We have managed to secure the latest phones made by Huawei, the P50 Pro as well as their foldable offering P50 Pocket. Since these devices have been out for a little while and there are already plenty of reviews, we decided to focus this video on the camera performance and will be comparing it to Samsung S21 Ultra. Even though we are not covering these devices fully - I do want to remind you that Huawei is still on the US entity list which prevents them from trading with US companies. Due to this - there are no Google Play services installed. Whether or not that makes a difference is for you to decide. Let’s get into it!
First of all, I want to quickly talk about specifications. Back in 2018 Huawei pioneered multiple camera set-ups with P20 Pro and Mate 20 Pro by making triple camera set-ups the new norm. It was wildly successful and in fact this was one of the main reasons we bought the Mate 20 Pro back then and used it until about a month ago. Since releasing those phones, Huawei has certainly been developing their technology further and even introduced cameras with periscope telephoto lenses. In this latest generation we have some impressive cameras on the P50 Pro and slightly toned down versions on the Pocket.
P50 Pro features four cameras: the standard wide, which rocks a 50MP sensor, ultra wide with 13 MP sensor, as well as 64 MP periscope telephoto camera with 3.5 times optical zoom. To top all of this off there is a 40 MP monochrome wide-angle camera that Huawei says can help increase light-intake for low-light shots.
The P50 Pocket has three cameras - the 40 MP primary wide shooter, same 13 MP ultrawide camera, as well as another 32 MP wide camera. This last one is called Ultra Spectrum Camera which improves colour accuracy of your photos as well as offers some macro functionality.
Samsung S21 Ultra on the other hand has four cameras: standard wide, ultrawide as well as two different telephoto lenses. Only the main wide shooter features a high megapixel count, all others are 10 to 12 MP.
On the front things change around - Samsung features a 40 MB shooter, while Huawei P50 Pro has 13 MP and Pocket has 10.7 MP.
With the main specs out of the way, let's check some of the results. All the phones were set to full screen picture mode and 4k 60 FPS for video recording. The rest of the settings were left in default settings unless specified otherwise.
We will start with Dynamic range.
In this picture of the underpass all three phones seem to be very similar, however Huawei phones show a bit wider dynamic range. Samsung seems to lighten up the shadows too much marking the whole picture a little too flat.
It is even more obvious in this picture with really bright areas around the top part and pretty dark section down below. Both Huawei phones have managed the highlights well without affecting the foreground and keeping most of the detail. The only downfall is a slight green tint on the P50 Pro when compared to the others.
Next picture is a good example of colour and dynamic range. I can confirm that the background was very bright as this was shot in the middle of the day. While both Huawei pictures look more accurate, I prefer the Samsung version where the saturation is undeniably increased, but with that making the whole picture more eye-catching. They all have good detail in the foreground and further down in the background.
In this picture P50 Pocket has clearly lifted the shadows which reduces overall contrast and makes the picture look flat, while other two phones are very comparable. S21 Ultra takes a slight edge due to having a bit more saturation in the foreground. It’s interesting to see the out-of-focus blur on the Samsung phone is much more pronounced than the Huawei. It’s very obvious when zooming slightly in and looking at the car driving by. Having said that, P50 Pro picture is more accurate to the scenery as we saw it.
This last picture in Colour topic shows Huawei phones yet again having more true to life colours and Samsung has made the world look very vivid. I actually would have liked something in between. If we compare the P50 Pro and P50 Pocket, there is also a considerable difference. The Pocket is less crisp and the forest across the water has no depth.
Next we checked out the macro functionality. I kind of miss macro specific buttons from the older phones. Nowadays with all three phones you just have to use a standard camera, get close enough to the subject, and the camera automatically changes to macro mode. All three phones deliver good amount of detail, with the S21 Ultra being more vivid as predicted. When we crop further in, I would give the edge to the P50 Pro for capturing more accurate colour and slightly more detail.
Now moving on to portrait mode. In this wide picture P50 pro in the middle has by far the best colours but could do with lifting the shadows. For some reason both Huawei phones just don’t have any background blur while using portrait mode. We even checked the settings to make sure it actually was portrait mode. S21 Ultra does well with the blur around the top part, but went a little lazy in the details.
After some further troubleshooting we found that portrait mode works best when the subject is closer to the camera.
In this separate example we start off with standard mode, here all of the phones managed the shadows fairly well but S21 Ultra made the whole picture much warmer. We accidentally left beauty mode enabled on P50 Pro which is why my face is missing some details.
In portrait mode at its default settings the overall quality is good on all three devices. Samsung is still warmer and has a stronger background blur.
To match it, we had to enable the Super blur effect on Huawei and while it did work, making all three pictures similarly blurred - it shows quite a few misfires, especially visible on the post to the right of my head. The issues are big enough to be noticeable so Huawei needs to work on this further.
Of course, let’s not forget about selfie mode. Here Huawei has the same issue with background blur. Samsung's picture looks well managed in terms of colour and exposure while P50 Pro has a purple tint around my t-shirt.
Next up is shooting in the dark. The first picture is taken past sunset in fairly low light conditions. Samsung’s picture more or less represents what we could see with our own eyes and Huawei pictures look really bright.
When we jump to night mode, it’s interesting to see that Huawei pictures didn’t change that much. While the scene is brighter on all three phones, it is not by much on the Huawei devices. The greens and blues are noticeably more saturated. I actually prefer the P50 Pro picture from before as it makes it look dynamic rather than just bright. You may also notice that Samsung’s picture is cropped in, this is because at current settings you can’t take night mode pictures with a ultra wide lens. Huawei P50 Pro is not perfect though, there are some green artefacts at the bottom and it is softer than Samsung.
This next night mode picture is pretty challenging as it was really dark. We have very dark and really bright areas all in one, so plenty of dynamic range here. Honestly, I prefer the Huawei pictures as the colours are nice, the tree is perfectly lit and the light on the post is well managed without being blown out.
We also took a picture in our studio. The colours on Huawei are actually more vivid and the tone is closer to what it looks in real-life, however the P50 Pro as well as Pocket have introduced a lot more noise on the sound panels, Samsung on the other hand has applied denoiser making the panels completely flat, erasing all the natural texture on the material.
For those who are interested in the zoom functionality, here is a series of shots by a lake. We start with a ultra wide shot where Samsung looks more vivid with trees nicely separated from the sky, to top it off - the water looks more see-through and glassy.
Continuing with a standard wide camera also known as 1x zoom: these pictures are more comparable. The amount of detail is very similar, just a more vivid result on the S21 Ultra.
Now heading into the zoom territory, it is immediately noticeable that all phones have different default focal lengths - S21 Ultra has 3x zoom, Huawei Pocket 2x and P50 Pro has 3.5x. In this picture if we crop in - P50 Pro with higher zoom reproduces the sharpest sign to the point where you can already easily read it. With S21 Ultra it's a little washed out and on Pocket it is just random pixels.
In the final picture of the series we have the 10x zoom where the Pocket is only using digital 5x zoom at this point, hence a somewhat pointless result. The other two switch over to that periscope telephoto camera and honestly look pretty comparable. I would probably give the slight win to Huawei for sharpness. One thing for sure - my eyes could not see any of this without using a phone.
The last section is going to be video performance starting with Selfie Mode. Here are three clips testing video stabilisation as well as audio (please see the video above for the footage, timestamp 5:13).
As far as stabilisation is concerned - S21 Ultra performs the best here, while P50 Pro feels rather jittery. Also for some reason the sky gets blown out every few seconds. In terms of audio it seems Huawei phones have more sensitive microphone and processing, so my voice is louder and sounds overall good with exception of noise reduction. You can actually hear my footsteps as well as general rustling noises.
Next test is video quality and stabilisation while using the main camera on the back. Yet again I find S21 Ultra winning here as it really reduces the jitters which in turn makes it less distracting. What is pleasant, both Huawei phones deliver more vivid colours which is a nice touch.
And finally we have video performance at night. Well, the main take-away is that they all can record footage. But it's surely not the kind you would be posting online to show off your picture quality. What else could you expect from a phone after all? If we look from a practical standpoint - S21 Ultra actually lights up the scene, with a lot of noise, so you are at least able to capture some detail. With Huawei it's a bit too dark.
With this I’d like to summarise - in the scenarios we tested our opinion is that the latest phones from Huawei can compete in the camera department with the best that Samsung had last year and overall deliver pretty good results barring some issues with video stabilisation and portrait mode. This is of course very subjective and you have to judge by yourself which type of picture you prefer the most.
Other than that, the camera system delivers really good and mostly colour accurate pictures. I think most of you would prefer a phone that delivers very appealing pictures that you can post directly to social media rather than colour accurate pictures which may need editing. The big thing here is that it is competitive with last generation of phones and with added complexity of no Google services as well as premium price - it makes it a pretty hard sale.
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