It’s fair to say that 2018 has been the best year yet for Chinese smart device manufacturer Huawei. Its partnership with iconic camera brand Leica has continued, with the extraordinary P20 Pro released earlier this year. It launched with the first-ever triple lens on a smart device, evoking a barrage of terrific reviews globally — both for its features, and results enjoyed by users.
In Q2 2018, Huawei finally cracked the Samsung/Apple global smartphone dominance, by shipping more devices in this period than Apple.
All this would be cause to celebrate, yet Huawei has even more to offer. Rounding out 2018, it has released yet another outstanding device — the Mate 20 Pro. Once again, it has notably terrific camera technology and lens set-up.
There is a triple lens like the P20 Pro, but with one key difference. The monochrome sensor (20MP) has made way for a 20MP (f/2.2) ultra-wide-angle lens. The 40MP (f/1.8) main lens remains with 8MP telephoto (f/2.4), and the front-facing (selfie) lens is 24MP (f/2.0).
An obvious shift is the shape and location of the lenses, now to be found in a square array, with a dual-LED flash (as opposed to the vertical array on the P20 Pro). The initial marketing suggests this will be the distinctive design feature of the Mate devices now, and perhaps into the future.
On the software side, Mate 20 Pro’s AI makes it very easy to shoot surprisingly decent images with almost no effort. The Master AI is there if you want to select ‘Point and Shoot’ in the settings, but Huawei has further refined the AI from the P20 Pro to include recognition of more differing scenes (i.e. water, pets) and subtle variations thereof.
Upping the ante significantly from the P20 Pro, the Mate AI has increased to recognizing around 1500 possible types of shots. Huawei has commendably taken on board criticisms of the ‘over the top’ AI ‘colourization’ of nature colours with the P20 Pro, and dialed it back in the new Mate device.
For the more serious user wanting maximum manual control over shots, there is Pro mode, and the fun continues with other very popular modes such as Portrait, Ultra-Slow Video, Raw, HDR, and Night.
It’s worth noting that there is now a Monochrome mode to replace the missing lens if you still want to shoot black and white. The default 10MP setting for taking pictures is great for instant shots, and not only enables AI functionality but also zoom. The option is there to sharpen right up to 40MP, but this limits functionality almost entirely to point and shoot.
Night mode arguably delivers the most striking results of all modes, given that darkness offers the most challenging conditions in which to achieve results comparable to those of a regular camera. You do need a very steady hand to minimize the shaking that can cause blurring, but the Mate AI really helps the average user and delivers gasp-inducing clarity, unexpected from the tiny lenses of a smart device.
Macro shooting and Aperture mode have to be lauded for the gorgeous results that can be obtained. Macro shots reveal glorious detail and the ultra-wide angle further enables terrific spread of detail. The Aperture and Portrait modes both capitalize on the ‘bokeh’ trend so popular in recent years by offering the option in both modes.
Zooming is also a big deal on the Mate 20 Pro. A 3x optical zoom is available which can extend to 5x if being enhanced digitally. Built in OIS is a real AI bonus that works well stabilizing the ‘shake’ that often negates quality of zoom shots.
Finally, on the camera front, there are no concerns to be had with video functionality. The Mate 20 Pro records video up to 4K resolution at 30FPS, and also has the ubiquitous super slow-mo recording at 720p/960FPS (which clips only last for 10 seconds).
Aside from the camera, the Mate 20 Pro has seemingly morphed all the very best features of its competitors into this device. There is a hi-tech 3D face security unlock, an incredibly durable battery, sublimely-designed wrap-around OLED screen display and fast-charging with a wireless option.
Huawei has taken what was arguably the best new camera smart phone of 2018 in the P20 Pro, and refined and enhanced it’s features to make it even better. The Mate 20 Pro is possibly not only the best camera-focused smart device camera of 2018, but perhaps in smart device history.