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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.

 

Sony Xperia Z1 Compact

Today some more information on the camera function of the Sony Xperia Z1 Compact and my experience with Android.

 

A few weeks ago I was asked to test the Sony Xperia Compact Z1 next to my iPhone 5s and be honest about my experiences.
Well as you know I’m always honest in reviews so let’s see what I think about the phone after a few weeks.

 

1. Design
I can be short about this.
I like the design, it feels nice and it’s very lightweight. What I really like (and would love Apple to incorporate this) is that the phone is 100% water proof, I’ve already shot some cool shots in the rain with it and with the iPhone I would not have the guts to do this. And let’s be honest you don’t always carry your camera with you in the rain.

 

2. Screen quality
Compared to the iPhone 5s I think the screen quality is about equal, the Sony is a bit sharper in some areas but I like the color accuracy of the iPhone just a bit more. What I do like is the screen size of the Sony, I don’t believe in phones where you do some extra fitness by carrying a small iPad as phone so for me this screen size is pretty much perfect, maybe a little bit bigger but not too much.

 

3. The camera
Well it’s a Sony right…
And I think Sony by now already proved they know how to build a sensor and the camera in the Z1 Compact is a very nice one.
With higher ISO I strongly feel the iPhone 5s wins hands down, but as long as the light is pretty nice the Z1 Compact has one heck of a camera, I love it.

 

The camera has 2 settings, the full auto which will give you a lower resolution but will optimize everything for you, and the full manual (including exposure compensation which I really like) which gives you the full resolution and loads of extra option to play with. Overall I’m more than happy with the camera and it would actually be a reason to carry the Z1 Compact with me just to be able to use it as a camera when I don’t carry anything else.

Corine Sony Xperia Maart 26 2014 (4 of 23)-EditA shot we recently took in the studio with the Sony.
On my Flickr I have a whole album with images by the way if you want to see more.

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Sony Xperia Z1 Compact ongoing review Pt1

In todays world we are all connected, being via a tablet, phone, computer or whatever device you prefer.
As you all know there are several devices but I always think of them as follows, the Apple devices and the Android devices, yeah I know I skip some devices but let’s be honest these two are the biggest. Now it’s no secret I use a lot of Apple product (as most creative people I think), that doesn’t mean however that I’m not interested in what else is going on and how that can improve my workflow, work or give me more creative options…… I guess you are the same way right?

 

Sony
A few years ago we owned a Sony AVCHD camera that was it, however at one point our JVC home theater projector got replaced by a Sony for the simple reason that Sony beat JVC on a lot of points that I found important (at the moment we use the Sony W500 4K unit which is not only very good but also has a price point for a 4K projector that is very interesting). After the projector switch, much to my surprise, I sold all my Canon gear to venture into the A99 universe, a camera I still love and use a lot (although the added A7r actually makes me use the A99 less and less).

 

Because we travel a lot and Apple still doesn’t make a Macbook on which you can also use a pen to operate Photoshop/Lightroom I decided to buy a Windows machine and after some disappointing tests I ended up with….. the Sony Vaio Duo13…. pfffff another Sony product (do you start to see a pattern?)

 

Last week I was asked to testdrive the new Sony Xperia Z1 Compact and as you know I love my iPhone 5s and at this point I don’t see myself switching to the Android system, however……. I will be looking very seriously at the phone and the options it gives me. I hear you ask “Frank you can do everything you want with Android that you can do with an iPhone” and I agree on the app area, some apps are not on the Android system but I can live without them, however as some of you know I’m very much into the whole “active” stuff and seeing what Apple is doing with the future iPhone series and wearable devices I think I will really gonna love that. However….. there are many people walking around with 2 phones and I won’t care so who knows. For now I will test the Sony Xperia Z1 Compact next to my iPhone 5s and keep you updated on the stuff that really matters for us photographers. Think about camera functions, video editing, social media etc.

sony-xperia-z1-compact-full-specification

 

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