Tuesday, April 25, 2017

5 Compelling Reasons Why Huawei P10 Has The Awesomest Smartphone Camera

Huawei Malaysia has loaned me the newly launched Huawei P10 smartphone, which features their signature Leica dual camera module. Considering that I have reviewed the dual camera setup performance for the previous iterations, Huawei P9 and Huawei Mate 9 smartphones, and the fact that the new Huawei P10 uses similar setup (with some improvements of course), I shall not be doing a redundant full camera review here. Instead, I decided to spend a full day out shooting with the Huawei P10, exploring the features of the camera on the smartphone and came home with a collection of interesting images. After all, the purpose of a camera (any camera at all) is to shoot images, and from the images and my limited experience with the P10, I shall share with you why I think this P10 has an awesome camera.

Kindly take note that I do not have any further relationship with Huawei, other than being loaned the phone to do basically whatever I wanted to do with it. I am a photographer enthusiast and I shall be writing from a photographer's point of view, using a smartphone camera. I will not be discussing the technical aspects of the smartphone (the processor, RAM, battery life, screen, operating system, etc), and my focus is purely on the camera capabilities of the Huawei P10. I am sure you can find such information in many larger tech related sites and blogs out there.

I simply love the full black version of the Huawei P10. The design is beautifully modern yet subtly matching my other gadgets and items I am carrying around with me. 


Much like the predecessor P9 and Mate 9, the Huawei P10 has a dual camera setup, a 12MP full color sensor and a 20MP monochrome (black and white) sensor, with 27mm equivalent wide angle lens at F2.2 on each of the image sensor. The Huawei P10 carries the Leica branding for the lens, and boasts the image processing rendering Leica-like color profile, and of course the famous Leica monochrome black and white quality. Having a dual camera setup also has a few benefits, offering better structure and refined resolution, and a more realistic looking "wide aperture effect" with beautiful bokeh effect. 

I have written lengthily about the dual camera setup, the monochrome sensor and I have tested the predecessors Huawei P9 and Huawei Mate 9 Pro extensively. You may refer to the following links for further reading:







There are may capable smartphones with high quality camera these days, and different manufacturers are offering different set of performance and features, competing against each other in a fierce market situation. To me, it is silly to just look purely at specifications alone and call out the camera's performance based on the technical sheet. A camera, whether a proper, full camera system, or a smartphone camera will require a lot more than just looking at the megapixels or other imaging parameters. An experienced photographer will tell you that there is no one best camera, but only the one camera that suits you best and works for your photography needs. Now here is the issue, most smartphone users are not photographers, or not photography-trained, thus they do not actually know what they want to do in terms of photography and just hope for the best. 

At the end of the day, I do not really think there is a bad choice when it comes to camera or smartphones, but it is entirely up to you to make the best out of what you have. The best camera is the camera that you have with you, since we carry our smartphones with us all the time, this has got to be something reliable, and produces decent enough quality. To be entirely honest, I will tell you that I have not tried that many other alternatives: the iPhones, the Samsung S8, or any other rival offerings in the market. I cannot tell you whether this or that phone is better, that is not the point of this article, and such comparisons will see no end and achieve no meaning. What intend to do in this blog article, is to show you what a smartphone can do, in the hands of a photography enthusiast. 

Here are my five reasons why I think the Huawei P10's camera is awesome:

1) WIDE APERTURE EFFECT

Let ms be blatant about this, the wide aperture effect is nothing more than mere "bokeh simulation". In a layman's way of explanation, that simply means, artificial blurring done by the smartphone's post-capture editing to create the shallow depth of field effect, you know, the desirable blur background effect that many people spend thousands of dollars on DSLR for. 

While I do admit that the wide aperture effect is still nowhere as good as the real deal, using an actual large image sensor based camera with true large aperture lens (for example, Olympus OM-D camera and a 75mm F1.8 lens), in situations that it works, the wide aperture mode on Huawei P10 works really well. In fact, in all my encounters with any other "fake bokeh" simulations by any other phones out there, Huawei has the most convincing bokeh effect. Having the ability to create shallow depth of field can be useful in situations when you need to isolate your subject from a messy background. 

Wide Aperture Effect
1/50sec, ISO125, simulated F3.5

Wide Aperture Effect (In Monochrome mode)
1/50sec, ISO250, simulated F0.95

Wide Aperture Effect (In Monochrome Mode)
1/20sec, ISO640, simulated F2

Wide Aperture Mode
1/33, ISO320, simulated F2

Wide Aperture Mode
1/24sec, ISO500, simulated F4


And the best part is, you can have the simulation done live as you are composing your image. 



2) REAL MONOCHROME SENSOR

One of the camera modules is actually a full black and white camera, using a monochrome 20MP image 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.

Leica is known for their Leica M Monochrom, which also has full black and white sensor, and having a smartphone that utilizes a similar technology is a great news for black and white shooters. If you do a lot of black and white work, especially if you are a street photographer, the Huawei P10 renders black and white images expressively well, maintaining high level of clarity and graceful gradations when it comes to transitions from shadows to highlights. If you have not explored the world of black and white photography, Huawei P10 will be a good reason to start, and I guarantee you will be hooked to the Monochrome mode instantly. 

Monochrome Mode
1/25sec, ISO500

Monochrome Mode
1/345sec, ISO160

Monochrome Mode
1/60sec, ISO125

Monochrome Mode
1/100sec, ISO80


3) EXCELLENT STRAIGHT OUT OF CAMERA IMAGES

Image processing is a tricky business, and not even the camera manufacturers can get this right all the time. Most cameras have mediocre JPEG processing that leaves the photographers not much choice but to shoot their photographs in RAW and painstakingly spend awful load of time post-processing the RAW files to achieve what they want that the camera default processing could not deliver. This problem is also rampant in smartphone cameras mostly, with obvious problems of over-aggressive noise reduction, smearing of fine details, and fake over-sharpening on the images. Furthermore, white balance and color rendering are also huge concerns. 

I found the images taken with Huawei P10 to be usable right out of the camera, without much tweaking needed. The white balance is usually spot on, with a tendency toward the warmer side, which is not a big issue. The overall color reproduction is realistic and pleasing, but a tad punchy and high in saturation, which is a norm for consumer-pleasing purposes (most people prefer fake, super vivid images instead of natural, muted and pale looking images). I do think that the sharpness is a little on the high side but that can be toned down (in the settings). 

The most important thing to me, when I take a photograph with a camera (even with a smartphone), and I look at the image, I ask myself, does this image look good? This is a huge, resounding yes for Huawei P10. Having great straight out of camera images is extremely important to me, trust me you do not want to spend too much time retouching your images, you should be spending time being out there enjoying yourself shooting. 

Auto Mode
1/100sec, ISO160

Auto Mode
1/50sec, ISO125

Auto Mode
1/500sec, ISO50


Auto Mode
1/120sec, ISO64

Wide Aperture Mode
1/50sec, ISO250, simulated F7.1

Auto Mode
1/30sec, ISO200

Auto Mode
1/25sec, ISO250

Auto Mode
1/60sec, ISO50

4) VERSATILE PROFESSIONAL MODE

If you are a photographer who cares about getting the most out of the camera, you will surely want to tinker with a setting or two when shooting. I have seen many poorly implemented manual controls in high end smartphones, making important settings difficult to reach or set during the shoot. 

Huawei P10 has the Pro mode that unlocks the professional imaging features and settings. In the Pro mode, you can have full control of imaging parameters such as metering, shutter speed, ISO and white balance. You can even do manual focus if you want to. Also, shooting in RAW is available which is important when dealing with scenes with uneven lighting condition, that only extensive post-processing can save later. I like how all the important settings are lined up, just above (or next to, depending on your shooting orientation) the capture button. All these settings are just within a tap or two, without the need to dive deep into the menu. The quicker I can access the settings I want to adjust the faster I can capture my shot. 

Why is the Professional mode so important? You know how people complain about terrible, full of grain looking image in low light condition? Then use a tripod and force the ISO setting to as low as possible, and the issue of high ISO noise is prevented. That kid is running too fast and you shot a blurry mess? Then crank up the shutter speed and make sure that it is fast enough to freeze the motion! There is just so much more beyond what the Automatic mode can do, and if you want to take your smartphone photography to the next level, I suggest you start paying attention to the Pro mode!

PRO Mode turned on, making all the important settings accessible within a tap or two. 

PRO mode
forced at ISO500 to get adequate shutter speed, yet still having a clean image. Things could get ugly if left at default ISO of 800 or higher. 


PRO Mode
Manual Focus was done in this shot, to achieve the pin point accurate macro focus. take note that this was not shot in wide aperture mode, the bokeh in this shot is real. 

PRO Mode
Forced ISO to 100 to maximize the dynamic range captured, and image was shot in RAW, and post processed to taste to bring out a well balanced, and vivid looking result. 


5) THE FUN FACTOR

This is often the underestimated, but the most crucial factor when it comes to using any camera. 

You may have a camera with the highest megapixel count, having the fastest burst rate, highly capable in handling low light shooting, and looks just right on paper specifications. However, it does not have the warm inviting charm to nudge you to pick it up. It does not get you all hand itchy and wanting to shoot more images. What is the point of having the best camera if you do not even feel like using it? 

The question I urge you to ask yourself, are you having fun with your smartphone camera? If not, can you identify what the reasons are? I can almost guarantee it has nothing to do with megapixels or low light shooting or autofocus, or anything technical. It just does not give you the positive vibe. It just does not feel right, using a smartphone to shoot. 

The point of photography, for most photography enthusiasts (I am not speaking about professional photographers of course), is having fun. The fun is in the process of creating images. Choose the camera that has soul. Choose the camera that gets you, and gives you the itch to keep on shooting. Choose the camera that makes you want to go out and have an adventure. The Huawei P10 does all that! 

Wide Aperture Effect
By using the bokeh simulation, it added plenty of depth and dimension into an otherwise flat and uninteresting looking image. 

Auto Mode
The default color profile on the Huawei P10 is already so good that I rarely found myself the need to tinker further with the image colors. 

Monochrome Mode, and Wide Aperture Mode

Monochrome Mode

Wide Aperture Mode

I shall still have the Huawei P10 with me for a little white before I return it to Huawei Malaysia. Do let me know what you want to see me do with the P10. For sure, there will be a few more shutter therapy sessions with the P10, and I look forward to the next one already!

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22 comments :

  1. Incredible shot as usual :D
    Now I should find a reason not to buy this phone, especially as my S5 is getting old now...

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks Arief! Time for an upgrade indeed.

      Delete
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  2. OMG... this shots is better than my e-M1 shots.. this goes to show... it is the photographer that counts... not the camera...

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Haha I think you are exaggerating. But that P10 is quite a camera.

      Delete
  3. I like the overall image quality and of course your eye for composition. However I feel the colours in green, pink-purple, quite different from Oly SOOC. I find phone photography because of the device handling, quite liberating.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Surely the color rendering is very different, I'd say the huawei is biased toward stronger saturation and pop, more consumer friendly.

      Delete
  4. great review, great photos, I had the P9 Plus and its IQ was simply the best I'd seen from a camera phone, seems the P10 is a notch better...

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks Jostian. P9 is a great camera too!

      Delete
  5. Nice review, i already watched all your post about Mate/P-series and i really enjoyed it. I'm buying a P10. I wanted the Plus version because f1.8 but the phone is really big for me :(. Do you think there will be much difference between f2.2 and f1.8? I would really love to see more of the power of the Pro mode with low light/indoors conditions.
    Please do more posts about P10 because i'm learning with your good eye in the scene and the explanation that you bring us about that.
    Greetings from a Argentina viewer ;) Have a nice day and a good life.

    P/d: There is some social network where i can follow your shots? Thanks!.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks for the kind words! Glad to know that you are getting the P10. To me the F2.2 to F1.8 does not make such a huge difference, but hey I do not have the P10 Plus to verify this. Nonetheless, the P10 itself is great and I am sure you will enjoy shooting with it.

      Delete
  6. What format is the raw files in?
    I would love to see more night shots or even star shots just to see what can be done! Thanks!!

    ReplyDelete
  7. Hi Robin,

    what is the remax box that is shaped like a leica?

    Good luck with the new adventure. Keep taking your wonderful photos. Jim

    ReplyDelete
  8. I love your blog! I found it after searching for P9 reviews but from a photogprapher standpoint. Im a photogprapher who calls myself a mobile photographer these days because I don't often pick up my D800 unless im doing a gig. I had the P9 and was stoked to upgrade to the P10 Plus. I love it! In addition to all the reasons you mentioned I love the camera UI, it feels like it was designed by photographers for photographers. I haven't been able to find you on other social medias beside FB. Do you use instagram or Twitter? Would love to connect, I do most of my uploading to instagram, check it out : www.instagram.com/austriker

    ReplyDelete
  9. Hi Robin.
    You mentioned that the sharpness can be toned down in the settings. Does the P10 have a specific setting for sharpness ?

    Thank you

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I would love to know if this is true since I couldn't find this option.

      Maybe I'm missing something.

      Great review anyway, I do have some shoots too and I'm quite happy.

      Delete
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  11. Hallo, Your shot is awesome, but I have one question:

    I wondering what is the file type will be saved when capture the picture in raw, DNG or DNR? Can I open it in photoshop?

    ReplyDelete
  12. I should have asked here.. Which one should I get: p10 or s7 edge? :-)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. for me...if u serious about this kind of price budget smartphone with good camera...you should consider HTC U11 or Google Pixel they've got higher score in DXO mark test...S7 is not bad too...

      Delete
  13. I don't know if it was already asked, but it will be interesting if the PRO/RAW mode can be used with only the monochrome sensor. It's so or in RAW mode the software shoots with both cameras and do a conversion in dng?

    ReplyDelete