The Huawei P30 Pro is the first smartphone to have a 5x periscope-like optical zoom and four cameras on the back.
Stepping up the smartphone camera wars another notch, the latest flagship smartphone from the Chinese firm at the centre of a political storm looks to raise the bar not only for camera quality but also flexibility.
The previous Huawei P20 Pro had three cameras on the back with a 3x optical zoom. The £899 P30 Pro adds an extra depth-sensing time-of-flight (TOF) camera for improved portrait and augmented reality modes, joining the main 40-megapixel camera and a 20-megapixel ultrawide angle camera. The company says its new SuperSpectrum camera is capable of absorbing significantly more light for dramatically improved low-light performance, an area of smartphone photography the company dominates alongside Google.
But it is the new eight-megapixel SuperZoom camera, which like a periscope uses a prism to reflect light down the inside of the width of the phone to make room for the required series of lenses for a 5x optical zoom, that is the most interesting.
“We’re going to completely rewrite the rules of smartphone photography, and we can do this because we own the complete ecosystem within the smartphone. All the little elements, not just the camera,” said Peter Gauden, the company’s global senior product marketing manager, talking about the use of Huawei-made processors and other chips.
Huawei says its resulting 5x optical zoom beats the digital zooms of competitors using only 2x optical zoom cameras, and that its additional 10x hybrid zoom and up to 50x digital zoom, which use data from multiple cameras to increase detail, is the best in the business.
Ben Wood, chief of research at market analysis firm CCS Insight, said: “Huawei’s new 5x optical zoom is an interesting addition, but it will be tough to get people to upgrade from last year’s P20 Pro, which is still on sale and more of a bargain than ever. There’s no question, however, that particularly in smartphone photography, Huawei has some real momentum at the moment.”
The P30 Pro also has a giant 6.47in OLED screen with a small teardrop notch containing a 32-megapixel selfie camera at the top. Huawei has eschewed the 3D face recognition system it introduced on the Mate 20 Pro for an improved optical in-screen fingerprint scanner located towards the bottom of the screen. It has also removed the phone’s earpiece speaker, replacing it with what the company calls “electromagnetic levitation”, which vibrates the screen itself, turning it into a speaker.
The rest of the phone resembles last year’s Mate 20 Pro with curved glass front and back, a range of pearlescent and interesting colours, a fairly large-capacity battery and both 40W wired and 15W wireless charging. It can also reverse wirelessly charge another phone or device, a trick introduced with the company’s other phones last year.
Alongside the P30 Pro, which costs £899 with 128GB of storage or £1,099 with 512GB of storage, Huawei also unveiled the slightly cheaper and smaller £699 P30, which has a 6.1in OLED screen, the same in-screen fingerprint scanner, 128GB of storage and premium design. It has a triple camera system on the back but only 3x optical zoom, and has a traditional flat glass front and back, rather than curved.