Huawei, which has been pushing the limits of what is possible with dual-camera smartphones with its P9 and P10 family, push things even further with its new triple-camera flagship the Mate P20 Pro. In addition to the monochrome and color sensor design found on earlier models, there is a dedicated telephoto lens as well. The new camera design is coupled with improved “AI-based” image synthesis and stabilization. All of this results in shattering the previous high scores of 99 for the Samsung Galaxy S9 Plus, 98 of the Google Pixel 2, and 97 of the Apple iPhone X. The Photo sub-score is even more impressive, at 114.
Unique Triple-Camera Design
The P20 Pro has a 40MP relatively-large 1/1.78-inch sensor color camera, a 20MP monochrome camera, and an optically stabilized 3x telephoto (80mm effective focal length) camera to assist with zoom. For comparison, the main sensor is almost twice the size of the one in the Galaxy S9, although it’s slightly slower at f/1.8. The main camera is designed to bin groups of 4 pixels together on chip, so the output is a more traditional 10MP. The 3x telephoto also provides more reach than the 2x versions on the flagship Apple and Samsung phones. Its 8MP native image resolution is upscaled to 10MP to match that of the color camera. 3x works because the phone can get up to 2x by using a fusion of the two main sensors. The P20 Pro also features laser-assisted and phase-detect Autofocus.
As is becoming standard in flagship phones, the second camera (in Huawei’s case the monochrome camera) is used for depth estimation. If the performance of the Mate 10 Pro in this area was impressive, the P20 Pro is well-beyond that, scoring 73 in DxOMark’s Zoom sub-score and 70 in its Bokeh sub-scores, which are both eye-openers compared with competitors.
Long-Exposure Stabilization, Slow Motion, 4K Video
Our colleagues at PCMag were able to go hands-on with a P20 Pro at the press event, and came away very impressed by how good even four-second hand-held long exposures looked thanks to the P20 Pro’s new advanced stabilization. Rounding out the phone’s imaging capabilities are 960fps slow-motion recording at 720p and 4K video recording.
The P20 Pro’s less-expensive sibling, the P20, also does a remarkably good job, although it scores lower because it doesn’t have the unique third camera. Instead, it has a monochrome and color dual camera like other recent Huawei models. Improved hardware and software help bump its DxOMark score up to an impressive 102 — above every other tested smartphone besides the P20 Pro.
Huawei continues to be enmeshed in controversy here in the United States, so consumers here won’t find it the easiest phone to buy. But for anyone who wants the best smartphone camera you can buy, it is looking like that will be the Huawei P20 Pro, at least for now. We look forward to getting some direct experience with it in the field.