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Huawei P20 Lite Camera Review: No Leica, No Likey?

The Huawei P20 and P20 Pro both sport super-smart Leica-branded main cameras, which in the case of the Pro model boasts three lenses. However, the more affordable P20 Lite has no such Leica branding for its own dual-lens snapper. Likewise, a lot of the more interesting features, such as Super Slow Motion capture, are missing in action.

All the same, the Huawei P20 Lite offers plenty of shooting smarts. You get a nippy auto mode, loads of bonus modes to play around with and full manual controls with RAW support. Here’s our in-depth P20 Lite camera review, after several days of testing.

Huawei P20 Lite camera review: Hardware and features

Although there’s no Leica branding in sight for the P20 Lite, you still get a bit of dual-lens camera tech slapped on the back of the phone. That main 16-megapixel lens with f/2.2 aperture is backed by a secondary 2-megapixel snapper, this time with f/2.4 aperture. Quite a standard setup for a mid-range Huawei handset.

The idea behind that second lens is to give a depth of focus to your shots. Boot up the P20 Lite’s camera app and one of the main options is the Portrait mode. This allows you to capture a crisp image of your subject, while the background is blurred out. The results can be really impressive, as we discovered when testing the P20 and P20 Pro.

At a quick glance you might think the P20 Lite is a seriously stripped-back shooting experience. That is, until you swipe right and discover a bugger-ton of special modes and features hidden away in a separate menu.

From here you can switch to full manual controls, for shooting either photos or video. This gives you absolute power over the ISO levels, white balance and so on, so you can get some very specific results – if you know what the flip you’re actually doing. In the Pro photo mode you can even shoot in the RAW format, for simplified editing on the go.

You’ll find a handful of other modes tossed in there, although we tended to stick to the slow motion and timelapse video efforts. These do what they say on the tin, although there’s no Super Slow Motion on this Lite model. For that, you need to upgrade to the standard P20 or the Pro.

Huawei P20 Lite camera review: Photo quality

On full auto mode, our test shots came out pretty bloody well, actually.

View them back on a big telly screen and you’ll notice there’s quite a bit of detail packed into every frame. Colours appear to be accurately reproduced, rather than artificially boosted, so snaps of vibrant subjects are certainly pleasing to the eye.

We’re also impressed by how well high-contrast situations are dealt with. Snap a monument against a bright sky for instance and you’ll still capture quite a lot of detail, with only occasional oversaturation in brighter areas.

As previously mentioned, one of the highlights of the P20 and P20 Pro cameras was their Portrait shot results. Those snaps aren’t quite as impressive coming from the P20 Lite, although they still help your subject to stand out with some serious bokeh-style blurring. Unfortunately our subject also looked quite soft when not captured in perfect daylight, with blurring around their silhouette rather than a crisp cut-off.

However, where the P20 Lite really falls over is low light shots. Not too surprising, given the low aperture lenses. Any photos we took at night or in dim interiors looked rather grainy and murky. You’ll need to get up close to your subject and switch on that flash to stand any chance of getting a detailed photo.

Flip to the front-facing 16-megapixel camera and you can once again capture some decent-looking photos, as long as the light is on your side. Imperfect conditions will once again result in soft results, while the screen flash feature for night shots is far from flattering.

Check out our photo samples in the P20 Lite gallery below.

Huawei P20 Lite camera review: Video quality

While the more expensive P20 family members can shoot up to 4K Ultra HD resolution, the P20 Lite tops out at Full HD. Likewise, there’s no option for 60 frames-per-second capture here. Rather, the P20 Lite shoots at a bog-standard 30 frames-per-second.

Still, our test footage came out rather well, considering the phone’s mid-range price bracket. The lens automatically adjusts to match the lighting conditions and focal distance, coping well with dodgy contrast and other issues. You’ll want to try and keep quite still when shooting, however. The digital image stabilisation leaves quite a lot to be desired.

Check out our video sample shot on the P20 Lite below.

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