“The P30 Pro aims to shake up the camera phone segment with its quad rear cameras. But can it? We pit it against the S10+ and Pixel 3 XL to gauge its imaging capabilities”

Up until a few years ago, Cupertino giant Apple was the de facto leader in smartphone photography. However, things changed with Samsung’s ISOCELL technology on the Galaxy S7 and the launch of the original Google Pixel, back in 2016. While the Korean titan made use of both hardware and software prowess to take the lead, the internet behemoth proved that software can do wonders. And if that wasn’t enough, in came the world’s first triple camera-toting smartphone, the Huawei P20 Pro (review). Fast forward to now, and it seems (debatably so) that the latest Apple iPhones are nowhere in the list of the top three camera phones around. 

Considering both Samsung and Huawei have taken the wraps off their latest flagships recently, we thought it’d be interesting to see if they can topple the single rear camera-equipped Pixel 3 XL from the throne. And since pictures speak a thousand words, we decided to put Huawei’s P30 Pro (first impressions), Samsung’s Galaxy S10+ (review) and Google Pixel 3 XL (review) against each other in a variety of situations to see which one comes out on top in terms of imaging prowess. 

The specs

Starting with the tech specs, let’s take a closer look at the camera setups on each of these devices.

Huawei P30 Pro vs Samsung Galaxy S10+ vs Google Pixel 3XL camera comparison 1

Hardware-wise, Huawei’s P30 Pro seems to be the most loaded of the trio. It comes with a total of four cameras, with a 40-megapixel wide-angle shooter, a 20-megapixel ultra-wide snapper and an 8MP telephoto lens with a periscope-like arrangement to offer optical zoom, aligned vertically. The fourth one is a ToF sensor, present below the LED flash. Now each of these cameras has something special – the primary 40MP SuperSpectrum camera features an RYB bayer filter instead of the conventional RGB one. This helps the sensor capture up to 40 percent more light. The 8MP snapper on the other hand, can offer 5x optical zoom and 10x hybrid zoom. Interestingly, both these shooters also come with OIS, while the ultra-wide snapper comes with digital stabilisation. For selfies, the device hides a 32-meg sensor inside a tiny waterdrop-shaped notch up front

Moving on the Samsung Galaxy S10+, the brand’s first triple rear camera-toting flagship features two 12MP snappers and a 16MP ultra-wide sensor. Just like its predecessor, the main sensor is optically-stabilised and offers a dual aperture of f/1.5 or f/2.4. The secondary 12MP shooter is a telephoto lens offering an optical zoom of up to 2x, whereas the ultra-wide angle shooter has a field of view of 123-degrees. The punch-hole display at the front holds two cameras that include a 10MP shooter and an 8MP wide-angle sensor.

Related read: How Huawei’s P30 Pro promises to revolutionise smartphone photography | Samsung Galaxy S10 cameras explained

The Pixel 3 XL has the least to boast of in terms of hardware, as its camera setup is headlined by a single 12-meg sensor with an f/1.8 aperture. However, at its fascia, the handset sports two shooters rated at 8-megapixels each.

Test conditions

Before we begin however, here’s how we have compared the camera’s capabilities of the three flagships.

– All the images have been captured with 4:3 aspect ratio

– The images have been resized for the web. If you want to view the original pictures, then you can view them here: Huawei P30 Pro camera samples, Samsung Galaxy S10+ camera samples and Google Pixel 3 XL camera samples

– While these smartphones let you toggle HDR or AI mode, we’ve turned these features on, as software processing is a big part of the phone’s imaging capabilities 

– While the P30 Pro’s primary camera can capture 40MP pictures, we’ve used it in its default 10-megapixel resolution as that also lets you take advantage of all the other modes 

– The images have been posted in the following order (from left to right): Huawei P30 Pro, Samsung Galaxy S10+ and Google Pixel 3 XL. 

Landscape shot 

Huawei P30 Pro camera sample - landscape shotSamsung Galaxy S10+ camera sample - landscape shotGoogle Pixel 3 XL camera sample - landscape shot

Huawei P30 Pro (left), Samsung Galaxy S10+ (middle), and Google Pixel 3 XL (right)

A landscape scene is one of the best ways to gauge the camera prowess. Not only can you see how the colours are being reproduced, but also the dynamic range as well along with the sharpness levels. All three smartphones have done a great job in these scenarios, albeit in their own ways. If you’re looking for a natural look, then you should know that the Pixel 3 XL delivers that, in comparison to oversaturated colours seen on the photos from both the Galaxy S10+ and Huawei P30 Pro. Interestingly enough, while Samsung is known for punchy colours, in this particular case, Huawei seems to have done better, and we’re sure that its Master AI mode played a big role for the same. 

Picking a winner, in this case, is slightly difficult as all of these phones have done a great job. While the Pixel 3 XL’s output might not be as pleasing as the others, it seems to have fared better in terms of retaining details. Viewing in the original resolution, you can make out the individual bricks rather easily, and also the leaves of the tree on the corner quite distinctively. As far as the colour reproduction is concerned, the P30 Pro has done the best job. 

Winner: Google Pixel 3 XL

Against the light 

Huawei P30 camera sample - against lightSamsung Galaxy S10+ camera sample - against light Google Pixel 3 XL camera sample - against light

Huawei P30 Pro (left), Samsung Galaxy S10+ (middle), and Google Pixel 3 XL (right)

This is perhaps one of the most difficult scenes for phones to capture apart from low-light shots. And we can clearly see how these rivals have tweaked their algorithms when it comes to such situations. To check that, we shot the tomb in the late afternoon when the sunlight was quite strong, and the focus point was the monument. Samsung’s Galaxy S10+ has clearly done quite well by controlling the sunlight well, followed by the Pixel 3 XL. But if you keep that aside, then the P30 Pro beats the other two handset fair and square – both in terms of offering a pleasing output as well as high sharpness levels.

Winner: Huawei P30 Pro

Close-up 

Huawei P30 Pro camera sample - close upSamsung Galaxy S10+ camera sample - close up Google Pixel 3 XL camera sample - close up

Huawei P30 Pro (left), Samsung Galaxy S10+ (middle), and Google Pixel 3 XL (right)

Close-ups is where the opinions are divided. That’s because, the natural colour reproduction of the flower captured by the Google handset might be preferred by many, while the P30 Pro’s punchier output might sway others. Both these phones also do a stellar job in offering the faux bokeh effect that adds to the charm with well-defined edges of the flower. The Samsung Galaxy S10+ has also shot a nice image, but its colour reproduction isn’t as good and the fact that the leaves in the background are also in focus means that flower doesn’t look as attractive. With regards to the sharpness, all three smartphones have ensured that the image doesn’t turn grainy even when viewed at the full size.

Huawei P30 Pro camera sample - super macro
Huawei P30 Pro super macro shot

For close-ups, Huawei’s P30 Pro has an ace up its sleeve. Thanks to its wide-angle camera, the device can capture any subject from close quarters (up to 2.5cm). In the image embedded below for example, both the Pixel 3 XL and S10+ weren’t even able to lock the focus. 

Winner: Huawei P30 Pro 

Wide-angle

One feature that the Google Pixel 3 XL misses out on due to its lack of an additional camera is the fact that there’s no ultra wide-angle mode. Both the Huawei P30 Pro and Samsung Galaxy S10 feature wide-angle lenses to offer this functionality. One thing worth noting is that Samsung’s offering has more field-of-view as compared to the Huawei handset.

Since the wide-angle camera is a different one than the primary camera, it’d be interesting to see the difference in quality between the two modes. In the case of the P30 Pro, the normal shot has better colours, though the good thing is that the 20MP snapper manages to retain good details. There’s no distortion as well, and we liked the fact that the device supports autofocus in this mode too. Another thing that we like is the fact that you can choose the wide-angle frame by dragging the slider.

Comparing that to the S10+’ wide-angle mode, as mentioned above, the device captures a wider frame. On the flipside however, this also means that there’s perceivable fish-eye effect in the shot. While the 16MP wide-angle shooter offers high sharpness levels, it misses out on autofocus capabilities.

Talking about the actual comparison between the wide-angle shots captured by the Huawei P30 Pro and Galaxy S10+, we can see that Samsung’s flagship has much better dynamic range. In terms of the detail as well, the S10+ is able to maintain its lead. 

Winner: Samsung Galaxy S10+

Zoom

Now, this is where the Huawei P30 Pro has garnered the most attention. Not only does the phone offer the highest optical zoom of 5x and hybrid zoom of 10x, it also has a digital zoom of 50x, which is completely unheard of. As opposed to that, the S10+ continues to offer 2x optical zoom, and can digitally zoom up to 10x. The Pixel 3 XL does have the famed Super Res Zoom mode, which utilises Google’s computational photography prowess, though we haven’t considered that in this case.

At 2x, it’s very difficult to compare the level of details as both smartphones seem to be at par with each other. However, the S10+ does seem to offer more vibrant colours.

At 5x, Huawei’s use of a better telephoto shooter starts showing its true colours (pun intended) as it’s clearly able to offer crisper output while the image captured by the Galaxy S10+ has a noticeable amount of grain.

At 10x, things don’t change much for the P30 Pro, which is rather impressive considering that Huawei is combining optical and digital zoom in this case. In comparison, the Samsung smartphone’s output remains full of noise, especially at the actual resolution. 

At 50x – a level of zoom that doesn’t even exist on any other smartphone – the P30 Pro delivers quite well. In fact, it indeed is a creep mode (as YouTuber MKBHD puts it), since one can see things clearly from afar. 

Huawei P30 camera sample - 50x shot
Huawei P30 Pro 50x shot

Winner: Huawei P30 Pro

Portrait

Huawei P30 Pro camera sample - portrait shot Samsung Galaxy S10  camera sample - portrait shot Google Pixel 3 XL camera sample - portrait shot
Huawei P30 Pro (left), Samsung Galaxy S10+ (middle), and Google Pixel 3 XL (right)

Who says hardware is more important than software? At least, that’s the feeling you get when you see a portrait shot clicked by the Pixel 3 XL with its single 12MP shooter. In contrast, both the Huawei P30 Pro and Samsung Galaxy S10+ utilise a different sensor for the same. Yet, the image from the Google smartphone shows a clear separation between the subject in the foreground and background, though it does apply a crop factor. That said, both the S10+ and the P30 Pro have also performed well, though it’s hard to say that if any of these devices got the shot perfectly. If you start pixel peeping, then you’ll see that edges aren’t maintained as well. In terms of colour reproduction, Samsung is ahead of its rivals, though we’d recommend not to use the blur effect at its highest level on the brand’s offering. Personally speaking, I’d go for the S10+’s Live Focus mode as compared to the depth-of-field effect produced by the other two phones.

Winner: Samsung Galaxy S10+

Low-light shot 

Huawei P30 Pro camera sample - night shotSamsung Galaxy S10+ camera sample - night shotGoogle Pixel 3 XL camera sample - night shot

Huawei P30 Pro (left), Samsung Galaxy S10+ (middle), and Google Pixel 3 XL (right)

This is yet another scenario in which both Google and Huawei have specifically focused upon. While Google’s Night Sight mode offers phenomenal results, the Chinese giant has gone one step ahead to offer a Night mode which captures the scene at multiple exposures and then combines them together to offer a brighter, sharper image. Samsung on the other hand, also has a special mode in the form of Bright Night, but it kicks in only when the scenario is really dim.

Without the dedicated mode enabled (images attached above), it’s amazing to see the Pixel 3 XL managing to come out ahead of the other two devices considering its sensor has a larger aperture of f/1.8. Not just in terms of colours, Google’s phone also seems to have captured a higher level of details. Having said that, the P30 Pro isn’t far behind and it has also controlled the light emanating from street lights in a much better manner than its competitors.

But when it comes to the night mode, the difference between the P30 Pro’s output and Pixel 3 XL is of night and day (literally). Along with capturing much better colours, Huawei’s latest also offers better sharpness levels.

Winner: Huawei P30 Pro

Selfie shot 

Huawei P30 Pro camera sample - selfie shot 1Samsung Galaxy S10+ camera sample - selfie shot 1 Google Pixel 3 XL camera sample - selfie shot 1

Huawei P30 Pro (left), Samsung Galaxy S10+ (middle), and Google Pixel 3 XL (right)

Of course, it isn’t just about the rear camera quality these days. So how do these phones fare in the selfie department? Similar to their rear cameras, the Pixel 3 XL is attuned to deliver a more natural-looking output, whereas the S10+ and P30 Pro deliver saturated results. While it would be up to personal preference, the S10+’ colour temperature seems to be slightly better than the one on the Huawei phone as the latter has a warmer tone. Thankfully, each of these phones keeps skin smoothening to the minimum with the beauty mode turned to zero (it’s not there on the Pixel 3 XL). What’s even more interesting is that even though the P30 Pro has a higher-res front camera, its sharpness levels can’t match up to its rivals, and the Pixel 3 XL seemingly nails the same.

It’s worth noting that both the Samsung Galaxy S10+ and Pixel 3 XL come with secondary cameras that offer a wider field-of-view to make it easier to click groupfies. And while the P30 Pro doesn’t have any wide-angle mode for the front camera, it does capture a wider frame with its single 32MP snapper.

Winner: Google Pixel 3 XL

Portrait selfie shot 

Huawei P30 Pro camera sample - selfie shot with portrait modeSamsung Galaxy S10+ camera sample - selfie shot with portrait modeGoogle Pixel 3 XL camera sample - selfie shot with portrait mode  

Huawei P30 Pro (left), Samsung Galaxy S10+ (middle), and Google Pixel 3 XL (right)

What if you want the viewer to just focus on your face and not the rest of the background? Well, you do get portrait mode for selfies too. Between the Huawei P30 Pro and Samsung Galaxy S10+, both of them do a solid job, though the latter seems to be slightly ahead thanks to better colour reproduction and cleaner edges. But that is until you take a look at the image captured by the Pixel 3 XL. Thanks to its excellent software processing, the Google phone has brilliantly managed to fade everything apart from the subject and offer a pleasing output. With both the Samsung and Huawei devices however, you do get some interesting portrait effects which the Pixel 3 XL doesn’t offer.

Winner: Google Pixel 3 XL

Video

In terms of capabilities, all the three smartphones can capture videos in up to 4k resolution, though the P30 Pro misses out on 4k @ 60fps, which means the video isn’t as smooth. In terms of vibrancy, Samsung’s Galaxy S10+ edges ahead of its rivals. Footage captured by it is also more stable, though the P30 Pro does a decent job as well. In general though, full HD videos are slightly better in terms of smoothness and sharpness as compared to those shot in 4k.

Both the P30 Pro and S10+ can also capture super slow-mo videos at 960fps, which ensures some creative shots.

Perhaps the biggest advantage that the P30 Pro has, are the various video effects such as AI colour, Background Blur, etc. which work quite well, thanks to the Kirin 980 chipset doing the grunt work.

Winner: Samsung Galaxy S10+

Verdict

Taking a tally of these scenarios, it’s evident that the Huawei P30 Pro can’t really be the called the king of camera phones outright, for the Pixel 3 XL manages to pull off some impressive shots, while the S10+ also has its own advantages. But what the P30 Pro offers is an incredibly versatile camera setup, which none of the rivals can match. And that, combined with its impressive imaging quality across different shooting conditions, it won’t be wrong to call it the best camera phone so far.

While its cameras are impressive, we’re sure you’re wondering whether the smartphone is worthy of its Rs 71,990 price tag. Our review will be out soon to answer that and more, so stay tuned for that.