About half of the Huawei P20 Pro launch this week was devoted to the camera capabilities of the new device, reflecting the great amount of time and attention the company has devoted to mobile photography. And the results, with a few days left to try the P20 Pro, are not far from the sublime hype. Huawei has created an impressive contender for the crown of the best smartphone camera. I'm not yet convinced that it deserves this award, but I can safely say that the night mode of the P20 Pro is a breakthrough innovation that produces some of the best night shots ever made on a phone. Even the acclaimed Google Pixel 2 XL has trouble keeping up with the P20 Pro.
On a tour of the city of Paris, scene of the announcement of Huawei P20, I made a series of casual photos with the Pixel 2 XL and the P20 Pro. Below is a selection of the most important, starting with the most difficult situation: night shots.
The way Huawei's night mode works is a technical marvel. The shutter of the camera is fully open for four seconds – during which time I see the image exposure steadily increase until night scenes become day to day – and then all the information gathered is intelligently used to create a clean and crisp image. I expected the results of this process to be soft and blurry, but in the photos above you can see that the Huawei phone surpasses the pixel. With the P20 you can still see tree branches in the background, there is more color (and much less less graininess) in the sky and a simply better saturation in the whole picture.
Another example where the P20 Pro offers better saturation and a much cleaner night sky than the Pixel 2 XL. The Total logo and the background buildings are much more defined in the Huawei picture. However, this comes at a price, because Huawei is not afraid to add extra layers of sharpening and noise-reducing blur to make a picture more pop. So you lose some of the naturalness of the pixel photo, but you get a sharper image for sharing on mobile devices, where pixel-level detail is not that crucial. The remarkable thing about this shot is that the Lord continued in the foreground of the P20 Pro during the four seconds of recording – Huawei's algorithms are clever enough to consider such moving objects and keep them adequately fixed.