Last year's Huawei Mate Xs was no slouch in the camera department. With that design, however, engineers had very little space to actually work with. The inward-folding Mate X2 offers much more freedom and the ability to "tack on" a far more conventional camera bump to the back of the phone. Hence, the Mate X2 steps up camera prowess in a noticeable way.
The primary camera on the Mate X2 is the 50MP Sony IMX700 module, also available in the Huawei P40 and Mate 40 families. It packs a large 1/1.28" sensor with an RYYB Quad Bayer type color filter with 1.22µm individual pixel size - or 2.44µm for a 4-in-1 binned pixel. The lens in front has an f/1.9 aperture and a 23mm equivalent focal length, though, for one reason or another, the default 12MP pictures come out with a small crop to 27mm. The particular implementation on the Mate X2 also has Laser AF and OIS, which makes it identical to that inside the Mate 40 Pro+.
In fact, almost the entire main camera setup on the Mate X2 is borrowed from the Mate 40 Pro+. This includes a 12MP, f/2.4 telephoto, with PDAF, OIS and 3x optical zoom (70mm). Plus, another telephoto, this time a 10x optical zoom (240mm) periscope unit. Just like the other two, it has PDAF and OIS. It sits behind a pretty dim f/4.4 lens.
Finally, the Mate X2 also has an ultrawide, which does differ from the one on the Mate 40 Pro+. It is a lower-resolution 16MP snapper but one that sits behind a relatively brighter f/2.2 lens. It lacks the fancy PDAF from the Mate 40 Pro+ but still includes autofocus, which is leveraged for macro shots.
On the selfie side, there is just a 16MP snapper with an f/2.2 aperture. Nothing too fancy.
Before we move on to camera quality, we should look at the camera app, its UI, and its features. Nothing is really out of the Huawei ordinary here. A shutter key on the right, alongside a switch to enable selfie mode.
Unlike the Mate Xs, which requires the phone to be folded and then turned around, so you can use the main camera and the part of the display next to it, selfies on the Mate X2 can be done in a traditional way. That is to say, with the selfie cam on the cover display, without unfolding the phone.
There is still a way to get selfies with the main camera on the Mate X2, though. It requires unfolding the device, and clicking the selfie mode button. The app then instructs you to leave the phone open and just flip it around, so you can use the cover display as a viewfinder while looking at the main camera. This generally works, but not all orientations and holding methods work well. You also likely need to use both hands to hold the phone.
Back to the rest of the camera UI. The mode selector/slider is pretty straight-forward. Its final entry houses a few additional modes. Things like Slow-MO, Panorama, Monochrome, Documents, AR Lens, Light painting, Time lapse, Stickers etc.
Some of the modes worth pointing out here include HDR, which Huawei decided, for some reason, should be a dedicated mode, instead of a toggle in settings or on the main camera UI. We will still test it all the same, though. High res is quite self-explanatory. It allows you to shoot at the full 50-ish MP resolution of the main camera and actually has a regular and a 50MP Ai mode. We made sure to test these as well. Super Macro can be triggered manually from here, or you can actually just let the Mate X2 decide that it is necessary and trigger it automatically, which it does a surprisingly good job of. Macro photos are done with the ultrawide camera, thanks to its autofocus capabilities. Dual-view lets you capture footage with the selfie and main camera together. It's a nifty feature.
Some of the toggles on the left-hand side of the camera UI are self-explanatory, like the settings shortcut and the flash controls. The film-strip-looking button actually brings up filters. The Ai button toggles Huawei's MASTER AI system. It is enabled by default, so we left it that way for our sample photos. The circular icon on the second row toggles Moving picture and the one above it enters a visual assistant mode, of sorts. It offers object recognition for shopping purposes, as well as barcode scanning.
There is a Pro mode available. ISO controls range from 50 to 409,600, and shutter speed goes from 1/4000 to 30 seconds. You also get control over white balance and focus, as well as exposure compensation. And near the top of the UI - a format selector that includes JPG, JPG-L and RAW, plus a toggle for the autofocus assist light.
The Settings menus are slightly different, depending on which camera and mode you enter them from. Video resolution only goes up to 4K. No high frame rate options beyond 60fps are available either. There is no way we found to turn off stabilization in video. While that has been the Huawei norm for a while now, we would still like to see it change, eventually.
There is no obvious way to get the cover display to work as a secondary viewfinder for the subject to see themselves. A feature that was present on the Mate Xs.
The main camera on the Mate X2 has proven its salt already on the P40 line, as well as the Mate 40 one. In daylight, shots come out with a wide dynamic range and pleasing colors. They are a bit on the warmer side. Fine detail is rendered naturally, and random textures have a true-to-life look. There's little noise to speak of, but if we do have to complain about something on a pixel level, it would be the relatively pronounced aliasing of straight sloping lines.
Also, color fringing around fine patterns is often noticeable, though hardly a dealbreaker.
Like we mentioned, there is a separate HDR photo mode on the Mate X2, instead of offering that as a setting or UI toggle. Looking at some shots from it closely next to the regular ones seems to show only marginal differences. HDR seems to be handling highlights a tad bit better and perhaps crushing a little less detail in the shadows. But, both are very minor in terms of differences, and we can only guess that Master AI is already applying plenty of HDR correction to the regular shots to begin with.
The main camera's default output on the Mate X2 is in 12MP after all of the binning has taken place. There is still a way to capture still in the full 50MP resolution of the main camera. These shots are wider than the 27mm 12MP ones at around 23mm equivalent. The High res camera mode actually has two modes of its own. One is the regular 50MP one, which takes nearly instant shots.
You naturally get some extra detail from these shots, but at the expense of noticeable color fringing and distortions around the fine geometrical pattern. Enter the other AI 50MP mode. It takes a good few seconds to capture a phone this way. Still, the results look noticeably better, with the color fringing issue mitigated and typically better sharpness across the frame.
The Mate X2 has a pretty in-depth Portrait mode. There are plenty of effects to choose form, most complete with "blur" intensity sliders.
The bokeh effect itself looks good in most cases, and so does subject separation. However, the latter isn't all that impressive. Faced with a more complicated background or at higher blur strength levels, mistakes are ample.
Beyond a selection of more or less standard background blur effects, portrait mode can also pull off some interesting color filter effects, as well as studio-style shots.
Moving on to some telephoto shots, starting with the conventional 3x optical zoom snapper. Just like the main camera, it churns out 12MP stills. These look great with a lot of detail and close to perfect sharpness. Noise is kept well at bay too. The only real nitpick we have with this excellent snapper is that its color reproduction seems a bit more subdued than that of the main camera.
You can use HDR mode on any of the cameras on the Mate X2, including the telephoto.
Moving on to the next party trick the Mate X2 has and its periscope, 10x telephoto camera. Despite its native resolution of 8MP, it also produces stills in 12MP, which means that some interpolation is at play. Even so, we were impressed with the detail and sharpness of the images. Colors look great too. At such high zoom levels, OIS is pulling its weight. However, not even it is enough to perfectly stabilize the frame. You still need to be extra careful not to ruin your shots.
Even though there is autofocus on this camera as well, it struggles with subjects less than a meter away. To be fair, that's not really the use case it is meant to fill.
If you don't mind some digital zoom and sharpening artifacts, the Mate X2 can push way past 10x and zoom to as much as 100x. Shots at anything beyond 30x or so require plenty of work to get right, lots of trial and error and perhaps even a tripod.
At higher zoom levels, photos start to look more like an art project, courtesy of the sharpening and pattern recognition algorithms, but that's perfectly expected.
Last but not least, on the main camera list, we have the 16MP ultrawide. It is not as fancy as the 20MP one on the Mate 40 Pro+, but still has AF at its disposal. Shots from the ultrawide are good but not particularly impressive in any way. These often come out looking a bit soft. The colors are more washed-out than the main camera. The ultrawide tends to overexpose more often than the other cameras.
The Mate X2 pulls off its macro shots using the ultrawide camera and its autofocus. This offers a great level of flexibility, and while the shots themselves still exhibit some of the issues of the ultrawide snapper itself, like softness, they look great for macro shots.
You can do zoomed-in macro shots as well - again, by the ultrawide camera. This allows you to get up close without actually having to be close to the subject.
Closing off the main camera section, we made sure to shoot our standard studio posters with the Mate X2. Here they are in our extensive camera comparison database at both the default 12MP and AI 50MP for your pixel-peeping pleasure.
The Huawei Mate X2 has a nifty 16MP selfies snapper at its disposal. It's not particularly fancy since it is a fixed-focus unit, but with an aperture of f/2.2 it is still a bit brighter and has more pixels than the 13MP, f/2.4 unit on the Mate 40 Pro+.
Regular selfies with this camera come out looking great. There is plenty of detail, the dynamic range is good, and we like the colors. The focus plane is fairly wide, so you don't have to worry too much about how far you are from the lens.
Portrait mode is available on the selfie cam, with its full set of effects and tweaking options.
Beauty filters are present, as well.
Like we already mentioned, the rear cameras on the Mate X2 can also be used to take selfies. This is achieved by pressing the flip camera button from an unfolded state, which then instructs you to flip over the phone and enables the cover display. Of course, except for all those times that it doesn't and offers up an instruction for the Mate Xs method of doing the main camera selfies instead, which is clearly some random camera bug.
Once you do get it to work, you can use any of the four cameras on the back for selfies.
You probably just want to stick to the main and the ultrawide, though.
The 3x telephoto is already a bit too close for comfort in terms of framing at an arm's length.
And the 10x periscope can't even focus at such a close distance, producing basically throwaway shots.
Kind of makes us wonder why Huawei decided to leave the 10x camera available in this mode, all the while clearly tinkering with the option selection since Night mode is notably missing when shooting with the main cameras and the cover display.