back to article You Leica? P9 certainly is a Great Leap Forward in imaging... for Huawei

Huawei has grabbed the headlines with its audacious partnership with Leica – but does it measure up? Here’s the verdict on the P9: that is, the regular 5.2 inch model, not the larger P9 Plus, which has a few tricks of its own. Once you leave the hype behind – the P9’s dual-camera imaging is good, but not that good. I had hours …

  1. CAPS LOCK Silver badge

    Chinese manufacturers aren't too bothered about their stuff once it's out the door.

    Should I feel differently about Huawei?

    1. TeeCee Gold badge
      WTF?

      Re: Chinese manufacturers aren't too bothered about their stuff once it's out the door.

      At that price I'd like to think you get a member of Huawei's staff personally assigned to you to sort any issues you may have.

      They can't charge iPhone prices without Apple's flocks of wealthy sheep crying out to be fleeced....

    2. Chairo
      Unhappy

      Re: Chinese manufacturers aren't too bothered about their stuff once it's out the door.

      It varies from model to model and market to market. The Huawai G615 I bought roughly two years ago was pretty much abandonware. There were some Chinese Roms with an updated EmoUI, but the base Android version was stuck to Lollipop, so no need to bother installing them. In that case at least Nova launcher worked like a charm.

      I hear since the P6 came out they supplied at least a few international updates before dropping it. But again not for all variants and markets.

      Generally - if you are not Chinese and expect good customer service and updates, you should probably look somewhere else.

  2. patrick_bateman

    Just got the HTC 530, was a toss up between the P9 and 530, I went for the 530 as I have had a HTC before and very impressed.

    P9, car phone warehouse is doing a deal on these at the moment £150

    (yer cheap phone but will do until the new CAT smart ones are out)

    1. fLaMePrOoF

      CW's SIM free price for the P9 is £449 same as everywhere else...

  3. fLaMePrOoF

    The Vodafone deal; £30 / 24 month contract (unlimited minutes + texts, 2GB data) total cost = £720

    Handset + Watch alone total cost = £740

  4. Ian 7

    Is there a "best" phone camera out there?

    So a few years back Nokia came out with the bonkers Lumia 1020 41 megapixel cameraphone; even other Lumias like the 1520 boasted 20 megapixel and physical OIS. With Nokia's demise, has the state of the art of phone photography moved forwards or not? I know that pixel count definitely isn't the be all and end all, but can I (a rank amateur who just wants to have some point-and-shoot mementos of where I've been and what I've done) get "better" photos on a newer phone now? Can my mate the professional photographer make more use of a phone camera now? Are all phones "good enough" for the likes of me, and no phones good enough for the professionals?

    I must be honest, many of the photo comparisons I see pointing out the deficiencies of certain shots look perfectly fine to my untutored eye. I'm just intrigued as to how many people need more quality than I seem to be happy with for my needs.

    1. m0rt Silver badge

      Re: Is there a "best" phone camera out there?

      On a simple level it comes down to Lens then sensor. More light means more detail can be captured. The more pixels, on a sensor that is smaller than a larger sensor with less pixels is going to struggle with noise - think of it as static in sound. Especially when light is retricted due to the smaller diameters of phone camera lenses. Some are better than others - the Lumia 730, despite less pixels than most, had a very nice camera on board - just a shame Microsoft nixed the raw output on that version.

      Art shots aside, a shot needs to be correctly exposed to capture the available detail of the subject (Note, subject, this could be a small part of the shot and usually isn't the centre) and provide a fair real world representative of that picture as when seen by the naked eye from an exposure POV. Going beyond that you are going into artistic choice.

      Ultimately, though, It depends on the picture. A greatly, composed pic, taken on a crap camera will trounce a crap shot taken on a full frame DSLR. The difference is, you can rescue a shot out of the DSLR due to the ability to crop, re-expose the raw info and still get good level of detail and have lower noise. The other way around is unlikely.

      The professional photographer has needs from a tool for 'professional' pics that in most cases a phone camera just cannot match, but they could still take a great shot with whatever tools they have, even if this is a middle of the range phone camera.

      The phone camera's clientele, though, is usually about taking away all thought and decisions making as possible from the exposure and calculation aspects, leaving the taker to just compose the image. And that is what they are geared for.

      But you could say the best camera is the one that gets used to capture *that* moment.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Is there a "best" phone camera out there?

        "More light means more detail can be captured. The more pixels, on a sensor that is smaller than a larger sensor with less pixels is going to struggle with noise"

        It doesn't quite work that way around; the more light, in terms of quantity of light, that a lens can collect, governed by its aperture, in combination with the sensitivity and dynamic range of the sensor, dictates how much noise there will be, whereas the resolution of the lens and sensor dictates how much detail can be captured.

        The size of the sensor is pretty irrelevant, in terms of noise, but given that there's a limit to the minimum size for each pixel, a larger sensor can have more pixels. However, a larger sensor needs a longer focal-length lens to get the same image proportions, and the longer the focal-length of the lens, the further away it needs to be from the sensor e.g. a 50mm lens will produce a ~46 deg image on a 35mm sensor, with the optical center of the lens being 50mm from the sensor, but you need an 80mm lens to produce the same image with a 60mm sensor and it needs to be 80mm from the sensor (sorry for using old film sizes - couldn't quickly find typical focal lengths and sensor sizes for phones). The upshot is that with increasingly thin phones, it's not possible to move the lens further away from the sensor, to allow a larger sensor & lens.

        1. LDS Silver badge

          Re: Is there a "best" phone camera out there?

          The sensor size is not irrelevant regarding noise. A larger sensor can have larger pixels for the same pixel number - in turn larger pixels capture more photons per pixel, thereby there's less need to amplify the signal too much (which is one of the main sources of noise). That's why you have full-frame cameras with more or less the same pixel count of APS-C ones.

          Canon recently released a camera which boasts a 4,000,000 ISO max sensitivity. How does it achieve it? Using a full-frame sensor with only 2.26 Mpx. Just, each pixel is very large, much larger than the usual full-frame sensor with a resolution of 18-24 Mpx, allowing it to collect much more photons per pixel.

    2. werdsmith Silver badge

      Re: Is there a "best" phone camera out there?

      For most people an adequate camera is all they want.

      Some may feel that a camera is really important, but people taking gurning selfies are not agonizing over image quality. Phone companies know this and so they don't invest the earth in R&D to earn half a percent more sales. Nokia tried.

      1. James Hughes 1

        Re: Is there a "best" phone camera out there?

        The original 41MP camera was the Nokia 808, the last Symbian phone. The Raspberry Pi uses the same image processing silicon (Videocore4).

    3. LDS Silver badge

      "Can my mate the professional photographer make more use of a phone camera now?"

      A pro photographer usually needs a far higher level of control on the image taking process than any phone actually delivers, and higher output needs (i.e., very large prints for demanding customers - I worked once with some photographers on an application cataloging textile artifacts for a museum, and the curators there had astoundingly trained eyes for resolution, aberrations and colours).

      And most pro photographers don't "take" an image they "create" it even if it looks very natural and is took quickly - yet there are many creative decisions beyond it (exposure, focus, focal length in use, etc. etc.)

      If a good phone camera is used within its "envelope", it can deliver great images - but that "envelope" is still far smaller than those of devices designed to be only cameras, and their lenses. Software and electronics can do a lot to try to improve the image, but the law of physics are hard to bend <G>.

      But, most of all, when your income depends on a device, you may want a reliable one built to last long under heavy duty, and especially, which doesn't start to ring or worse display something on screen if someone calls or messages you in the middle of a shoot...

      Anyway, having a pocketable camera always with you may let you capture "that" image that would be otherwise lost.

      1. Triggerfish

        Re: "Can my mate the professional photographer make more use of a phone camera now?"

        You hit limits, when you go outside of the narrow perfect range of conditions for these phones. Tried an S2 years ago (which was current at the time and had a well rated camera) my S50 died on the journey, it's just not good when you need something more, and also a right pain in the arse to use. Not saying didn't get a couple of nice photos, but it feels a bit more hit and miss on whether you are going to be able to.

        Barring the best camera is the one on you, which is fair enough. If I was going anywhere I was thinking of taking photos, then a pocketable decent camera is so much better.

        I never really look at anything on the imaging of the phone I pretty much work on the assumption it's there for pub snaps rather than photography.

    4. Mark Jan

      Re: Is there a "best" phone camera out there?

      About four or five years ago I bought and exclusively still use the Nokia 808 phone.

      I bought it on the strength of its camera and sat nav.

      Over the years I've looked at replacing it but nothing on the market can match the loss-less zoom on its camera courtesy of its 41 megapixel sensor. I find the superb camera on the 808 easily outweighs not having access to the latest "app". I can after all wait until I get home to access my bank account, I can't do that with a missed shot.

      I just hope that when Nokia re-enters the mobile phone arena once again (this year allegedly) it hasn't forgotten its camera tech and know how.

    5. Bluto Nash

      Re: Is there a "best" phone camera out there?

      Yes. It's called a "camera." I carry a Canon 110SX with me at all times and it takes a picture far superior to any phone camera I've seen. Then again, that's ALL it does. Manual control? Check. Automatic control? Check. CHDK firmware? Check. Decent lens and imager, definitely check.

      Horses for courses, y'all. My phone makes calls and does data. My camera takes pictures. The number of small, easily carryable cameras is huge, and there's no excuse to not carry one if photographs are important to you. If you want happy snaps or selfies, then you stick with your phone.

      1. Steve Davies 3 Silver badge

        Re: Is there a "best" phone camera out there?

        The old saying 'The best camera for the job is the one you have with you' holds true for many sutuations.

        But, like you, I carry a small Point and shoot camera (4yr old Nikon) with me apart from the times I need my DSLR with a telephoto or other special lens. According to Lightroom, I took some 8,000+ pictures with the DSLR last year. About 50 with my phone and a little over 200 with the Compact Camera.

        IMHO, most of the time the people using the camera on this phone won't have a clue about how to get the best out of it. They'll probably complain that it takes shit photos. But hey, they have bragging rights saying that 'I have a Leica lens on my phone'.

    6. Voyna i Mor Silver badge

      Re: Is there a "best" phone camera out there?

      "I must be honest, many of the photo comparisons I see pointing out the deficiencies of certain shots look perfectly fine to my untutored eye."

      The pictures in which the sky was captured correctly while the (boring) foreground was left dark actually struck me as what I would expect of Leica. It could be a "mistake" in the software or it could be a quite sophisticated decision to concentrate on the part of the scene which was actually photogenic. It would be necessary to take rather more pictures to find out.

      In such circumstances I always take a sky shot and a land shot with a view to combining them later, because that's what I was taught.

      Converging verticals (not parallax which is a completely different issue) - in this case the camera seems not to have done the sort of processing that happens when you use PhotoShop. Although digital SLRs usually interact with manufacturer lenses to compensate for barrel and pincushion distortion, they don't work out the tilt and correct in camera. Do Samsung and Apple cameras do this? It wouldn't surprise me.

      Unless the horrible UI can be replaced I wouldn't buy one of these, but it would be interesting to see a pro photographer review the cameras, and comment on how well the results take to post processing. Even more interesting if Huawei worked with someone else to make an actual compact camera using this approach.

      1. LDS Silver badge

        "they don't work out the tilt and correct in camera"

        For DSLR there are specific lenses to achieve it (i.e the Canon TS-E or Nikon PC-E lines) - view camera always allowed it with any lens. Also some bellows allows for it.

        This is usually a far greater correction to apply (which could degrade the image when made after the shot), depends on the subject shape and the relative position of it and the camera, and has framing and creative decisions implications, thereby it's better to achieve it optically and under user control whenever you can.

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Leica?

    I would say that Leica's contribution to this smartphone's camera is probably around 0%. That's one company that really has missed the boat when it comes to digital photography. They're trading on their brand reputation alone nowadays and catering to customers with more money than sense.

    1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      Re: Leica?

      "That's one company that really has missed the boat when it comes to digital photography."

      Especially by pulling a Revolv on owners of R lenses. Having spent much of my early career looking down Leitz microscopes when I could afford it I went for Leica SLR. Bastards.

    2. Voyna i Mor Silver badge

      Re: Leica?

      "I would say that Leica's contribution to this smartphone's camera is probably around 0%. That's one company that really has missed the boat when it comes to digital photography."

      Although I'm quite unsure what the "Leica sound" mentioned in the article could be (3g? M series? Or just a sucking sound as your bank balance drops precipitously) I suspect Leica has been quite involved in this. They have probably got some return on the work they did on monochrome sensors (it's not just a matter of using unfiltered photodiodes, as any old skool photographer kno, spectral response is very important if you want to imitate film), and the merging of the two images sounds like a product of Hexagon's (owner of Leica) software experience in areas other than cameras. Leica may have been funded to produce some stuff which will later be backfilled into a Leica product. And then there's lens design: Leica's experience in microscopes and acquisition of Minox does mean they know a thing or two about small lenses.

      It's a great pity about the UI because but for that I'd have been quite interested.

      1. werdsmith Silver badge

        Leica Sound

        Leica M Rangefinder 35mm film cameras had (have) a cloth shutter and the noise they make is very distinctive (much quieter than a standard curtain shutter and no SLR mirror to flip out of the way).

    3. khjohansen

      Re: Leica?

      Just thinking - easy money for Leica, as their *other* asian licensee - Panasonic

      - does not do mobes (Zeiss/Sony - Schneider-Kreuznack/Samsung?)

  6. hammarbtyp Silver badge

    Me no Leica

    Leica are masters at the old world skills of lens design.

    Dynamic Range however is a attribute of the imaging chip used, On its cameras Leica buys that technology, so it is no surprise that this is not improved from other equivalent phones

    In truth apart from the name and brand awareness, I would be surprised if Leica added much to the party at all.

    Telling hints are that the phone is not built like a small tank, and does not come with a price tag that would make Donald Drumpf wince, and the touchscreen has not been replaced with retro knobs and dials

    1. m0rt Silver badge

      Re: Me no Leica

      "...and the touchscreen has not been replaced with retro knobs and dials"

      If one did, I would SOOOO buy that.

    2. LDS Silver badge

      retro knobs and dials

      There's nothing "retro" in knobs and dials (and buttons). They are just more expensive than a touchscreen, which is useful only as long as you look at it, and has no physical feedback.

      One of the thing you get to appreciate of a real pro device, it's it enables you to perform your task while concentrating on it, and not the UI needed to achieve it. We have some other senses beyond view, and sometimes taking advantage of tactile feedback is truly welcome.

      1. m0rt Silver badge

        Re: retro knobs and dials

        "We have some other senses beyond view, and sometimes taking advantage of tactile feedback is truly welcome."

        Knobs FTW!

        One knob per function (*snigger*) is awesome. Most of my synths fall into this category. It is soooo much more fun than menu diving and once muscle memory is in place, very quick to get what you want without even thinking about it.

      2. Voyna i Mor Silver badge

        Re: retro knobs and dials

        "There's nothing "retro" in knobs and dials (and buttons). "

        Concur. Touchscreens are fine for phones and tablets, but I see no point in a touchscreen on a DSLR. The screen on the back is good for the more detailed menus and checking that you took the picture, but even the biggest camera screen doesn't tell you whether the picture is any good or not.

        1. Steve Davies 3 Silver badge

          Re: retro knobs and dials

          Yeah. Try using a touch screen when you are wearing gloves.

          Real buttons are the order of the day.

        2. LDS Silver badge

          Re: retro knobs and dials

          A touch screen *may* be useful, as long as it doesn't replace all the physical controls, but just adds more options.

          For example setting the AF or metering area touching the screen could be useful. Zooming the image as well. Although, probably the camera needs to be on a tripod... difficult to handle an heavy camera+lens combo with one hand only while the other is used to access the screen commands, it may work for phones and small, light cameras, not for heavier ones.

          If it becomes the only way to access and set many of the main settings, it gets in the way when you need to concentrate on the subject and change them without having to look at a screen and tap it here and there.

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Huawei has grabbed the headlines...

    ...by creating an even closer copy of an iPhone than Samsung have ever managed to.

  8. MrRimmerSIR!

    The new insanity

    It was bad enough when "unibody" construction became fashionable (bye bye removable batteries), now it appears all new dual SIM phones share the second SIM with the SD slot so it's one or t'other. FFS! Are they really that pushed for space? So it's virtually impossible to buy a 64 bit (i.e. has a chance of being supported in future versions of Android) phone with three slots and a lifespan of more than a couple of years.

    1. Voyna i Mor Silver badge

      Re: The new insanity

      I think aluminium unibodies have been marketed as fashionable but have been introduced for strictly practical reasons. Modern phones can generate a lot of heat and a large, flat aluminium surface is much better at dissipating it than a layer of polycarbonate. Thinness also helps with heat dissipation, but results in structural weakness from a multi-component assembly, so unibodies are needed to give the necessary strength. Glass is also quite good for heat dissipation, but a bit more fragile.

      If matt black plastic made it possible for Apple to maximise graphics performance without throttling, I'm sure that matt black plastic would be heavily marketed to us and the Chinese would be following suit. But in reality I think it's more the way that the classical motorcycle engine emerged with near vertical cylinders and horizontal fins - because that was the easiest way to get enough air flow without having bits sticking out (BMW) or awkward manufacturing and vibration (Moto-Guzzi V twins.)

  9. Graham Lockley

    'it’s EMUI or bust'

    I lost interest at this point, why buy an Android phone and wind up using a second rate IOS clone interface ?

  10. EC

    design

    I've just bought an iPhone to get away from Material Design. All those colours that have no meaning.

  11. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I got interested when radio was mentioned. I wondered if FM or dab had been brought in, as public non-IP radio is still so popular in the East. Alas seems not.

    Duel sim is a big tick, it's just so good to have a phone that can backoff to an alternate 2G network when LRE/3G primary goes too weak.

    Overall, too pricey for my interests. Huawej isn't associated with high end consumer quality (yet) and so I think the hardware show-offs will still go apple, Samsung and Sony, or LG at a push.

    1. Andrew Orlowski (Written by Reg staff)

      "Radio" in our reviews is shorthand for anything to do with cellular radio reception.

  12. Jamie Kitson

    Changing the Launcher

    You can change the launcher, but you can't do it in your chosen launcher's settings. Settings -> Apps -> Advanced -> Default App Settings -> Launcher -> tap "change" to the crazy warning.

  13. Jamie Kitson

    Swype Key

    > but does Swype need its own permanent key

    It's actually quite useful, it allows you to do gestures for things like ctrl+c and ctrl+v.

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