Testing the Huawei P9 Leica cameras

Can Huawei's big-name camera live up to the hype?
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Testing the Huawei P9 Leica cameras

The new Huawei P9 has a big selling point that the Chinese tech giant is keen to shout about – a pair of rear cameras certified by camera lens legends, Leica.

This new dual camera setup is designed to let you refocus after taking a photo and give you fine control over the aperture, just like you get on a professional camera. But how well does it work?

We’ve put the P9 into the hands of someone with no photographic talent whatsoever, thinking that if the phone can make his photos look good, those Leica lenses must be doing their job.

Outdoor photos

I might not have any talent when it comes to taking photos, but I do know that I’ll get the best lighting if I shoot outdoors. So for my first camera test that’s what I did.

Huawei P9 camera sample

Aperture: f/0.95

Huawei P9 camera sample

Aperture: f/4

Huawei P9 camera sample

Aperture: f/16

Huawei P9 camera sample

Aperture: Auto

As the aperture control (which changes what’s in focus and how much light gets into the camera) is the big new thing in the P9’s camera, I decided that would be the only setting I’d touch.

As you can see from the shots above, changing the aperture has a big effect. If you don’t know what you’re doing it’s easy to take awful photos, like my first one above. But as the aperture is controlled with a simple slider, it’s easy to try again. Still, I wasn’t able to match the impressive quality of the auto mode (the bottom photo).

In auto mode, the box looks really crisp, and there’s a nice blur to the background that keeps the focus on the main subject. What’s really impressive is what you see when you zoom in on the box (click the photo). It’s so sharp you can actually see the fibers that make the box.

Indoor photos

So even in untrained hands, the Huawei P9 can take great photos when the lighting’s right, but what about when the lighting’s wrong? Shooting in the fluorescent lights found in offices is notoriously tricky, so that was my next stop.

Huawei P9 camera sample

Aperture: f/0.95

Huawei P9 camera sample

Aperture: f/4

Huawei P9 camera sample

Aperture: f/16

Huawei P9 camera sample

Aperture: Auto

Just like with the outdoor shots, my ham-fisted attempts to manually control the aperture didn’t produce the best results. The bottom photo shot in auto definitely gives the best effect.

Importantly, the auto photo also seems to have compensated for the yellow-tinged lighting. While the photo’s not as good as the one shot outdoors, it definitely looks better than the ones where I’ve had any control.

Wide photos

When you’re up close to your subject, playing with the aperture takes the background in and out of focus. But when you’re shooting wider photos, it’s more about changing the amount of light getting into the camera. So for my final test I took the shots below.

Huawei P9 camera sample

Aperture: f0.95

Huawei P9 camera sample

Aperture: f/4

Huawei P9 camera sample

Aperture: f/16

Huawei P9 camera sample

Aperture: Auto

With these shots the change in aperture didn’t make too much difference. Obviously Huawei has designed its controls to focus on the depth of field effects rather than image brightness.

Again, auto (the bottom one again) did a much better job of taking a clear, bright photo than I did.

How good is the Huawei P9 Leica camera?

If you just look at the camera and take away the ape messing up its settings, the Huawei P9 is brilliant.

In auto mode, the photos are bright and crystal clear. It’s hard to believe how sharp the 12MP photos are when you zoom all the way in. And while photos taken under artificial lights are a little yellow, the colours for the other shots are spot on.

The Huawei P9 has definitely made it onto our list of the best camera phones.

We’ll get someone with more photography skills to compare the Huawei P9’s Leica cameras to some of the other top camera phones and be back soon to let you know the results. Meanwhile, why not let us know what you think of the P9’s shots in the comments below.

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