212Image Quality score UBER-G SCOREScoring/ranking system name IQImage-Quality based scoring system CAMERA Mobile High EndCategory based on price 2020-03Device launch date Huawei P40 ProDevice brand and name

The Huawei P40 Pro Camera is the “tip of the spear” camera system at Huawei and is the latest in a line of very successful mobile camera. It comes with new hardware and aims to surpass Huawei’s Mate 30 Pro and Samsung’s current champion, the Galaxy S20 Ultra Camera.

P40 Pro Camera: what’s new?

What is new/better about the Huawei P40 Pro? To summarize, P40 Pro’s camera hardware should -in theory- increase the details in regular “wide” (27mm) photos, thanks to a 50 MP sensor that has nearly 2X the sensing surface of the Primary P30 Pro and Mate 30 Pro “wide” cameras sensors.

The P40 Pro’s Ultrawide camera uses a similar sensor to the Mate 30 Pro’s which we found to be the best in the industry until now (note: it has a narrower filed-of-view). So, we would expect a similar level of performance, but we will check for software/tuning tweaks.

Finally, the P40 Pro Zoom camera has a 135mm lens like the P30 Pro. The Mate 30 Pro had a shorter zoom, which made it score lower in our Camera IQ benchmark. Users tend to think of “zoom performance” in terms of “extreme zoom”, which is exactly why we measure it that way.

Camera Type Specifications
Ultrawide18mm 40-MP f/1.8
Wide (Primary)27mm 50-MP f/1.9
Zoom135mm 12-MP f/3.4 + OIS

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 Uber-G Camera IQ Score: our camera scoring system is based on four “Pillars” sub-scores that can help tell a fuller story: Day, Night, Ultrawide, and Zoom photography.

A global camera score is clear and simple, but the pillars help tell a better story for those who want to have a more nuanced view of the camera’s Image Quality. If you want to know more about details about how the score works, head to our Camera IQ benchmark page.

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Daylight photography

Like

  • Excellent image quality
  • Significant quality upgrade from P30 Pro
  • HDR Picks up details in shaded areas

Disike

  • Only 12 Megapixel in auto-mode
  • HDR can create slightly unnatural photos

By default, the Huawei P40 Pro camera takes 12 Megapixel photos (4096×3072) and the 50MP full resolution is only accessible in “Pro” and “High Res” modes that do not contribute to our Camera IQ score.

OEMs like Xiaomi or Samsung have been integrating their full-resolution modes into the “auto” default mode, and that is how we recommend OEMs to do it. Statistically, it is very unlikely that users will switch out of “auto” mode.

Using the garden scene to stress HDR, color, and details, we can immediately see that our initial assessment on the hardware improvements was correct: even at 12MP, the P40 Pro has a significant increase in detail quality when compared to the 10-Megapixel photos of the P30 Pro.

P40 Pro is comparable in details with the 12 MP photos of the Galaxy S20 Ultra, except that Huawei’s camera a different kind of image-filtering, so the Texture appears a bit more natural upon a close inspection.

Since Galaxy S10, Samsung has a relatively strong sharpening filter that adds artifacts, visible at 12 Megapixel. Both Huawei and Samsung have low noise-levels, especially when compared to the iPhone 11 Pro.

Context photo: what our eyes are looking at
comparison image Acomparison image B

The P30 Pro has a tendency to over-contrast scenes like this, resulting the the loss of the overwhelming brightness feeling of a sunny day. P40 Pro does much better

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The S20 Ultra does a good job of capturing the scene’s general mood, but its HDR capture is a bit too conservative in this particular example. The P40 Pro has better HDR tuning here, and it’s a near perfect shot, except for a slight red tint in the center.

All three cameras (P40 Pro, S20 Ultra, iPhone 11 Pro) shoot the garden scene with a low ISO (100, 50, and 32 respectively), but despite having the lowest ISO, the iPhone 11 Pro is by far the noisiest, probably due to inferior sensor technology.

However, the P40 Pro wide camera’s 12MP photos captures far fewer details than the S20 Ultra in 108 MP photos. Obviously, the difference would be lessened if 50MP was available in auto-mode, as Xiaomi’s Mi Note 10 camera’s 27MP mode has proven.

When it comes to High-Dynamic Range (HDR), none of the cameras are perfect (compared to what your eyes can see), but the ones we compared in this round did a solid job. HDR often becomes an issue as you go to lower prices, with weaker sensors.

comparison image Acomparison image B

The P30 Pro 10 Megapixel photos often put it at a slight disadvantage when compared to 12 or 16 MP cameras when it comes to details. P40 Pro fixes this.

comparison image Acomparison image B

The iPhone 11 Pro captures good colors in daylight, but the noise levels are quite high, despite using a low ISO.

comparison image Acomparison image B

The Galaxy S20 Ultra’s 108 Megapixel resolution in ‘auto’ mode provides much higher details than the 12MP ‘auto’ mode of the P40 Pro. Users can switch to ‘Pro’ or ‘High-res’ mode to have a limited 50MP mode (no zoom etc.)

Overall, P40 Pro is a significant improvement over P30 Pro and its contrast and HDR tuning are better than the recent Mate 30 Pro camera too, which made things “too contrasted”. That said, it will not match the Galaxy S20 Ultra in sheer details.

Night Photography

Like

  • Very good detail
  • Almost no noise

Disike

  • Aggressive noise-reduction affects details
  • Colors look less natural

HDR Night Photography

In a mixed environment where there’s some light sources and shaded areas, the high dynamic range (HDR) capabilities and techniques of cameras are stresssed to the limit.

Like in daylight photography, the Huawei P40 Pro does have a visibly higher level of details than P30 Pro and Mate 30 Pro, thanks to its new camera sensor.

Users will also see a huge visual difference in brightness and contrast between what they are looking at, and what the Huawei P40 captures – yes, even more so than with Mate 30 Pro.

The P40 Pro’s camera turns a night shot, almost into a daylight shot, which is more of an aesthetic choice than a technical performance (brighter is not always better), except for the level of noise, which is extremely low. Users have to decide if they like this choice, or would rather prefer something more natural-looking.

Low noise also comes from a strong image-filtering, which can erase or attenutate fine details if you look up close. That can be important if you crop, but also contributes to a natural look which may seem less “airbrushed”. Filtering can be a force for good, but when used within reason.

Mobile cameras like the Galaxy S20 Ultra, or the iPhone 11 tend to go for a more natural-looking aesthetic. However, the iPhone’s noise level is very high for this price-category and the level of detail is visibly lower.

Context photo: what we’re looking at
The Huawei P40 Pro’s camera makes the aesthetic choice of substantially change the mood, colors and contrast of the scene. It is an aesthetic choice that users can like, or not.
comparison image Acomparison image B

The P40 Pro’s camera changes the mood of the scene even more than the Mate 30 Pro’s.

comparison image Acomparison image B

The Galaxy S20 Ultra capture a more natural-looking photo, with a better mood preservation. The same thing is true of the iPhone 11 series

comparison image Acomparison image B

Looking closer, the aesthetics difference are more obvious between the Mate 30 Pro and the new P40 Pro. Also, the P40 Pro’s image-filtering induces some distorsion as seen on the round wooden shingles, which are all little discs.

comparison image Acomparison image B

The S20 Ultra captures the disc-shape very well (a sign of very good Texture preservation), and induce much less distorsion, at the price of slightly higher noise.

comparison image Acomparison image B

The iPhone 11’s sensor quality is much lower, so it simply has difficulties to capture the data at this particular place. The noise-level is also quite high. This shows you the kind of technical gap that exists between high-end mobile cameras.

comparison image Acomparison image B

Another example of fine Texture details that will get damaged by the noise-reduction filter” check the wood work, and the volume/contrast/shadows on the rectangle trims. The S20 Ultra captures these with a higher fidelity.

Non-HDR Night Photography

Without huge contrast differences to deal with, cameras engage in different strategies, and the Huawei P40 Pro sticks to the Huawei choice of making things “brighter”, while Samsung tries to capture the scene “as your eye” see it.

The advantage of Huawei’s choice is that some users love the eye-candy and there can be a “wow” effect. The downside is that it may alienate photographers who want to capture a specific mood which is now gone, probably forever.

This is not a new conundrum and we have seen this with previous generations. In the past, Huawei had a huge camera hardware advantage and enjoyed a favorable gap in details and overall quality, while Samsung had excellent colors, but lower details and higher noise – mainly because of a sensor size+quality difference in favor of Huawei.

With the S20 Ultra and its huge sensor, that hardware gap is now small enough that Samsung can clinch a narrow victory in this area. It is easy to brighten the S20 Ultra photo, but it is much harder to make P40 Pro capture match the scene’s original mood.

Huawei has less noise partly because of stronger noise-reduction filters, but noise-reduction also partially damages fine details, including shapes and colors.

Context photo: what our eyes are seeing (~0.5 LUX)
comparison image Acomparison image B

P40 captures a higher level of detail and has lower noise than P30 Pro. This is visible on the bottle’s labels, especially on the fine prints

comparison image Acomparison image B

The Galaxy S20 Ultra better captures the original mood of the scene, and preserve fine and subtle details, some of which are erased by the P40 Pro’s image filtering. This is most obvious in two places:
1/ the vertical red text of the center bottle’s label
2/ the subtle grey-on-white pattern on the red bottle’s label

Night-Vision (~0.005 LUX)

Night-Vision photography, as we measure it, happens when your eyes have difficulty seeing details and colors and right at the edge of the sensitivity of our lightmeter. It is an edge use-case worth looking at.

Huawei has invented this category and still leads in it. As of late, it has been challenged by phones such as the 108-MP Xiaomi Mi Note 10 Pro (read our camera review).

Interestingly, Samsung does not enable Night-Vision, even though the S20 Ultra has an even more powerful sensor than Xiaomi’s. Instead, Samsung only focuses on capturing what your eyes see and therefore cannot score high in this category.

Again, users will have to choose what they like best, but here are the highlights, using a close crop of our bottles scene:

comparison image Acomparison image B

You can actually use the S20 Ultra shot as the reference for what your eyes see – it is quite realistic. If you want Night Vision, it is available on the P40 Pro, and the performance is pretty much equivalent to what Mate 30 Pro has.

comparison image Acomparison image B

For comparison, the iPhone captures an equally dark image as S20 Ultra, which is realistic but you can immediately see that the -image quality- (detail, noise, texture) is much better with the S20 Ultra.

Zoom Photography

Like

  • High-powered zoom
  • Excellent detail in general

Disike

  • Image filtering can affect text legibility and exaggerate texture appearance

The Huawei P40 Pro long-zoom camera module of 135mm paired with a 12 Megapixel sensor was designed to improve upon the P30 Pro zoom (135mm/8MP), thanks partly to a significantly larger sensor surface.

The comparison with P30 Pro is mixed: on one hand, the P40 Pro’s zoom camera can sometimes better pick-up high-frequency details, thanks to its higher resolution and less aggressive noise-reduction.

On the other hand, the “superzoom-style” sharpening can damage things like fine text, which didn’t happen with P30 Pro. The same filter can also exagerate the texture of things such as roof shingles or other textures, if you look closely

Overall, and because text legibility is less important than general Texture preservation, P40 Pro’s zoom capabilities are only slightly better than P30 Pro but much better than Mate 30 Pro (80mm zoom) in the context of extreme zoom.

Context photo: we’re zooming into the red rectangle
comparison image Acomparison image B

The level of detail is comparable, but the sharpening filter of P40 Pro can have unintended effects on fine details. Text is a good example because everyone knows what each letter should look like. For general textures, it’s less noticeable if you do not know the scene.

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For context, this is what the iPhone 11 Pro zoom looks like in comparison

Ultrawide Photography

Like

  • High level of details
  • Very good low-light performance

Disike

  • Significantly narrower Field of View vs. Competitors

Our internal data shows that the P40 Pro’s Ultrawide camera hardware is slightly less powerful than the Mate 30 Pro’s, mainly due to a small downgrade of the camera sensor (and probably the lens quality as well). We were curious to see how that would impact image quality.

When it comes to details, the P40 Pro Ultrawide camera compounds two factors. 1/ the narrower field of view 2/ the much larger camera sensor with a surface 4X larger than the iPhone 11 Pro’s UW camera, and almost 2X larger than the S20 Ultra UW camera.

Daylight Ultrawide Photography

Context photo: what we see

Cloudy scenes like the one above can be very difficult to deal with for cameras. The P40 Pro’s ultrawide camera has noticeably strong image filtering with both strong HDR and sharpening set to high values.

That said, the P40 Pro UW camera tuning is better than Mate 30 Pro and P30 Pro as both had excess contrast that would make the image too dark when compared to the user’s perception of the scene.

comparison image Acomparison image B

The P40 Pro Ultrawide camera does a better job than Mate 30 Pro when it comes to capturing the perceived brightness. Phones such as the S20 Ultra or the iPhone 11 also do it quite well. To the right, the Mate 30 Pro seems to experience a lens flare that P40 Pro does not have.

comparison image Acomparison image B

Brightness was equalized in this crop, to focus on the fact that the Mate 30 Pro ultrawide camera produces slightly better details, although both are incredibly powerful when compared to the competition

When the sun is out, the colors are more pronounced, and excess HDR can make the scene look unnatural, and it is quite difficult to balance HDR tuning, but for scenes like this, both the iPhone 11 Pro and the Samsung Galaxy S20 Pro do a better job when it comes to lighting, and color.

Context photo: how we see it
The P40 Pro image filtering brighten things a bit too aggressively and can make the scene appear unnatural
In broad daylight, even a camera with a much weaker sensor can capture well-balanced images that are realistic.

Night Ultrawide Photography

Review of both the Huawei Mate 30 Pro and Galaxy S20 Ultra Ultrawide cameras showed that the Mate 30 Pro was a better shot in Ultrawide low-light, so we wondered how much better if at all, the P40 Pro is.

Just like our Camera Hardware analysis suggested, the P40 Pro’s ultrawide image quality is slightly lower than the Mate 30 Pro’s in low-light situations when the camera hardware is stressed.

Generally, the color capture, is now more realistic without a red-ish tint that was observed with its predecessors. The saturation and noise-reduction filter have been reduced as well.

Context photo: what our eyes see. (Not Ultrawide)
comparison image Acomparison image B

The aspect ratio is a bit different on these two pictures, but the point is that the 18mm Ultrawide lens of the P40 (and Mate 30 Pro) have a significantly narrower field of view than the typical 13mm lens that most Ultrawide camera have.

You can also notice that the P40 UW camera significantly changes the overall mood/saturation/contrast of the scene

comparison image Acomparison image B

The P40 Pro UW camera uses less image filtering than Mate 30 Pro, and that makes the output a bit more predictible for the user.

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Putting color saturation and filtering aside as much as possible, the Mate 30 Pro captures fine details just a little better. Many of the Fuzzy spots couldn’t be improved that much with a sharpening filter (car roof line, wood squares on the lower-left, etc).

Conclusion

212Image Quality score UBER-G SCOREScoring/ranking system name IQImage-Quality based scoring system CAMERA Mobile High EndCategory based on price 2020-03Device launch date Huawei P40 ProDevice brand and name

The Huawei P40 Pro Mobile Camera system is one of the most powerful camera hardware setup, only second to the P40 Pro+ according to our hardware data analysis.

As such it is not surprising that it ranks really well and is the second phone to break the 200-mark in our Camera IQ camera benchmark, right behind the Galaxy S20 Ultra.

The P40 Pro is a significant improvement upon the last year’s P30 Pro, but also the Mate 30 Pro launched in December 2020. The camera tuning dials back the color modifications, and brings HDR/contrast improvements over previous Huawei phones.

It would have been nice to see a higher (than 12MP) resolution option in the auto-mode as it could have helped with daylight photos, but it might still come out as a software update some day.

Filed in Cellphones. Read more about , , and .

6.58"
  • 2640x1200
  • P-OLED
  • 441 PPI
50 MP
  • f/1.9 Aperture
  • OIS
4200 mAh
  • Non-Removable
  • Wireless Charging
8GB RAM
  • KIRIN 990 5G
  • Nano Memory
Price
~$950 - Amazon
Weight
203 g
Launched in
2020-03-26
Storage (GB)
  • 128
  • 256
  • 512
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