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Huawei P20 Pro Camera Review: Are three lenses actually better?

Dual lens cameras are so 2017. The shiny new Huawei P20 Pro serves up a trio of lenses, to cover all occasions. We’ve been testing this smart snapper for over a week now and here’s our full Huawei P20 Pro camera review.

Huawei has always sat awkwardly on the cusp of greatness with its smartphone cameras, not quite matching its rivals for quality. Until now.

Thanks to a combination of killer hardware and software smarts, the new P20 Pro handset is one of the very best mobile snappers right now.

Huawei P20 Pro camera review: Hardware

Housed on the back of the phone you’ll find a trio of lenses, all arranged in a neat little row. First up is a 20-megapixel f/1.6 monochrome lens. This is joined by an RGB lens with f/1.8 aperture, which can capture images at a rather barmy 40-megapixels. And last but not least is an 8-megapixel telephoto lens, which allows you to grab an up-close shot of a distant subject.

All very impressive, for sure. But it’s the intelligent camera software which really helps the P20 Pro to shine.

Read next: Best camera phones

Huawei P20 Pro camera review: Camera app

Launch the camera app and you’ll notice that Huawei has made a few changes. At least, you will if you’ve used any other recent Huawei handsets, such as the P10 or Mate 10.

It pretty much packs the same features as before, but now you get an iPhone-style layout – which means you can tap or swipe your way through some of the main camera tools. Of course, because Huawei crams in so many different modes, there’s a ‘More ‘ section to get to the rest of the features.

All the same, I found myself sticking almost exclusively to three of these modes for everyday shooting.

Read next: Huawei P20 Pro tips and tricks

Huawei P20 Pro features

Huawei P20 Pro camera review: Photo quality

The standard Photo mode is the most useful for general shots as it automatically selects the best settings for your photos. This is accomplished using a variety of sensors and Huawei’s super-smart image recognition algorithms. Point the P20 Pro at an object or landscape and the chances are very good that it can figure out what you’re trying to snap. From beaches and flowers to toddlers and pork pies, this software is pretty much infallible.

Factor in the excellent autofocus and you’re pretty much guaranteed a great-looking shot, no matter the conditions. My everyday pics were crammed with tiny details, helped in large part by that crazy 40-megapixel RGB lens. Bright colours are often given a vibrancy boost, to really make your shots pop. If you prefer more natural-looking images, you’ll want to override this feature with a tap.

Moving things such as kids and cats can be captured with reassuringly sharp results using that auto mode. However, I much preferred to swap to the Portrait mode for snapping pics of living models. This uses all three lenses to focus, so your smiling subject appears perfectly crisp while the background is blurred with a bokeh-style effect. After lots of testing, I can safely say that the P20 Pro offers the best Portrait results of any smartphone right now. And there’s even an iPhone-style filter you can apply, for an artistic finish.

Huawei phones in the past have typically struggled in low light, at least until the Mate 10 came along. Thankfully the P20 Pro has no such issues. Snaps taken at night often boast impressive detail and little grain, thanks to the phone’s long exposure ability. If you’re struggling, you can always resort to the night mode which offers some handy manual control over exposure. However, I found that the auto mode often produced perfectly solid results.

Tourists and voyeurs will love the 5x hybrid zoom feature, which gets you up close and personal with whatever you’re snapping. This proves particularly handy for capturing finer details of any scenic spots. And thanks to that telephoto lens, there’s no real loss in detail.

Check out our P20 Pro camera samples in the photo gallery below.

Huawei P20 Pro camera review: Video quality

With the P20  Pro you can shoot up to 4K resolution video at 30 frames-per-second, or Full HD footage at 60 frames-per-second.

My test videos came out well, although at Ultra HD resolution you don’t get particularly effective image stabilisation. It’s certainly no rival for the likes of the OnePlus 5T. Things are much smoother at Full HD, where detail levels are still strong. Huawei’s handset also has no trouble with sudden changes in focal distance or lighting conditions, adapting almost instantly on the fly.

Huawei has also added a Super Slow Motion mode to the P20 Pro, to rival Sony and Samsung’s effort. There’s no Full HD support here unfortunately, like Sony’s Xperia XZ2 offers. Rather this mode captures footage at 720p resolution, like the Galaxy S9. However, unlike Samsung’s solution, there’s no automatic activation – you’ll need to manually time it just right.

And you can’t shoot one continuous clip with multiple slow motion segments, either. The P20 Pro can only record individual Super Slow Motion clips. Here’s hoping an update to the software changes the setup, to offer a bit more flexibility.

Check out our P20 Pro video samples below.

Huawei P20 Pro camera review: Selfies

Around the front of the P20 Pro is Huawei’s fourth and final camera lens. The hardware is once again impressive stuff, offering a 24-megapixel f/2.0 lens. And while this isn’t as effective as the combination of rear lenses, you can still capture some lovely selfies on demand.

You can once again take Portrait shots, albeit without quite the same silhouette precision. You’ve got the usual beautify gumph to make you look like some kind of mannequin, while there’s also a screen flash mode for those low light snaps. Unfortunately evening shots look rather soft, so you’re best off employing a mate to take a pic of your gorgeous mug with that excellent rear cam.

Check out our full Huawei P20 Pro camera review in video form below!