Leica Camera first generation shown compelling results in our tests, but that can be said about the second generation? This is the question we asked ourselves at Huawei Mate 9 Smartphone test, second Huawei models with dual rear camera. The smartphone has successfully passed our tests, the quality of pictures and videos, too, was quite high. But if you want to get the most out of the camera, the Leica developed, you should “dig” a little deeper.
Recall the recent history of double cameras in the world of smartphones. The first such camera appeared at LG G5 in February. The smartphone was powered by two camera modules, which can be used together for shooting pictures. But technically two modules differ due to different resolution and focal length. Expectations were too high, in practice, the picture quality can not be called outstanding, and the joint work of the two cameras was more than fun toy than something useful.
A similar approach is chosen with a smartphone Apple iPhone 7 Plus, presented in September. Two cameras have sensors with the same resolution, but they are different focal lengths and aperture. The system can use the information from the two cameras to simulate optical zoom effect, or, for example, bokeh. But, as soon became clear, miracles should not be expected any optical zoom, or from the effects of the depth of field – they leave much to be desired.
Cameras Huawei’s P9 is , which is present on the market for almost half a year, proved to be more interesting – at least, it concerns bokeh effect. Both cameras are based on sensors 12 MP, with the same aperture and focal length. Thanks to the software image processing gap between smartphones and cameras these cameras become smaller. Huawei went even further, stating that the expensive and bulky cameras in the past.
Hardware in some details differ from P9, but there are many similarities. Among them – the RGB and monochrome sensors with the same optics. She went to the first generation unchanged. Aperture F2,2 is, the focal length – 27 mm (35 mm equivalent), the lens is still used aspherical lenses. Last avoid distortions, which are inevitable in the case of spherical lenses in software to eliminate such distortions too expensive. On the other hand, aspherical lenses are much more expensive to produce, so the camera is usually not in use smartphones.
I have not changed and LED-flash, which is based on two LEDs of different colors (True Tone). The software is free to decide how to use the flash LEDs.
Changes are hidden inside the cameras. RGB Sensor regained resolution 12 megapixel, pixel size remains at 1.25 microns (Sony IMX286), but we got a monochrome sensor 20 MP instead of 12 MP. sensor model is unknown.
For sensor RGB Huawei added optical image stabilizer (OIS), the absence of which have been criticized P9 users. Lack OIS monochrome sensor due to its higher resolution as compared with the color sensor. Increasing the number of pixels to compensate for possible hand-shake, the more so that this sensor serves as the main support. However, if the sensor will be used not only to obtain information of depth, but also for shooting black-and-white photographs, it is better to hold the smartphone with two hands.
Change the focus of the system is only indirectly visible. We focus on used P9 contrast contours, depth measurement and laser focus, they have added Huawei Mate 9 phase focusing. Smartphone selects the appropriate focusing method itself, influence the choice can not – except that the laser focus can be closed. In fact, the smartphone uses a hybrid focus, drawing on all four methods. The reason is that each method has its advantages and disadvantages, depending on the shooting conditions. A good example is the laser focus: it operates at a relatively short distance of 1.5 m, but well-focused smartphone in the dark.
The fourth method Focus provides advantages over long distances to the subject with a fairly good lighting. Focusing on the relative phase is usually done quicker than focusing on the measurement of the depth or contrast contours. The result is a photo shoot with the right focus in less than a second. When locked, the smartphone to shoot, just press twice the Volume Down button, the screen will display the time that it took for the whole process of shooting.
Finally, the important role played by the new signal processor for image processing (ISP, Image Signal Processor). It is set in the SoC and high performance, which is necessary for the performance of the filter bokeh, but in general the speed is noticeable.
The extent to which Leica has participated in the development of a new camera – hard to say. In any case, the eminent German company worked closely with Huawei. If since nothing has changed P9, the certification performed Leica all major components involved in the development and the entire camera system, including the software side.
In the case of conventional smartphones and cameras division of tasks between the components is obvious. The sensor works in conjunction with the ISP to focus and shoot.ISP is also responsible for a variety of additional features, including built-in support for the HDR, filters or basic image correction.
Mate 9 for some functions differs substantially from P9. We have already mentioned the focus, but also the division of tasks is different. Each of the two sensors is responsible for focusing, but at the same time each sensor based on the additional information of the second sensor. Another interesting mode changes the depth of field. To create a bokeh effect using RGB sensor information and information depth of a monochrome sensor. If the latter is closed or can not be used for any other reason, the picture turns out, but it lacks the additional depth information, so subsequent adjustments to the focus is not possible.There is clearly visible joint work of the two cameras. About two sensors is saved in a file, but the user sees only an ordinary JPG.
The joint work of the two cameras is done automatically, transparent to the user, making it easier to shoot in the new smartphone Huawei Mate 9.
Quite an important feature of the new system is a hybrid zoom. For many years, we are not tired of repeating that the digital zoom on the camera smartphone is better not to use. Because it is an illusion – the quality of the zoom is rapidly falling.
In principle, the use of hybrid zoom is not very different from conventional digital zoom criticized. Carrying out the usual gestures of information / breeding fingers on the screen, you can zoom in / out the object on your phone screen to better remove it. At the top, there is a strip of two parts. The right half of solid white, the left – dotted. Two zones correspond to the hybrid zoom (right), as well as the standard digital zoom (left). Instead, the zoom gesture you can just move the yellow mark on the center of it “sticks” to make sure we do not go on the digital zoom.
In this case, the zoom changes no picture will be taken as usual.
However, Huawei actively promotes the function and promises a higher quality than the Apple iPhone 7 Plus. The reason lies in the technologies Huawei Mate 9 and teamwork cameras. The smartphone uses both cameras all shooting when using the zoom from 1.1 to 2.0. 20-megapixel sensor provides additional information about the picture detail, and the sensor 12 MP gives information about the color. The ISP, in turn, ensures the correct calculation of data.
Huawei emphasizes higher quality hybrid zoom compared to Apple, relying on the two features. Two iPhone 7 Plus rear cameras have different focal length, in the case of Huawei Mate 9 is the same. In addition, both the iPhone sensors provide only 12 MT from Huawei Mate 9 resolution monochrome sensor above.
But hybrid zoom is not available in all modes. Use it only when taking pictures (in standard mode and when shooting “beautiful” portrait photos), and bokeh mode is only available hybrid mode. In all other scenarios, a hybrid zoom can not be activated, for example, in the Pro mode when shooting in RAW, or available only to digital zoom.
Things get much more complicated when you consider the different modes and options. Although compared to P9 changes not so much. The easiest mode – Standard photo. In it the user will have access to all functions, including the filters with a “live” preview, bokeh mode / change the depth of field and, of course, professional setting.
Unfortunately, the camera application in the settings there is a small error. In the options you can select the resolution of 20 megapixels, but this applies only to a monochrome sensor and the corresponding mode. For maximum resolution should be chosen just such a mode, then you do not have to switch between resolutions when shooting color or black-and-white photos. But if you want to use hybrid zoom, the resolution should be set at 12 MP.
All other modes have to put up with restrictions. Tracking AF mode is available only in the photo and the HDR, the filters are only available in Photo mode, beautiful portrait shots and the HDR, professional setting – only in photo mode and black and white. Is that the choice of the color profile is available in all modes, except for the black-and-white. Using a color profile can exhibit characteristic Leica color reproduction in two stages.
In the video shooting situation Huawei Mate 9 is not quite clear. In our experience, using only RGB-sensor, as well as to focus. If you plan to shoot without additional effects, available most important resolution – 720p (HD), 1080p (Full-HD) and 2160p (UHD / 4K).
If you want to use tracking autofocus and digital image stabilization, you’ll have to settle for 720p or 1080p mode with 30 frames per second. The two additional functions not available in 1080p mode with 60 frames per second or 2160p. But the camera offers the possibility to connect filters and color profiles almost all video modes.
But in Slow Motion mode, you have to give up almost anything, regardless of the 1080p resolution with 120 fps or 720p at 240 fps. In Time Lapse mode, which is available at the Huawei Mate 9 Unlike many smartphones Snapdragon 82x, you can select filters and color profiles. Recording is in 720p at 30 frames per second.
Huawei took the spring P9 announcement for the submission of a new camera application. The new program differs from the previous version, but such a move is vital, not only because of the numerous innovations. In the case of Huawei Mate 9 major changes in the application did not happen, although in some places visible improvements. Therefore, a new version of the program can be called evolutionary. The first pictures are fast, but it will be some time before the user use all the features.
Wipe right (from the main screen in landscape mode) displays the available modes, wipe left – Possible additional functions. For example, you can add saving GPS-label, active tracking autofocus facilities as well as to remove / disable the grid on the screen. You can select the picture resolution (in megapixels), format and video resolution.
Finally, on the left, there are options for LED-flash, filters and switch between the front and rear cameras, and new characters compared to P9. If a Pro mode is available, it appears as a small white stripe on the left of the shutter button. If a strip to the left, it is possible to make the ISO settings, shutter speed, aperture, focus mode (in one portion, etc.), and white balance. Depending on the experience and preferences of the photographer, part or all of the values can be left in manual or automatic mode. To even novice users are not afraid of Pro mode, the effect of different settings are immediately displayed on the screen in “live” mode, Huawei’s calls it Live Preview.
Choice Pro mode is preferable if you plan to edit photos on the computer, because only you can save pictures in RAW format. In professional hands of this regime results in a higher-quality images. Of the innovations can be noted directional sound mode videos. The corresponding icon on the left can be used to configure an array of four microphones: whether they should all record directional sound, or activate the noise reduction mode.
On the other hand, several hurt in shooting mode, you can not capture video footage. About the second lack of Huawei is liable only in part. YouTube does not support the current standard HEVC, which Huawei Mate 9 uses for recording UHD videos. Accordingly, you can not upload to YouTube videos without conversion. Otherwise, you get an error message after the injection.
He took from his bag, aimed at the subject and took a picture … or play with the settings, selecting the most suitable for this stage of the smartphone … The camera must support both extremes, of course, if the goal is to beat the competition. Which background processes are executed at the same time – the user is not so interesting. The main thing – the result, namely high-quality images and video. And in the case of Huawei Mate 9 quality is up to par.
In the case of good light conditions we get pictures with good color quality, detail and brightness. This is true in the case of natural light and artificial lighting indoors. With deteriorating light conditions pictures become noticeably darker than some competitors, but they are closer to reality. If you compare the original and the picture, then Huawei Mate 9 shots seem more naturalistic, no common artificial brightness enhancement. Which of these approaches is better – a matter of taste. We believe that the camera is still better to be closer to reality, and everything else can be changed later.
Of course, before you shoot, you can put a variety of settings. Present filters whose action in Huawei Mate 9 can be immediately viewed on the screen thanks to the Live Preview feature. There are color profiles, changing color reproduction, resulting in the images are closer to the typical Leica mind.
There are also scenic program, which will be interesting for those users who do not want to rely solely on automation, but with the professional mode (still) do not want to understand. There is a mode portraiture, in night mode, you get better quality pictures in appropriate circumstances, in light of drawing mode allows you to combine light and dark, creating masterpieces. HDR mode also gives you good quality pictures that I want to hang in a frame on the wall – the same applies to the effects of a monochrome sensor with depth of field and bokeh. Of course, the quality of the expensive system cameras, we do not get, but it is enough for printing photos. Huawei Mate 9 here can be called a model among smartphones in the market. If you have enough experience and are willing to experiment, the Pro mode allows to achieve the best results. With due patience and practice you can improve the picture quality compared to (partially) automatic mode. A recording in RAW format facilitates further processing of the photos on your PC.
Yet there are also disadvantages. Huawei Mate 9 again refused Auto Mode HDR, which is much easier to work with the camera. I would like to HDR mode is activated automatically when the camera detects a considerable dynamic range at frame. If you look to your photos, in some cases, regardless of the mode or the sensor, pay attention to the lack of sharpness, especially on the edges of the frame. Another problem: bokeh effect is not always displayed correctly and fully in the camera application, and in the gallery. Especially if you choose a large aperture, closer to f0,95.
Movies can be called a quality smartphone. And in the resolution Full-HD with a frame rate of 60 fps to 30 or, in the UHD / 4K mode, we found no artifacts or similar errors by avoiding jerks during shooting. Color reproduction, detail and brightness were as good as in the case taking photos, you can add optional color profiles and filters, the effect of which can be assessed through the Live Preview. Directional audio recording provides a surprisingly good filtering background noise, AF Tracking also worked well, at least in 720p and 1080p mode with 30 frames per second, the camera focused on a selected subject.
If required, you can record video in “beautiful” portrait mode, or Slow Motion Time Lapse.The picture quality is also quite compelling, much better than many competitors. We especially liked the Slow Motion mode with 240 frames per second. If, however, satisfied with the standard video recording mode, you can add a professional setup. You can change the white balance settings, focus mode and electronic shutter. However, to make adjustments to the white balance is unlikely to be required, automation works very reliably.
Notes apply only to video AF, which does not always worked reliably. Regardless of the mode, in our tests, it got lost several times without any logical explanation.
Even in our Huawei Mate 9 test, we observed a high quality camera, after detailed consideration, we only strengthened in its assessment. The reason lies in a marked improvement in quality compared to P9, Huawei has listened to the comments of the users, and the continued cooperation with Leica has borne fruit. Although Chinese manufacturer did not disclose the details of exactly what the scope of the Leica is responsible, but the German manufacturer clearly had a hand in the development of the camera, and not just sold his logo.
Changes to hardware stuffing, namely, optical stabilizer, a higher resolution monochrome sensor and an additional way to focus, led to the fact that the overall quality of the picture P9 smartphone bypasses almost all competitors. A good argument in favor of Huawei Mate 9 is a professional operation with a “live” preview Live Preview – here a large number of available options, with the help of which the user can influence the result of the shooting. But there is, for example, and stage of the program, to facilitate the work with the camera Huawei Mate 9. We note a very successful mode of HDR and creative light drawing mode.
In video shooting, too much has been done. P9 is still inferior to most of the big-name competitors, and now we have the opposite picture, not only in quality, but also to resolve. Pleased and special function, namely video recording Time Lapse and Slow Motion.
Yet not everything is perfect, there is potential for improvement. As for the video, then you can criticize not always work reliably autofocus and shooting photos would not prevent the automatic HDR mode. Of course, you can find fault with and the quality of pictures, but do not forget that the smartphone has a technical limit that is associated with the sensor and optics.
But Huawei smartphone camera Huawei Mate 9 come closer to the limit of the possible, than its competitors.