We review and compare the cameras on the Huawei P9, Huawei P9 Plus and Huawei P9 Lite to see which is best for you, complete with photo and video samples for a side-by-side comparison.
One of the biggest and most distinctive features of the Huawei P9 is its dual-lens Leica-branded camera, which we really liked in our full Huawei P9 review. Those two separate lenses work together to produce photos with a superior depth of field to most smartphone shots, while the P9’s camera also boasts phase detection autofocus, a two-tone LED flash and plenty of bonus features to keep amateur snappers happy.
But how does the Huawei P9’s camera compare with the camera on the P9 Plus and P9 Lite, two spin-off smartphones that Huawei launched alongside the P9? Here’s our full P9 vs P9 Plus vs P9 Lite camera review.
Huawei P9 vs P9 Plus vs P9 Lite camera review: Hardware and camera features
We might as well get this out of the way immediately: the P9 and P9 Plus basically sport the same dual-lens Leica camera hardware. Both phones have the same f/2.2 aperture 12-megapixel lenses with phase detection autofocus (also found on the iPhone 6s and Moto G4 Plus, among others), which helps the camera to focus quickly on your chosen subject, ready to take a photo.
When you dive into the camera interface of the P9 and P9 Plus, you’ll see almost the exact same features and settings. You can simply take a shot by tapping the shutter button, swap to video mode to record some footage, and bring up the manual controls to get a very precise photo. You can also swap between two different Depth of Field options (the main advantage of those dual lenses). This either keeps both foreground and background sharply in focus, or provides a very narrow field of focus and blurs everything else for a lovely boche effect.
By comparison, the P9 Lite sports a stripped-down 13-megapixel camera with just a single f/2.0 aperture lens. Gone is the phase detection autofocus, replaced with a basic autofocus that isn’t quite as nippy. Even the two-tone LED flash of the P9 and P9 Plus has been reduced to a single LED.
So, you obviously have no control over depth of field on the P9 Lite, and you also don’t get the handy pull-out manual controls; you have to dive into the camera settings to bring up the likes of ISO control (which maxes out at 1600 instead of 3200). You also lose some of the other camera features found on the more expensive P9 phones, such as the very cool monochrome mode, although the P9 Lite does still pack in plenty of Huawei’s other camera modes including the Light Painting feature (for capturing trails of light at night).
Huawei P9 vs P9 Plus vs P9 Lite camera review: Photo quality
In some respects, the P9 Lite’s inferior camera isn’t too different from the sexy dual-lens snapper on the P9 Plus and vanilla P9 phone. For instance, when it comes to the final results, we were pleased to see that detail levels were very similar, whether you’re shooting a sweeping vista or something very up-close and personal.
However, the P9 Lite is weaker in most other areas. For instance, there’s obvious blur when capturing moving subjects, occasionally to a worrying degree. Colours are also richer and better-looking on the P9 and P9 Plus photos, whereas they’re occasionally a little washed-out on P9 Lite. And of course, you can’t get that lovely boche effect with the P9 Lite, as it only has one lens.
Here’s a direct comparison between a boche shot from the P9 (left) and the P9 Lite equivalent (right). Note the richer tones on the P9’s photo too. Click for a larger image.
The P9 and P9 Plus cameras are also superior when the lights go down, offering up less grain and more detail. And if you resort to the flash, you’ll get more natural tones with the more premium dual-lens cameras thanks to the two-tone LEDs.
Here’s a side-by-side photo gallery for comparison.
Huawei P9 Plus
Huawei P9 Lite
Huawei P9 vs P9 Plus vs P9 Lite camera review: Video quality
The Huawei P9 and P9 Plus can both shoot Full HD video at either 30 Frames-Per-Second, or 60FPS. Neither phone offers 4K video recording. Likewise, the P9 Lite maxes out at Full HD resolution, although only at 30FPS.
We found that video quality was comparable between the P9 Lite and the more expensive P9 models. None of these handsets have built-in Optical Image Stabilisation, but the digital stabilisation (which crops and steadies the video you shoot) works perfectly well. Note that this is not available when shooting 60FPS video on the P9 and P9 Plus.
All three phones handle changes in lighting well and do a decent job of picking up audio. Rivals impress more when it comes to detail levels, but any of these mobiles do the job for straightforward home movies.
Here are some video samples shot on all three phones, so you can see how they stack up.