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Huawei P9 camera review: two is better than one

|August 17, 2016 |Android Phones, Mobiles, Reviews, Huawei, Camera Review

"Are the Huawei P9's dual cameras a gimmick or the real deal? Check out these camera samples and see for yourself"

Huawei P9_1

The Huawei P9 is the brand's first flagship smartphone in India after a long gap, and it's a loaded device. The highlight of the smartphone is its dual rear camera setup, as is becoming popular among manufacturers these days. In the P9's case, they come with Leica branding in tow. The lenses themselves aren't Leica's, but they do come with the established camera maker's seal of approval, and the brands have collaborated on various aspects of the camera too. The function of the dual cameras on the Huawei P9 is unique – while one lens is RGB to capture colour, the other is monochrome to capture data in black and white. Apart from taking black and white images, the monochrome sensor is also able to capture more light, contrast, and detail than its RGB counterpart. The result being images with less noise and better tonal range. The rear cameras both use 12MP Sony IMX286 sensors with f/2.2 aperture, while the front camera is an 8MP unit with f/2.4 aperture.

Huawei P9_camera on Huawei P9_camera modes

The camera app is filled with shooting modes like Monochrome, Beauty, Video, HDR, Panorama, Night Shot, Light Painting, Slow-mo, Watermark, Audio Note and Document Scan. We'll feature some of the most interesting ones in our camera samples below. Apart from this, the P9 features a wide-aperture mode, which lets you adjust the aperture while you're shooting for bokeh effects. The resulting image can be refocussed later in edits. The P9 also features a range of live filters, Leica'a film presets and a dedicated Pro mode. To give you an idea of what the P9's camera can do, here are a few image samples taken across different shooting conditions. 

Long Shot


Taken on a cloudy day, this long shot sample is high on clarity. The contrast levels and dynamic range are on point, and the image remains sharp and detailed even when zoomed in.

Close Up 


The P9 excels at macro shots, and with this image, it's easy to see why. The camera has captured all the fine details of this traditional Mexican rag doll, including the textures of the arms, dress, face and ribbons. The vibrant colours of the dress have also been captured accurately, and the camera has been able to achieve a depth of field effect while keeping the subject in sharp focus. 

Close Up (Zoomed In)


A close crop of the image above lets you really see the details on the doll. The tiniest stitch and fibre is visible, and there's no noise or pixelation distorting the image either.



This image has a lot of shadows and contrast, making it ideal to test the HDR capabilities of the P9. Let's see if the HDR mode can work its magic.



Unfortunately, the HDR mode seems to have had a very subtle effect on the image above. The contrasts in the sky seem reduced, and while there is a brightening in some areas, overall the HDR mode hasn't done much to improve this image.

Wide Aperture mode


Taken with the wide aperture mode, in this image the aperture has been reduced to f/0.95 through software. While it does create a nice bokeh effect at the back, there is some visible softening around the edges of the subject, which is to be expected since it's artificially produced. That said, it does feature a nice depth of field for a dramatic effect.

Light Painting mode


Among the various shooting modes on the P9, the Light Painting mode is the one that allows a lot of creativity. Huawei recommends using a tripod to get this effect, but we managed it with a steady hand. In this case, we got the desired effect with very little effort, so we'll give the P9 a big thumbs up.



The Monochrome sensor on the Huawei P9 is one of its most underrated features, and in this image, it's easy to see why. Since the camera is actually capturing black and white data, instead of just converting RGB, the resulting image captures the tonality nicely. Despite the strong backlight, the dynamic range in this image is spot on. 

Front camera


The front camera on the P9 is one of the best we've seen this year. Even though it doesn't feature autofocus, it captures a lot of detail. Skin tones are true to life and the subject is in sharp focus as well. 

Low Light


Taken in low light, this image surprisingly shows very little traces of noise, which is impressive for a smartphone camera. The subjects have been captured in sharp detail, and the different colours are visible as well.

Low Light (With Flash)


Turning on the flash for the image above has had the desired effect. The flash is evenly balanced and hasn't washed out the subjects, and the light is natural as well.

Night Shot


Taken at night, this shot is one of the better ones we've seen from smartphone cameras. The camera has focussed more on the backdrop than the plant in front, but apart from that the noise levels aren't too high, and the neon signs haven't been blown out either.

From the image samples above, and our own experience, it's evident that the Huawei P9 has one of the best smartphone cameras around, and we'd go so far as to say it could rival even the Samsung Galaxy S7 duo. The results are consistently good, whether taken in full auto or one of the various shooting modes available, and that's what you want from a smartphone camera. We've got more details on the Huawei P9's shooters as well as its overall performance in our review.

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