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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.

 

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.

Sony A7RIII first quick look

I love new gear….
I’m always looking forward to testing new hard and software, but I also always have high expectations. And let’s be honest nobody wants to wait 4 years for just a small bump in specs and speed right?

 

I have to add to this review that I only got the camera for 2 days to test. My own version will follow as soon as possible I hope but this review is based on those two days. I try to be as detailed as possible but more will follow.

 

One of the main complaints about Sony is always that they upgrade their cameras so incredibly fast… well I agree to disagree. Sony is indeed upgrading their line up almost constantly but I don’t see this as a bad thing. They have a lot of cameras and often even keep the older models available, so people can actually choose. The cool thing about this is that whenever you need or want a new camera there always is something new for you, instead of having to wait at least another year for the refresh cycle (which than can dissapoint). And that’s the other thing…

Sony NEVER dissapointed me with upgrades.
When I switched from the A7RI to the A7RII I was blown away by the sheer amount of extra features, improvements etc. Now I some time ago claimed that the A7RII is actually almost the perfect studio camera and in all honesty I wouldn’t see any reason to get a new one, ever…. do I still stand behind that….. Well Yes and no. There was one thing that annoyed the HECK out of me with the A7RII, to I point I really thought that Sony wasn’t thinking straight.

 

Wireless tethering is AWESOME
I love shooting tethered and do it as soon as I have the option. When I shoot in the studio I’m always connected with a Tethertools cable, RAW files are transported very fast and it’s a great tool for both me as the client or group of students. I love tethering.

But sometimes on location it’s very tedious to always beware of cables, cables get dirty or damaged and …. well it can be really limiting when you move around a lot. There are of course many solutions for shooting wirelessly but most of these don’t work on Sony, and the ones I did try all failed in one or more departments making them unreliable in the field or even unusable.

For good wireless tethering you need a HUGE bandwith to transport RAW files, and because we don’t have that a perfect wireless solution should be able to keep the RAWs on the card and shoot the smallest possible JPGs to the display, and preferable that should be a tablet or smartphone. As it happens to be Sony has that perfect solution already inside, it’s called “smart remote” and it rocks…… but on the A7RII it didn’t….. well ok it worked, but as soon as it was active the EVF didn’t work anymore, you could only shoot via the LCD, not a real deal breaker but not my cup of tea if I’m forced, I just love shooting through the viewfinder.

This was actually the first thing I tested on the new A7RIII and I can say….. ladies and gentlemen it works and it works like a charm, just like the A9 it’s now not a seperate app but it’s intergrated into the menu and you can even shoot with FTP access….. now we are talking Sony this is awesome.  The app that makes it all work on you smartdevice is called “Playmemories home” and is a very handy app that will actually let you control the camera also from a distance, so it doubles as a shoot and show tethering solution plus an external monitor and remote….. it’s actually incredibly cool.

 

The megapixels
The new A7RIII didn’t get a big bump in megapixels that some actually thought, and in all honesty I’m not dissapointed with that. I much rather have Sony invest in more dynamic range and less noise than in bumping up the megapixels because it looks cool. But they did add something else, that might tickle your “I love MP” bones….

 

Pixelshift
A new option in the A7RIII is shooting not 1 but 4 42MP images. You need Sony software to “stack” these and the result is more detail, less moire etc. One could say it’s still a 42MP image but with way more detail…. I still have to dive into this feature in all honesty, but I’ll do that as soon as I have my own camera. It does promise to be an amazing tool for still live and reproduction work.

 

Autofocus
The A9 was a beast compared to the A7RII, but in all honesty I never really had complaints about the AF on the A7RII, but I’m more a studio shooter than anything else, in fact the A7RII focussed in the dark studio with backlighting MUCH better than most Canon and Nikons. So it wasn’t one of the first things I tested with the new camera, but I immediately noticed a huge difference. The A7RIII is lighting fast. I took the camera with me during yesterdays Phottix Pro tour and focussed WITHOUT ANY Problem in a pretty dark studio with small flash, in all honestly I didn’t even notice it was dark in that area untill the students started shooting and asked me to get some light in because the camera couldn’t focus, that was pretty impressive because the A7RIII focussed noticably faster in the dark than the A7RII in the light…. pretty impressive stuff again.

Shooting in burst
Now this got me all excited.
Besides shooting models I LOVE shooting sports, birds and street stuff. Auto focus helps but most of all I love a good big buffer and loads of frames per second. I don’t need it in most cases, but it can come in pretty handy. Shooting high resolution always meant that you would handicap your frames per second and buffer, but somehow Sony broke that barrier… are you sitting down…..???

10 Frames a second….. Yep 10 FRAMES a second
With intelligent continues AF (most other cameras don’t have continues AF during bursts)
And a HUGE buffer, in fact the first time I tested it I just stopped and saw my buffer clearing very fast with 50-60 frames, I was flabbergasted… I saw this on the A9 but now even on the A7RIII WOW WOW WOW, sports guys will LOVE this. And for the very simple reason not only that it’s fast with a huge buffer but most of all because there is no mirror black out, in other words it looks like you’re filming, you can frame your subject and keep it where you want it.

 

Image stabilization
The IS in Sony already was pretty impressive but the new A7RIII claims to go from 4.5 to 5.5 stops…. in all honesty it looks pretty darn impressive but I couldn’t say if it was a full stop, I did film some vlog style video and it was rock solid, where the A7RII would just show a little but of movement.

 

Dynamic range
Same thing here, Sony claims another stop of dynamic range, and I believe them.
We shot some images during the workshop yesterday with available light and indeed the high-iso images (64000) looked a bit cleaner than on the A7RII but I didn’t shoot them next to other, but I know the quality by heart. I couldn’t say if it was 1 or 2 stops cleaner but it DEFINETLY was sharper and a bit cleaner.

 

Video
I love to also do video and the A7RIII is a big step up again from the A7RII
Of course you have audio in and out (for headphones).
And FINALLY the record button is now placed a bit more handy, not the small button burried in the side, but it’s now nicely located close to the viewfinder.
The video is now supposed to be a 5K video that is down converted to 4K (just like the A9) which gives you much better performance and less rolling shutter, again… in the short amount of time that I tested the camera with some video this seems to be 100% true, video is very solid and has DEFINTELY less rolling shutter than the A7RII or D6500 (which is pretty bad in this department).

Autofocus and face tracking always was good with the Sony and the A7RIII didn’t miss a beat.

You now also have S-Log3 included for 14 steps of dynamic range for better color grading and pushing and pulling the pixels in post, plus a HLG for “instant” HDR workflow. Still have to test all of this when I get my own A7RIII, 2 days is just WAY too short, but I did want to mention it.

Battery
Sony has bad batteries…..
It eats batteries….
Yeah we all heard it.
In all honesty it never really bothered me, I always use a grip and have 2 batteries in there and 2 extra in my bag, it actually happened maybe once or twice that I emptied all four, most of the time I come home with one empty battery and one half empty.

But don’t worry, the new A7RIII has new batteries and these babies go on for a LONG time.
I charged them when the camera arrived and did 2 workshops with them (where they did charge a little bit over USB) and did a whole vlog video with it and the batteries are still at 70%, this would have emptied my A7RII battery without a doubt, so this is very impressive and good.

USB-C
Oh my, USB.
Don’t even start me with this.
I HATE those little USB connectors and never understood why there was no locking mechanisme, so that’s why we use the Tetherblock (www.frankdoorhof.com/store) or jerkstoppers on most cameras. Luckily Sony understands this and with the A7RII and now also the A7RIII it delivers a ROCK SOLID Tethering solution, which in my opinion is more than suitable for tethering but less for use with HDMI or monitors. I do have to add that on the A7RII I loved the connection but on the A7RIII it seems like the designers added it later on and were puzzled on how the heck make it work, they did find a solution but it’s not as elegant as on the A7RII, but hey it works and it works great.

Ok anyway.
You now have the old small fragile USB connector, but Sony also added USB-C, very smart because for tethering Tethertools only starts delivering USB-c cables start of 2018, so for now we can still use the old cables and than switch to USB-C.

Two cards
Loads of people wanted it, and now it’s here.
The A7RIII now has 2 card slots, you can use SD or Memorycards from Sony which are now all capable of VERY fast data transports.
In the menu you can set both cards up to store RAWs or JPEGs or combine it and much more, it’s pretty impressive what kind of options you get.

 

Displays
Both the EVF and LCD have been upgraded, the LCD now also touch options for for example focus, which is pretty handy of course. In comparision to the A7RII you can see the upgrades, especially the EVF seems more responsive and smoother.

 

Conclusion for now
The list of improvements is HUGE and I only touched the tip of the iceberg, but as mentioned at the start I only got the camera for two days.

The A7RII is a studio photographers dream, it does everything very well and is an incredible machine.
The A7RIII is a studio photographers wetdream, it excells over the A7RII and is a beast outside with incredible speed on AF a HUGE buffer and a fricking 10 fps RAW burst (it’s insane)

Should you buy one?
If you already own an A7RII it’s a huge step up for auto focus and framerate.
If you also do video I would say, RUN TO THE STORE AND GET ONE.
If you shoot still lives…. same thing

If you just shoot for a hobby and love your A7RII keep it for now and testdrive an A7RIII.
It REALLY is a HUGE improvement, but the A7RII is already a dreammachine, in essence it’s all about YOU the photographer and not the gear, but that said…. man this is a beast of a camera and I loved every second I had my hands on it, and I will definitely upgrade, but I will add the grip because for my hands…. the A series is just a tad too small.

HIGHLY HIGHLY recommend this camera. And I’m not saying this because I shoot Sony. It really is a marvel of modern technology.

 

 

Some images I shot with the A7RIII
Again more will follow as soon as I have the camera a bit longer.