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Samsung s22 ultra camera review part II

Before reading this part make sure you read the previous post
You can find that one here.

Ok so now that you are up to date let’s continue.

a new day a new try
As mentioned in the previous part loads of manufacturers claim to have killed the pro camera many times over and every generation it’s that time….. yeah just like this is our best phone ever…. Imagine someone going on stage and saying “yeah, we had to release something so we decided to make it less fast, take away some ports and it’s also slower…. Oh and one more thing… it’s more expensive “ no one would ever buy that one right?

so always take such claims with a huge mountain of salt because it’s never true in my experience. This is also how I approach the review of the camera system of the ultra 22.

For a huge chunk of money you get an awesome and fast phone (although the iPhone is faster) with a gorgeous screen and the s-pen. When I ordered I also got the Samsung galaxy buds pro which have become my favorite buds in just a few days. So the total package is very expensive but for a device I work on every day it’s worth it for me, but if you don’t use it like a sort of offline office it’s horrendously expensive.

Now in my case I always upgrade for one reason only… the camera system
Although I know it will never replace a real camera I do use the cameras a lot, during MTB rides, walking the dog, or simply when I don’t want to bring a normal camera, so my demands for the camera system are pretty high,  but I do know where to put my expectations 🙂 and that’s important for the next part.

108MP is rubbish
One of the main attractions is of course the 108MP sensor, insane details, crop till you drop etc. I’ve read all these claims, now let’s be clear if you zoom in on your phone the 108MP censor looks pretty good, you can see some problems but it’s more than decent. When looking at a properly calibrated monitor it’s really really bad. Now I have to be honest that I am not holding back when testing a camera, so also today I chose a situation with loads of small details, and man the Samsung really falls flat down on its face there with the 108MP sensor. It doesn’t matter if you use detail enhancer (seems to be a sort of slight HDR) or not the images look great without zooming in but as soon as you zoom in to 100% images can look pretty good when the subject is close by like a shot of my bike but as soon as the focus falls off the image changes from ok sharp to almost a painting and in detail mode anything that just moves a little bit in the wind gets a very obvious ghosting effect.

I’ll try some more 108MP shots in the coming weeks but for now I think the label “only in certain situations” is a good one, or just don’t use it if you’re in doubt.

12/10MP a different story
Now when we look at the binned options and other sensors the story does change A LOT

when you disarm the 108MP option the story really clears up to the positive side. Now don’t expect results anywhere near a modern or few years old budget SRL but that being said for a phone…. Wow I’m really impressed.

detail is clear, colors are not completely off the board (can be corrected with a colorchecker passport for example) and dynamic range is adéquate for most situations. And indeed lens flare on the main sensor is a lot less than on other cameras. I can actually say with confidence that from what I have worked with the Samsung does set a new standard in quality for the photos.

I still prefer the whole layout from my sony camera with the UI and shutterbutton but on 12MP it’s clear that as soon the light gets a bit more difficult the ultra 22 does win pretty easily. But…. It does come at a cost. The sony files are pretty clean and I would label them as RAW. Somehow I feel that the Samsung files are still processed. There is some ringing in small details and sometimes paintery areas can be found.  But hey it’s a phone.

This time I included a gallery with processed images like I normally post them on social media and I think it’s pretty clear that for social media the ultra 22 is just insane, four usable censors and I love the 3 and 10x zoom.

Also the software Samsung delivers is impressive with loads of extra options in portrait mode, Resampler etc. It’s not a replacement for Lightroom but it’s very clear Samsung is covering all the bases for social media posters. Add to this the impressive video performance and options to use a generous amount of external microphones and audio level meters and Samsung (like sony) knows what we need to create everything from text, photos to 8K video all on one device.

conclusion
I strongly feel Samsung hit the nail on the head for influencers and social media enthousiasts and delivered an all in package that is very hard to beat. It’s a far cry from professional results but for what it is I never saw something that comes close. (Do remember I’m incredibly picky with images and shoot with both medium format as the a7riv from sony so my reference level is pretty extreme)

for walk around this is an amazing camera that can also make phone calls and more, the addition of the s-pen is genius and is used here almost daily to sign documents, assist with photo reviews and of course editing images quickly.

I do want to add some things
First of all its a bit of a let down that none of our chargers supports ultra fast charging on the ultra22. Even when connecting a MacBookpro powersupply the phone charges at fast which takes a long time, even my older phones always switched to max charging when using the more powerful chargers. Meaning my phone takes 2 hours to go from 15% to 100%. Also battery life is promised to be a full day but for me that means that at around 15:00 I’m already ready for the first top up. Which does last me the rest of the day. We did order the 45W Samsung charger and that one (as expected) does immediately switch on the super fast charging, we did order this charger because I wanted to make sure the phone wasn’t defective seeing we tried every charger in our house hold and none activated the max charging speed.

Also I’m seeing stripes when using the fingerprint sensor when starting the phone on all resolutions, luckily it’s only there so I hope it will be solved soon.

And finally
I love high resolution shots but prefer a good shot to a messy one. This is also why I was eager to test the 108mp censor. I do most editing on a 4K screen and 10/12 mp doesn’t really give you enough data to zoom in to see details. I would love to have 20-24MP on next generations (raw). Also not including the option for an extra SD card is a mistake I think. The cameras are capable of a lot but also eat up room. I opted for the 256GB version while I only need 128GB and use Lightroom all the time for storage. So I can imagine going away a week it will probably run into serious storage issues. I did see Samsung created some small USBc memory sticks but I don’t have one of those to test. But I think they would be a nice fit.

If you like to play with the originals you can download them here. 

Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra first camera test

It’s not secret that companies promise you the world when they want you to buy their products.
I remember one for the first smartphones I bought and the response from the seller was “you’ll never need another camera anymore, yes it’s that good, I don’t use my DSLR anymore”

Now this was many years ago when the quality of the photos always made me wonder if it was night all the time or if there was some weird snow or rain falling in the shots, in other words, muddy shots with loads and loads and repeat loads of noise.

Ok, when you shoot under perfect conditions there…. no I’m not even going to try they just plain sucked.
And in all fairness not a lot has changed, look at the presentations from Apple, Samsung etc. and they all promise you the perfect camera experience and better performance than before (yeah it would be weird if they said, it’s worse than last year)

I love gadgets and smartphones so most of the times I will upgrade almost every year when the latest and greatest is released and in all honesty I’m mostly highly disappointed. Up until I got my first Huawei phone… wow now that was a difference, it was far from perfect but for the first time I owned a phone that I would label as a hobbyist camera. In other words if I walk around without a real camera I’m more than happy with the smartphone images. But the UI and operation of the camera was… well it’s a smartphone you probably know what I mean right? It just doesn’t feel like a camera.

This changed when I got my Sony Xperia 1 II
Now when we talk about a real camera experience I must say Sony hit the nail on the head and hammered it all the way in. Yes it’s that good. If you ever used one of their amazing Alpha cameras it immediately feels familiar. They do use two apps but when you use the Pro version there is really hardly anyway to go back to the original camera. Also the dedicated shutter button is absolutely genius and works like a charm, the camera is super snappy and switching between the three lenses is fast and easy, even with gloves. The whole experience is a big 10+, The output is also very good in RAW, especially under ok lighting, as soon as it gets to dark the Sony really dives down in quality, and this is something I did miss dearly on the Sony, the Nightmode I got so used to on the Huawei series. But as a photographer I’m honestly more interested in RAW output without any tinkering than a nightmode… but still….

Well if you saw the Samsung presentation one might get the impression that they finally solved all the problems, this is the camera that can also make calls…..Because I did need a new smartphone I decided to take the jump and ordered the Samsung Galaxy S22Ultra 256GB. So lets make clear that I paid full price for my phone and I’m not at all associated with Samsung in anyway.

I’m totally going to skip the Android part, the only thing I can say is that I’m always pretty easy in switching OS and get used to things very easily, but some things I do want to point out.

Most people are active on social media and this is also where a lot of our images end up (when is the last time you printed your images?) so the sharing menu for me is incredibly important that it’s fully customisable and easy/fast to use. This is something that a lot of phones can improve and Samsung did do it right here by making it possible to have a lot of destinations in custom order meaning I can just follow the same order every time I post something I can’t express how important that is.

So up to the cameras
Specs are impressive for a smartphone with a 108MB (binned) main sensor, a 12MP Ultra Wide and 2 10MP tele lenses (3x and 10x).
When looking at the main camera app almost everything is there that you would want (and again fully customisable) we have standard modes for video and photography, a pro mode for both, panoramic mode in wide and ultra wide (nice), nightmode and some more cool things including a ONE SHOT.. (which takes one shot in all the modes you select, now that’s cool).

The standard camera app supports RAW (which is a surprise and awesome) and saves both RAW and JPG files (like most), only on the mainsensor you can opt for the binned output of 12MP or the full 108MP output.

If have to be honest the files coming out of the main camera app are pretty decent and have a lot of play room.
Samsung also has an Expert RAW app which you have to download separately (why not just include it), this app is pure aimed at the pro (they say) and has some real magic going on behind the scenes, 16bits RAW files are already impressive but they also work some internal magic with combining several shots to get some really sharp images that will rival pro cameras.

So is this all true?
Let me start that on the screen of the Phone the images just made my jaw drop on the floor and bounce back a few times. I’m not easily impressed but wow this is something else. But after loading them into Lightroom and looking at them on my 12.9″ iPad Pro there are already some issues, but still they look more than decent, I would even say impressive).

Where it all just gets a lot worse is when you open the images on a desktop.
Where the Sony RAW files exhibit plenty of detail and enough dynamic range to do some proper editing the Samsung files in expert RAW do have the same or slightly better dynamic range (especially from the main sensor) but it does cost you dearly.

When zooming in on a proper calibrated BenQ monitor it’s clear that Samsung needs to go back to the drawing board and do some fine tweaking for people like me.

I’m not saying the images are bad, oh far from.
But they suffer from an insane amount of sharpening that should NEVER EVER happen in a RAW file, in Lightroom I have to lower the sharpness all the way to zero to get some of the ringing out of the shots but it’s never totally gone. Now I have to be honest I did not held back in my test images, which you can see at the bottom of the review. Loads of small cables from the boats and of course a high contrast backlit sky. So in most normal situations this will be a non issue or not noticeable but hey we are doing a proper review not a consumer point and shoot review 😀

Where it gets worse is in the combination of images. Somehow you can see that the AI messes up considerably by adding the images together, again I chose some pretty difficult things to shoot, but not that difficult. Some areas of the images are very nice and detailed but a bordering detail can be very painterly or not even sharp, it’s a weird combination of sharp areas and painterly blotches.

Today I intentionally only used the 108MP sensor in the normal camera app and the other images were all shot in Expert RAW, I’ll repeat the test very soon by using only the main camera app in RAW to see if that “stacked” problem is less obvious there.

JPG vs RAW
Where I do have to give a lot of credit to Samsung is the quality of the JPGs.
As you can imagine I’ve seen a lot of different cameras and smartphones but man when looking at the pure JPGs coming from the Samsung one REALLY starts to wonder if shooting RAW is actually worth it. In the gallery I did add some images that are both JPG and RAW, where I have to be honest I do like my RAW processing more because I feel the Samsung is overdoing it a bit/a lot BUT that being said for most users I think they will prefer the JPGs, and on social media I honestly feel the JPGs do a tremendous job and I would not advise using RAW for that kind of usage. Of course if you want a bit more… RAW is the only way I think.

But let’s just for fun already compare two shots.

After my text it’s easy to spot the JPG (second one) but you can also see something else when you take the original files.
Samsung does a lot more than just play with shadows and highlights. I tried to get the exact same look in Lightroom and I just couldn’t without using some kind of masking so for a smartphone this is I think very impressive. The question is do you like it…..?

For who is this phone/camera?
And is it like the Sony a camera that can do other things, or is the Samsung a Phone that can take images?
Well it most definitely doesn’t come close to the UI and dedicated shutter button of the Sony, you can start the camera/expert RAW by double clicking the power button and use the volume buttons as shutter but this is very unnatural, the volume buttons are on the left top side of the phone and ALL cameras (as far as I know) have their shutter buttons on the right side. Meaning I’m always covering my screen when taking a shot, or I have to force myself to use my left hand, which for me feels incredibly unnatural.

That being said, I think the output is very impressive.
During day time the Sony wins hands down when using RAW and 12MP. The files are much cleaner and can be pushed more than enough. The Samsung however wins hands down with special modes like nightmode (which I love), one shot, more range with tele etc.

So… when walking around and shooting images for social media the Ultra 22 might actually be a total overkill camera, the quality is insanely good and it’s almost a shame to post the images on social media only, but that’s where the problem also arises, they are so nice on the smaller screens that you are almost disappointed when you look at them on the big screen, loads of painterly effects, way to much sharpening etc.

Conclusion for now
One could say this is more a review about the Expert RAW app which I absolutely love. Giving all the freedom to the photographer for shutter speed, ISO, focus (with peaking :D) etc. is essential if you want me to take product serious, but RAW for me is RAW meaning a total readout of the sensor without ANY interference that could be labeled as preference. Working with the Ultra S22 leaves me literally split in the middle.

For social media I think this is without a doubt the phone to beat, it crushes everything I saw so far in options, 10x tele might seem useless but the quality is so good it actually does make sense, HOWEVER I’ve seen several reviews that zoom in from the main app, this is not using the tele lens as I understand it (also explaining the very bad quality they show) you really have to switch between lenses, and than the tele lenses are very very good for a smartphone.

For professional use, I would love for Samsung to change some things in the expert RAW app, PLEASE turn down that bloody sharpening and noise reduction, it’s insane we can do that ourselves in Lightroom so if you label something expert don’t treat the users like dummies, we know what to do 😀 I think if Samsung would dial down on those settings you’ll get a lot more noise in the images but I’m 100% sure that Lightroom can do it a lot better than what I see now.

Still I have to be fair towards Samsung, this is one bloody good camera and maybe it’s totally unfair of me comparing it to a real SLR but hey if you claim it, you better make it so and although this is a really really good smartphone camera it’s nowhere near the quality you could get out of a $700 SLR. But putting that into perspective it’s now finally getting to the point where someone (like me) can say “it’s good enough”.

I would however love it when Samsung somehow made it possible to switch between the standard camera app and the expert raw possible within the apps itself. I find myself constantly switching and that means I can use one app without starting my phone and if I want to use a feature from the other one I have to close everything and open up the phone. It would be a huge deal if that wasn’t necessary and there would be a switch (like switching between selfie and front) that would just switch between the apps.

I do have to add one more thing.
In the Ultra22 Samsung did something that I think is really smart, they replaced the Note series. One can argue that the phone is too bulky or squared off and I agree, but a smaller phone doesn’t give me the options I need to edit the images easily, and my case will make it more rounded and easier to hold, so it’s a large phone…. we know. The thing I however feel would really draw creators in is the inclusion of the S-pen, now talk about something insanely handy and professional.

I could do a whole review on how to use the S-pen to take photos from a distance, or make it follow you with the camera, but most of the times I use it to retouch images on the screen, using the healing/clone tool in Lightroom with your fingers is terrible, on the iPad Pro it’s awesome with the Apple Pencil but the Samsung S22 ultra with the S-pen strikes it perfectly with the balance between the pen (not too small) and the screen size, retouching on the iPad Pro 12.9 is still a lot easier but for on the road the Samsung with S-pen will do just fine and will really be a part of the package that photographers/creators will fall in love with.

Here you can find some images in the gallery.
I also enclosed the original files for you guys to play with, it’s a hefty 500MB download so make sure you sit tight.
Download the file here.

I’ll do a follow up if necessary with the stock camera app and nightmode.
If there is anything you want me to test just ask.

Weird lines…

I do want to add one more remark. When starting the phone and using the fingerprint sensor I see some weird colored bars on the screen. Also it seems the proximity sensor doesn’t work as it should with taking screenshots. Let’s hope this will be solved by a firmware upgrade.

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.

 

Huawai P20 pro…. the start of the review

Photographers and cameras….. aren’t they always connected?
But what if you don’t need to bring a camera to every location and the images are good enough for you?
Is the new Huawai P20 Pro the solution?

 

Let me start by stating the following.
I ordered my P20 pro via the normal retail channel in the Netherlands and are going to pay full price.
I’m not working with Huawai (at the moment) although I’m always open for this when the camera really performs the way I hope. So this whole review series that is coming is my PERSONAL opinion and views, I’ll bring you the negatives and the positives, no coloring by sponsoring or whatever.

 

Not so long ago I couldn’t even think about switching from Apple to any other brand.
Fast forward 2 years and I’m actually not owning any Apple product, my Apple watch is now a Garmin, my Desktop and laptops are PCs, our home is now updated to Google wifi and we talk, play games and use our Google Homes and Chromecasts for audio, alarms etc. man….. that went fast. And in all honesty I’m not looking back, although I still follow all the Apple news of course (still have a sweetspot for the brand).

Without a doubt the hardest thing to change was my Phone.
You really don’t want to know how much I use my Phone, I don’t even worry about battery life…. because…. well it will never last me a day to start with, yes I’m using my phone more than my desktop, laptop and tablet combined.

When Apple released the iPhone X and 8 I was not impressed (except for the price) and decided it was time to go, also due to a rising amount of problems we encountered and things we saw on the Android side that was very attractive in the way the phones worked nicely together with Macs and PCs (this was pre iOS11 btw, just to be fair). And let’s start off by saying I’m not and I repeat NOT an Android or iOS fanboy, I’ve always told people that as soon as something better was available I would switch from Apple, I just added that I didn’t see that coming… well I indeed didn’t see that one coming 😀

Anyway long story short.
I ordered a Samsung Note 8 a few months ago to replace my iPhone and although getting used to Android is a huge Better/Worse game and also a lot to get used to I have to say that the transition actually went very smooth and I didn’t regret is one bit. The Note 8 was/is a great phone, although I had a really hard time finding a screen protector that didn’t prevent me from typing without (too many errors) and eventually just gave up and used it unprotected (oh that sounds really bad, but you know what I mean).

Now how do I use my phone…..?


First off there is my mail and social media.
I always try to answer people personally and within 24 hours. This often means that I’m checking mail and social media every hour, also our Patreon site and YouTube get a lot of attention. Because of the possibility to do this all on a phone I have to say that I’m now preferring most email traffic and social media via my phone, it’s just faster and easier and I can do it everywhere…… yeah everywhere 😀

Now in all honesty I can do that stuff on any phone that has a reasonable screen.
I don’t play games and don’t edit videos on the road… well it’s cool that it’s possible and it’s awesome how it works but in all honesty I’m much faster on my laptop and games… I only play when flying and at that time like my tablet more, it’s actually almost sad to say but I just don’t have time to play games.

So why do I always upgrade my phone and what makes this phone so fricking awesome?
The camera….
Let’s be straight to the point, I LOVE photography.
I always shoot, it doesn’t matter where I go I’m always taking snaps and I love to share these with my friends and family and you guys. So the reason I always am on the lookout for a better camera/experience is I think pretty clear.

 

The Huawai P20 pro caught my attention as soon as the specs were released.
40MP… well cool but not that impressed… let’s be honest guys don’t expect a smartphone with 40mps to come even close to a modestly good dedicated 24MP+ camera in most cases. However there are a few things that really caught my attention on the p20 pro that in my opinion could be a game changer, and seeing the first results that’s actually true.

 

40MP
Well let’s get this one out of the way first.
Yeah… that’s a lot of pixels.
Your first opinion will probably be… “that’s bad” and that’s what most people will think, for the very simple reason that the more pixels there are on a sensor the more sacrifices you make in dynamic range and low noise performance on higher ISOs, however that’s when the sensor is equal in size. The good thing is that the P20 Pro uses a huge sensor (for smartphones) so that means that it’s not really as bad as it sounds, in fact the sensor is so much bigger than for example the iPhone X that one could say that on the same pixelcount you could say it would be 18-20MP sensor compared to the 12MP of the iPhones. Now that number of 40 doesn’t sound that ridiculous anymore. It’s still a lot more however.

Now to benefit from this 40MP I strongly believe you need good lighting.
So walking around during daytime in the city, or doing landscapes will be absolutely awesome with this kind of resolution (hey I love zooming in), there will be considerable loss in detail compared to a 42MP sony of course, but for a smartphone this will be a huge step up from 8-12MPs.

So what when the light dims?
Well this is actually what triggered me to just order a P20 Pro without waiting for the real reviews.
The P20 Pro also has an option where you are shooting on 10MP instead of 40, meaning this HUGE sensor is now combining pixels in a 4:1 ratio, which means I expect stellar Dynamic Range but most of all very clean High-ISO shots. Because now we are talking about a much larger sensor than the iPhones and Note/Galaxy series and “only” 10MP, meaning you will have one powerful camera for low night.

Add to this the 20MP BW sensor that actually takes care of capturing light and you have a camera that in essence could be miles ahead of the competition.
Now I mostly use my camera in difficult situations, BTS images during workshops, travel photography etc. and in 90% of the cases the light leaves much to be desired, in fact although it’s for social media often I end up with bad images from my Note 8 and previous iPhone which I just can’t post because it was just a tad too dark. In those instances I really don’t care about 10MP, heck even 5-6 would be enough, but by using that huge sensor and pixel combining I would probably be able to shoot much better BTS images with loads of dynamic range to show you guys what’s going on.

Add to this the 3x optical zoom and 5x Hybrid zoom and we also have some creative options.
Of course I still have to see how the “bokeh” effect is in real life (love to use that sometimes) and how the zooms really work, with the Note8 it was a HUGE disappointment because the tele lens didn’t work in RAW, only JPG (ridiculous) I really hope the P20 Pro doesn’t make the same mistake.

Another thing that has a great appeal to me is the start up time.
With the iPhone it was quick, but on the Note8 it’s ridiculously fast, just double tap the power button and you’re ready for the shot, and I even programmed the Bixby button for Lr mobile, so I can choose. The Lr mobile experience is however much slower because it refuses to start with the camera, you still have to click the blue camera. The P20 pro however promises to be ready in 0.3 seconds and already took the shot…. mmmmm let’s see how that works out and if you for example can fix the settings for RAW.

 

Another option I’m really curious about is actually the 6 second exposure.
I love tech and new techniques and this one promises to be special.
Just go into night mode and shoot for 6 seconds (no tripod needed) and you get a very low noise, razor sharp night shot. It sounds to good to be true, but the results I’ve seen online are incredibly impressive, now of course this is probably “perfect situations” but I still can’t wait to see how this works in real life and how it copes with moving objects.

 

So what do I expect?
I for one am not the kind of person that thinks that now I can leave my Sony A7RIII at home… and everyone that tells you that a phone will better or rival a good dedicated camera… well don’t buy something from them. So why did I jump on it straight away?

It’s actually very easy to explain.
First of all of course the social media aspect, but that doesn’t really give me enough reasons to invest in a new phone (these are not cheap), the main reason for me is more simple.

As explained at the start I love taking photos, and in some situations it’s just absolutely impossible or not handy to bring my A7RIII or even a smaller one. I love to bike and although I could bring a backpack it’s not really handy, stop at a nice location, get off the bike, park the bike somewhere (no stand on a MTB), get camera out of bag (often not the best locations, or raining), get camera out of bag, take shot, put camera back in bag, zip it up, add raincover and continue bike ride…. it’s doable and often I do it because otherwise I miss some cool shots. But often I also leave the camera at home.

Last year for example we visited Copenhagen and did everything by bike, the RV was parked app 15km from the city center, and bringing a backpack with camera…. well it wasn’t something we wanted to do so I ended up shooting a lot of images with my Note8, the daylight shots came out awesome but the lack of zoom really messed up a lot of cool options we had in several locations, also not being able to zoom in to infinity (joke) was a bit of a disappointment afterwards. In other words I got the proof and some really cool shots, but I also felt I missed a lot.

I hope that the P20 pro can give me the quality I find acceptable for travel and street when I’m not able to bring my A7RIII.
This means I can shoot 40MP when needed during day time and shoot some cool city scapes or landscapes, but can also bring down the pixelcount for shots that are in less than perfect light, and even shoot some really cool night shots with the “tripod” mode. And don’t forget the zoom options. It really seems that Huawai has a potential awesome photographers phone.

In all honesty if I would make a scale of 1/100 where everything above 70 is good enough for me to leave my camera at home for the ease of a smartphone or smaller camera I actually put the note 8 and iPhones at app 40 and I hope the P20 Pro will get me into the positive area of 60. In other words I hope the difference between deciding to leave my A7RIII home and the regret afterwards (which I always have) will be less severe 😀

Thanks for reading so far.
It’s always a bit weird to do a piece like this without actually owning the phone (we expect it to arrive on the 12th, so expect a full review series by then).

 

Let’s end the start of the review with some things that I already would label…negatives.

1.  Battery cases
I love love love battery cases, and although the P20 Pro promises to be a day long performer with a stunning 4000mAh I’m 100% sure it will probably last me till 13:00-14:00 or when I’m lucky 15:00, again I really use my phone a lot. Now with iPhones and even the Galaxy series you have a broad range of cases and battery cases, for the P20 pro I couldn’t find one yet that I like, so I’m still on the look out.

2. Memory
Although the P20 Pro is delivered in a 128GB memory capacity I would have loved the option for an extra MicroSD card, I think this is actually a mistake to not include this.

3. Resolution
Don’t really see it as a huge deal myself, to be honest when I set my resolution to one step lower on my note 8 and forget about it I don’t even notice it, but still I would have loved to have the option for a 4K display, on the other hand…. at least it’s an oled screen (love these).

 

Ending this part I which isn’t really a part I but more of an intro
Can’t wait to get the P20 pro and start testing, it’s one of the first smartphones in a LONG time that I really look forward to in the form of being potentially miles ahead. For years every generation has become better with better video, slightly better specs, slightly better noise or color, but nothing that makes you go “WOW, THAT’S COOL”….. so let’s see how long this feeling stays after I start testing this baby.

Want me to test something?
Let me know in the comments below.
Do you have an opinion?
Let me know in the comments below.