Key Camera Specifications and CAMERA HW Score
- Rear Camera System (4 cameras)
- Primary: 26mm 48-MP f/1.4 wide (Primary) +OIS
- Zoom: 78mm 8-MP f/2.4 zoom +OIS
- Ultrawide: 17mm 16-MP f/2.2 ultrawide
- Macro: 27mm 2-MP f/2.4 wide
The technical specifications show a rear camera system which is inspired by the work done on the Mate 20 Pro (the best mobile camera of 2018), but redesigned around new components, especially the 48 Megapixel Quad-Bayer Sony sensor and a large f/1.4 aperture (from f/1.8 on both the Mate 20 Pro and P30 Pro).
Note that despite the 48-Megapixel specifications, Quad-Bayer sensors are generally designed to function at 1/4 the resolution (12MP here) with simultaneous dual-dynamic ranges. That’s why photos in “auto” mode are 12MP, and not 48MP.
There’s also a new addition with a 2 Megapixel 27mm macro camera that can take a clear picture with a distance as close as ~4cm from the subject. Despite the low resolution, it’s an interesting idea, which isn’t incorporated in our CAMERA IQ score. However, if this was to become popular, we would certainly look into adding it.
Image Quality Analysis
Important: let’s clarify some terminology we’ll be using:
- “image processing”: software work that improves the image data quality
- “image filtering”: software work that changes the style (aesthetic) of the photo.
- “context photo”: a great approximation of what we see
- Including how dark the scene actually is
- Only to provide the context of the shot.
- Not a quality benchmark
A note about the CAMERA IQ score: our camera scoring system is based on four “Pillars” or sub-scores that provide much-needed nuance: day, night, zoom, and ultrawide photography.
In daylight photography, the Honor 20 Pro performs very well, and our tests show an image quality that is just a little bit better than the Huawei P30, and comparable with the Huawei P30 Pro.
Even though the Honor 20 Pro outputs 12 Megapixel photos, the 10-Megapixel P30 Pro pictures have slightly better details, especially away from the center, perhaps due to more aggressive image-filtering in the Honor 20 Pro. That’s most visible in the tree leaves, right-house siding and curtains details.
When comparing with the iPhone Xs, it is easy to see even higher details/texture in the leaves, curtains and even roof texture, on the iPhone. All these details contribute to making the photo better-looking and more realistic, especially on larger screens (laptop, TV, tablet).
In difficult contrast situations, the HDR management of the Honor 20 Pro works very well and captures photos with realistic levels of exposures at different places in the scene. In the image above, it’s difficult to capture the subtle differences between the fog and the sky to the left, and the various tones of blue and green.
If you look very closely, this is another example of slightly higher levels of details with the P30 Pro. The new Galaxy Note 10 goes is a bit better than the P30 Pro when it comes to detail levels in this scene.
The very detailed scene with rocks and plants shows that the HDR behavior of the Honor 20 Pro is very similar to the P30 Pro’s, with a strong HDR filter that makes the light very uniform and flat. That is (unfortunately) becoming the norm, and we’ve seen the same kind of image-processing in the Galaxy Note 10.
Context photo: what we are looking atIn night scenes, the Honor 20 Pro does quite well with the overall capture of the scene’s colors. However, the noise pattern is more “blocky” than on the Huawei P30 and Huawei P30 Pro (look at the sky’s noise below). Still, the low-light performance remains higher than the iPhone Xs to use a reference that most people are familiar with.
The color capture is quite good and will satisfy users, but the level of isn’t quite as high as on P30 Pro, and even P30 with the image being a bit fuzzier as you get away from the center. It could be due to excessive noise-filtering or difficulties to re-align multi-frame captures.
Below is a crop that illustrates this. We’ve seen it on other low-light photos with similar parameters:
The Honor camera tuning is going after noise, while the P30 Pro is going for increased sharpness. These are two different aesthetics that come with their pro and cons. One is a bit noisy but preserves details/texture better while the other looks smooth and soft at the expense of details.
In the colored Bottles scene, we were impressed by the ultra-low light performance of the Honor 20 Pro, but the results were a bit mixed and require explanations.
Below, if you take pictures with the Honor 20 Pro at 0.4LUX and 0.1LUX, the camera seems to use two different modes: normal ISO (~6400) at 0.4LUX and super-high ISO (~51200) at 0.1LUX. You can recognize the typical redshift associated with Huawei’s high-ISO modes.
The level of details on the 0.1 LUX photo is considerably degraded, most likely due to a pixel binning process to merge 4 pixels into 1 to aggregate more brightness. The P30 Pro also has this binning mode, but it happens at even lower brightness when you’re basically using starlight.
The Galaxy Note 10 image captures a realistic mood of the scene and its brightness could be boosted but at the price of more visible noise. However, the P30 Pro clearly leads that ultra-low light or “night vision” category, making long-exposure Night Modes a thing of the past.
Huawei is quickly adding ultrawide photography to more handsets, and there’s been much progress since the Mate 20 Pro, the first Huawei phone to feature Ultrawide. Back then, there were issues with chromatic aberations that have been since improved in the Honor 20 Pro design and software.
Despite being placed lower in the Huawei product line-up hierarchy,the Honor 20 Pro captures ultrawide photos with more realistic and on-point color hues than P30 Pro and P30, which both tend to add a blue or gray tint.
Night ultrawide shots also have noticeably better color capture than even the more expensive Huawei P30 Pro. This is probably achieved by tuning the image processing and various color treatments.
We’re still relatively far from the Ultrawide quality achieved by Samsung’s high-end cameras (S10/Note 10), which is currently the best, as seen in the Galaxy Note 10.
Zoom photography has been getting more and more popular since phones have had more powerful lenses (80mm+). The Honor 20 Pro has an 78mm zoom lens, which yields good results in widespread use cases.
It fares a bit better than your typical 52mm (2X) optical zoom Galaxy S10 or iPhone Xs camera. The same is true for the no-zoom Google Pixel 3 camera which is the most potent single-lens mobile camera today.
That said, the Honor 20 Pro’s zoom is surpassed by phones equipped with even more powerful zoom lenses from both Huawei and Oppo. In the grand scheme of things, the Honor 20 Pro zoom performance is very decent, but you can find even better on the market. Check our P30 Pro zoom test to see what one of the best mobile zoom cameras on the market can do.
Conclusion and CAMERA IQ Score
The Honor 20 Pro performs very well at its price point and achieves the goal of providing excellent photographic capabilities. Overall, the Honor 20 Pro camera is vastly superior to the iPhone Xs camera, thanks to its low-light performance, high-powered zoom, and ultrawide versatility. You can check the current rankings on our Best Camera Phones page.
The iPhone Xs still has a small advantage when it comes to daylight photography, thanks to slightly better details/texture and a less filtered style."THE HONOR 20 PRO CAMERA IS VASTLY SUPERIOR TO THE IPHONE XS"
On paper, the Honor 20 Pro camera looks very much like the Mate 20 Pro camera from 2018, but in reality, it has benefited from many improvements on image quality that make it in a better camera. When compared to the Huawei P30, slightly better low-light ultrawide and night-vision capabilities made the difference.