Huawei P30 Pro: The new benchmark for smartphone zoom
The P30 Pro, Huawei's brand new high-end Android smartphone, comes with a whole bunch of innovative imaging features but to many users the most exciting one will arguably be the new device's innovative zoom system.
The P30 Pro offers a 125mm equivalent periscope-style tele lens and uses image fusion and other computational methods for seamless zooming between the 16mm equivalent focal length of the camera's super-wide-angle module, the 27mm primary module and the tele.
At the long end reach is extended to an approximately 250mm equivalent focal length using a super resolution algorithm that stacks several frames for increased detail capture. The camera apps even allows for a maximum 50x zoom factor but it's probably best to limit yourself to 10x for usable results.
We've had a few days to try the P30 Pro's zoom since the device was launched and are so far seriously impressed. By managing to pack an extremely useful zoom range into the thin body of a high-end smartphone the new Huawei is bound to make an important impact on mobile photography and the smartphone market alike.
At the long end reach is extended to an approximately 250mm equivalent focal length using a super resolution algorithm that stacks several frames for increased detail capture.
Let's start by having a look at the actual zoom range that is covered by the device. The four samples below were shot from the same position, using different zoom settings in the camera app. The super-wide-angle offers, as you would expect, a very wide field-of-view. At 16MP the image is larger than the 10MP output of the primary camera and offers decent detail. There are the usual distortions and softness around the edges you would expect on such a wide lens, and some low-contrast detail is being smeared.
Overall, the camera does very well though, considering these samples were captured on a very gloomy afternoon. The exposure system deals especially well with the bright over cast sky, capturing good detail in the clouds without underexposing the landscape elements of the scene. Below are comparison images showing the difference in quality between the P20 Pro and P30 Pro (the P20 Pro didn't offer a super-wide camera, so there's only a P30 Pro photograph for that image).
At 27mm equivalent the primary camera offers a typical smartphone field-of-view. The image has a lower 10MP pixel count than the super-wide-angle output but still manages to squeeze better detail out of the scene. We're not talking DSLR-level here but detail rendering is pretty good for a smartphone and more than sufficient for any kind of web use and social sharing.
The 5x zoom level (using the primary camera as a reference) is where things get really interesting. Yes, image purists will detect some blurring of fine low contrast detail but the quality of this shot is a large step ahead of the 5x zoom output of any other current smartphone. Detail is decent, dynamic range is excellent and the corners are sharp. This is the first 5x zoom on a smartphone that is genuinely usable for general shooting.
Even the 10x setting, which combines the image capture of the tele lens with the effects of a super-resolution algorithm is capable of producing usable results. Some years ago most of us would have been happy with this kind of image out of a travel compact camera. Now you can get it from your smartphone camera, along with all the other useful functions of a high-end device.
It's very reassuring to see that the system continues to deliver good results when light levels go down. The primary camera is actually one of the best we have seen on a smartphone in terms of low light capabilities. If you click through to the full-size version of the night show below you'll see the camera captures excellent detail and manages to keep noise levels at bay. The exposure system also works very well, balancing the high contrast of the scene and avoiding highlight clipping in the brightest parts.
|Primary camera, 27mm, night shot|
Thanks to very efficient optical image stabilization and excellent image processing the tele camera still performs well in dim conditions, allowing to zoom into some architectural detail in this night shot.
|Tele camera, 125mm, night shot|
Detail is getting softer at the 10x zoom factor but the image below is definitely still usable in social media and smaller viewing sizes in general. Given the tele-camera has to capture and stack several frames in low light to achieve these results, this is quite an impressive feat.
Only in very dim light does the camera give up, producing severely underexposed images at the 10x zoom setting. At 5x, when no frame stacking is required, it can shoot for longer in low light, however.
|Tele camera plus super-resolution, 250mm, night shot|
Shooting with the tele lens that offers more than 2x or 3x magnification is an entirely new experience on a smartphone. The zoomed-in scenes look great on the P30 Pro's large OLED display and a very efficient combination of electronic and optical image stabilization ensures easy hand-held framing at all focal lengths.
The longer lens compresses the scene a lot more than the wider conventional smartphone lenses and offers a field-of-view that most of us will be familiar with from travel compact cameras. This opens up new possibilities for smartphone photography. You can capture street scenes without getting uncomfortably close and create perspectives that simply aren't possible with a conventional wide-angle smartphone lens.
|Tele camera, 125mm|
|Tele camera, 125mm|
|Tele camera, 125mm|
|Tele camera, 125mm|
Overall, it's fair to say that in terms of zoom performance Huawei is currently light years ahead of the smartphone competition, and for me that's a good enough reason to make the P30 Pro my go-to device for the foreseeable future — a least until other brands can follow suit and make similar zoom technologies available in their devices.
That said, it would be unfair to reduce the P30 Pro to its zoom system. It's a high-end smartphone with an excellent all-around camera that shines especially in low light (as long as you stick to the primary module). You can find a wide range of samples across focal lengths and light conditions in the gallery below. For more information on specs and technologies please read our original P30 Pro news story and closer-look article.
Please do not reproduce any of these images on a website or any newsletter / magazine without prior permission (see our copyright page). We make the originals available for private users to download to their own machines for personal examination or printing (in conjunction with this review), we do so in good faith, please don't abuse it.
The new Tamron 35mm F2.8 Di III OSD M1:2 lens has an attractive price, but how does it stack up against Sony's own 35mm F2.8? According to Chris and Jordan, pretty darn well.
In this week's episode of DPReview TV, Chris and Jordan did a shootout between the new Tamron 35mm F2.8 lens for E-mount and Sony's own 35mm F2.8 ZA Carl Zeiss lens. Check out the galleries from both lenses and tell us what you think.
The new cases ensure Sandmarc's anamorphic, tele, wide-angle and macro lenses will work on the latest iOS devices.
Three months after it confirmed Leica, Nikon and Olympus wouldn't be returning to Photokina, the event organizers have put out a press release confirming Canon, Panasonic and Sony will 'promise a fireworks display of new products at Photokina.'
Sigma announces that it's upcoming Classic Art Prime Cine lenses will be available as a full 10-lens set starting next month for $43,999.
A new photography podcast has kicked off with an episode that looks critically at the photo preset market, detailing the negative impact it has on photographers and the wider industry.
As promised earlier this year, Sigma will be releasing the L-mount versions of its 40mm F1.4 DG HSM and 105mm F1.4 DG HSM lenses by the end of the year.
Over months of using Sigma's 45mm F2.8 Contemporary lens, Reviews Editor Carey Rose rediscovers that there's so much more to a lens than speed and sharpness.
Looking to get in on the instant camera fun? We tried every model and think the Fujifilm Instax Mini 70 strikes the right balance between price and feature - the Instax Wide 300 is our choice if you crave a larger format.
Chrome users can now 'unhide' Instagram likes on the Web using a new browser extension called The Return of Likes.
Profoto has announced its compact A1X studio light now supports Fujifilm camera systems.
The new Motorola One Hyper has a 64MP sensor in its main camera, and even the pop-up selfie camera produces 32MP pictures that can be display across the full area of the 6.5in screen.
The Thanksgiving break gave us a chance to take the Nikon Z50 on a tour of New Orleans. See how it did with both the kit zoom and the new Nikkor Z 24mm F1.8 S.
The update adds support for Canon's new RF 85mm F1.2L USM DS lens and addresses a number of bugs throughout the system.
Among the topics of discussion with Mr. Murata were the new OM-D E-M5 III and his company's strategy to attract professional photographers.
Canadian retailer Back-Gear is offering a modified 'Ribcage' version of the Sony RX0 II that features a passive MFT mount for manual lenses.
What better way to promote a phone than to shoot a commercial for it directly on the device. It's not the first of its kind, nor will it be the last, but as has often been the case, it's a fun watch from a blockbuster director.
The new Snapdragon 865 is more power-efficient than ever but continues to push the boundaries of mobile computing, especially in the imaging department.
Here is a slideshow of some of the shortlisted photos for Wildlife Photographer of the Year's Lumix People's Choice Awards.
Since launching in 2014, over 18 million aerial photographers and content creators have uploaded their work to SkyPixel. They are celebrating by giving away big prizes for their 5th anniversary.
Capture One 20 is live with a new and improved interface and a number of new or redesigned tools to help process your photos more effectively.
Senior Editor Barney Britton's first choice for Gear of the Year is a camera that he has carried with him more than any other in 2019 (not including his phone) – the Ricoh GR III.
Chris and Jordan test the Canon EOS R with new v1.4 firmware to see how much it improves autofocus. TL;DR – if you use eye-AF, you'll want this update.
Google's latest update for Google Photos makes it possible to have conversations and share images with others directly from the service's mobile apps and Web.
The Laowa 12mm F2.8 Zero-D, 25mm F2.8 2.5-5X Ultra Macro and 100mm F2.8 2X Ultra Macro can now be used with Canon RF and Nikon Z camera systems.
Google has announced it's rolling out new features for its Google Photos mobile app that makes it possible to manually tag faces that aren't recognized (or mistakenly identified) by its AI system.
ZY Optics says the lens was specifically designed ‘to have one of the longest working distance for any super macro lens.’ It's available in eight mount options and retails for $499.
The fourth lens to debut in Panasonic's full-frame lineup is the 24-70mm F2.8. It's a popular and versatile focal range, and the company makes big claims of its image quality.
According to retail analyst BCN Ranking, Sony has overtaken Canon and Nikon to claim the top spot the full-frame camera market in Japan.
Facebook gets the Data Transfer Project moving by announcing the ongoing roll-out of an open-source tool that lets you move all your Facebook photos to Google Photos