The Huawei Mate 40 Pro camera is by all technical measures a very potent image capture system. As an evolution of the proven P40 Pro and P40 Pro+ cameras, it comes with interesting hardware and tuning updates that make it the new hardware king, only to be superseded by Mate 40 Pro+. But to know what its true image quality (IQ) is and what possible tradeoffs there may be, we analyzed the most minute photos details and data.
Image Quality Analysis
A note about our Camera IQ score: our scoring system is based on four “Pillars” sub-scores that can help tell a fuller story: Day, Night, Ultrawide, and Zoom photography. If you want to know more about how the score works, head to our Camera IQ benchmark page.
A global camera score is clear and straightforward, but the pillars help tell a better story for those who want to have a more nuanced view of the camera’s Image Quality. You might also want to read our What is (objective) Image Quality article?
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 our eyes see, including how dark the scene actually is. It is only to provide the crucial context of the shot and not a quality benchmark.
The Huawei Mate 40 Pro is an evolution of the Huawei P40 Pro series, but there are updates that are worth noticing. In my opinion, the most impactful one is the addition of a Multispectral Color Temperature Sensor to help with accurate color capture.
The second change is the larger Ultrawide camera sensor, the industry’s largest in this category. This new sensor is paired with the same 18mm optics as before.
The Primary camera no longer features an optical image stabilization system (OIS), but this change does not seem to make a significant impact.
Our Camera HW benchmark (read the Camera HW FAQ) indicates that the overall hardware configuration of the Mate 40 Pro is slightly more potent than even the P40 Pro +, and a lot of this has to do with that new Ultrawide sensor. We often rank the best camera hardware by
|Camera HW v1.1
|Huawei Mate 40 Pro
|Huawei P40 Pro+
|Huawei P40 Pro
|Samsung Galaxy Note 20 Ultra
|Apple iPhone 12 Pro Max
|Huawei Mate 40 Pro
|Huawei P40 Pro+
|27mm 50-MP f/1.9
|27mm 50-MP f/1.9+OIS
|81mm 8-MP f/2.4 +OIS
|125mm 12-MP f/3.4 +OIS
|269mm 8-MP f/4.4 +OIS
|18mm 20-MP f/1.8
|18mm 40-MP f/1.8
In daylight photography, the Huawei Mate 40 Pro builds on the work done with P40 Pro and P40 Pro+ with very similar level of details but better color capture. In the past, we’ve noticed that Huawei cameras sometimes shifted colors a bit, but Mate 40 Pro is much more on point and produces realistic color hues out of the box.
Huawei could do better if it enabled a 50 Megapixel photo capture in “auto” mode as it is simply extremely difficult to beat a 108MP capture from competing phones, with a 12MP photo output because of the disadvantage in details and texture.
As we’ve said previously, the latest super-high-resolution sensors do produce a higher level of details in bright lighting conditions, when the small 0.8-micron pixel size can resolve fine details.
Night Photography (Primary camera)
The Huawei Mate 40 Pro night photos have more realistic and saturated colors than the P40 Pro+, which tended to wash things out a bit. The image-filtering is also different and often does a better job at preserving texture. The house’s fish scale siding is a great example, where P40 Pro+ made the pattern look hexagonal when it’s a bunch of discs.
A phone like the new Galaxy S21 Ultra will take more realistic night photos, but Huawei’s camera features virtually no noise, so they are comparable, but it will depend on your priorities. Compared to the iPhone 12 Pro Max, the Mate 40 Pro’s night photo quality is noticeably better.
A close inspection often reveals softer (less sharp) night photos from the Mate 40 Pro vs. P40 Pro, and that’s most likely due to the lack of OIS which can greatly help in low-light."IN LOW LIGHT, THE MATE 40 PRO IS BETTER THAN THE IPHONE 12 PRO MAX ACROSS THE BOARD"
In soft lighting (no HDR) the Huawei Mate 40 Pro camera tends to capture a much brighter photo than what you see. This isn’t new and there’s no question that the Note 20 Ultra captures a much more realistic photo. However, Mate 40 Pro performs very well in some IQ attributes such as noise, and its colors are better than P40 Pro+.
The Mate 40 Pro’s general color improvements extend to night vision (NV). In the past, the extraordinary NV performance of Huawei cameras would come with a pink tint which is typical of super-high ISO photos. The Mate 40 Pro noticeably improves this aspect and captures more natural images than the previous NV champion: the P40 Pro+.
The zoom performance of the Huawei Mate 40 Pro is remarkably high and clearly among the top “zoom” mobile cameras in the world, but it does rank just below the P40 Pro+ which can take slightly more detailed photos in most cases.
The P40 Pro+ does capture finer details (visually accentuated by a sharpening filter), and that is very visible when looking at the crane and various details in the buildings.
That said, Huawei has improved the Mate 40 Pro’s HDR and color tuning over the P40 Pro+, and its photos look more natural, with fewer artifacts than P40+. Overall, the Mate 40 Pro does the right thing and you won’t have to color-correct to obtain something realistic.
The Galaxy Note 20 Ultra tends to have the overall best zoom capture of these three phones, especially in high-contrast scenes as P40 Pro might lose some details due to HDR tuning. The Note 20 Ultra shows a balanced mix of sharpness, exposure, natural colors and good texture/detail preservation at that distance. This is very noticeable in the photo on the main building under construction.
Huawei’s ultrawide photography image quality has dominated the industry for some time at a cost: it is not “as wide” (18mmvs. 13mm focal) as other competitors. You can decide what’s wide enough for you, and we’ll look at the image quality while pointing out that having a narrower field does come with an image quality advantage.
In Daylight photography, the Mate 40 Pro brings color and texture improvements over the P40 Pro+ which captured a fairly realistic perception of brightness but overshot a bit, leading to slight over-exposure accompanied by some loss of details. Mate 40 Pro corrects some of it and exhibits small improvements in both colors and details. It may slightly reduce the brightness in a very bright scene, but overall it’s a win over P40 Pro+: the Mate 40 Pro series has the best Ultrawide image quality."THE MATE 40 PRO SERIES HAS THE BEST ULTRAWIDE IMAGE QUALITY"
Night photos with the Mate 40 Pro’s ultrawide show that the phone is over-shooting a bit when it comes to colors and image filtering. Visually, the Mate 40 Pro seems to utilize higher ISO, and after looking at the files, that’s indeed the case (ISO-5000 vs. 4000) and explains the higher noise and brightness.
The Huawei Mate 40 Pro has a fantastic camera system that brings a much-needed boost in what we previously considered as Huawei’s camera’s Achilles heel: the colors.
Once again, new hardware comes to save the day, and the new color temperature sensor lifted the overall Huawei low-light and night-vision image quality to unprecedented levels."THE HIGHEST CAMERA IQ SCORE TO DATE"
This progress helped daylight photography, but the new Ultrawide camera came out to be a toss-up with the P40 Pro+ one, perhaps due to the new hardware’s early tuning. The zoom performance is very high and comparable with the Galaxy S20 Ultra but is just shy from reaching the absolute best level.
The Huawei Mate 40 Pro gets the highest Camera IQ score to date, and will remain in history as the best camera system released in 2020.
- Most powerful camera hardware
- Huge progress in color capture
- Excellent night photo
- Expensive handset
Rating + Price
- Rating: 10/10
- Price: ~$1400