We review the Huawei Nova‘s 12-megapixel rear camera, boasting 4K UHD video recording and a host of bonus features, as well as the Nova’s mighty 8-megapixel front-facing selfie camera.
The Huawei Nova is a mid-range 5-inch mobile that was just revealed at IFA 2016, where we also happened to pick up a review sample. For the past week we’ve been thoroughly testing out the 12-megapixel rear camera and 8-megapixel selfie snapper and so far we’re certainly happy with the results.
Here’s our full review of the Nova’s camera tech. And check out our in-depth Nova review for our thoughts on every other part of Huawei’s latest mobile.
Huawei Nova camera review: Camera app and experience
The Nova uses an iPhone-style camera interface, which is pretty streamlined and easy enough to get to grips with. Load it up and you’ll be straight into the auto mode, to snap away as merrily as you like. A quick flick up or down the screen switches to other camera modes, including Video, Time-lapse video, Beauty mode and Huawei’s Light Painting mode.
You also have fast access to the various filters, flash and settings menu, which allows you to swap to other camera modes. These include HDR (for tricky high-contrast situations), Super night (for low light conditions), Professional and Slow-mo video.
At first it’s slightly confusing that some of the modes are so easily accessed, including stuff you’ll rarely use like Time-lapse and Light painting, while modes you might actually regularly need like HDR controls and the Night mode are hidden away. Still, you soon get used to it and zipping through the menus is quick and easy when needed.
The auto mode is pleasingly dependable, as you’ll see in our photo quality section below (all of our samples are shot with auto). However, the manual mode is respectable too, offering full control over ISO levels, shutter speed, white balance and the usual settings.
The Nova’s auto-focus is reasonably fast, usually taking just a second or two to re-adjust when you move the camera. You can also manually focus in next to no time with a quick tap of the screen, while taking a photo is just as nippy – hit the shutter button and your shot will be captured almost instantly, as long as the conditions aren’t too bad.
You can burst shot by keeping your finger on the shutter button, and while it’s far from the fastest we’ve seen, it’s pretty good for those action shots.
Huawei Nova camera review: Photo quality
The Nova does a perfectly good job in decent lighting conditions, capturing realistic images packed with impressive detail. Moving subjects tend to only be affected by a slight bit of blur, so it’s quite easy to shoot photos of your kids or pets. And if the light is being a pain, Huawei’s HDR mode does a little to help balance things out.
In low light conditions, our photos weren’t too bad. They’re obviously grainy, but nothing too severe – while also being no match whatsoever for the likes of Samsung’s Galaxy S7, and falling behind rivals like the Sony Xperia X.
You have a single LED flash to compensate, but this tends to turn everything a bit yellow. More successful is the night mode, found in the Nova’s camera settings. This effectively stitches together several photos for a clearer, brighter result. However, you have to hold the Nova perfectly still while it’s taking these photos, an operation that takes a few seconds, otherwise you’ll end up with blurry results.
Huawei Nova camera review: Video quality
You can shoot Full HD video on the Nova’s rear camera, with digital image stabilisation to cut down on judder. Alternatively you can boost up to 4K resolution without the stabilisation.
Full HD video certainly looks nice and crisp, with plenty of detail packed in. The camera focus does a great job of adjusting to changes in focal points and lighting, quickly adapting to produce a sharp, clear result. Audio quality is also strong, capturing your commentary and surrounding noise clearly.
However, the lack of optical image stabilisation means that you’re stuck with the digital stabilisation instead. This certainly reduces judder as you move about, but does so by really zooming in and trimming away the edges of the video. The level of zoom is higher than most DIS efforts, while walking produces a bizarre warping effect.
Huawei Nova camera review: Selfie camera
Huawei has definitely nailed selfie cameras, and the Nova’s 8-megapixel front-facing snapper is once again a winner.
Photos shot in clear daylight and even with artificial lighting tend to boast realistic skin tones and are impressively detailed – which is probably why you get the built-in beauty mode, to touch up your face and get rid of those obvious bags and wrinkles. You can choose to have a countdown clock or take the snap instantly, and of course there’s smile detection (which is seriously sensitive).
In low light conditions, the Nova’s selfie camera still copes admirably. By holding the phone steady you can capture a brighter shot, although there’s a reasonable amount of grain that creeps in.