Sunday, 07 April 2019 19:57

MUST-SEE keynote: Huawei's new P30 Pro, arguably the best Android smartphone with world's best cameras

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Come mid-April 2019, when Huawei's P30 and P30 Pro smartphones are delivered to pre-orderers and the public, the world's best smartphone cameras will be unleashed, with the P30 Pro delivering truly astonishing low-light capabilities, ultra-wide angle, ultra-macro, 5x optical zoom, 10x hybrid zoom, 50x digital zoom within an ultra-premium smartphone of impressive proportions.

Long-time iTWire readers would know that I am an iPhone fan and user since the very first iPhone in 2007, but last year's Mate 20 Pro and this year's even better P30 Pro have left me seriously impressed, and wondering whether Apple will catch up in 2019, or whether they'll wait until 2020, or might take even longer to offer some of the features last year's Huawei's Mate 20 and now this year's P30 Pro offer as standard.

The Mate 20 Pro was so advanced that Samsung's otherwise impressive S10+ has only just managed to catch up feature-wise, nearly six months later, in terms of wireless reverse charging, in-screen fingerprint reader, wide-angle and also night mode photography, although the S10+ only offers a 2x optical zoom whereas the Mate 20 Pro offered 3x optical zoom capability (as does the P30), which the P30 Pro incredibly eclipses with a 5x optical zoom periscope lens.

Now comes Huawei's newest models, with 3 rear cameras on the P30, and the ultra-premium, P30 Pro flagship, achieve its promise to "rewrite the rules of photography", with four cameras on the rear, and a whopping 32 megapixel camera on the front for five cameras in total.

Now, there are plenty more features that set the P30 Pro apart from competitors, and we'll go through those features shortly, but first, here's the P30 series launch highlights from the Paris launch, followed by the full video of the P30 launch, which is definitely a must-see keynote launch event. The article continues below, please read on!

Huawei P30 Launch Highlights – short video: 

Complete Huawei P30 Series Launch in Paris – 1 hour 30 minute must-see keynote:

Let's continue with the P30 Pro's cameras, which are astoundingly advanced, as well as the P30's - here's a photo of the P30 Pro's cameras on the back:

Both models start with a 40 megapixel main camera with a new "1/1.7-inch Huawei SuperSpectrum Sensor", which Huawei boasts is "the largest in its class" and which also offers a new RYYB filter instead of the RGGB filter normally used in previous and competing sensors.

RGGB stands for red, green, green and blue, and here, Huawei has replaced the green pixels with yellow pixels, which the company says captures up to 40% more light, and with updated algorithms to handle this, it means better photos, as well as a much higher ISO rating for vastly improved low-light photography, with the P30 Pro offering "up to 409,000" ISO rating, and up to 204,800 ISO on the P30.

Huawei says this is a "fundamental shift in sensor technology" and combined with the company's AIS, OIS (AI Image stabilisation and Optical Image Stabilisation) along with the P30 Pro’s f/1.6 wide aperture, we're told this delivers "extraordinary photography and videography experiences across a wide range of scenarios producing images with enhanced detail, colour and clarity even in lower light".

This ability to turn night into day in the standard, auto "photos" section of the inbuilt camera app - without even using the P30 Pro camera app's specific night mode - truly is astounding, with the standard night mode even better than the actual night mode.

The actual night mode can produce even brighter images, seemingly with a slightly yellow tinge, but as noted elsewhere online, this can be updated by Huawei - with the night mode almost (but not quite) rendered completely unnecessary by the fact the standard photo mode does its own night mode, in a much faster time too.

Tom's Guide has some excellent examples of both night modes in action that you must see for yourself here, handily outclassing Google Pixel 3 XL's celebrated night mode. I've also taken some photos that turn night into vastly brighter, clearer photos than were possible with an iPhone XS Max, for example, which the iPhone rendered virtually as completely black, and which were visible on the P30 Pro, and I'll write a separate article about these - but Tom's Guide's article is absolutely must-see to demonstrate the P30 Pro's capabilities.

The second camera is a 20 megapixel ultra-wide angle camera (16 megapixels on the P30), along with an 8 megapixel telephoto camera on the P30 Pro with 5x optical zoom which I'll go into shortly.

The P30 Pro also offers a fourth HUAWEI ToF Camera (which we'll go into shortly as well), with both also offering a 32 megapixel front camera for ever better selfies, although still no wide-screen selfie mode as seen on the Google Pixel 3 and 3XL models.

So let's take a closer look at the P30 Pro's telephoto lens, which uses a new periscope design that turns the lenses and sensor sideways, allowing it to go vertically up the back of the phone, rather than needing to be within the very thin space between the back of the phone and its front glass, let along with the motherboard in between.

Huawei explains that a "prism element in the telephoto camera bends light at a 90-degree angle to maximise focal length while minimising camera height, without disrupting the sleek design of the phone".

Huawei dubs this telephoto as a "SuperZoom Lens", able to not only deliver an incredibly class-leading 5x optical zoom, but by using one of the other lenses in conjunction with the 5x zoom it can deliver a 10x hybrid zoom, and this also allows a 50x digital zoom.

These zoom levels are absolutely incredible, and I've been able to take the same photo from the 0.6x wide-angle, through to the 1x "standard" mode, the 5x optical zoom, the 10x hybrid zoom and then the 50x digital zoom (and everywhere in between), and the results are incredible.

In the keynote, we were shown a photo of THE MOON with its craters, taken on the P30 Pro (as seen in the keynote image below), something I've never seen any other smartphone do before, and something I'll be trying for myself when the next full moon arrives this month - especially as my experience of capturing the moon has only ever resulted in blurry discs of white light.

On the regular P30, there is a 3x optical zoom, like the Mate 20 Pro, so while the P30 is more affordable than the P30 Pro, if you want the best cameras, the P30 Pro is where it's at.

Then there's the P30 Pro's ToF or "time of flight" camera, which "captures depth-of-field information to deliver accurate image segmentation". This means "precise distance measurement" which "allows for the simulation of multiple levels of bokeh" - and it's something not available on the regular P30 model.

The ToF camera also augments the "Super Portrait feature" which, unlike with competing bokeh capabilities on competing smartphones, allows the P30 Pro to "capture even the smallest details, such as individual strands of hair".

Huawei explains it as being able to "combine depth information and proprietary algorithms to produce outstanding images with defocused backgrounds and highlights the subject of the image in any scenario".

After an OS update, the ToF camera also offers that Huawei dubs a "powerful AR measurement toolkit" that "can accurately and instantly measure the length, width and depth".

We're told that using "the Face Recognition technology, now measuring the height of a person is just a simple task of scanning from toe to head".

It will be interesting to see this feature in action.

This video shows how the Huawei AR Measurement works:

Demonstrated during the keynote, but also awaiting an OS update before being made available to the public is an intriguing "Dual-View" video capability.

This lets you record with two rear cameras as the same time for videos with two perspectives - one zoomed in, one at normal distance - and journalists were told during a post-keynote Q&A that you'll be able to save the videos individually, but they'll be in square format rather than widescreen, although the twin videos exported as a single video will take up a wide-screen's worth of space.

Here's Huawei's video showcasing this soon to be available feature: 

Huawei's P30 Pro also allows for stunningly sharp macro photography with only 2.5cm distance, much closer than competing smartphones.

It's all seriously impressive stuff, far in advance of what Apple, Samsung, Google, LG and others have been able to achieve thus far - even down to being able to capture faces with excellent clarity, even when shooting into the sun, which is yet another astounding feature.

Indeed, if photography is important to you, the P30 Pro's cameras could easily sway your next Android smartphone purchase, and despite the warm embrace and strong pull of the iOS ecosystem lock-in, there could even be iPhone switchers who decide to switch to Huawei's latest and greatest models rather than a Samsung, LG, Pixel or other Android model.

There might even be iOS fans who decide to get a P30 Pro just for the photographic capabilities, so they can enjoy the best of both worlds, but it has to be said, and especially so if you're already in the world of Android, then Huawei's P30 Pro is both a must-see smartphone and a very compelling upgrade alternative.

Of course, photography isn't all the P30 Pro is capable of, with widescreen video recordings that outclass what any current iPhone can do from a widescreen perspective, and from a low-light perspective too, thanks again to the new "SuperSpectrum Sensor which enables spectacular low-light video capture so night scenes appear bright and highly detailed".

Huawei's AIS and OIS support stabilisation kick in too, which the company states "results in perfectly steady shots in a wide range of situations", for what we're told is "truly cinematic capabilities that usher a new era in studio-grade videography".

I've always relied on an iPhone for great video that gets better with each new generation of iPhone, but as I do film a lot of video, and the videos I've filmed on the P30 Pro thus far certainly have been impressive - with great audio, too.

So, what other features are on the P30 Pro model (see P30 details here)?

Well, Huawei has included just about everything you possibly can into the P30 Pro, with the following shortlist of features:

  • 6.47-inch OLED Full HD+ display with DCI-P3 colour display capability
  • In-screen fingerprint reader - promised 30% faster than in the past (and it does indeed appear to be faster and much more accurate than the S10+ in-screen fingerprint reader
  • Face recognition camera (but no Face-ID style that I personally haven't been able to fool with a photo - unlike the Galaxy S10+!)
  • The camera shows as a "dewdrop notch" at the top of the display, which is easily hideable with a thin black bar (unlike the thick black bar to hide the cameras of of the S10+, if you desire to hide the cameras)
  • Up to 15 watt wireless charging
  • Reverse wireless charging
  • Fast charger included in the box at goes to 70% charge in 30 minutes
  • Infrared remote control sensor and app to control most IR remote controllable devices
  • Acoustic Display technology meaning no external above-screen speaker cutout needed, as the screen vibrates to produce sound
  • Dual-SIM slots with Dual VoLTE, with one of the slots also able to be used additional storage using Huawei's proprietary NM memory cards - so no MicroSD
  • Dual-band and thus more accurate GPS
  • Double knock with your knuckle to take screenshots (along with the existing method of pressing the power and volume down button simultaneously)
  • IP68 water and dust resistance
  • 7nm Kirin 980 processor
  • 8GB Ram and 256GB processor
  • 4100mAh battery (rated as 4200mAh typical value)
  • Huawei Share OneHop, an iOS Continuity-like content sharing feature for the Huawei P30 series and Huawei Matebook Windows notebook PCs
  • USB-C headphones included, and while this means no 3.5mm headphone jack, you can still used wired headphones, while wireless options do abound as never before
  • Basic, standard protective case included in the box - thankfully Tech21 and Huawei have collaborated on top notch cases (my article on the new cases here)
  • Gesture-based interface which mimics that of the iPhone X, even allowing you to swipe from the left or right hand sides of the screen to go back, which is a very handy feature. The older triangle, square and circle interface at the bottom of the screen is also available for those who prefer the old way of navigating on Android, but the new gesture based UI, which debuted on the Mate 20 Pro, is my preferred way of navigating.

Impressively, Huawei also introduced a new file system which it has called EROFS. The company claims an app speech launch boost of 20%, a more consistent performance over time that helps its smartphones "stay fast" rather than slowing down, as Androids of the past have been known to do.

I'm guessing this is also the reason why Huawei's P30 Pro does not spilt video files into separate parts. This is something no iPhone ever does, but the Google Pixel 3 XL and the Samsung S10+ will STILL split a file after something like 30 to 40 minutes and will create another file!

This is madness, a video file should not be split into separate parts but should remain as one file. I recorded well over an hour of video in one go on the P30 Pro and the file remained as a single file - just as it should, which made me happy to see.

Now, there's no Face ID style face unlock as seen on the iPhone X-series and as Huawei introduced with its the Mate 20 Pro, but Huawei's P30 Pro face unlock works nice and fast. As noted above, I haven't been able to fool it with a photo, or at least not yet, something I was surprisingly able to do incredibly easily with the Samsung Galaxy S10+ with a photo of myself taken on another phone and pointed at a locked S10+, and that's with "faster recognition" on the S10+ turned off, too.

I've tried again and again with different photos of myself to get the P30 Pro to unlock with just a photo, and thus far at least, the P30 Pro just refuses to unlock unless it sees my actual face in real life.

As with the S10+, the P30 Pro does warn that face unlocking can be insecure, and has a disclaimer menu in the Face Recognition section of the settings, but again, I just can't make it unlock, so your milage may vary but thus is my experience thus far.

As for using the phone itself, I've been able to perform all of the expected functions of a smartphone from voice calls, browsing, app usage, hotspot, infrared remote control (given Huawei has this feature), Mirror (the P30 Pro has a great mirror app), video/TV player via Netflix and other TV apps and more, and as a premium smartphone, the experience has been excellent.

I do remember the YouTube app crashing a few times but there has been an update since then, and I'm playing a video on YouTube now, and it's smooth sailing.

I've taken all manner of photos I can't take on competing smartphones, demonstrating the 0.6x, 1x, 5x, 10x and 50x zoom modes to the astonishment of people I've shown it to, as well as demonstrating night mode photos, and the P30 Pro has unquestionably been a mind-blowing experience, and videos I've taken have been great too, especially with the widescreen mode that lets me capture so much more than earlier smartphones. 

Also, while the P30 Pro does offer Wi-Fi 5, or Wi-Fi 802.11ac (and earlier Wi-Fi standards), the P30 Pro doesn't offer Wi-Fi 6, something the Galaxy S10+ can do, and which Samsung did make a big deal of during its S10 series keynote. Is it the end of the world? No - routers with Wi-Fi 6 are only just starting to come onto the market, and the vast majority of routers in existing homes and businesses don't have Wi-Fi 6 capability, and will need to be replaced. 

Wi-Fi 6 devices and routers make Wi-Fi transmissions much more efficient, but unless you upgrade to Wi-Fi 6 routers and devices, you won't get the benefit, so while it's a shame the P30 Pro doesn't have Wi-Fi 6, it's not a deal-breaker, with future Huawei models sure to offer Wi-Fi 6 capabilities at that time. 

So, what do Huawei's global and local chiefs have to say about the new models?

Richard Yu, CEO of Huawei Consumer BG, and star of the P30 Series keynote that you can see above, said, “The HUAWEI P30 Series is a fundamental breakthrough after decades of digital camera technology development; it will rewrite the rules and reshape everyone’s perception of mobile photography.

"Innovations such as the HUAWEI SuperSpectrum Sensor and SuperZoom Lens allow us to push the envelope of both photography and videography—a frontier long overdue for disruption. The HUAWEI P30 Series will set the pace for the next generation of smartphones by empowering people to capture the true beauty of the world around them through a device that fits in the palm of their hands.”

Larking Huang, Managing Director of Huawei Australia Consumer BG, followed, “We’re thrilled to be the makers of a phone range that continues to elevate everyday photography.

As Australians we’re proud of our picturesque nation. With the HUAWEI P30 Series any phone user can transform the average selfie, lighten the evening sky or capture the full view with simplicity but with consistently amazing results.

"Yet, while we’re aiming rewrite the rules of photography, we’re listening to all Australians’ needs – a longer battery life to keep up with our busy lifestyles and a slick design to match our fashion forward trends. The HUAWEI P30 Series is the phone for the modern Australian user.”

Pricing and pre-order offer:

Naturally, Huawei has a pre-order offer to tempt those considering an upgrade to either the P30 or the P30 Pro smartphones, be it from an existing Android competitor, or from iOS.

The P30 model will retail for A$1099, while the Pro P30 will retail for $1599.

Those pre-ordering before 15 April 2019 will receive a bonus Sonos One smart speaker, available in black and white, valued at A$299 via redemption, which you can see here.

 

Both models will be available in the Breathing Crystal and Aurora colours, with Optus the "exclusive partner" to deliver the dual 4G SIM card capability on both the P30 and P30 Pro models.

Both P30 and P30 Pro models are available to pre-order and buy from Optus, Telstra, Vodafone, JB Hi-Fi, Harvey Norman, Kogan, mobileciti and bNEXT.

More reviews can be seen at Camera Jabber's "Huawei P30 Pro Camera Review (in progress)", Engadget in an article entitled "The Huawei P30 Pro's cameras are miraculous", The Verge in an article entitled "The challenge of low-light photography is dead, and Huawei killed it – the P30 Pro is somehow even better than Google’s Night Sight", Android Authority's "Huawei P30 Pro review: A phone with superpowers", the Tom's Guide look at night time photos and plenty more online.

Below are some more videos, but don't forget to check out the full keynote, where you'll also see that Huawei launched a 40W 12,000mAh SuperCharge Power Bank, a 2nd-generation version of its Watch GT, new "FreeLace" wireless headphones, new "FreeBuds" Lite, and new Bluetooth headset capable Gentle Monster sunglasses, a photo of all of which is below, a screenshot from the keynote.

Huawei P30 Pro promo video:

Huawei Share OneHop demo video:

The writer attended the Huawei P30 Series launch in Paris as a guest of Huawei Australia.

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Alex Zaharov-Reutt

One of Australia’s best-known technology journalists and consumer tech experts, Alex has appeared in his capacity as technology expert on all of Australia’s free-to-air and pay TV networks on all the major news and current affairs programs, on commercial and public radio, and technology, lifestyle and reality TV shows. Visit Alex at Twitter here.

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