Huawei P30 and P30 Pro smartphones launched

Low light photography reaches new heights

by Andy Bassett Mar 26, 2019 at 7:01 PM

  • Tech News


    Huawei P30 and P30 Pro smartphones launched
    Huawei’s P30 and P30 Pro smartphones have just had their official product launch and if you are into mobile photography, Huawei might have pulled something special out of the hat with this pair.
    Among the usual marketing guff about creativity and connecting, Huawei’s launch contained some fairly eye-opening mobile photography claims about low light capabilities, telephoto features and stabilisation of video using a combination of optical image stabilisation (OIS) and AI assisted stabilisation (AIS).

    As far as 5G goes, all we got from Richard Yu, CEO of Huawei Consumer Business Group was that, rather like Winter, ‘5G is coming’ without explicitly stating that P30 and P30 Pro are 5G ready devices - presumably they are, else why mention it?

    Internal specs were not really dwelled upon but at the heart of each device is the Kirin 980 chipset which contains a 16 bit neural processing unit for the AI and machine learning functionality. This AI is already being put to good use in software to help early screening and diagnosis of visual impairment in children.

    Design wise, the bezels have a little bit more shaved off them this time round and with the bezel engineered down to 2.2mm on the P30 Pro, it almost disappears completely so the curved screen appears to roll over the edge. Both phones look sleek and modern and sport a 6.64mm camera notch at the midway way point along the top of the display.

    The narrower bezels and smaller overall body size, mean both phones manage to pack large screen to body ratios for their respective screen sizes (6.1-inch for the P30 and 6.47-inch for the P30 Pro) into their smaller footprints.

    Battery capacity remains respectable considering the relatively small footprint, with a 3650mAh battery contained in the P30 and a 4200mAh in the P30 Pro. For comparison, the iPhone XS Max’s battery is 3174mAh in a larger, heavier case.

    The screens themselves are OLED based with a resolution of 2340 x 1080 (FHD+) and both support the DCI-P3 colour space and are HDR (High Dynamic Range) compatible. As well as being larger, the P30 Pro screen also emulates the Samsung Galaxy curves of recent years.

    The screen design also incorporates an in-display fingerprint sensor and an earpiece-less design which uses Huawei’s Acoustic Display Technology so sound is transmitted through the display where your ear rests during a call.

    Throw in water and dust resistance (IP68 for the P30 Pro and IP53 for the P30) and you have what’s pretty much expected for a modern flagship smartphone in the design stakes.

    Where Huawei might make some waves is with their latest camera technology and how they aim to encapsulate the professional capabilities of a DSLR camera setup. Each phone features a rear mounted, 3 camera array which covers the expected Telephoto, Wide Angle and Ultra Wide Angle lenses - all of which are co-engineered by Leica and feature a main 40MP, 27mm lens.

    Where the P30 Pro gains an advantage over its smaller sibling is with the addition of a Time of Flight (ToF) camera for depth sensing and the increase of the optical zoom on the telephoto lens from 3X to 5X which also allows for a hybrid zoom of 10X when combined with the 50X digital zoom. The P30 Pro telephoto lens achieves this extra optical capability using a periscope style design to house larger optics within the phone’s body.

    Huawei have labelled their image capture system 'SuperSensing' because it has developed a new sensor based on RYYB capture rather than the traditional RGGB sensor. Using a sensor based around RYYB allows 40% more light intake because the yellow filter can accept both red and green light rather than just capturing green wavelengths. The camera uses sophisticated algorithms to then separate out the green and red wavelengths during image processing. Also playing a part in the extra light capture is the fact that the sensor is 125% larger than those used in rival phones.

    All this extra light, coupled with a larger f1.6 aperture on the P30 Pro and optical image stabilisation on both the main and telephoto lenses results in noticeably improved low light performance and this is reflected in an ISO value of over 200,000 for the P30 and over 400,000 for the P30 Pro. Images can be captured in conditions where the human eye cannot penetrate the darkness but the Huawei sensors can. In fact, it was claimed they can capture images successfully in lighting conditions of a single lux. Examples shown at the launch event included a live demo which appeared to successfully pick an image out of complete blackness where rival phones struggled to make out even vague shapes.

    Of course, everything is carefully selected to show off the ‘hero’ phones in the best possible (ahem) light but even so the effect is startling. In Night Mode, starry skies appeared to be captured with colourful cosmic gas clouds providing a painterly backdrop and the OIS certainly played its part as the pinsharp images were apparently captured by hand, without the use of a tripod.

    Other image capture features designed to mirror professional photographers include a Silky Water mode which creates a smooth effect on running water, again without the use of a tripod during the exposure period. This effect is aided by a combination of optical and AI image stabilisation.

    The camera system also uses AI HDR+, a process by which machine learning creates shots where the exposure is evened out when a subject is photographed against a strong backlight, such as a low sun - faces remain well lit with natural colours.

    The ToF camera on the P30 Pro allows professional style, multi-level shallow depth of field effects, popularly known as Bokeh. Here, the edges of the subject remain sharp with no blending into the Bokeh effect.

    Rounding off the whole P30 photography experience are close-up shots that can be taken up to 2.5cm from the subject. Both smartphones feature a front facing 32MP Selfie camera that features AI HDR+ but there was no mention of depth sensing or a Bokeh effect being available with this front lens setup.

    Video capture also benefits greatly from the low light, OIS and telephoto capabilities of the rear lens array and the associated processing. There’s one additional feature which may delight video fans who can’t decide whether to capture a scene in wide angle or close-up format, both can be taken at the same time and viewed in Huawei’s Dual View Video mode - useful for sports or concert footage.

    Fast 40W charging is available, which will give you 70% charge on your battery in 30 mins, and there’s also 15W Wireless Quick Charge. Once you’re up and ready to go, you can use Wireless Reverse Charge to power up other wireless devices, such as a friend’s phone, if you are feeling benevolent.

    The P30 and P30 Pro will ship with Huawei’s Emui 9.1 interface and the Android 9.0 operating system.

    One further interesting innovation is the ability to use the phones as your digital car key, Although only compatible with a handful of Audis in around 20 countries, the plans is to expand the makes and models that can be used with this system. Apparently the unlock, lock and start instructions will still work even when your phone has run out of battery.
    Also announced were several optional extras including the Huawei 12000mAh 40W Power Bank which is bi-directional so can charge and recharge and can be used to charge devices across multiple fast charging standards such as laptops (PC and MAC), portable games consoles, wearables and even iPhones.

    Huawei weren’t quite finished there either and moved onto the audio experience by announcing their wireless FreeLace earphones, featuring up to 4 hours playback with a single 5 minute charge from your phone. There was also a set of true wireless earbuds called FreeBuds Lite which feature a 12 hour battery life, a battery case and IPX4 water and dust resistance.

    The P30 and P30 Pro smartphones are available from 26th March 2019 in Breathing Crystal (a pale blue/white amalgam), Amber Sunrise (a deep orangey red), Pearl White, Black and Aurora (blue).

    The P30 is €799 Euros for the 6/128Gb model.
    The P30 Pro starts at €999 for the 8/128GB version, €1099 for the 8/256GB version and €1249 for the top end 8/512GB model.

    The FlexLace earphones are available now in Amber Sunrise, Emerald Green, Graphite Black and Moonlight Silver and will retail for €99.
    The Huawei Earbuds Lite are available in white or black for a retail price of €119.
    The Huawei 12000 40W Power Bank has a retail price of €99.

    Source: Huawei launch event 26th March 2019

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