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Huawei P9 vs. P8 Mobile review: Good improvement for the latest device

By Paul Carroll - Wednesday July 13 2016

Mobile Review

With a DxOMark Mobile score of 80, the Huawei P9’s dual 12Mp RGB and monochrome sensors provide solid results. Our tests showed a nice improvement over its predecessor, the P8, which scored 74 overall, with the P9 offering improved autofocus and more consistent exposure and color results. The P9’s sub-scores of 84 points for photo and 72 for video demonstrate Huawei’s latest device is particularly strong for still photography.

Huawei P9 vs. Huawei P8

Images are mostly well-exposed across all lighting conditions, with good and repeatable white balance results that show an improvement over the P8. The P9’s dual-LED flash unit also facilitates good target exposures, with very low noise in the center of the frame when using flash.

Huawei P9 (left) and P8 (right) exposure

Both the Huawei P9 (left) and P8 (right) produce mostly well-exposed images in many situations and lighting conditions, with vivid and pleasant color rendering.

Outdoor pictures boast good detail and more neutral color

Shooting outdoors and in bright light conditions, the P9 delivers mostly well-exposed images, with vivid and pleasant color rendering. It does, however, have a tendency to slightly under-expose outdoor shots, which can lead to a loss of detail in darker areas.

For many users this won’t be a significant problem, as exposures remain pleasant, but photographers after a full range of tones should consider some post-production lighting of the shadow regions. The consistency of the P9’s HDR has been improved compared to the P8, too. Consecutive HDR exposures on the P9 still display some inconsistency, making it advisable to shoot multiple frames when shooting high-contrast scenes, so you can pick out the best exposure.

The P9’s white balance is mainly accurate and repeatable when shooting outdoors, and despite some minor failures, it offers more neutral results (i.e., a less obvious pink cast) compared to the P8. Detail preservation is also very good on the P9, making it a good choice for shooting intricate outdoor scenes. Only very minor luminance noise is visible, with much less chromatic noise compared to outdoor shots on the P8.

TIP: When shooting hig- contrast scenes, capture multiple exposures of the same view so you can pick out the shot with the best exposure and greatest dynamic range.

Under-exposure on the P9 can result in a loss of detail

Under-exposure on the P9 can result in a loss of detail, although most users will find the exposures acceptable.

P9 and P8 Consecutive HDR

Consecutive HDR exposures with the P9 (top) can be a little inconsistent. But images with the P8 (bottom) show a greater difference in the dynamic range recorded.

hdr_exposures

White balance on the P9 (left) is more neutral however, with the P8 (right) display a pink colorcast in the centre, shifting towards green in the corners.

Outdoor exposures from the P9 and P8.

Outdoor exposures from the P9 (left) display the same level of detail, but with less chromatic noise compared to shots from the P8 (right).

Indoor photos are exploitable even in extreme low-light conditions

In low-light pictures (5 to 20 Lux), the P9’s improved color rendering persists with saturated color compared to the P8. Indoor shots remain mostly well-exposed, too, and even in extreme low-light of 5 Lux, images remain usable from both the P8 and P9.

Between 5 and 20 Lux, fine details are reduced as the P9 utilizes high ISO sensitivities up to ISO 3200, and a slow 1/17s shutter speed to maintain exposure. Cleaner and sharper indoor results are possible with stronger light sources. Using a 500 Lux light source, exposure settings of ISO 160 and 1/50s shutter speed capture more well-defined detail.

Tip: When capturing pictures in low-light environments, seek out areas with the best light sources to allow the P9 to use faster shutter speeds and lower ISO sensitivities for sharper and more detailed results. In extreme low light, supporting the device as much as possible will help reduce camera shake.

Low light.

In extreme low light (5 Lux) P9 exposures (left) are slightly brighter than the P8 (right), and while both are fairly dark, they remain exploitable.

Details: Explaining the P9 score

Spider_P9

Exposure and Contrast (88)

With an improved score of 88 compared to 85 on the P8, the P9 captured good exposure and contrast in our tests. Some under-exposure reduced the score, but images remain exploitable for most situations.

Exposure and Contrast

Slightly under-exposed images on the P9 benefit from good detail in the highlighted region,s but would benefit from some lighting in the shadows.

Color (77)

The P9 gets one of its lowest category scores for color due to visible color shading in low light — and occasionally in bright light conditions, too. It’s a step up from the P8’s color score of 68, however, with more neutral white balance results and vivid and pleasant color in the brighter regions.

Color

Color purists may notice light color shading in the shadows on outdoor exposures, but overall white balance remains pleasant and colors are vivid.

Autofocus (87)

One of its best scores, the P9 offers good autofocus performance, which is particularly fast in bright light conditions.

Texture (85) and Noise (83)

With very similar results to the P8 here, the P9 offers good detail preservation in outdoor and bright light conditions, with less chromatic noise compared to the P8. Some visible luminance noise on outdoor shots has reduced the score, but it’s certainly not offensive. On very low-light shots (5 to 20 Lux), more detail is lost due to the high ISO sensitivities and slow shutter speeds the P9 uses to maintain exposure.

Texture and Noise

Good detail preservation in outdoor conditions, some very fine details are lost. Slight luminance noise is noticeable.

Low light conditions

In low light conditions (tungsten 20 Lux), some fine details are lost and a luminance noise is visible.

Artifacts (87)

This is another one of the P9’s top scores, which demonstrates a significant improvement over the P8. Some slight deficiencies remain, including HDR halos, moiré in high-frequency patterns, minor ringing, and a drop in outer field acutance, but they are well-controlled and won’t be an issue for most users.

Artifacts

Flash (79)

With no additional light sources, the P9’s dual-LED flash unit produces good exposures, with well-preserved detail and low noise in the center of the frame. The flash is also well-centered, and despite some slight light attenuation visible in the far corners, resulting in some noticeable luminance noise at the edges, the flash spread is pretty good.  Mixing flash with additional tungsten light sources, accurate exposure and white balance is possible, although we recorded some inconsistencies between consecutive shots.

Tip: For more consistent flash results, allow plenty of time between flash exposures to allow the Dual-LED unit to fully recharge. 

Video (72)

Spider_P9_video

Although not as strong with video as with stills, the P9 produces mostly well-exposed motion pictures with nice color in bright conditions. The same under-exposure we saw in stills persists with video however, with the darkest parts of a movie often clipped. Minimal artifacts, strong color rendering, and good noise reduction in bright light are the strongest aspects of video. In low light, fine details are affected, however, and with no stabilization in default mode, some juddering affects the viewing experience. White balance convergence is also slow, with a pink cast in low light and yellow cast in indoor movies evident. Autofocus is very good in bright light conditions, with only very slight focus hunting noticeable.

The Scores: Huawei P9 vs. Huawei P8 photo scores

Huawei P9 vs. Huawei P8 photo scores

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The Scores: Huawei P9 vs. Huawei P8 video scores

Huawei P9 vs. Huawei P8 video scores

P9-vs-P8-video_pros_cons