images were shot with Huawei P9 Monochrome Mode, unless otherwise stated.

Above the Clouds

This is a continuation from the Huawei P9 camera review I posted here a few days ago. Kindly do read that original full review for photography if you have not, as I have covered all the important highlights and my opinion on the P9. This particular blog entry serves as an extension to the original review, with one particular capability put to test: long exposure shooting.


Long exposure photography to me is extremely enjoyable, it requires opening the shutter for an extended period of time, typically more than half a second long, to perhaps minutes or even longer to capture more light into the sensor. Slow shutter speed is one important aspect of photography, typically setting up the camera on a tripod (or non shaky/moving steady surface). Having more light exposing the image sensor means that we can afford to use lower ISO setting on the camera, ultimately producing clean, noise free, and sharp images. Therefore, to shoot beautiful images of city landscapes and building lights at night, long exposure is the best way to go. Furthermore, allowing the camera to capture the light for seconds also means that it will record all motion and light trails, which can create very exciting effect in the end result. Light painting, fireworks, car light trails, all can be produced from long exposure photography.

However, long exposure photography is difficult to be performed on most smartphone cameras, mostly due to the lacking of full manual control of the imaging parameters. In order for long exposure to work, we need to have access to control of shutter speed and adjustments of ISO sensitivity. Huawei P9 has both these controls, allowing shutter speed adjustments from 1/4000th of a second to the slowest exposure of 30 seconds, which is very generous and flexible enough to use for a wide variety of long exposure situations. ISO can be set from 50 to 3200, and believe me, in long exposure, the lower the ISO, the better the image quality, so ISO 50 was a great starting ISO. In case those of you are not aware, the aperture is fixed at F2.2 (there is no moving aperture diaphragm to stop down further), and there is no mechanical shutter mechanism, thus electronic shutter is used.


My set up for this round of shooting session, typically:
Huawei P9 on PRO mode (full manual control)
Shutter speed varying from 1/2 second to 5 seconds, adjusted as necessary
ISO fixed at 50, for cleanest, best looking image.
Self-timer set at 2 seconds to prevent the phone being shaken from the tap of the screen to start shooting.
Camera was mounted on tripod, via a cheapo clamp bought from Daiso (RM5.30)

Huawei P9 mounted on a tripod. Waiting for the light to go down, overlooking KL City Skyline

Update (24/8/2016): Huawei P9 Review extension for Long Exposure photography is published! 

Surprise! I have a review write-up and this time it is not a camera or lens, it is actually a smartphone, the Huawei P9. I acknowledge that Huawei P9 has been in the market for months now, and there have been dozens (perhaps even hundreds!) of reviews being posted online everywhere. Not only the usual gadget review sites, this time I also notice a handful of photography specific site reviewing a smartphone, and the most notable one being the review posted on DPReview. Therefore, there really is nothing much I can add to what has been posted and shared out there.

I was connected to Huawei Malaysia by an Olympus user (thanks heaps Grexer), and I was provided with a loan unit of a Huawei P9 for review purposes. I was immediately interested to try out the Huawei P9, considering it was heavily advertised as being "co-engineered with Leica". Leica's involvement, to what extent not being properly clarified, certainly piqued my interest to take a look at the P9 closer. The setup of the camera having dual modules, containing two image sensors that have corresponding two lenses was unusual. There have been mixed reviews thrown out there, several review sites (mostly gadget reviewers) concluded that the camera in the P9 is not as good as competition, while some actually praised the camera's imaging prowess.


I must emphasize that I am not a tech-junkie, and I will only be reviewing the camera and imaging performance of the Huawei P9 only. I will not be covering the phone review of P9, as I believe this has been done and you can read the many reviews available online by major tech/gadget review sites. I am not a professional photographer, I am merely a photo-enthusiast who shoots passionately as frequently as I can. I am not connected to Huawei in any other manner except for this arrangement of a loan review purpose. I shall approach the review of P9's camera the usual way I always do for my camera and lenses reviews on this blog: by shooting a large amount of photographs, and write my review based on the experience using the P9 out in real world situations and carefully scrutinize the image output from my PC monitor. I support my claims through evidence found in the images, which will be shown plentifully here in this review entry. You can say that this is a user-experience approach review of Huawei P9's camera capabilities.

Huawei P9 fits perfectly in my not so large hands. 

Last weekend, I was back in my beautiful hometown, Kuching, Sarawak (which is in Borneo Island), and we did an extensive consumer event, stretching the entire Saturday afternoon at Great Wall Camera, Kuching. Firstly, I did an hour long photo-sharing, showcasing a compilation of my most recent street photographs, dispensing tips and tricks on how I obtained my shots, and my ideas and thought process behind each shot. Secondly, we had a touch and try session with the latest Olympus products, we brought along the PEN-F, OM-D E-M5 Mark II, E-M1, E-M10 Mark II, and many M.Zuiko lenses, the 300mm F4 IS PRO, 40-150mm F2.8 PRO, as well as prime lenses such as 17mm F1.8, 25mm F1.8 and 45mm F1.8. Thirdly, we had a photowalk in the late afternoon along Carpenter Street and Main Bazaar (neat the Waterfront), and the participants for this event were allowed to loan our cameras and lenses to try and use during this photowalk!

We had an overwhelming response, unexpectedly there were 46 awesome Kuching folks who turned up, filling the floor space of Great Wall Camera's first floor workshop space to the brim. I rarely did such a huge event, however I also acknowledge that we rarely do events in Kuching and we decided to allow more participants to go in after our initial capping of 25 participants. Considering that the same weekend there was the Rainforest World Music Festival (RWMF 2016), the turn up could have been more than 50 people, since some of the photographer friends I personally know went to the RMWF instead. It was indeed such a great joy for myself to see so many beautiful Kuching people, my own people, coming together to a photography event, and shoot together! I was so glad to see some familiar faces (Eve, Gladys, Sin, Lance) and meeting many, many more new faces!

Before we started the day, obviously, we fueled ourselves with the breakfast of champions, found exclusively only in Kuching.

Kolo Mee

I think it is too easy to create ordinary looking images, an image that can be easily replicated and shot by any other photographers. Every photographer has his or her own preferences in shooting techniques and also unique vision, which contribute to individual shooting style. While it is getting more difficult to find original photographs these days (we all try to surpass certain standards being set before us by another photographer, but along the way we are actually copying the photographer's shooting style), I want to believe that we can, in our own small ways, add interesting elements into our own photographs. Those characteristics create uniqueness and that ultimately resulted in our owb unique photographs.

This works especially well for street photography. We often keep an eye out for something unusual, something outstanding, and something that can generate curiosity when the viewer was looking at our photographs. In this entry, I shall share a few examples, and explain what was added to create these dramatic impact.

In Renovation
The shop lot was under renovation, and the worker was shirtless, peeking out the small opening to the main road outside. As I walked by, we saw each other and I was greeted by a smile. That was a green light for me to step in closer and get the close up portrait. I was particularly drawn by a few things in this frame: 1) the partial opening which hid his hands 2) quality of light on the man 3) his genuine, bright smile and 4) the facial mask to protect from dust or even paint, worn on his head. Location was clearly established, and the purpose of the man being there was obvious.