The P20 Pro has a triple camera on its back - the future is now. Two used to be the norm, a norm Huawei worked hard to establish with its unusual color+monochrome designs despite not being the pioneer in dual-cam setups. Well, it's beaten everyone to three.
Logically the star of the show, the P20 Pro's number one shooter packs 40MP on a large 1/1.7" sensor - compare that to the 1/2.3" sensors of Sony flagships, and the 1/2.6" ones in the latest Samsungs, HTCs and the Pixel 2. The Nokia Lumia 1020 was the last major release with such a high-res sensor, and that one was even bigger at 1/1.5", but the handset had a massive camera hump. Plus, 5 years is a long time in smartphone terms.
There's a bit more to be said about the inner workings of the 40MP camera, but it's a little too technical, so we went ahead and covered it in its own article. The short version is that the 40MP camera doesn't really have 40MP of color resolution, but is instead meant to capture two different exposures simultaneously and produce better looking 10MP images.
The 40MP sensor has a 27mm-equivalent lens in front, stabilized too. Its aperture is f/1.8 which may not sound huge in a world of f/1.5 Galaxies and f/1.6 LGs, but let's not forget how much bigger the imager on the P20 Pro is.
The camera module is pretty huge as it is, calling for a larger camera bump than what we're used to (not remotely as large as the 1020's). Inside that same bump, the other new camera lives - an 8MP sensor behind an 80mm-equivalent lens with an f/2.4 aperture. The matter of lens equivalence is a bit moot, however, as you're getting 10MP images in 3x mode - the telephoto camera works in collaboration with the wide 40MP one.
Joining these two is the good old 20MP monochrome camera, with its own dedicated and much smaller bump. 27mm-equivalent f/1.6 aperture lens on this one, the spec sheet reads. And since collaboration is the name of the game here, the camera hardware and software is a joint effort between Huawei and German optics specialists Leica.
For autofocus, the P20 Pro can rely on a combination of depth detection from the multiple cameras, contrast and phase detection, and a laser that works at up to 2.4m. A light temperature sensor should assist with white balance, while a single LED flash is there to illuminate your subject in the dark.
The front-facing camera is a whopping 24MP unit, but this one doesn't have autofocus - the big number is easier to sell than the check mark. The lens aperture is f/2.0.
The camera interface has been reworked some since the Mate 10, but we wouldn't go as far as to call it intuitive. First off, you have a mode selector on the bottom that you swipe left and right to change modes, but you can't swipe on the viewfinder, just on the selector itself. Swiping up and down doesn't switch between front and rear camera either, you have a button for that (admittedly, on the bottom within easy reach). Basically, you're wasting the viewfinder by not having gestures enabled on it, except for pinch to zoom.
As for zooming, it's most precise when you use the '1x' button in the viewfinder, which will take you into '3x' magnification (around 80mm equivalent). A second tap there will take you to 5x (some 135mm equivalent), where the team of cameras will work in conjunction to deliver a sharp and detailed image, quite successfully as you'll see.
Another thing that's hidden is the access to the monochrome camera. You now need to swipe the mode selector all the way to the 'More' position, where the extra modes are: Monochrome, Panorama, and HDR, among others. And while we're at it, what's with the manual HDR mode when everyone else has auto HDR enabled by default and producing awesome results?
Huawei has its Master AI to do the awesomeness, and it's enabled in settings. It should recognize 500+ different scenes and adjust photo parameters accordingly, presumably HDR in high-contrast scenes included. Sony should probably add an 'AI' moniker to its Superior Auto - they've been doing scene detection since forever.
There's a Pro mode here where you can adjust parameters yourself - ISO (50 to 3200), shutter speed (1/4000s to 30s), exposure compensation (-4 to +4EV in 1/3 stop increments), and white balance (presets and light temperature). You can also choose the metering mode (matrix, center-weighted and spot), and the focus mode (single, continuous and manual). If the phone thinks you messed up the exposure, an icon will pop up to warn you.
Since bokeh effects became all the rage, Huawei phones have had both a Portrait mode, and an Aperture mode. There's now more differentiation than ever between the two. In Aperture you can choose the simulated aperture in the range from f/0.95 to f/16. Post shot, you can change the aperture and the focus point within the Gallery.
In Portrait mode you can enable and disable the background blur (why disable it, though), you can change the simulated lighting, and you can also add some beautification on a scale from 0 to 10.
The P20 Pro records video up to 4K resolution at 30fps - there's no 4K/60fps mode. You can, however, choose between h.264 and h.265.
There's super slow-mo recording as well, in what's become the industry-standard 720p/960fps, as well as 'regular' slow-mo in 720p/240 and 1080p/120fps. While the regular slow-mo clips are only limited in length by your free storage, the super slow-mo clips last precisely 10s - 6s of slow-mo and two seconds of regular speed action on both ends.
We've been on for too long about specs and software, let's look at some images.