Technophile

Huawei’s P30 Pro: Zoom in fifty times over

Mala Bhargava | Updated on April 24, 2019 Published on April 24, 2019

A Macro shot on the P30 Pro - MALA BHARGAVA

This steeply priced beautiful phone is a photographer’s delight

I’m waiting for a world where phones with jaw-dropping photo capabilities are common enough to be dirt cheap. But something tells me that isn’t happening. Meanwhile, Huawei’s beautiful P30 Pro with its powerful camera costs an arm and a leg at about ₹72,000.

If I’ve said ‘beautiful’ one too many times, it’s because this smartphone really is that — in some of its colours. I clamoured for and got the Breathing Crystal variant for review and I often just pick it up to look at it. We’re told this particular model is inspired by the sunrise on a salt mountain. Tilt the phone up or down and just watch the colour on the back shift from an icy blue-white to a stunning progression of blues. It’s like gazing at the horizon from an aircraft. The tricks they manage to perform with glass these days is quite amazing. The other stunning variant available here is an Aurora Blue and that too is an immersive play of colours that all mesmerise.

But moving on, if you’re looking for a high performance comprehensive all-rounder phone, you have better options. The P30 is quite clearly for those who are willing, able and eager to use a phone for its camera. Not just the everyday selfie, but phone photography that calls for you to know and understand the camera app and its features, its limits and how to get the best out of them. When the phone was showcased at its launch event, it was difficult not to think that the cameras’ abilities were all gimmicks. But no, they aren’t lying, especially about the zoom.

Zoom right in

You don’t have to hunt for the P30’s zoom feature. It’s there on-screen in the camera app where it changes the extent possible depending on the mode selected. In regular Photo mode, you can attain a 5x (135 mm equivalent focal length) optical zoom with the slider. If you’ve run through the 5x zoom, up to 10x is a lossless hybrid zoom that also works wonders. After that it’s the software at work with the digital zoom allowing you to continue zooming in 50x. The results often may not look good at this maximum level but you need to experiment based on the subject and light conditions. To get sharpness and clarity at high levels of magnification, one would need hardware that wouldn’t fit on a phone, so Huawei has innovated with an interesting periscope arrangement of camera sensor and a mirror inside the device. The aperture size had to be limited at f/3.4, which means less light in the picture.

The interesting thing with the P30 Pro’s zoom is that you can see things that are really far away. Reviewers are joking that you can spy on your neighbours, which is true enough, but I’ve had more uses for it than that, being really shortsighted. As a matter of fact, my review process coincided with a visit to the eye hospital and some eye surgery. Going over to the low vision aids department, I found that absolutely nothing had changed in the past few decades. Nothing on offer would have helped me in daily life, especially with reading signs that were far away. What I ended up doing was showing the doctors the P30 Pro with which I could read the eye chart in the next room! The phone’s camera turned out to be a far more powerful visual aid than the low vision aids available. In daylight, you can zoom into and read things with startling clarity and detail. The P30 Pro isn’t the first device to come with a powerful zoom, but its implementation is unique as is the extent of the feature.

The other fascinating capability of the P30 Pro’s camera is its ability to shoot in the dark so that you see in a photograph, what you barely can otherwise. Google’s Pixel 3 also does this if you use its Nightsight mode, but the two phones do this differently depending on the amount of light in a dark place with the Pixel 3 needing less than total darkness. In fact, the methods used are different.

Shot in the dark

The P30 Pro can actually show you something even in a completely dark room — or almost — and though the photograph isn’t usable as a photograph, it is again an interesting visual aid. Given a little more light and shooting something like a cityscape at night results in very nice pictures. You can even sometimes zoom in closely with its cameras.

Clearly, with these two features, the P30 Pro has raised the bar for phone photography, but its Leica quad camera has some other shooting modes that make it a complete camera phone. One of these is a super macro mode that allows you to shoot from just 2.5 centimetres away from the subject. Ordinarily, even good camera phones have a tough time locking focus at this distance as they aren’t even designed to. Give the P30 Pro some light, and it will let you take some pretty good close-ups. All that’s left for you to do is find an exotic subject to shoot. Another feature is the wide-angle lens, always fun to shoot with. Portrait mode is also present

The 40 MP ‘SuperSensing’ or ‘SuperSpectrum’ sensor newly introduced by Huawei on this phone uses a red-yellow-blue array rather than a red-green-blue as is more usual. This is because the light frequency of yellow is more sensitive and absorbs more light, making for clearer photographs.

The main camera on the P30 Pro is 40 MP, 27 mm, f/1.6. Its wide angle lens is 20 MP, 16 mm, f/2.2. The telephoto lens is 8 MP, 5x with periscope zoom, 135 mm, f/3.4. There is optical stabilisation for main and zoom lenses and a Time-of-Flight (ToF) for depth mapping. The front-facing selfie camera is 32 MP.

There’s more to the P30 Pro’s camera than space would allow here, but other than the camera, it is also a device that’s fully loaded with specs. It has an excellent in-display fingerprint sensor, good face recognition, fairly decent software with nice features such as Private Space. It works smoothly and has particularly good battery life for its 4,200 mAh battery along with fast charging, wireless charging and reverse charging.

Price: ₹71,990

Pros: Sets new bar in phone photography, beautiful looks and build, excellent battery life, wireless, fast, reverse charging, great performance

Cons: Very expensive, no headphone jack, screen needs to be better, can’t use all memory cards

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Published on April 24, 2019
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