Hardware

Huawei P30 Pro: AI turns anyone into a skilled photographer

We’ve gone hands-on with Huawei’s P30 Pro to review its AI capabilities and determine whether it’s a gimmick or a useful implementation.

The company’s flagship P-series of smartphones focuses on camera innovations. With this latest device, we’re seeing that trend continue. There are clear enhancements to existing features in addition to a few new things for us to play with.

In the Mate 20, Huawei’s previous flagship, the company expanded the number of scenes and objects its AI could recognise to 5,000 different objects and 1,500 different scenarios across 25 categories.

While impressive, many ended up switching the feature off and Huawei even released an update to do so by default. Objects were often misrecognised and images ended up looking poorer.

Huawei has made clear improvements with the P30 Pro. Aside from one amusing occurrence where my dog was recognised as a panda – and I’m fairly sure he’s not – the AI recognition has excelled, and even surprised (in a good way.)

The standout moment was taking a shot of a flower. From a distance, the AI identified the shot was of some ‘greenery’ and made the colours punchier. Framing more of the flower caused the AI to switch over to ‘flowers’ and made it sharper with a nice depth-of-field bringing the object into focus while blurring the backdrop.

Moving closer still, to capture small details of the flower, caused the AI to switch to ‘super-macro’. This mode uses the P30 Pro’s incredible macro capabilities of taking images just 2.5cm away.

Low-light photography is another area where Huawei is harnessing AI to elevate its performance. The AI image stabilisation allows the user to capture long-exposure photographs without the need for a tripod.

In the image below, both shots were taken from the same place in near pitch-black conditions:

One implementation of AI we’re unconvinced about is the smartphone’s use for HDR. As you can see below, the feature led to a washed-out image which you’d not expect from a HDR shot:

Huawei has issued updates in the past to improve the camera performance of its devices, so we’ll be keeping an eye out for one to address this. For now, it seems better to keep the HDR feature switched off.

Ahead of the P30 announcement, Huawei hyped the device’s zooming capabilities. Based on our tests, we can understand why:

In the first image, I’ve had to mark where the small daffodil is that we’re zooming in on. At 5x, due to being an optical zoom, we’re seeing no quality loss. At 10x, Huawei makes use of AI for a hybrid zoom that it claims is ‘lossless’ (we think there’s some loss, but it’s negligible.)

At 50x zoom, we’re seeing a noticeable loss of image quality. However, that is an incredible zoom for a smartphone camera and is only enabled through AI stabilisation. The resulting image is still recognisable even though it won’t be winning awards. Considering how difficult it is to pick out the flower by eye in the non-zoomed image, it’s a commendable performance.

Moving slightly away from photography into videography, the P30 Pro uses AI in combination with OIS (Optical Image Stabilisation) to keep things steady in rough conditions. We put it through some fairly extreme tests of waving the device while recording, and even going for a jog.

In both scenarios, the AI stabilisation performed admirably. While it was not perfectly stable, the result was viewable and it’s hard to imagine stabilisation getting much better (although, I have been surprised in the past.)

A clip of the AI video stabilisation is available in our YouTube review below:

Finally, we’ve benchmarked the Huawei P30 Pro against the company’s previous flagship – the Mate 20 Pro. Here are the results:

Your eyes aren’t deceiving you, the P30 Pro had a slightly lower overall result. It’s a surprise given both use the same NPU, CPU, and GPU. In fact, the P30 Pro has 2GB more RAM to play with over the Mate 20 Pro (8GB vs 6GB).

Benchmarks only tell a small part of the story and this one is overwhelmingly positive. Huawei has excelled itself and set the bar for AI on a smartphone with the P30 Pro.

Interested in hearing industry leaders discuss subjects like this and their use cases? Attend the co-located AI & Big Data Expo events with upcoming shows in Silicon Valley, London, and Amsterdam to learn more. Co-located with the IoT Tech Expo, Blockchain Expo, and Cyber Security & Cloud Expo.

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