Launched almost exactly one year after its predecessor, the P20 Pro, the Huawei P30 Pro is the Chinese manufacturer’s brand-new flagship smartphone and comes with a triple-camera setup (quad-camera, if you count the time-of-flight sensor) that offers a plethora of improvements over both the P20 Pro and the Mate 20 Pro (launched in October 2018).
The primary camera comes with a 1/1.7 40Mp quad sensor that produces 10Mp image output. The 27mm-equivalent lens comes with an f/1.6 aperture and is optically stabilized—a first for this sensor size in a smartphone. Thanks to a minimum focus distance of 25mm, the 20Mp super-wide-angle (16mm-equivalent) camera is capable of capturing macro shots, but the arguably most exciting innovation is the stabilized tele-camera that uses folded optics to achieve a 5x optical zoom factor (125mm equivalent).
5x optical zoom with folded optics
The laws of physics make it difficult to fit a longer zoom lens into a thin smartphone body. Even using smaller-than-usual image sensors and clever lens design, manufacturers have only managed so far to achieve 2 or 3x optical zoom factors in conventional high-end smartphones.
For the P30 Pro, Huawei uses folded optics to overcome this limitation. The image sensor is placed vertically within the phone and aimed at a lens with an optical axis that runs along the body of the phone, and a mirror is used to reflect incoming light into the lens and onto the sensor. This allows for a much longer equivalent focal length than would be possible with a camera oriented in the usual fashion—that is, one constrained by the phone’s thickness.
“Field-of-view fusion” zoom
The P30 Pro doesn’t rely just on hardware alone for zooming, however. Software is just as important, and the P30 Pro uses a system Huawei calls field-of-view fusion, a combination of optical and algorithm-powered digital zooming that adapts to the chosen magnification factor. Up to 3x magnification, the tele-lens remains unused; instead, the camera performs all zooming with the help of a super-resolution algorithm—a concept similar to what we saw on the Google Pixel 3, one in which the camera merges several RAW frames into one high-resolution frame that it then crops for zooming.
At a 5x zoom factor, the P30 Pro relies exclusively on the tele-camera, but for intermediate zoom factors between 3 and 5x, it captures image data using both the primary and tele cameras combined. For optimal detail, the 5x tele-cam records image data at the center of the frame, and the “missing” image areas around the edges of the tele-cam frame are filled using AI-refined image data from the primary camera. A deep learning algorithm improves detail on fine patterns and textures—quite an impressive feat, considering that autofocus, white balance, and other image parameters of both cameras all have to be in perfect sync for good results.
At the long end, the camera is capable of achieving a 10x zoom factor using a combination of optical zoom and super-resolution processing that stacks multiple RAW frames on the tele-cam. (Users can even go up to 50x with a digital zoom, but we did not test this feature.)
Upgraded bokeh mode with super-resolution
In addition to the all-new zoom system, the P30 Pro features an upgraded bokeh mode. Super-resolution generates an image with 54mm equivalent focal length and good detail rendering. It then uses data from the time-of-flight (ToF) laser (which measures the distance to objects in the scene) to confirm and fine-tune the initial depth-map generated by the primary and super-wide cameras.
Adaptive frame rates in video mode
The P30 Pro uses H.264 encoding and records video at 60 frames per second in bright light, capturing smoother footage of scenes in motion. In lower light, when slower shutter speeds are required for good exposure, the camera switches back to a more conventional 30 frames per second. Unlike the Pixel 3, however, the Huawei does not record at intermediate frame rates, so it shoots at either 30 or 60 fps only.
Looking at the impressive spec sheet and innovative camera technologies, it could be easy assume that the P30 Pro will blow the competition out of the water. But can its top-end hardware and innovative software really work seamlessly together to create class-leading still and video image quality? Read our full test report to find out.
Key camera specifications:
- Triple-camera setup
- Primary: 40Mp, 1/1.7-inch quad RYYB sensor; f/1.6-aperture lens, OIS, 27mm-equivalent focal length
- Tele: 8Mp sensor, folded optics with f/3.4 aperture lens, OIS, 125mm-equivalent focal length
- 20Mp super-wide-angle with f/2.2-aperture, 16mm-equivalent lens
- PDAF/Time-of-flight (ToF) autofocus
- LED flash
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.
With a DxOMark Mobile score of 112, the Huawei P30 Pro is the new number one in our ranking and achieves this feat by building on an outstanding Photo score of 119 points. Compared to previous Huawei models such as the P20 Pro and the Mate 20 Pro, the most obvious improvements are in the areas of bokeh and zoom, where the P30 Pro sets new benchmarks, thanks to its innovative 5x tele-camera with folded optics and ToF sensor that allows for more precise depth maps in bokeh mode.
That said, the P30 Pro performs well in almost all our test categories. Exposure is good down to extremely low light levels, and in challenging backlit situations, the camera is intelligent enough to focus prioritize subject exposure over the background. Dynamic range is not quite as wide as it was on the Mate 20, but it’s still pretty good. Some clipping can occur in the highlights, but the images are a little more contrasty overall than with previous Huawei models.
The autofocus works flawlessly in all situations, and the Huawei engineers have once again found a very good balance between detail and noise. The P30 Pro renders fine details and textures better than most competitors across all light levels, and at the same time is capable of keeping noise levels low. This is also true for flash images, which are excellent overall, with good exposure, neutral white balance, and well-controlled light fall-off.
The camera’s most obvious weak points are color rendering and and artifacts. In terms of color, our testers found saturation to be slightly low across all light levels, and observed an unnatural cyan touch to blue skies, along with other color casts in bright light and in indoor images. Artifacts that we found in our sample images include fairly intrusive hue shifts around clipped areas and a demosaicing artifact around some light sources. More common artifacts such as ringing and moiré patterns are pretty well under control, though.
At 97 points, P30 Pro is not way ahead of the competition for Video like it is for Photo, but it’s still among the best devices we have tested. Its image stabilization relies on both optical and electronic systems and is one of the best we have seen, making for smooth footage in most situations. As with still images, Huawei has found a good compromise between texture rendition and noise reduction. Only in low light does some loss of detail and increased noise levels become more obvious. The autofocus system works reliably in almost all situations as well. But also like in stills mode, video footage is prone to color casts, and our testers also observed some white balance instabilities. Overall, however, the P30 Pro is not only an outstanding smartphone for photo capture, it’s also a very solid choice for mobile videographers.
Photo scores explained
The Huawei P30 Pro’s Photo score of 119 is the best we have seen so far and is partly due to outstanding results in the bokeh and zoom categories. The overall score is calculated from sub-scores in tests that examine different aspects of the camera’s performance under different lighting conditions. In this section, we’ll take a closer look at these image quality sub-scores.
Exposure and Contrast (94)
The Huawei P30 Pro performs very well in this category, consistently producing good target exposure and punchy contrast, even down to very low light levels. Even at near darkness—at a light level of 1 lux, where most competitors struggle—the P30 Pro camera is capable of capturing well-exposed images.
The P30 Pro images also show good dynamic range, although it is not quite as wide as on the company’s last high-end model, the Mate 20 Pro. P30 Pro images have slightly stronger contrast and a touch less detail in the shadows. We also observed some clipping in highlight areas of the frame in challenging high-contrast scenes. So dynamic range is good overall, but not the best we have seen.
The camera also deals well with backlit portrait scenes like the one below. The exposure system prioritizes the subject’s face, ensuring good exposure of skin tones at the price of some clipping in bright backgrounds. For this kind of scene, this is a very sensible compromise.
The P30 Pro scores well for Color, but our testers did identify a few areas for improvement, especially in bright light. When shooting outdoors in bright conditions, saturation is a little low compared to competitors’ generally more vivid images in similar conditions. We often found the color rendering of blue skies to be a little unnatural as well, with a noticeable cyan cast. On the plus side, white balance is neutral in both outdoor and indoor shooting conditions.
While the P30 Pro’s color score in bright light is a little lower than for the best devices, color rendering under typical indoor lighting and in low light is pretty good—although we see slightly low saturation in those conditions as well. In the indoor picture below, there’s also a slightly pink cast, but there is no noticeable color shading, and overall, the P30 Pro’s color rendering handles indoor and low-light situations very well.
The P30 Pro’s PDAF autofocus system is assisted by a ToF laser that can measure subject distance in any light condition. As a result, the Huawei AF focuses quickly and produces consistently sharp images in all light conditions. In the comparison graph below, you can see that the P30 Pro’s AF is on the same high level as such other flagship smartphones as the Samsung Galaxy S10+ and the iPhone XS Max. Thanks to zero shutter lag and buffering technologies, the camera is capable of capturing an image virtually at the same time as the shutter is pressed, for both short and long delays after defocusing.
Texture (72) and Noise (78)
The P30 Pro image processing finds a very good balance between detail retention and noise reduction, and the Huawei is among the very best devices overall for texture and noise in all light conditions. In the bright-light shot below, you can see that the P30 Pro image shows noticeably better fine detail and texture than the iPhone XS Max and the Samsung Galaxy S10+, while at the same time keeping noise in the blue sky very well under control.
The situation is very similar for indoor conditions. The sample below was shot in a dimly-lit bar, and the Huawei again renders fine detail the best in our comparison. Detail in the iPhone XS Max image is not much worse, but the Apple device produces noticeably more noise. The Samsung takes the opposite approach to Apple and captures a very clean image, but detail is noticeably blurred. In the illuminated area in the back of the bar, however, you can see the effects of the Huawei’s slightly limited dynamic range, with some noticeable clipping and hue-shift artifacts around the clipped areas.
The P30 Pro’s default camera mode manages to record decent detail even in night shots. Looking at the cropped area, it is obvious that it smooths away some low-contrast detail via noise reduction, but considering the light conditions, the results are still pretty impressive and clearly better than those of the XS Max and the Samsung. An unusual red artifact can be seen on the illumination of the actual tower itself, however (we’ll take a closer look at that in the Artifacts section further below).
The texture comparison chart below, which is based on the results of our lab testing, confirms what we’ve already seen in the sample above: the Huawei P30 Pro records higher levels of detail than its closest competitors across pretty much every light condition.
When examining the P30 Pro’s sample images, our testers found some ringing along high-contrast edges and a slight loss of sharpness in the corners of the frame. However, the most intrusive image artifact by far for the Huawei is a hue shift that can be found close to clipped areas in the frame. In the image below, you can see it in the shape of the yellow color around the neon sign on the storefront in the background. In many outdoor images, you can see the same phenomenon in blue skies that turn noticeably cyan before clipping to white.
You can see another unusual artifact in this night shot of the Eiffel Tower. The pinkish/reddish artifacts on the illuminated tower have some similarity to chromatic aberrations, but are possibly caused by the sensor’s demosaicing.
The P30 Pro achieves an excellent score for Flash, thanks to images that show fairly good exposure, accurate white balance, good detail, and well-controlled noise levels. This is true for our test shots at both 0 and 5 lux illumination. Some slight color shading is visible in both situations, but the results are very consistent and the Huawei performs very well overall when shooting with its LED flash.
Thanks to its innovative 5x tele-lens with folded optics and super-resolution technology, the P30 Pro achieves far and away the best zoom results we have seen on a smartphone camera to date. In the samples below, you can see that the Huawei captures much better detail than its closest competitors when zooming. In addition, the P30 Pro controls noise very well, producing not only the most detailed but also cleanest image in our comparison.
At 10x magnification, the camera combines the optical lens with a super-resolution algorithm. Detail is reduced compared to shorter zoom ranges, but the difference between it and the competition is still very obvious.
The P30 Pro also performs very well in indoor light conditions. The 2x sample below uses only the primary camera and super-resolution, delivering image quality that is pretty much on par with the iPhone XS Max and the Galaxy S10+ at the same zoom factor. Unlike the Apple and the Samsung, however, the Huawei can maintain excellent levels of detail at longer zoom ranges as well. For the 3x image, the device uses Huawei’s field-of-view fusion zoom that we explained in the introduction. The 5x image only uses the tele-camera. On the downside, you sometimes get a slightly different color rendering with the tele-camera than with the main camera; in the samples below, for instance, you can see that the 5x image is noticeably more yellow than the other two.
Another point of criticism is the tele-camera’s autofocus system, which is much slower than on the main camera. With the tele-cam engaged, the AF can take between one and two seconds to lock on. It’s also worth keeping in mind that the tele-cam has a minimum focus distance of approximately 1.7m. You can still switch to a 5x zoom if you get closer, but the tele-cam will not engage; instead, the main camera will capture the image using digital zoom.
This phenomenon is visible in the close-up portrait below that was captured indoors at a subject distance shorter than 1.7m. The tele-camera did not engage, and as a result, the Mate 20 Pro and the Xiaomi Mi 9 capture slightly better levels of detail using their 3x and 2x tele-cameras, respectively, than the new Huawei in this specific situation.
It’s also worth keeping in mind that the new field-of-view fusion zoom comes with a side effect. The image below was captured at a 4x zoom factor. At this setting, the camera captures an image with the 5x optical tele-cam and fills in the “missing” image areas around the edges using AI-enhanced image data from the main camera. If you look closely, you’ll see that image detail drops noticeably close to the edge of the frame when compared to the center. It’s not a major concern, but important to know if you plan on making large prints or displaying images at full size.
Like its zoom, the P30 Pro’s bokeh mode is the currently best you can find on a smartphone, thanks to the camera’s ToF sensor and super-resolution technology. The latter helps achieve a 2x magnification, which is better suited to portraiture than the primary camera’s wide angle, without a loss of detail. The ToF sensor helps generate a more detailed depth map, resulting in very good subject isolation.
In the comparison below, you can see that subject detail in the P30 Pro image is better than in the iPhone XS Max image (shot with its 2x optical zoom). The Huawei also offers a better blur rendering: unlike the iPhone, it does not blur any part of the subject’s body; the blur gets more intense towards the back of the scene; and spotlights are rendered nice and sharp. The Samsung captures its bokeh mode images without applying any zoom, resulting in a perspective that is traditionally viewed as less desirable for portraiture.
The P30 Pro’s bokeh mode also blurs nicely objects in the foreground, such as the plant on the desk in the sample scene below. In this comparison, the new smartphone delivers the best detail on the face and deals best with such complex scene elements as the subject’s earring.
Video scores explained
At 97 points, the Huawei P30 Pro achieves a good score for Video, making the device a great all-around mobile imaging option. The overall video score is derived from a number of sub-scores in the same way as the Photo score: Exposure (85), Color (86), Autofocus (98), Texture (58), Noise (77), Artifacts (85), and Stabilization (94).
The P30 Pro camera produces generally good target exposure when shooting video. As with its stills mode, the camera is capable of exposing video scenes well down to impressively low light levels. On the downside, our testers observed local tone mapping instabilities in most videos, with the brightness of some image areas changing for no obvious reason.
Video color characteristics are very similar to photos as well, with slight white balance casts when recording outdoors in bright light or under typical indoor lighting. Our testers also observed some white balance instabilities and stepping when the system is adapting to a change in illumination. The autofocus works just as well in video mode as it does when taking photos—it is accurate and quick to react to changes in the scene. Subject tracking is also very good.
In default mode, the Huawei records footage at 1080p resolution. A loss of detail is noticeable in low light, but the camera maintains good rendering of textures and image details when recording video in bright light and under typical indoor conditions. Some noise is visible even in bright light, but it is better controlled at medium light levels. In low light, noise levels increase again and become quite intrusive.
Artifacts are generally well under control in video mode, but our testers found some ringing in the footage. Ringing is also often visible when the camera changes the frame rate from 30 to 60fps or vice versa, especially when panning. (The device uses the built-in gyro to measure motion and increases the frame rate to ensure good sharpness of the footage.)
Video image stabilization on the P30 Pro is one of the best we have seen, thanks to an efficient combination of optical and electronic image stabilization. The system works very well both when shooting while holding the camera still and when recording while walking.
Conclusion: Huawei takes smartphone zoom to the next level
If you still needed a reason to spend money on a compact camera, it would have been for zoom reach, as even the best smartphone cameras could not provide usable zoom image quality beyond a 5x factor. This has now changed with the Huawei P30 Pro and its innovative zoom system that uses folded optics and a super-resolution algorithm, which finally makes usable 10x zoom on smartphones a reality.
The zoom on its own will make the new Huawei an extremely tempting option for many mobile photographers, but the camera performs very well in almost all other areas as well. The bokeh mode is the best we have seen; image detail and noise levels are excellent across all light levels; and the camera records high-quality footage in video mode. There is still some room for improvement in terms of color and artifacts, but these are relatively minor shortcomings that most users will be able to easily live with.
Add the super-wide-angle camera (which as with other devices with a similar camera setup, did not have an impact on Huawei’s DxOMark score) into the mix, and the P30 Pro is easily the most versatile mobile imaging tool to date, allowing you to cover a wider range of photographic situations than any other smartphone.
- Good detail and long zoom range
- Good target exposure even in very low light
- Fast and accurate autofocus
- Good detail in low light
- Very good image results when shooting with flash
- Accurate depth estimation and good detail in bokeh mode
- Very good stabilization
- AF reacts quickly to scene changes, good tracking
- Low noise levels and decent detail in bright light and indoors
- Generally good target exposure
- Accurate white balance and good color rendering
- Unnatural rendering of sky color when shooting outdoors
- Slightly limited dynamic range can result in highlight clipping
- Range of image artifacts, including hue shift, ringing, and loss of acutance
- Soft corners in medium-range zoom images
- Strong noise in low-light videos
- Some exposure and white balance instabilities
- Sharpness varies between frames in indoor videos
- Frame rate changes noticeable in panning videos