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Huawei P20 Pro Triple Leica Camera Explained

We dive into how the new Huawei P20 Pro's triple Leica camera set up was able to blow the competition away in DXOmark.
The smartphone camera king?

DXOmark rated the P20 Pro's camera a score of 117 in Photography and a score of 98 in video which yielded a total score of 107. This effectively makes the P20 Pro's camera the best camera phone on paper until we get to test it for ourselves with retail software.
According to DxOMark, it is the king of smartphone cameras

The cameras are composed of the 40MP f/1.8 RGB + 20MP f/1.6 monochrome + 88MP f/2.4 OIS telephoto sensor with PDAF, CAF, Laser and Depth autofocus. It supports 5 times hybrid zoom.
Test shot using the prototype software of P20 Pro
Test shot using the prototype software of P20 Pro

The main 40MP f/1.8 RGB shooter uses 2 x 2 pixel unit data binning that results in 10MP image output. Data binning is an image processing procedure that combines an array of 4 pixels into a single large pixel.
Cropped shot using the P20 Pro with prototype software
Cropped shot using the P20 Pro with prototype software

The trade off is loss of data and lower resolution. In short, the images have a faster processing time, have better contrast and have less noise but with loss to data and resolution. This explains the 10MP default resolution when using Huawei's camera app.

The secondary high resolution 20MP f/1.6 Monochrome sensor contributes in a myriad of ways: It improves image quality with its finer details, strong contrast and low noise levels in low light and when zooming in. In addition to this is that it helps depth perception for proper bokeh simulation.

The large 40MP RGB sensor with the 20MP Monochrome sensor work together that gives the widest dynamic range ever seen on a smartphone.

The third camera is an 8MP f/2.4 Telephoto lens that works in conjunction with the monochrome sensor that delivers the best zoom performance from any camera that DXOmark has tested.

The 40MP RGB has a whopping 1/1.73-inch sensor which is one of the largest that has been placed on a smartphone. This results in better image processing, hence better image results.

In theory, each camera performs stellarly and when they work together, the results are more than the sum of its parts.

The key is the larger 1/1.73-inch sensor. To put this into perspective, there were cameras with the almost the same sensor size that were in the market back in late 2000s and early 2010s. Example of these are the Canon Powershot S95 and S100, Fujifilm Finepix F30 and the Lumix LF1.

What is curious about the Lumix LF1 is that it was a Panasonic made compact point and shoot camera and was rated highly by critics when it was released in 2013. Until now, Panasonic and Leica had a relationship where Panasonic lenses and or cameras were branded Leica even though it was made in Japan and not Leica in Germany.

It wouldn't be too far off to speculate that after years of improvements in manufacturing, in image processing and in A.I. contributed to the improvements to the technologies used in older cameras made by or influenced by Leica made its way into what the technology is in the P20 and P20 Pro.

My guess is that Huawei and Leica were capable of making these cameras years ago but held back because of several reasons. This could be so that they would always have a visible improvement prepared every year or the technologies, hardware, software or materials wasn't there yet. But for some reason they went all out and skipped several generations to push smartphone photography forward.

This of course is just us speculating. We will find out more once we are able to look inside and how the new cameras work. So we'll have to wait until the phones are out and were torn down to see the magic at work.

With what improvements in image quality I've seen from the Galaxy S8 and S8+ to the Galaxy S9 and S9+ in daylight, low light and zoomed-in?

I wouldn't be surprised if the P20 and P20 Pro performed better than the Mate 10 but at a larger scale. 

Personally, we are excited to fully test the new cameras from the P20 and P20 Pro.

What do you guys think? 

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