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Product Snap Verdict
Huawei and Leica have collaborated to give the Mate 10 Pro a high-quality camera system that makes use of AI technology to deliver great results in a range of conditions. In addition to the automatic shooting option that is bound to be most widely used, there are advanced controls and the ability to record raw files in addition to jpegs if you want.
For Huawei Mate 10 Pro Camera
- Dual-camera system
- Large aperture
- Leica involvement
Against Huawei Mate 10 Pro Camera
- Screen tends to oversaturate colours
- No MicroSD card port
- The supplied case is needed to give better grip
What is the Huawei Mate 10 Pro?
The Mate 10 Pro is the flagship phone in Huawei’s 2018 line-up and runs on Android Oreo. It has a 6-inch screen with a resolution of 2160×1080 pixels. Most importantly for photographers, however, it has a dual camera system developed by Leica.
Huawei Mate 10 Pro Camera Specification
The good news for photographers is that the Huawei Mate 10 Pro camera system has been co-engineered by Huawei and Leica. That means the German camera manufacturer’s know-how and image quality and processing experience have been applied to the phone.
Like the Mate 9, and as is becoming more common, the Mate 10 has two camera units, each with a Leica Summilux-H lens with a maximum aperture of f/1.6 and an effective focal length of 27mm.
This compares with dual f/2.2 27mm lenses in the Mate 9. That might not sound like much of a difference in aperture, but moving from f/2.2 to f/1.6 is actually a whole stop, so it allows double the amount of light to reach the camera’s sensors. This has a couple of benefits. Firstly, the camera will be better able to focus and secondly, image quality will be improved in low light conditions as you can use a lower sensitivity (ISO) setting, ISO 1600 instead of ISO 3200 for example.
Behind each lens lies a different sensor, one is a 12Mp device with an RGB filter array to capture colour images while the other is a 20Mp unit that records monochrome (black and white) information.
Leica has a history of using a monochrome sensor with its Monochrom cameras. The thinking is that without the RGB colour filters the camera is able to gather more light for images with a wider range of tones and, without the need to interpolate colours, there’s greater detail.
Although the Mate 10 can be used to produce black and white images, the primary reason for combining the monochrome sensor with a colour chip is to enable the phone to merge the results for images that have more detail.
Of course, having two cameras also serves another purpose, it helps with gathering subject distance and scene depth information. This, in turn, enables the Aperture mode (also known as portrait or bokeh mode) that attempts to replicate the appearance of shooting with a large aperture lens on a camera with a larger sensor.
The two cameras also enable the Mate 10’s 2x hybrid (digital) zoom.
On the back of the phone is an 8Mp f/2.0 camera for shooting selfies.
Huawei Mate 10 Pro Camera Pro Mode
Like the Mate 9, the Mate 10 Pro native camera app has a Pro mode that gives access to key controls that will be familiar to keen photographers, including metering mode, sensitivity (ISO), shutter speed, exposure compensation, focus mode and white balance.
Sensitivity can be set to a maximum of ISO 3200 while shutter speed can be varied between 30-1/4000sec and there’s an exposure compensation range of +/-4EV.
By default, images are saved as jpegs, but it’s also possible to save them as DNG format raw files simultaneously. Oddly, the Mate 10 has a microSD port while the Mate 10 Pro doesn’t. However, the Mate 10 is available with a maximum storage capacity of 64GB whereas the Mate 10 Pro has up to 128GB storage.
It’s also possible to shoot 4K (3840×2160 pixel) movies at 30 frames per second in MP4 format.
Huawei Mate 10 Pro Kirin 970 Processor
Huawei has also introduced a new processing engine for the Mate 10 series, the Kirin 970. This should allow faster, more complex algorithms to be applied. It also enables the camera to recognise 2005 objects per minute, which is helpful for ensuring that the correct camera settings and processing parameters are applied. A sunset, for instance, requires different processing from a portrait or a shot of food.
According to Huawei, the Mate 10 Pro is 5x faster at object recognition than the iPhone 7 Plus which can recognise 487 objects per minute. It’s also thought to be about twice the speed of the iPhone 8 Plus.
Focusing is achieved through laser, depth, contrast and phase detection.
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Huawei Mate 10 Pro Build and Handling
Huawei has given the Mate 10 Pro a full-view display with a 6-inch screen that has a 18×9 ratio. Because of the reduction in the bezel size in comparison with the Mate 9, which has a 5.5-inch screen, the Mate 10 Pro is actually the same size overall.
The phone comes supplied with a cover which is useful for keeping the phone in your hand as without it, the mobile is pretty slippery.
The finish is all glass, back and front with the glass (which has a Gorilla Glass cover) bending around the corners of the phone giving it a high-class look and feel. Helpfully for rainy day photographers, the Mate 10 Pro is IP67 rated water and dust resistant.
The screen is very vibrant and sharp, which makes images really stand-out, but there’s a tendency towards making them look a bit oversaturated and warm. This is a display issue as the images look more natural on a calibrated screen.
Swiping the small bar at the bottom of the native camera app screen upwards gives access to the Pro mode. This gives the opportunity to set shutter, speed, exposure compensation, white balance etc.
If you prefer, however, the camera can be left in the standard ‘Photo’ shooting mode and will attempt to detect the type of subject automatically. An icon appears on screen to indicate which mode is being used (portrait, food etc).
Alternatively, if you swipe right you can see and select one of the scene modes to suit your subject.
Swiping left gives access to the Advanced Settings screen, this is where you select things such as raw file shooting.
Tapping on the aperture icon at the top of the screen activates Aperture mode. Then in review mode you can tap the icon again, before tapping on the part of the image that you want sharp. You see the sharp and blurred areas change as you tap around the screen.
At the bottom of the screen there’s a sliding control that you can use to adjust the aperture and depth of field – the size of the sharp zone on the shot.
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Huawei Mate 10 Pro Performance
From the outset, I was impressed by the images from the Mate 10 Pro, they look good on the phone screen – although as mentioned earlier some look oversaturated and warm. Transfer the images to your computer and look at them on a properly calibrated screen and you’ll see the oversaturation and warmth is an issue with the phone’s display rather than the images themselves.
Even in the low light conditions, the camera also manages to get most subjects sharp quickly, probably helped by the extra light flooding through that large aperture.
Low sensitivity (ISO) images have an impressive amount of detail that should please even discerning photographers looking for an alternative to a dedicated camera.
High ISO shots exhibit softening of some details as a result of noise reduction being applied. If you view them on a computer screen, ISO 3200 images look almost like hyperrealist paintings, there’s a very good impression of detail but there are areas that look a bit too uniform. The raw files have more detail but there’s a fine texture of luminance noise visible. Both are generally very acceptable, but I’d defer to the raw files so give me a bit more control over the noise/detail visibility in the processing.
I’d have no hesitation in setting the Mate 10 Pro to the Auto ISO setting and letting it control the sensitivity (ISO value).
Shooting raw files means you don’t need to worry too much about the white balance setting, but the vast majority of images shot with the Mate 10 Pro will be captured using the Auto setting. That’s fine because it copes with most situations well, keeping some of the atmosphere of artificial lighting.
In its standard Photo mode, the Mate 10 Pro did a good job of recognising most subjects I pointed it at during my testing. When my dog was in the frame a dog icon usually appeared and it seemed to find it easy to distinguish between foliage and flowers, or food.
I am particularly impressed by the results in Monochrome mode, which had nice contrast and a good tonal range. That will be Leica’s experience shining through.
The HDR and Light painting modes also produced some respectable results and offer some fun opportunities.
Should you need extra illumination, there’s a dual LED flash available. This produces a more flattering effect than some other phone flash systems, but it’s limited by its proximity to the lens.
The video results are also good, with a nice bright image good detail levels and the stabilisation system taking out the worst of the jitters.
Huawei Mate 10 Pro Aperture mode
Aperture mode works very well with only the odd artefact here and there along the edges of the sharp zone. Experienced photographers may also recognise that the fall-off in sharpness is sudden, giving away the fact that it’s been done by processing magic rather than physics, but in many instances, the results are convincing.
The sharp zone of the Aperture mode images lacks the detail of standard images, but they look fine at normal viewing sizes and would make acceptable 5×7-inch prints or even 10×8-inch prints.
Huawei and Leica have managed to create a nice bokeh effect at wide aperture settings.
With a pixel count of 8million, the f/2.0 selfie camera is never going to match the detail of the 20Mp main camera(s). But it does its job well, delivering fairly flattering results in most situations.
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Huawei Mate 10 Pro Sample Photos
We’ve shot with the Huawei Mate 10 Pro in a range of different conditions and scenes. Below are a few of our favourites, along with a Flickr gallery with more images. Follow the link to browse and download full resolution images.
Huawei Mate 10 Pro
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Huawei Mate 10 Pro Verdict
The Huawei Mate 10 Pro camera is very good, it focuses quickly and the images have plenty of sharp detail at the lower end of the sensitivity (ISO) setting. Even the results at the highest setting (ISO 3200) are good. In addition, the Aperture mode works well, giving a nice out-of focus look to backgrounds.
Some images can look a bit ‘full-on’ but this is usually the result of the screen rather than the images themselves and the chances are you’ll be happy with them when you download to your computer or share them on social media.
Should I buy the Huawei Mate 10 Pro?
If you prefer Android phones to iOS, or you’re looking to swap platform, the Huawei Mate 10 Pro is definitely worthy of consideration if the camera quality is a high priority. That’s not to say that other aspects of the phone aren’t good, we just don’t test them because we’re photographers rather than telecommunication experts.