THE SMARTPHONE THAT SHOOTS RAW
Being the new kid on the block — within the smartphone market at least — the brand has already proven itself capable of building powerful smartphones. And while Huawei might still be a relatively unknown name to some shooters, it’s safe to say that Leica’s involvement
in the new-release P10 provides a pretty big push for the photography crowd
From film negatives to memory cards and now the cloud, the greatest shifts in photography have been rooted in the capabilities and possibilities of the devices used to capture the images. These days, there’s no denying that smartphone photography is growing in popularity and is disrupting traditional camera use along the way.
It’s for this reason that Huawei — the world’s third-largest smartphone manufacturer, one of a very few to have sold more than 100 million in a single year — has teamed up with the iconic German camera manufacturer Leica. The Huawei P10, Huawei’s newest flagship and the second of their smartphones to be micro bevelled with the Leica name, embodies their joint focus on reinventing smartphone photography. The result: a reliable camera backed by a powerful processor, encased within an understated, elegant frame.
The Huawei P10 has two camera sensors on the back: one 12MP sensor with a traditional colour filter array and featuring optical image stabilization, and a 20MP unit that only captures monochrome images. Both sit behind a 27mm equivalent f/2.2 lens branded ‘Summarit’ — referencing the German manufacturer’s line-up of lenses in Leica’s own lingo. The two sensors operate together to produce a single image with more data than would otherwise be possible to work with, lending better image detail, higher dynamic range, and lower noise levels. They haven’t simply thrown megapixels at it, though — the rear camera can also record 4K-resolution video at 30fps or standard full HD footage at 60fps, its autofocus capabilities are assisted by laser, for precise focusing in very low light, and additional illumination is provided by a dual-colour LED flash.
PRO MODE With any device, the magic happens once you move beyond automatic. So, unsurprisingly, the P10 performs best when you start taking control of its settings by way of the device’s Pro mode.
Activated through a tab in Huawei’s camera app, the Pro mode provides full control of imaging parameters such as metering, shutter speed, ISO, white balance, and manual focus. There’s no aperture option; however, the existing options provide plenty to work with and would work well for beginners in need of a stepping stone before they stop shooting auto. When shooting a stationary object — perhaps a still-life or a seated portrait — you can opt to keep the shutter speed low and prioritize other settings. Conversely, if you’re shooting on the street or in low light, you might key in a faster shutter speed to get the shot, happily sacrificing some ISO in the process.
By checking the ‘RAW format’ option within the camera settings, both the RAW and JPEG formats will be saved to the internal storage. Giving you more control over the image output, the digital negative file contains unprocessed pixel data, directly from the sensor. As no information is compressed with RAW, it means that you’ll be able to produce higher-quality images, while problem images that would be unrecoverable if shot in JPEG can be corrected in Lightroom.
MONOCHROME MODE Leica is well known for its Leica M Monochrom, which also has a full black-and-white sensor — having a smartphone that utilizes similar technology is great news for black-and-white shooters. It’s clear that the favoured brand among street photographers has had input here; the Huawei P10 renders black-and-white images with a high level of clarity, wide dynamic range, and graceful gradations from shadow to highlight.
The logic behind Huawei’s 20MP full monochrome sensor seems strange but is pretty straightforward when you think about it: by removing the traditional colour filters in a typical RGB image sensor, the light hits the image sensor at full spectrum, unfiltered, allowing the image sensor to collect all of the information. In practice, this means greater sharpness, depth, and clarity.
AUTOMATIC OPTIONS For those who still want to stick to their tried-and-true camera gear but want to get snapping with a phone that produces striking imagery easily, the P10 is a great option. Software is a big reason that the P10’s pictures are superb; with ‘enhanced fusion algorithms’, the device — at least in theory — produces sharper and more vivid photos than most other smartphones currently on the market.
The camera app features a trio of colour profiles — Standard, Vivid, and Smooth — that let you take richer, more saturated images that are Instagram-ready, without the need for editing. It also senses groups and automatically switches to wide-angle shots when more people enter the picture. And, in Portrait mode, the P10’s dual-lens set-up creates a 3D image of the subject’s face, using this to work out which parts of the image should be in focus in order to create a digital depth-of-field effect. This effect, which is basically the illusion of bokeh, involves some hefty technology to produce, but, put simply, involves artificial blurring post-capture to create a shallow depth-of-field effect. Although nothing compares with the real deal — which only comes by way of a large-image-sensor-based camera with true large aperture lens — the P10 does a pretty good job at simulating it.
Beyond the camera, the P10 has a decent 64gb of storage, and a HiSilicon Kirin 960 octa-core processor coupled with Huawei’s Ultra Memory technology that intelligently allocates, recycles, and compresses memory to ensure that the device always performs at the peak of its game — even during fast-paced shooting or when loading the apps you love. Its battery is extremely capable, too, lasting an impressive 15 hours. All of this is encased within a slim 6.98mm profile and all-metal body, capped with a 5.1-inch full HD display.
HUAWEI P10, 1/ 100S, F/ 2.2, ISO 100
HUAWEI P10, 1/ 35S, F2.2, ISO 250