The Huawei P20 Pro’s camera really impressed me when I first used it and it went straight to the top of DXOMark’s ranking of smartphone cameras when it was tested. It’s stayed there ever since, being joined by the newer Huawei Mate 20 Pro. Now Huawei has announced the P30 Pro which has a new camera unit. In this post, I look at how the key camera specifications compare to identify the main differences.
The Huawei P20 Pro has a Leica Vario-Summilux-H1.6-2.4/27-80 ASPH camera. This is a triple camera unit that combines a 1/2.78-inch 20Mp f/1.6 monochrome camera with a 1/1.73-inch 40Mp RGB (colour) f/1.8 wide-angle camera and a 1/4.4-inch 8Mp f/2.4 telephoto camera.
That Huawei P30 Pro, however, has a quad-camera system known as the Vario-Summilux-H1.6-3.4/16-125 ASPH. This is made up of a 40MP f/1.6 camera, a 20Mp 16mm (equivalent) ultra wide f/2.2 camera, an 8MP 5x periscope design f/3.4 OIS zoom lens and a Huawei TOF (Time of Flight) lens.
The name of the lenses reveals a very significant difference between the two cameras. Whereas the P20 Pro has a focal length range equivalent to 27-80mm, the P30 Pro’s focal length is 16-125mm. That means it goes much wider and longer than the P20 Pro.
The wide-angle camera element is very useful for shooting cityscapes and landscapes whereas the longer end is nice for picking out details and framing distant objects. It means the P30 Pro’s camera is a bit more versatile when it comes to composing images without making use of the hybrid or digital zoom.
Huawei has made a fundamental, ground-breaking change with the 40MP sensor in the P30 Pro. Instead of the usual RGGB (red, green, green, blue) Bayer pattern colour filter array over the photoreceptors, the company has used an RYYB (red, yellow, yellow, blue) array.
This is a first and it’s been done because yellow covers a wider spectrum. That means that the photoreceptors beneath the yellow filters gather more light than they would if they had a green filter. As a result, the P30 Pro’s camera is more sensitive to light and can shoot in darker conditions than the P20 Pro.
Consequently, Huawei has extended the sensitivity of the P30 Pro to ISO 409,600. That’s 2EV higher than the ISO 102,400 of the P20 Pro.
One of the sensors in the P20 Pro’s camera unit is only able to capture black and white images. Huawei has dropped this camera in the P30 Pro in favour of the ultra-wide 16mm equivalent camera.
The fourth camera in the P30 Pro’s main camera unit is TOF (Time of Flight) device. This measures how light bounces off objects to give an understanding of depth in the image. As well as helping with focusing, that helps inform the Aperture adjustment feature that replicates the appearance of using different aperture settings on a camera with a larger sensor.
The P20 Pro does a very good job of softening backgrounds but it applies a fairly blanket treatment to anywhere that’s not the main subject. The P30 Pro’s TOF camera enables it to apply the blur gradually so that more distant objects are softer than nearer ones. As a result, the P30 Pro can replicate the results of a larger sensor camera more accurately.
Like the P20 Pro, the P30 Pro makes use of artificial intelligence (AI), however, it’s got a little more mature and even more intelligent. This means that the P30 Pro understands a bit more about the scene that’s being photographed and it can apply treatments more effectively.
The P30 Pro uses AI for its AI HDR+ system. This automatically assesses the scene and applies local adjustment to different parts of the image to give a more balanced exposure. It should mean that the P30 Pro is able to produce better results in more extreme lighting conditions.
The Huawei P20 Pro has a 4000mAh battery. That’s very good but the P30 Pro goes a little further with a 4200mAh battery. It will be interesting to see if that makes any difference to the battery life or if the extra use of AI eats up the extra power quickly. Either way, neither the P20 Pro or the P30 Pro are likely to disappoint in this area.
The video below compares 4K video from the Huawei P30 Pro and Huawei P20 Pro. The two phones were mounted side-by-side to shoot the same scene simultaneously. They were both set to 4K UHD (3840 x 2160) H.24.
The footage ffrom the Huawei P30 Pro look much warmer and more saturated that than from the P20 Pro. On the whole, I prefer the colours from the P20 Pro.