Reviews on gear and software

Huawei real life photography situation

Everytime I upgrade my phone I try to write a small review about it, mainly focussed on the camera.
With the P20pro I have to be honest I’m so impressed but also pushed by the reactions and questions I get that it’s becoming a really long review, and we have some more coming.

Yesterday it was time for the workshop at “Buurtspoormuseum”, or in English… a railroad museum.
Before and during the workshop I squeezed in some images with the P20pro (including modelshoots which will be shown later), the idea was to test out how good the P20Pro now really is when you take it with you during a trip to a museum etc. And I can say…..

It’s very very good
Considering it’s a smartphone I have to add.

Of course you have to realize that to shoot on the 40MP RAW setting you’re stuck with the wideangle view which is app 27mm compared to a full frame. This does limit you somehow in where you can take the camera with you. When you can get close to your subjects, or when you love wider shots it’s really a full replacement for a compact camera with fixed lens, the 40MP files are a whopping 78-80MB and contain a load of detail and color. Also dynamic range really surprised me for a smartphone. Now do remember I won’t say it’s better than a fixed lens compact, I say you can leave it at home for a trip (Huge difference).

 

“So Frank, the 40MP is according to some only usable in good light, what’s your opinion”
Well of course it works best with good light, that’s obvious, still I took a lot of images with it inside the museum and it really shows that a larger sensor is hugely beneficial, I think also that that is where the clue is. Loads of those reviews were written before someone got the camera for a longer time, and I can imagine that when you shoot images under tungsten that it’s terrible (most cameras are very bad under tungsten), I shot some in the museum yesterday in pretty dark areas but with “daylight” and to be honest the images really are very good, you can see noise, but nothing a very simple push on the noisekiller will take away, use a plugin in like topaz denoise (use FrankDoorhof for a cool discount) and you will end up with superclean images that can be printed REALLY large.

 

“how fast does it start, is it annoying?”
One of the most important things.
On the Note8 the camera booted pretty fast, but the P20Pro beats that by a margin.
Just double tap the volume down button twice and you’re first image it shot and you’re ready for the next, or if you don’t like that… (like me)… just disable that option and you’re camera starts up in I believe 0.3 seconds and it doesn’t take the first shot. It’s faster than starting up my A7RIII actually.

 

“Does it start up in Pro?”
Yes, thank you Huawei, I’ve had several complaints from people that their phones always booted up in JPG mode and they had to change it to pro to be able to shoot RAW. With the P20pro it seems that as long as you don’t close/kill the camera it will always boot up in pro if you ended in pro after the last shot.

 

“How about that night mode… gimmick or really that awesome?”
Well yeah… really that awesome and I can add a AWESOME to that. It’s pure magic. Just hold the camera relatively steady and it does it work, now that alone is not the magic. But….. what I never expected was the intelligent system behind it. I shot several night mode shots with students moving around, our makeup artist at work etc. and to my surprise ALL those shots really look like they were one shot slight HDR exposures, I have no clue how the camera does it, but a 4 second exposure where a moving makeup artist is captured completely still….. maybe it’s haunted or something but it’s almost scary.

 

“how about zoom?”
I did tell you guys before that I would probably not use the zoom lens because I would rather just crop the 40MP image, and I still stand behind that remark, but I’m a photographer by trade. I’ve shot some images on 3x tele (app 80mm) yesterday and must say, it’s far from bad, in fact… if you only need the JPG… no reason to not use that zoom option and just use the image without cropping. The lens does render very nicely and is actually very sharp and contrasty enough.

 

“Can it trigger studio strobes?”
Eh… well…. that’s a cool one.
I tried to learn my Elinchroms the preflash of the strobe hoping it would trigger my Elinchroms, but I had no luck, it did work but it’s very very instable and not workable at all. I also got a Godox A1 at the moment in our studio and that product really looks interesting, we tried it this weekend with a Godox system and an iPhone and it’s absolutely awesome, you can trigger the A1 from the iPhone and it even does ETTL, cool (and the app supports RAW), but… according to Godox there would be an Android version before September 2017 and…. well….. there is nothing yet…. not even a beta I can try. This is REALLY bad I think from Godox, the product is awesome don’t get me wrong, but it’s almost May 2018 by now and there is not even a beta yet while they promised September 2017, absolutely ridiculous. When they fix this however you will have a great way to trigger your strobes. For me it will be fun to test it a few times, but it will of course not replace my A7RIII in the studio. However drop an A1 in your bag and you have a kick ass portable strobe solution just in case. It’s like having an off camera speedlight with you. Godox HURRY UP YOU HEAR ME…

 

There are a lot more questions, so maybe I’ll answer those in another post or video, just let me know in the comments below.
To close this one….
Here are some images I shot yesterday, just quick snaps but you can see how the camera held up in these situations, I tried to not make it too easy with very high contrast scenes, darker areas etc. I think it did really well. These are straight out of the camera, RAW, adjusted in lightroom CC classic without any presets, noise killing or plugins.

Now a very quick semi conclusion
Most images you shoot with your smartphone will end up online, 10MP is more than enough for that, and all the modes that work in that resolution are absolutely well thought out and handy. When you are more serious without a doubt don’t underestimate that huge (for a smartphone) 40MP sensor, it really really surprises me. This is the first major step forwards for photography in years in smartphones. If you’re up for renewal and you love photography I can’t think of any other smartphone out there that will even come close. (yes it’s that good)

Some fun model shots with the Huawei P20 pro (review Part III)

Just for fun some shots I took with the Huawei P20 pro during todays workshop at #alabfotostudio
And of course you want my opinion on the phone so far….

Well in all honesty it really blows my mind to see what this phone/camera can do. The OS experience, or let me say the “look and feel” is ok, but I like the Samsung OS just a tad better, mostly because I can place more apps in a folder, it would be possible on the Huawei but somehow they choose to probably “copy” Apple and only add a few, I loved the Note 8 for just letting me use a lot of space on screen when the map was open.

The navigation with the home button if fricking awesome and I’m already fully used to that and I don’t see any need for the bar anymore, this is “perfect”. The screen is more than OK, the speed is good, battery life is very very good, I did charge a little bit in between and ended day 2 with 25% left, I guess I charged maybe a max of 40% in total during these two days, the Note8 wouldn’t make it till the end of the day, just like my iPhones.

I do experience some issues with BT disconnecting when an app is running in the background but this seems to be an issue with Ore0 8.1 someone told me and not Huawei, let’s hope Android fixes this in the near future, it’s not a big deal (and probably why my battery life is so long) but it’s a bit annoying when I run my iTPMS system in the RV in the background.

But most of all the camera…..
I expected the 40MP camera to be ok in good light and actually very bad in normal lighting situations I experience in the studio. Everytime I get a new Phone I try some modelshots with it, and always I end up laughing a bit… not because they are so good but more at the advertising guys claiming “the camera reinvented” yes sure…. in bright light its great but don’t even think about more challenging situations…. the P20 Pro IS different, trust me.

I’ve shot the images in this blogpost with the P20 pro with the modelling lights from the Broncolors, and to be fair, these modelling lights are a lot less bright than the Elinchroms I have in our studio so I expected the results to be worse than the Note8, especially because the light is so much lower in intensity…. now I’m not gonna tell you it beats or even equals my 42MP Sony A7RIII, FAR from…. but man is this one SWEET camera, the images are pinsharp and can actually be pushed pretty far. Nadines outfit was pretty dark and I was able to use the dodge tool to get back some details from the blacks without any real sacrifice to the shots WOW.

I still have my 30 days return policy…..
Not going to use it.
LOVE the camera, and this is all 40MP, imaging what you can do with the pixel”binding” at 10MP, I can’t wait to take this baby out with me during a street shoot, or with proper ledpanel lighting, I think it will blow everyone away.

Many reviews online focus on the 10MP performance, or JPG. I really have to stress that although those are far from bad (in fact for a smartphone they are really good), but where the camera really shines is in RAW, now I understand that for some people the RAW workflow from a phone doesn’t sound appealing, my answer is just very simple…. if you want quality don’t shoot JPEG, unless you need to… which in the case of the P20 Pro means…. nightshots, even panoramas I would shoot in RAW 40MP and just stitch them together in Lr.

Zooming…. I won’t really use, I’ll just crop in on the 40MP RAW file, because the zoom essentially is just 10MP and it’s JPEG, I can probably get a better quality by just cropping in on the RAW file. The nightmode is something else… I really hope that in the future something like this is also possible with 40MP RAW files (far future) because that mode is VERY addictive. I constantly see myself looking for situations where I can try it out 🙂

 

Anyway…. let’s show you the images I shot today.

 

Model/stylist : Nadine

Review Huawei P20 Pro part II

All images in this blogpost are lowered in resolution to 1250 longest side. This is because our internet here is pretty bad. Full res images I can upload when we are back home and people want them.

As promised part II in the review of the Huawei P20 pro.
Today it’s all about the camera, of course one of the reasons most of you guys are probably interested in the phone.
And let’s not make this longer than needed and immediately tell it like it is…. this thing ROCKS.

Now don’t expect anything spectacular image wise, we are now on location for this weekends workshops and I just took some shots during a nice diner we had with our friends.

First images is a car that I found close to where we parked our RV.
First image is shot with the 40MP camera and the second in Night mode.

What you can see in the night mode is that it almost looks like a clean HDR shot, details are extra enhanced and there is a lot of detail in highlights and shadows, colortemp is different but could be corrected of course, for the blog post however I only lowered the resolution.

Next up was the restaurant.
These shots were all done in night mode.

In all honesty these shots blew me away, my friend had his iPhone with him and his images looked a lot more noisy 😀
All images look incredibly clean and are razor sharp, I’ve seen some samples online of oversharpenend images but in real life I think it’s ok in these shots, in fact I downloaded them on my laptop to judge because I don’t trust a phone screen (any phone), but the images looks REALLY nice.

Next up was outside.

Difficult high contrast scene, but look how the P20 pro handles this, on ANY other phone (heck probably camera) the outside would have been pitch black or the inside would be blown out. Remember this is all shot handheld with a 4 second shutter time…. it’s insane.

PITCH dark alley, with only the lights you see.

Outside of the restaurant.

A few crops
Because you of course also want to see some 100% crops, here we go.
click on the files for full versions.
First image is from the 40MP RAW with slight sharpening to take away the softness of a RAW file, I’m editing this on my laptop so I might have overdone it slightly. But you get the idea.

bsh

rbsh

First careful conclusion.
And remember this is VERY careful because these are literally the first shots I took with the camera.

40MP RAW files are gorgous, even without 100% perfect lighting there is more than enough “raw” (pun intended) detail, but the real jawdropper is the night mode, I never saw something like this before, and it’s actually very addictive. Just go to night mode, press the shutter and wait for 3-4 seconds and you see the magic happen on the screen, it is a 10MP file but boy does it look great. And lets be honest… I would rather have a great 10MP shot than a noisy 12-16MP shot that you can throw away.

Is there some processing going on?
Yep without any doubt, but I don’t think it takes away from the shot, I would have backed down slightly on the noise reduction but it’s not like I say “WOW, back down” it’s more like “I would fine tune this a bit more”, but do remember I look at these shots as a photographer and not a consumer, and those two are TOTALLY different in what they like.

The RAW files however are a VERY pleasant surprise and actually surpass what I hoped and expected. Do remember that this is not in any way a camera that will blow away or even come close to compact cameras that are designed for photography, but for a smart phone this is literally amazing and mind boggling.

As I mentioned in the previous preview/review normally smartphones make small steps in their evolution, 1MP more, a bit less noise, some cool extra features, etc. Let’s say that if you look at an iPhone from 3 years ago and the present one you will see a difference, but the difference is noticeable not mind blowing different. The P20 Pro in my personal opinion after these first shots does just that…. keep in mind it’s a smartphone… tell yourself to NOT compare it to even a budget DSLR/Mirrorless and what you have is actually unbelievable for a smartphone….

 

I’m very anxious to see where this leads…
Will this be a one off and are we back to 12MP next year, or is this THE trend that others will follow…. I hope that last one. I’m having LOADS of fun at the moment and I’m 100% sure that the night mode and 40MP RAW files are going to give me loads of good shots.

 

Ok
“Frank how are the zooms?”
I don’t care to be honest.
When I shoot 40MP RAW files I can always crop to 10MP and zoom that way. I will try it out without a doubt, but for now I think the 40MP RAW setting or nightmode will be the modes I’m using. When I want to use zoom I loose my RAW option and it’s back to 10MP, I will have to test if that’s worth it.

Leave comments below what you think about this phone with a camera… or should/dare I say the camera that can make phonecalls

Huawei P20 pro review Part I

Yesterday I received my P20 Pro from Huawei.
Seeing that this should be a groundbreaking camera/phone (yes in that order) I decided to switch from my Samsung note 8 to the P20 Pro.
A bit of side information, the Samsung was my first ever Android phone after many many years of happy iPhone use.

For me the main thing is the camera.
I use my phone A LOT of social media and the camera is a vital part in that. With most phones the camera is “ok” but certainly not something that I would be using during travels when I go somewhere that is really interesting, but dragging a seperate camera with me… well sometimes is a bit cumbersome, so the idea of having a phone with a kickass camera and huge battery really appeals to me.

Now in all honesty, every single new phone release it seems that the camera is “re-invented” and I always fall for it, and to be clear, I always see the improvement, but it’s never that I go like WOW, this is awesome let’s go out and shoot, it’s fun, it’s great for social media but that’s about. The P20 Pro is supposed to be MILES ahead, so I pre-ordered it, paid FULL RETAIL for it, and have a 30 days test period.

In this first part I’m just gonna give you a very quick overview of what I think after one day and not shooting anything serious yet, so it’s mostly about the differences between the iPhone and Samsung note 8.

 

First up the installation
This is truly something that surprises me.
With the switch from Apple to Android I was very afraid that it would be a dissaster, but Samsung actually delivered a very easy way to copy everything from my iPhone to the Android system and… well it worked :-), same with Huawai, just click the two phones together and voila little over 30 minutes later everything was copied. Well not everything.

What I didn’t expect (but could have expected) is that my apps were copied but they were just there, so all my folders etc I had to create from scratch, not a big deal to be honest but it would be nice if they would have also taken care of that, it’s the same when you change launchers by the way, so that’s why I should have known. It’s also one of the reasons I never switched launchers. And in all honesty why should I, I just want my icons in an easy place and press and done, I’m not someone that is constantly tweaking my phone with widgets etc. It has to work and stay alive as long as possible on a battery charge.

Something new, something old, something familiar, but different
Weird chapter right?
Not completely.

First up.
I loved the home button on my iPhone, I feel in love with the app drawer from Android (closing all apps at once), but I never really like the real estate it took away, although the note 8 solved this nicely by making it possible to make the bar dissapear. The P20 Pro is different all together.

First you have the option of just a bar which takes up real estate, and I don’t want that, but if you want to use it… well there is no choice right?
Well not completely.
With the P20 pro you can actually use the home button (it’s a small button on the bottom) as navigation. And this is where the title points towards. I never got the whole Android thing with 3 buttons for navigation, coming from the iPhone it just didn’t make any sense, it’s something you get used to without a doubt, but it’s still a bit weird. The P20 Pro has a touch sensitive home button, meaning you can swipe on it. It’s still a bit getting used to (after 1 day so hey) but it works like a charm, just swipe for the app drawer, and press once for back and hold for home, GENIUS, I really really really dig this, it’s awesome and saves you that annoying bar at the bottom.

Second.
If you own a present iPhone X you know the Notch.
In fact it was one of the main reasons why I didn’t buy the X, price and progress in camera being the second one, I just couldn’t stommage the price vs the progress. The P20 pro also has a notch, although it’s a smaller one than the iPhone X it’s still a notch, and let’s be honest if I want to shoot an image with a gap in it, I will shoot it like that, I don’t want my phone to show it when it’s not there, it’s ridiculous, and I get it… it’s where the cameras are, but at least in that case make it a black bar….. or……

The P20 pro actually has a VERY clever way of handling the notch.
In the settings you have an option “Hide the notch”, this doesn’t just place everything lower and keep a black bar… no it’s much better.
It moves the screen down, but keeps all the icons at the top, so you still use that part of the screen, and that’s a huge difference between just putting everything down, this way I have NO problem with the notch, in fact I love it because now my screen is used to the max, I just don’t have an annoying gap in my videos or photos.

 

So is everything cool?
No, far from to be honest.
But, we will get over that, and some issues are already solved.

First up I had huge problems with Android auto, and according to a lot of people Huawei is incompatible with Android Auto. Seeing that I use Android auto all the time this really got me worried and I was already planning on sending the phone back, there are websites, facebook groups etc. all claiming NOTHING works, and only a few people actually got it working but never say how, and often reply a week later that everything was bad again, and this got me thinking…. now I have to be clear, this is not my first rodeo and I’m used to stuff that doesn’t work (been beta and alpha testing for years) and in most cases the solution is right there in front of you if you stop and think about it.

The most heard problem is that when running on the device itself it works but connecting to the set everything goes black.
First thing that comes to my mind is of course a USB problem, so I dove into the developers mode (gotta love Android for that) and activated USB debugging and made sure that my USB mode was switched from charging only to USB file transfer/charging… and voila…. android auto works like a charm, I can make calls, use waze, use google maps, castradio, music, it all now seems to work…. do remember this is first test, let’s see in a week or two, but going from black and crash to flawless connection, and also seeing the things I changed I think this is the main problem with a lot of these units, I’ll make a video on this in the coming weeks.

 

The other thing is a bit more serious and big let down.
Lightroom mobile does NOT support the P20 pro. I can make photos but not in DNG, let’s hope Adobe brings out an update to support this soon, otherwise it’s a bit of a let down because I use Lightroom Mobile a lot… on the other hand…. starting the camera on the P20 pro is INSANELY fast, just double click the volume button and you’re in the camera app almost instantly, and the nice thing is that it keeps the last setting, in my case Pro DNG 40mp. Also the camera app itself is VERY responsive and I played a bit with the special modes and it’s loads of fun and loads of stuff to test out.

The next “disappointment” was audio via the camera app.
I sometimes use an external mic for recording audio during vlogs when I don’t bring my vlog camera, with the Note8 this was supported in the camera app from the phone itself, on the P20 pro no such luck. Luckily there is the free and awesome app Open Camera, which has an option to force and external mic and voila… that one works like a charm, in all honesty I always use that app because it actually supports 25 frames a second which makes it possible to mix that footage with my vlog camera.

 

Folders and icons
This is a weird one.
On the Note8 I absolutely loved the fact that the icons were a bit smaller and you could fit A LOT in a folder.
With the P20 Pro is seems the icons are a lot bigger, but you still fit the same on the normal screens, but in the folders it’s a lot less (more in sync with the iPhone). In reality this is not a big thing because I actually have all the apps I use a lot on seperate screens, so I don’t have to use folders, the only reasons I have folders is to store apps I hardly use.

 

Wireless charging
Excuse me……
After buying my Note8 I got literally used to charging wirelessly and loved it, when I got my battery case for the Note8 I really hated the fact that I had to use a cable again, but hey you get used to it again. With a battery as large as the P20 pro and a glassback I expect nothing less than wireless charging on a flagship phone… do I really miss it? well yes and no. We have been charging via cable for years and years and it’s fast and easy, and I have cables everywhere so it’s not a big deal, but still…. it’s 2018 and this is the flagship, it should be able to do it.

 

The really cool stuff 
I already mentioned (and going to mention) some stuff that’s really cool, but there is more.

When I saw the box I already knew…. this looks familiar.
Opening the box is an experience that was familiar.
When I picked up the phone it was familiar.
When I saw the headphones, chargers and cables it was familiar.
If you would have told me this was the new iPhone I would have believed it in an instance, but there are some things that makes it clearly NOT an iPhone.

First up you get a free screenprotector which is already applied, so no bubbles or dust WOW thanks Huawei love that, I never use a phone without protection, although I had a very hard time finding one for the note8 due to the curved screen and ended up without protection (which I hated).

But second of all you also get a free flexible and see through protection case in the box, and it’s not bad either. In fact I already ordered a case and screenprotector and will be sending them back, that’s another 40 euros saved, and in Apple prices a lot more. I really love that Huawei thinks of this because I never understood people using their phones without cases, they are so slippery now a days and easily damaged.

Unlocking
Unlocking the P20 pro is awesome
You can pick it up and it’s immediately on, you don’t even see the lock screen, even under an angle. First I though I did something wrong… till I tried it under an really extreme angle, the face recognition is so insanely fast you don’t even see your lock screen. I did by the way disabled the on when pick up option because I walk around a lot with my phone.

Next to the face unlock there is of course the fingerprint sensor (or pincode, or…etc).
At first the fingerprint sensor is a lot to get used to, it’s smaller than what I’m used to so it feels awkward at first, but it works, and in the end that’s what counts, it’s just something in my brain that tells me that a fingerprint sensor that small can’t really work, in reality it works like a charm, even in navigation mode.

 

Overall
Let’s take a quick overall look.
Love the form factor of the phone, the screen is very nice although the Note 8 is slightly better. The sharpness is a non issue in reality, yes the Note8 has a higher resolution but maybe it’s because I’m 46 but I see the difference when I look at them next to each other, but as soon as I wait 10 seconds and only look at the P20 pro…. well it looks razor sharp. Same for light output, the Note8 is insanely bright outside (nice when flying a drone), but the P20 pro is not dim at all, you can however clearly see that when you add everything together samsung just has a better screen, but I’m more that willing to make that sacrifice (which you only see when you place them next to each other) for the better cameras.

On the video side I know that 4K will be a problem due to the lack of Image Stabilisation, but this is something I’m more than willing to take as a “thing”. I don’t use a lot of video on my Phone and when I do I can also get away with 1080P (which has the smoothest IS I have ever seen on a phone, which makes it harder to swallow that the 4K doesn’t use this, aaargh, probably because they use that large sensor for software IS but I could be wrong with that).

Camera wise I would have LOVED to see an in between resolution of 20MP.
Going from 40MP in the pro mode to 10MP in all other modes is a bit of a HUGE step down and makes the phone lower in resolution than the competition. That being said….. there is a lot more to resolution than megapixels only. I still have to dive into the camera (as mentioned before) but it could very well be that due to the VERY large sensor the 10MP files are actually showing much more detail than the 12MP files from an iPhone or Samsung.

Now when on the topic of the camera, let’s make one thing clear.
I’ve seen a lot of video reviews online claiming that the lower resolution on the P20 pro is really bad due to too much sharpening and processing. When I use a camera I hardly ever use jpg, but always RAW, this means that (I hope) the internal processing will be bypassed and I end up with a sensor readout, after this I will use my software to adjust and save as jpg for social media. Yes it does take a little bit longer but I can’t imaging shooting JPG unless it’s just for social media… but even than I have standards 😀 so whatever they do with JPG it doesn’t really bother me… that being said… come on Huawei, just change those settings a little bit to make it also good for the pixelpeepers that are shooting jpg and judge a camera with those.

Oh… and when you’re doing that… PLEASE make the front camera a little bit less nice for my face, it’s a bit too smooth in some cases although smoothness is all the way down… on the other hand, the back is so shiny you can actually take images with the main camera and frame it thanks to the reflection of the camera.

 

Concluding this first part.
The P20 Pro is here to stay, it almost got send back due to the Android auto issues but now that’s “probably” solved it’s here to stay.
Love the phone and the large battery, have to get used to the interface a little bit, also because it’s Oreo 8.1 probably and the Samsung was still stuck on 7 which I think is ridiculous. But it’s only been one day, I remember I wanted to KILL the Samsung Note8 the first 3-4 days and after that I saw more and more things I liked better on the Note8 than on my iPhones, so I think I’ll do fine in a week.

 

Next review will be the camera.
Anything you want me to test?
Let me know.

 

As a side note.
I didn’t get my 360 camera with the phone, which is supposed to be free in the Netherlands, will do an update also on that one when it arrives.
Images are not mine.
They are from Mashable, Android Authority and Huawei.