If you’re not familiar with the P series you might think the P10’s camera is another example of Huawei apeing Apple: like the iPhone 7 Plus, it has a twin-sensor set-up which can zoom up to 2x with seemingly no loss of image quality.
But actually, Mr Apple Fanboy, it’s the other way round – because Huawei first hit upon this formula with the P9 around this time last year, only for Apple to do what it does and shout far more loudly about how it had revolutionised smartphone cameras some months later.
Anyway, aside from the obvious two-lens-zoom thing, these cameras are actually pretty different in how they work. You get one 20MP monochrome sensor and one 12MP colour one. It’s the same set-up we saw on last year’s bigger Mate 9, and it produces similarly impressive results.
While you can use the monochrome camera to take absolutely lovely black-and-white pics, that’s not its primary party trick. Instead, it helps make photos look sharper and simulates nice blurry backgrounds. And, as with the iPhone, it lets you zoom.
The P10 actually handles zoom better than the iPhone. On the Apple phone, you just get a choice of 1x or 2x optical zoom, but on the P10 you can zoom at every point between 1x and 2x, either with a pinch the screen, or by moving an on-screen slider. It’s really easy to do and gives you total control over focal length.
It’s not optical zoom as on the iPhone, but nor is it your bog-standard digital zoom that ends up making every image look like a bag of mushy peas. You can only use it with 12MP images, presumably because the 20MP monochrome sensor is handling some of the zooming duties, filling in detail or whatever. But the result is that whether you zoom to 1.2x or 1.8x or whatever, your 12MP images will have what appears to be identical quality. It’s a really neat feature, if not new even for Huawei.
We’ve tried it out with hundreds of shots now and when you pixel peep the images there is actually a slight quality difference between those taken at 1x and those at 2x: namely a little less definition. But then again, you’re getting twice the focal length, and the difference in quality is so small that in practical terms it doesn’t matter.
Trust us, you can zoom up to 2x with the P10 to your heart’s content. It’s a different matter once you go up past 2x, though, so I’d avoid doing so.