Having dedicated many shooting days to do my blog review for the latest Olympus M.Zuiko lenses (25mm F1.2 PRO and 30mm F3.5 Macro), I decided to take the weekend slow and easy, and put the more serious photography tools away. Instead, I just picked up the trusty Huawei P9 and shot along the streets with the P9 throughout the entire Scott Kelby's Photowalk! I thought there would be a few more people who would shoot solely on smartphone, but I was wrong, it turned out I was the ONLY smartphone user in this particular Scott Kelby 2016 Photowalk in KL! Everyone else had large DSLR or mirrorless cameras with them. I wonder what they must have thought of me, I must be someone who did not know what I was doing, using just a mere smartphone joining such a large, internationally recognized, prestigious photography event!
So how did the Huawei P9 fare in street shooting?
I have often shot portraits of strangers, and it was no easy task shooting close up portraits with a wide angle lens (27mm equivalent focal length). Thankfully for the wide aperture mode, I could easily create subject isolation with the simulated shallow depth of field effect, blurring the background off into beautiful, creamy bokeh. While the bokeh effect is not as good as actual large format cameras with large aperture lenses, I dare say that, for a simulated effect, this is the best I have seen from any smartphone camera. It is the best option we have!
While the blurring of the edges may not look too natural, but the quality of the blurred area was quite good in the wide aperture mode. Bear in mind, this technology is still in it's infancy and can only improve over time. I seriously wonder what a few more iterations of wide aperture effect can do, and it will come to a point, in near future that this technology could even be adopted by actual cameras!
I really like how the P9 handles the color balance very well. The images come out punchy with very vivid colors, some would describe this as consumer friendly, but to me it is completely acceptable as I do not expect to do much post processing on my smartphone images. I appreciate the boost of contrast and saturation in the images, and most importantly, they still maintain a good sense of realism in the overall presentation.
In a very well lit situation, the subjects almost "popped" out of the screen! The renderring of the image, though from a smartphone was indeed very pleasing. Perhaps this was due to the dual camera technology, with use of high quality lenses, the images just look so lively.
For those who shoot a lot of people shots, and portraits, the wide aperture effect is a game-changer, and could be the sole reason why you would go for the Huawei P9. There are currently other smartphone cameras that can emulate this blur background effect, but honestly, if you compare the blur quality (bokeh effect), they do not even come close to what the P9 can do!
While the camera is only 12MP, the details that the Huawei P9 can squeeze out was quite remarkable. While many gadget geeks or gear measurebators will scrutinize the paper specification and quickly be biased toward higher specifications devices, this should not be applied to the photography world at all. Everyone wants a phone with faster processor, more RAM, bigger better screen and longer battery life. However, similarly cannot be said to the camera part of the phone, more Megapixels does not necessarily mean sharper image output, better high ISO performance with lower noise floor does not guarantee overall better camera performance, and fast autofocus does not guarantee you will never miss your shots in critical shooting conditions. In camera performance and image quality, I believe real life testing in practical conditions trumps studying on paper specifications and test charts alone. Some mobile phone cameras out there may claim to have "better specifications" in imaging performance, but I strongly believe when it comes to overall camera shooting experience, on the field performance and final image output delivery, Huawei P9 is quite a difficult one to beat.
The color rendition just ooze so much realism! The JPEG engine did an excellent job in producing faithful, true to life colors.
One of the main advantage of higher end smartphones is that the cameras built in has manual controls to tinker with, allowing the photographer the versatility to create some interesting shots. Being able to slow down the shutter speed can really open up a world of possibilities in the images.
Panning shot is possible with the Huawei P9, this was taken at 1/15sec shutter speed, but you do need a cloudy, overcast day for this shot to happen. If it was fully sunny, the image will be severely overexposed.
While most of the people travelled in larger groups of people, I took the liberty to wander off the the more hidden parts and corners of Chow Kit streets, and went on to do what I usually do best, shooting portraits of strangers! Approaching strangers with a smartphone was quite a strange experience, usually when seen using a mirrorless Olympus OM-D or PEN, at least those were actual cameras, though not looking as serious as DSLR. Having a smartphone in hand, it was difficult to get anyone to think of me or look at me seriously. Thankfully, after my many experience of shooting strangers, I know how to break the ice, and get the look I need from my subjects on the street. It took more work than usual, I do need to chat up a little bit, but at the end of the day, the results worked just fine.
The most awkward part about using the smartphone, was the wide angle lens. Being able to do close up portrait I do need to move the smartphone to be very near the subject I was shooting, and that could create an uncomfortable situation to some! Not all my shots came out successful, and I have often realized that shooting with 45mm F1.8 lens was just the ideal focal length for tight portraits, I get comfortable working distance that the subjects can look at me with their most natural facial expressions.
There is just so much to say about how Huawei P9 works just fine for street shooting. The Wide Aperture effect works just beautifully for my portraits of strangers, successfully isolating my subject from the background. The PRO mode was useful in situations where I need to control the shutter speed manually, slowing down the shutter speed for panning shots, or just to capture and show motion in my shots for creative freedom. Above all, I am impressed with the JPEG processing that optimizes image quality, and producing very life-like color balance which was very pleasing straight out of the smartphone. I rarely needed to intervene and do much in post-processing.
Being a smartphone there surely was some shutter lag to be expected, but it was minimal, and can be easily avoided by planning your shot ahead and act before the action happened.
At the end of the day, to me, what matters the most was the quality of the images that I was able to obtain from the camera, whichever camera that I was using. In the case of Huawei P9, I could not have asked for anything better in a smartphone camera, I was thoroughly satisfied with the output. Yes, there are many things I wished that could be better, as a photographer my complains may never see an end, but hey, it is also important for me to admit that the camera on the Huawei P9 just works!
I have blogged extensively about the Huawei P9 here, just in case you have missed what I wrote earlier:
Huawei P9 Camera Review - Is This A Photographer's Smartphone?
Kuala Lumpur After Sundown with Huawei P9
A Full Monochrome Image Sensor Implemented in Huawei P9
Jumping off the KL Tower
I know, I know the background is overblown, but who cares about that seriously. Look at the awesome lighting on the face! That to me, is what matters and made the shot for me.
This was one of the friendliest waiters I have ever met in my life. Simply love his smile, and I found out he was from Myanmar!
A selfie with Moon, whom I managed to catch up after the photowalk!
Raja Indra Putra (bottom left corner) was giving his speech and briefing to over 50 photowalk participants before the session started!
The official group photograph! Photo credit: Raja Indra Putra
So what do you guys think? Is the Huawei P9 a good enough tool for street shooting? Have you used the P9 for street photography, and if you have, what are your thoughts and comments?
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