Huawei P40 Pro+: What’s New?
We have previously reviewed the image quality (IQ) of the Huawei P40 Pro camera, but the Huawei P40 Pro+ packs even more hardware and is currently the most powerful camera system, according to Ubergizmo’s Camera HW (hardware) score, which measures camera hardware strength.
We did this camera’s image analysis at the same time we reviewed the Galaxy Note 20 Ultra camera, so we’ll re-use some of the comparative shots.
The Primary and Ultrawide camera modules on the P40 Pro and P40 Pro+ are the same. The P40 Pro+ Zoom camera functionality comes with two zoom cameras, one 81mm for ~3X zoom and an 269mm for extreme long zoom. For reference, the Huawei P40 Pro has one 135mm zoom camera.
Remember that some small score differences are likely the effect of image processing or image filtering tuning changes by the manufacturer.
|Ultrawide||18mm 40-MP f/1.8|
|Wide / Primary||25mm 108-MP f/1.8|
|Zoom short||81mm 8-MP f/2.4 +OIS|
|Zoom long||269mm 8-MP f/4.4 +OIS|
The Ultrawide camera is incredibly powerful, with a huge camera sensor that can compete with most phones’ “Primary” cameras. However, the camera’s focal length is only 18mm wide, instead of 13mm, and that’s a relatively big difference in the field of view (less “wide” than others).
The 269mm zoom has an interesting setup, with an 8-MP smaller sensor (about half the size) than the P40 Pro’s, but with a more powerful zoom lens. We’ve seen Samsung make a similar move from S20 Ultra to Note 20 Ultra, and it worked.
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 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 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. If you want to know more about how the score works, head to our CAMERA IQ benchmark page.
- Excellent HDR
- Colors mostly on-point
- Lack of 50 Megapixel option in “auto” mode
The Huawei P40 Pro+ captures excellent HDR photos, and our testy HDR scene didn’t pose any particular problems to the primary camera. When comparing with the Note 20 Ultra, both phones lowered the brightness of the sky, which looked much brighter (white) to the naked eye, like the context photo illustrates.
Both phones shot excellent photos, and the P40 Pro+ (“plus”) has a slight advantage in HDR capture (details in both bright and shaded areas), while the Galaxy Note 20 Ultra did slightly better with capturing the natural color tones.
Interestingly, the P40 Pro+ can exhibit less image processing than the Galaxy Note 20 Ultra, especially less sharpening. Huawei has traditionally been known for heavy image-filtering, but with higher-performing hardware, the need for image-filtering is reduced. DSLRs do very little to no image-filtering (not to be confused with image-processing).
In the end, the 12 Megapixel maximum resolution in “auto” mode is capping the P40 Pro+’s maximum amount of details in daylight photography. The Galaxy Note 20 Ultra (and S20 Ultra) support up to 108MP in “auto” mode and can capture much finer details.
I can only speculate that Huawei’s camera tuning favors capturing with dual-ISO using the Quad-Bayer sensor to get better High Dynamic Range (HDR) within a manageable multiframe capture. Quad-Bayer sensors can capture two images with two different ISO settings at the same time.
- Low noise
- Very good details
- Impressive night-vision capabilities
- Colors can be a bit off
- Contrast can be lost due to excessive brightness amplification
HDR Night Photography
Huawei made a name for itself in Night photography, partially due to its heavy image-filtering that turns night into day, but also for the amazing Night Vision capabilities induced by using extreme high ISO settings, with virtually no noise.
We typically split regular low-light photos and night vision into two distinct categories, because brighter is not always better. Turning night into day is an aesthetic choice that can be done as an Instagram-like filter. It can be detrimental to the “controllability” of the camera since the final image is quite different from what the user is looking at. You don’t know what to expect.
Additional image-filtering is often a bit destructive, meaning that it does remove some of the orignal information that was captured, including some of the original contrast and shadows.
Non-HDR Night Photography
When there’s no huge difference in brightness between various parts of the scene, high dynamic range (HDR) isn’t required as much. This is one of the best tests of the camera’s electro-optics (sensor+lens).
With a 0.4 LUX scene the camera hardware is stressed to the maximum of what we consider to be normal use (your eyes can see the subject well), and most high-end mobile cameras will do much better than lower-tiers hardware.
We tested the P40 Pro, the S20 Ultra, the P40 Pro+ and the Note 20 Ultra, and they all exhibited slightly different levels of quality, in that order. Both the P40 Pro+ and Note 20 Ultra could be considered “the best” within the brands respective line-ups.
You can see a clear difference between the P40 Pro and the P40 Pro+ in terms of details and colors. However, the Note 20 Ultra comes out on top, with the overall best details AND colors. The only downside for Note 20 Ultra is the excessive sharpening that creates white halos – it’s kind of annoying.
Overall, the S20 Ultra was the camera that best-preserved the original mood of the lighting, but with less details and higher noise-levels than Note 20 Ultra and P40 Pro+.
Night Vision Photography (~0.005 LUX)
Night-vision is for scenes when your eyes no longer distinguish details and hardly see colors. It’s an edge case that is technically interesting, although not that relevant in the real world.
But if we’re going to pay top dollars for a smartphone, don’t we want the best of everything? Yes, of course.
Huawei pretty much invented the Night Vision category, not only by coming up with the long-exposure “Night Sight” type feature before Google did, but also by making it obsolete within 12 months, thanks to extreme high ISO photography.
The insane part is that Huawei manages to use insane ISO levels, without equally insane noise.
Some of it seems to have to do with a double-binning of the pixels. In normal light, Huawei seems to shoot at 1/4 of the sensor resolution. However, Night Vision, our data seems to indicate that the resolution is effectively 1/16 of the original 50 Megapixel.
Huawei’s extreme ISO is typically recognizable by the “pink” tint of the image. It’s not ideal, but Samsung’s overly yellow tint is actually worse, even though more in line with the original yellow hue.
In the end, Huawei’s crosses the line ahead because it can preserve ultrafast shutter speed. Night-Vision photos are instantaneous with Huawei, while Samsung has to use much longer shutter speeds and exposure time because its ISO is ~10X lower. Huawei is the winner here.
- Very powerful zoom
- Dual 80mm and 269mm hardware zoom
- A bit more artefacts than Note 20 Ultra
- Colors are slightly off
As I said in the introduction, the Huawei P40 Pro+ has a very different setup from the P40 Pro, and the P30 Pro before it.
On paper, the 269mm zoom seems extremely powerful, but at the same time, the 8-MP sensor might limit the amount of details – it is really a balancing act that is not easily done.
In reality, the difference between P40 Pro 135mm camera and the P40 Pro+ 269mm camera is not as big as the focal length number would suggest.
Note: an important element of our IQ tests is that we only test long-zoom, because that’s how the majority of users think about this feature. As a result the P40 Pro+ 81mm short zoom does not contribute to our IQ score, but we want to point out that it is there, and should improve IQ for 2X-5X zoom.
Our Camera image quality (IQ) tests reveal that the P40 Pro+ is indeed noticeably better than Huawei’s P40 Pro. However, the Note 20 Pro manages to snatch a victory by a small margin.
The P40 Pro+ exhibits more artefacts than the Note 20 Ultra’s zoom for a comparable level of details. This might be due to how Huawei handles multiframe photography in that particular case, but we reproduced it over many photos, so it’s not a fluke.
To put things into context, all the cameras we just mentioned are exceptional. Phones like the iPhone 11 Pro have much weaker zoom cameras. We also shot a photo with the LG Velvet which has, no dedicated zoom lens at all. It’s just another world.
- World-class ultrawide image quality
- Narrower Field of View compared to competitors
Field-of-View (FoV) aside, Huawei dominates the Ultrawide photo category since the introduction of the Mate 30 Pro camera, with a simple, but expensive, recipe: use a huge camera sensor and a high-quality lens on a secondary camera.
So far, no other brand has come even close to using such powerful equipment for Ultrawide photography, and the results are without appeal: Mate 30 Pro, P40 Pro and P40 Pro+ are leading this corner of mobile photography."HUAWEI DOMINATES THE ULTRAWIDE PHOTO CATEGORY"
The only dark spot in these Ultrawide cameras is that their field of 18mm focal length produces a FoV that is noticeably narrower than competitors with 13mm lenses. In short, Huawei’s cameras are a bit less “ultrawide” than others.
If you are okay with that, you will appreciate this camera’s higher details in daylight and much higher performance in low-light.
Daylight Ultrawide Photography
Night Ultrawide Photography
At night, the superior harwdare Ultrawide camera module of the Huawei P40 Pro+ shows its strenght. Just like we’ve noticed with Mate 30 Pro and P40 Pro, it’s really hard for the competition to produce comparable images when Huawei’s sensor is 2X the size and connected with a more powerful lens.
The difference in image clarity is so obvious that we don’t even need to add cropped photos to illustrate it. Huawei really delivers a knockout punch in image quality here – if only it could happen with a 13mm lens, that would be perfect!
The Huawei P40 Pro+ is an excellent mobile camera system, and packs what is probably the most impressive hardware at publishing time as measured by our Camera HW score.
So why didn’t P40 Pro+ get the best Camera IQ score? Huawei has invested a lot in areas that are less impactful in our Camera IQ score, such as Zoom."AN EXCELLENT MOBILE CAMERA SYSTEM"
Zoom photography contributes less than Day +Night photography in the real user experience, and Day+Night is where Samsung has invested the most.
Additionally, Huawei does not fully utilize the 50 Megapixel resolution for Daylight photos: they are all captured at 12MP in auto mode. In that mode, Samsung exploits its 108 Megapixel sensor with success, creating a higher level of details.
The P40 Pro+ camera system is, without a doubt, one of the most powerful of 2020, and Huawei still has time to launch something else this year.