Huawei P20 camera review: High-end all-rounder

102
DxOMark Mobile

Unlike its larger and more expensive sister model, the P20 Pro, the new Huawei P20 has to make do without a triple camera, a large quad-sensor, and a dedicated tele-lens. Instead, the P20 bets on a similar dual-camera setup that looks very similar to those found on previous high-end models from Huawei. A 1/2.3″ main RGB sensor is paired with a 1/2.78″ monochrome chip, and image data from both cameras is computationally merged to create a background blurring bokeh effect, reduce noise, and increase image detail and dynamic range.

Both modules feature a 27mm equivalent focal length, with f/1.8 for the main, and f/1.6 aperture for the B&W. The latter is particularly useful for frame-stacking fusion in computational imaging applications.

Key camera specifications:

  • Dual-camera
  • Main camera: 12Mp 1/2.3″ RGB sensor, f/1.8aperture lens and 27mm equivalent focal length
  • Secondary camera: 20Mp 1/2.78″ monochrome sensor, f/1.6-aperture lens and 27mm equivalent focal length
  • PDAF
  • 5.8″ display, 2240 x 1080 resolution
  • Aperture mode default equivalent focal length: 55mm

About DxOMark Mobile tests: For scoring and analysis in our smartphone camera reviews, DxOMark engineers capture and evaluate over 1500 test images and more than 2 hours of video both in controlled lab environments and in natural indoor and outdoor scenes, using the camera’s default settings. This article is designed to highlight the most important results of our testing. For more information about the DxOMark Mobile test protocol, click here. More details on how we score smartphone cameras are available here.

Test summary

The Huawei P20 doesn’t quite reach the lofty heights of its triple-camera-equipped sister model P20 Pro, but at an overall score of 102 points, its more conventional dual-camera setup still secures the second position in our DxOMark Mobile overall ranking by a good margin over the third-placed Samsung Galaxy S9 Plus. With our second-highest ever Photo score of 107 points, the P20’s still-image performance contributes significantly to the excellent overall result. The camera delivers good detail and dynamic range in all conditions, and both bokeh simulation and the zoom feature perform on a high level.

Scoring 94 for Video, the P20 is the third-best smartphone for videography that we have tested, boasting a very efficient stabilization system, a precise autofocus, and decent recording of detail in all conditions.

Bright light

In bright light, the Huawei P20’s camera performance leaves little room to complain. The camera is capable of capturing images with good textures and a very wide dynamic range, recording good detail in highlight and shadow areas of the frame alike. Some fine grain is noticeable in blue skies, but overall, noise is very well under control, and the accurate white balance system produces a vivid and pleasant color response. We did deduct points for artifacts, however, observing some corner softness, strong ringing, purple fringing on high-contrast edges, and a bug that can occasionally result in blurry image backgrounds.

In bright light, the P20 is capable of producing excellent image quality.

Low light and Flash

The P20 maintains its well-balanced approach to detail retention and noise reduction across all light and ISO levels, resulting in images with decent detail and low levels of noise, even when captured in very dim conditions. The autofocus doesn’t noticeably slow down or decrease in accuracy in low light, either, making the Huawei an interesting option for anyone who is frequently shooting at events, indoors, or in other low-light situations.

Low-light images show good detail and low levels of noise.

Using the flash on the Huawei P20 can yield decent image results, too. Flash images show decent exposure and detail, but a red-eye effect is often noticeable. We also observed quite strong color casts towards the edges of the frame, both when shooting in complete darkness and with low ambient light.

Zoom and Bokeh

The P20 does not come with a dedicated optical tele-lens, but the secondary monochrome high-resolution sensor and some computational image processing are capable of producing very good zoom results with decent detail at short (2x) zoom ranges. If you want to zoom in further, however, image detail and quality in general deteriorate quickly, and images show more grain, artifacts, and pixelation. Still, among smartphones without optical tele-lenses, the P20 achieves the best zoom performance we have seen thus far.

Short zoom
Medium zoom
Long zoom

Thanks to the secondary monochrome sensor used for depth sensing (among other tasks), the Huawei P20 is capable of producing natural-looking results in its background-blurring bokeh mode. Some minor segmentation artifacts can be visible around the edges of the subject, but subject/background isolation is generally very nice, the amount of blur makes for a natural look, and the blur transition is pleasant. As a bonus, the mode not only works well in bright light, but can capture decent results in indoor conditions, too.

Huawei P20
Apple iPhone X
Google Pixel 2

Photo scores explained

With a total photo score of 107, the Huawei P20 achieves our second-highest Photo score ever, and is beaten only by its sister model, the P20 Pro. The overall Photo score is calculated from sub-scores in tests that examine different aspects of its performance under different lighting conditions. In this section, we’ll take a closer look at these image quality sub-scores.

Exposure and Contrast (92)

The Huawei P20 achieves an excellent score for exposure. Target exposure is usually spot-on across all light levels, and images show a wide dynamic range, capturing good detail in both the highlight and shadow areas of the frame. Dynamic range is very wide in outdoor conditions.

Huawei P20
Apple iPhone X
Google Pixel 2

The camera does particularly well in backlit scenarios, such as in the test scene below. Target exposure on the subject is very good, while at the same time a lot of detail is preserved in the bright background of the image. Both the iPhone X and Google Pixel 2 show noticeably more highlight clipping on the building in the background.

Huawei P20
Apple iPhone X
Google Pixel 2

The P20 is capable of producing good exposures down to very low light levels (5 Lux). The shot below was captured at an extremely low light level of 1 Lux, and is slightly underexposed but still usable.

1 Lux

Color (84)

Colors in Huawei P20 images are bright and vivid in most situations, resulting in a good color score of 84 points. Color rendering and the auto white balance system are generally stable and reliable. Only indoors is an orange-color cast sometimes visible, and even in bright light we have observed an occasional purple cast in scenes with vegetation. Color shading is very well-controlled, with only some very minor nonuniformities detectable in some scenes. (You’d have to look very closely to notice, though.)

Huawei P20
Apple iPhone X
Google Pixel 2

As is common, color rendering and white balance accuracy decrease a little bit in lower light.

In lowlight, slight loss of color
saturation is noticeable

Autofocus (98)

At 98 points, the Huawei P20’s autofocus is one of the best we have tested, operating very swiftly and producing accurate results under all light levels and types of illumination. In the graph below, you can see that at a low light level of 20 Lux, the P20 autofocus system is capable of locking the focus consistently and reliably for both long and short delays before capture.

Huawei P20 autofocus performance at 20 Lux

Texture (75) and Noise (75)

A score of 75 for both texture and noise indicates the Huawei engineers have found an excellent balance between detail retention and noise reduction. As you can see in the sample crops below, image detail decreases as light levels drop, but overall, the P20 is capable of maintaining good textures and controlling noise levels down to very dim conditions. In bright light, the levels of captured detail are excellent.

A local loss of fine low-contrast textures can sometimes be observed in lower light, but overall, image noise is well-managed across all light levels, with quite coarse noise only occasionally noticeable indoors and in low light.

1000 Lux
20 Lux
5 Lux
1000 Lux
20 Lux
5 Lux

In the the low-light portrait scene below, the Huawei P20 performs very well. Noise levels on the skin tones are very low, and fine textures — for example, the fibers of the subject’s scarf — are very well-preserved.

The Huawei P20 does a good job capturing this low light portrait.

Artifacts (65)

Artifacts are generally well under control, but we deducted points for a bug that can lead to blurriness in the background of images, color fringing, and fairly strong ringing. Images also show some corner softness, and we have also observed desaturated areas in the sky on some occasions.

In this image, the area around the sun is noticeably desaturated. There is also some color fringing along high-contrast edges — for example, around the statue of the horse.
If you click through to the large version of this image, you can see strong ringing halos around the outline of the sculpture.

Images with fine textures also show some corner softness. It’s fairly minor, though, and will only be noticeable if images are viewed at a high magnification.

Corner softness is noticeable in this image.
Crop

Flash (81)

At 81 points, the P20’s performance when shooting with flash is good, but not up with the very best. When using the flash in complete darkness at 0 Lux, or when shooting in low light at 5 Lux, target exposure is good and noise levels are low. However, strong color shading is noticeable towards the edges of the frame. Red-eye effect is visible in almost all images with human subjects, and the testers found the skin tones generally too saturated and slightly pink. We also noticed some white balance variations over consecutive shots.

Flash image, 0 Lux
Flash image, 5 Lux

Zoom (51)

Unlike its higher-end cousin, the P20 Pro, the standard Huawei P20 doesn’t come with a dedicated tele-lens. Instead, it uses the high pixel count of its 20Mp secondary monochrome sensor to produce computationally-enhanced digital zoom images. Considering the lack of optical reach, the results are quite impressive, at least at closer zoom ranges. Image noise is very well under control as well.

However, the P20 struggles at long zoom range, as you can see in the samples below, producing a quite blurry and grainy image. With its tele-lens, the iPhone X clearly has an advantage at such long ranges. The Pixel 2 captures a clearer image but doesn’t allow for the same maximum magnification as the Huawei, resulting in a wider angle of view.

Huawei P20
Apple iPhone X
Google Pixel 2

The Huawei does a much better job at closer distances, and especially in low light has a real advantage over the iPhone X, despite the latter’s optical zoom lens. In the comparison below, the P20 captures the sharpest image by far and controls noise very well.

Huawei P20
Apple iPhone X
Google Pixel 2

Bokeh (65)

At 65 points, the Huawei P20 achieves a very good score for bokeh simulation (we tested “Aperture” mode at 55mm equivalent focal length – default setting). Subject/background isolation is usually very nice, and spotlights in the background are pleasantly shaped. On the downside, some blur artifacts are sometimes slightly visible close to the edges of the foreground subject. There is also a difference in noise levels between the elements of the frame that are in focus and the blurred parts, which results in a slightly unnatural look when viewed up-close. Overall, however, the P20 dual-camera is capable of producing very nice bokeh-simulation images.

Huawei P20
Apple iPhone X
Google Pixel 2

The P20’s bokeh mode works equally well in indoor conditions, with good subject isolation and very well-managed noise levels.

Huawei P20
Apple iPhone 8 Plus
Google Pixel 2

Video scores explained

The Huawei P20 achieves a Video score of 94 points, placing it in third position in our rankings, trailing only its stablemate P20 Pro and the Google Pixel 2. The overall Video score is calculated using a range of sub-scores to give us some indication of the device’s pros and cons for shooting moving images: Exposure (82), Color (88), Autofocus (96), Texture (56), Noise (71), Artifacts (79), and Stabilization (92).

One of the strong points of the P20’s video mode is the excellent stabilization, which works efficiently both for static scenes and when walking with the camera while recording. Just as with stills mode, the autofocus system is fast and accurate, and delivers repeatable results. Exposure is usually spot-on in all light conditions, and the auto white balance system works accurately, producing pleasant, accurate colors in indoor and outdoor conditions. Detail preservation is decent across all light levels.

On the downside, luminance noise is visible in textured areas when recording indoors under artificial light and in low-light conditions. We also observed slight stepping when exposure adapts to changing light levels, and a loss of fine detail when shooting outdoors. Footage recorded under tungsten light can show an orange cast.

Conclusion: Continuous improvement

The P20 may lack its sister model P20 Pro’s spectacular triple-camera setup, but Huawei has taken the tried and tested dual-camera of the P10 and previous models and refined it to a degree that puts it ahead of the competition (apart from the P20 Pro) by a nice margin. The P20 boasts a camera without any real weaknesses. It captures images with good detail and low noise levels in all light conditions and comes with a fast and reliable autofocus system. The bokeh mode produces natural results and the zoom is the best we have seen on any device without a dedicated tele-lens.

The story is very similar for video mode, where the P20 can particularly shine with its smooth stabilization and responsive and reliable autofocus. The Huawei P20 really does it all and is an easy recommendation to any mobile photographer who expects top-end performance in a wide variety of shooting situations and scenarios.

102
DxOMark mobile
Huawei P20
107
DxOMark Mobile
photo
94
DxOMark Mobile
video

Pros

  • Excellent balance between texture and noise
  • Very fast and accurate autofocus
  • Good bokeh effect with precise subject isolation and nice spotlight shape
  • Very good detail for close-range zoom
  • Wide dynamic range in all conditions
  • Bright and vivid colors in most conditions

Pros

  • Very efficient stabilization
  • Fast, repeatable, and accurate autofocus
  • Good white balance in bright light and indoor conditions
  • Good target exposure indoors and in low light
  • Generally good detail

Cons

  • Occasional orange or purple white balance casts
  • Visible color fringing
  • Noticeable halos and loss of sharpness in the image field
  • Local area texture loss in low light
  • Strong color nonuniformities and pinkish skin tones when shooting with flash

Cons

  • Luminance noise in textured areas under indoor conditions and in low light
  • Slight stepping during exposure convergence
  • Orange cast under tungsten light
  • Some loss of fine detail in bright light
  • Bubbles

    Seriously?

    • gabriel

      poor fagg

  • moonlight (Bloodly moon)

    lmfao,great joke

    • gabriel

      poor fag

  • Rahul Layek

    Fully biased review both for p20 and p20.Clearly we can see that they are not that good as much DxoMark is trying to show them.The p20 pro really deserved a good mark of around 100-102 but the p20 is not that great.S9 and pixel 2 is way btr than this

    • Koçak Abdullah

      are you have p20, s9 and pixel 2?

      • Carlton

        I do have P20, Note 8 and iPhone X. The crazy sharpening applied by the P20 software is cranked too high imo, halos are formed on the edge of the subjects most of the time. For low light photography, Note 8 has the best noise reduction while iPhone X has the most natural noise reduction, the noise reduction algorithm of P20 smudged out a lot of details especially texts and fine details. Gotta try out the P20 Pro later, just hope that it’s better than P20.

    • Tabcam

      If I pixel peep the comparable pictures, I can see marked better pictures from the P20 Pro. Especially in the daylight black coat more detail can be seen. Many other areas are also better at pixel detail. Color seems to be a little better on the pixel 2 but both S9 and iPhone seem less accurate. I would definitely mark the P20 Pro higher

      • S.Yu

        Go check out Anandtech’s samples and GSMArena’s photo comparison tool. The P20Pro is largely inferior in detail and prone to smearing and sharpening artifacts compared to the S9 series, Pixel2XL and HTC’s U11+.

    • gabriel

      pathetic fag

  • Waqar Zahid

    Don’t bother reading the comments. It’s just a bunch of haters angry at the score being higher than their favorite toy’s score. Haha

  • sgarbatello

    i’d be interested in a comparison between P20 and Mate 10 Pro

    • penyo

      Me too. I am sure Mate 10 Pro is better than P20 but Dxomark became paid per review site and I dont trust them anymore… Just to be clear, I am Samsung fan and cant believe they give S9 more points than Mate 10 Pro !

      • Hello, DxOMark scoring system is made with one obsession: develop and implement a robust test protocol which can be accurately repeated time after time, and thus all devices we test are treated the same way. With no preferences for one manufacturer on the other.
        Please find more the DxOMark Mobile test protocol here:
        https://www.dxomark.com/dxomark-mobile-scores-smartphone-cameras/
        Regards

  • palo

    An interesting piece of hardware!

    I expect comparison side by side with the top 10 photo mobiles

    Huawei P20 Pro – 109
    Huawei P20 – 102
    99 – Samsung Galaxy S9 Plus – 99
    98 – Google Pixel 2 – 98
    97 – Apple iPhone X – 97
    97 – Huawei Mate 10 Pro – 97
    97 – Xiaomi Mi MIX 2S – 97
    94 – Apple iPhone 8 Plus – 94
    94 – Samsung Galaxy Note 8 – 94
    and
    OnePlus 5T

    The best performance vs price is Xiaomi Mi Note 3?

    • Đuro Drljača

      MN3- LL video is disaster

      • 2eyesee

        What do you mean “LL video is disaster”? I agree with Palo that the Mi Note 3 looks to offer the best value in a smartphone camera – as good as most last year flagships at half the price. I don’t know of anything else with OIS at the same price point. It’s probably going to be my next phone, and I’m not aware of anything in video being a “disaster”.

  • JZ VR

    Huawei killed it with the P20 and P20 Pro, beasts.

  • 胡康荣

    It’s not a good choice to buy P20.

    • Marc Benouchi

      Why ? because it’s better and half the price of the iphoneX/S9plus

  • longlive_ILC

    I wonder why people said the images from P20 Pro and P20 are sharp, when I zoom in I see smudges and look like oil paintings.

    • Angelo Perrone

      Are there too much compression in Jpeg conversation? :O

      • longlive_ILC

        Huawei’s stock camera software applies too much post-processing until those pictures look unnatural and caused loss of detail (when you enlarge the original pictures you will notice), it’s not about the JPEG compression. Like many others said, this is a biased review.

        • Hello, we want to remind you all devices we test are treated the same way. We develop and implement a robust test protocol which can be accurately repeated time after time, strictly the same for all the mobiles.
          Please find more about our new DxOMark Mobile test protocol here:
          https://www.dxomark.com/dxomark-mobile-scores-smartphone-cameras/
          Regards

          • Marc Benouchi

            I think you lost your time to try to explain that to fanboys, they are too butthurt to accept this fact

        • Carlton

          Agree. The post processing of P20 cranks up the sharpness way too high and causes halo around objects. While in low light, the noise reduction algorithm smudges out details especially text and fine details like a boss.

  • Jan Bárta

    Have Huawei P20 optical image stabilization?

    • longlive_ILC

      The 12MP sensor has OIS, the 20MP doesn’t

    • adecvat

      No

  • gregory Pedurand

    Hi ! Good test .thanks. but on photos de red dress of girl what the real color of red ? On iphone x are not flash than P20 and pixel .

    • jay

      its iPhone 8 plus, because iPhone X is unbeatable for the color wide gamut 🙂

  • Viva

    please test the p20 lite camera

  • Rune Skou Larsen

    The highlight clipping comparison is unfair, as the images are composed differently. P20 has a larger portion of the bright area in the frame, and thus it lowers overall brightness, reducing clipping in bright areas. However, this actually makes the beautiful lady too dark.

  • Thomas S.

    Iam searching for the wallpaper which is on the P20.

  • Toad wppo

    according to the score,s9+ and pixel 2 haven’t even won p20. If not a fan of some brand,at this price I think it’s pretty good.

    • marco sabatini

      yes if the scores represented the real quality of the shoots.
      Medium zoom it’s dark
      In the sixth series of shots the face of the model is completly red.. not acceptable (the same happened in low light portrait)
      In the eight series of shots the picture is “creamy”..
      And so on… so i wonder what this score really measure

      • gabriel

        poor idiot

        • marco sabatini

          I add that after the comment I was able to do myself photos that confirm what is written. learn respect and education, if you have nothing sensible to say is better than learn to shut up .. keyboard lion ..

      • Dear Marco, the images included in this article are not the only one used for the test. Our DxOMark mobile test protocol required around 1500 images, in both real-world situations and lab, using a wide variety of subject.
        I would be not possible to include all these technical shots in our articles. Nevertheless, we also often include comparison images that show how different cameras perform in the same situation, although in many cases those images are simply for illustration, and were not part of the actual tests.
        Similarly, we often include images to illustrate a particular point, or for you to evaluate, that may not have been used in testing. Regards,

        • marco sabatini

          Dear
          Flodxomark, I always read your articles with great interest because I trust in the quality of your test and evaluations.
          In this specific case, after seeing the photos, I had the chance to use the phone and I must say that I personally find the photos below the quality of IphoneX and S9 / S9 + but also S8.
          The worst is obtained from the HDR and from the AI in particular conditions in which the image processing algorithms make big messes.
          This is my observation in the field and of course nothing against your job.
          I am sure that the evaluation of the standardized tests you used gave a high score, but my observation is that between daily use and tests there is a big gap.
          Thanks a lot for the answer.

  • diman.wav

    92 + 84 + 98 + 75 + 75 + 65 + 81 + 51 + 65=686
    686/9=76
    107? Why 107? 76!

    • Hello,
      The global DxOMark Mobile score for a smartphone is not based on just a simple average of all the subcategories’ scores. Rather, to compute this score, we first apply a specific weight to all Photo and Video subset scores to make sure that the final score correlates to the user’s experience.
      To define the weights, we rank subcategories from highest to lowest importance as perceived by the human visual system.
      Once we have this weighted-average intermediate score, we apply a linear and continuous mapping function to ensure that the best devices tested under the previous protocol achieve roughly the same Photo and Video scores with the new protocol. Use of this mapping function (as opposed to simple averaging) means that the global scores end up being higher than the subcategory scores.
      Please read this article to know more about it: https://www.dxomark.com/dxomark-mobile-scores-smartphone-cameras/
      Regards,

    • ian

      92 + 84 + 98 + 75 + 75 + 65 + 81 + 51 + 65=686
      686/6.5= 105
      I believe the 3 of the options get only smaller weight as compared to others.

      ANother example: Huawei P20 Pro

      (93+85+98+72+79+71+92+73+70) / 6.5 = 112.76 = 113
      Compared to Given at 114 by DXOmark

      Another example: Mi mix 2s
      (88+85+99+68+75+63+87+42+50)/6.5=101.07=101
      Compared to given 101

    • Hello, The global score of a review is not the average of each subcategories scores. Based on a specific weighting system, all the subscores combined into an overall score. We first apply a specific weight to all subset scores for “Photo” and “Video” to make sure that the score correlates to the final user experience, considering some subcategories the top list categories. To know more about it, please read: https://www.dxomark.com/dxomark-mobile-scores-smartphone-cameras/

  • Highmore Hill

    P20’s photographs are clearly over noise-reducing. I think Not even better than Pixle XL. Can’t the editors see it?

  • Marc Benouchi

    Stop crying you samsung/apple/google/etc… fanboys , your phones are good devices but the huawei P20 destroy them all !
    And if you dare to compare the prices, it becames indecent because the P20 is almost 1/2 of the price of S9plus/iphoneX/gp2 …
    The reality is that you people can’t stand a 100% chinese brand do a better job than regular high end models from “big” name like samsung or apple.
    you should accustom because it’s just the beginning guys.

  • Juan Antonio

    Do you evaluate the Asus Zenfone 5, Xiaomi MI 6x, Nokia 7 plus, Moto G6 plus and Moto X3 Play?

    • Hello Juan we recently reviewed the Asus Zenfone 5 and there are more reviews on your way. Thank you for your suggestions and your patience. Regards

  • Вадим Сивак

    what about p20 lite?

  • Gener Nicolas Jr.

    Except for the beautification that the p20 applies, i think in general the p20 deserves it scores. I observed each of the photos in this review and i could say that it has better and sharper capture than the iphone x, talking about the smudge or the over noise reduction, it seems like it was also done with the iphone. I dont understand why some people are saying that it don’t desserve its score.

    PS. I found a review posted by someone complaining about the blurry capture of the p20 when magnified compared the iphone x, but i think the photos he posted were taken on 2x zoom where as the p20 lack an optical zoom. So i think it is not fair complain with that said result.

  • MarcP

    Do you intend to test the One Plus 6 in a near future. Thanks

    • HVAC engineer

      I would say at most 84-86pts…

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