#861. Has Huawei made an Otus?

By Adrian | Opinion

May 22

Until recently the mobile phone market appeared to have no limit.  Worldwide sales continued to grow, and manufacturers fed consumers with a never ending array of “innovation” to tempt them to upgrade.  Strangely, as real innovation seemed to falter and everyone’s phone already had a big enough screen and enough storage and a battery that didn’t explode, Apple decided to push the price envelope with the £/€/$1000+ iPhone X.  Seeing the opportunity, other manufacturers followed with flagship phones at higher and higher price points, and then an unsurprising thing happened.  Consumers reacted by keeping their phones longer, buying new ones less frequently, and global sales plateaued, or even declined.

 
Rites of passage. Honor 10 Lite, “AI” mode
 

Manufacturers obviously still needed to try to drive sales, but clearly the number of processor cores or the battery life weren’t enough to tempt consumers any more.  However, everyone knew that consumers love social media and taking photos – mostly of themselves – and so the mobile phone camera has remained at the vanguard of “innovation” and the assault on consumers wallets. 

 

Having successfully killed off the consumer market for inexpensive pocket cameras, phones are going up market and want to take on “proper” cameras.  One camera is no longer enough, when 2, 3, or even 4 can be fitted to the back of a phone and offer different focal lengths, 40 megapixels, enhanced low light photography, and funky portrait modes to make your small sensor photos look like they were taken with a big sensor camera and a fast aperture lens. 

 
Twin Geese. Honor 10 Lite, “aperture” mode
 

Phone makers are no longer content with being the camera of choice for some selfies infront of <insert obligatory Instagrammed “must see” bucket listed tourist hotspot here>, or applying some chinzy filters to a shot of a iced grandissimo mocha-choca-coco-latte to put on your SnapFace story. AR dog ears are soooo last year.  Now, they want to be serious photographic tools that can be used for every situation – low light, travel zoom, high resolution, do-it-all monsters.

 
Shard at dusk. Honor 10 Lite, “pro” mode
 

Of course, the irony of all this is that for the price of the latest premium “must have” phone, consumers could buy a very nice camera and possibly a couple of lenses.  Except that in general, consumers have stopped buying cameras and lenses, because they have been seduced by the ubiquity of simple cameras attached to the front and back of their phones, and the ease with which their always on connections to the internet allowed them to share every moment of their lives in all it’s filtered self-glory.

 

And so we reach a paradigm.  Consumers have ditched complex cameras with lots of lenses and options in preference for a simple one click solution attached to their phone, yet now the same phone wants to be more complex in an attempt to widen their shooting envelope.

 
This way. Honor 10 Lite, “aperture” mode
 

At the same time, there is some evidence that the social media platforms have plateaued, or may be in decline.  Certainly, user numbers aren’t growing like they used to, and measures of user engagement seem to indicate waning interest.  Facebook has been exposed as misusing customer data and being a platform for misinformation.  Instagram “influencers” have been revealed as being paid for their opinions, and must increasingly declare their commercial relationships.  Does anyone even remember those SnapChat glasses with a camera built in?

 

So where does it leave phone makers?  In trying to be everything to everyone, have they thrown away the simplicity that made consumers like using camera phones in the first place?  In trying to be more complex, with more lenses and more shooting modes, will they become less appealing to consumers, who may no longer be willing to pay for a premium model who’s complex features they don’t want?

 

So where does this leave consumers? 

 

Probably wanting something further down the food chain, if they even want anything at all right now.

 
Little Brother. Honor 10 Lite, “AI” mode
 

Recently, I needed to buy a new phone at short notice.  As I prefer “dual SIM” models for their travel benefits, and since I also didn’t want to spend the equivalent of the national debt of a small South American country, after a read of some online reviews I quickly gravitated to an Honor 10 Lite.  Honor is a brand owned by Chinese giant Huawei, and many of their Huawei and Honor branded handsets appear to share near identical specification, although the Honor brand offers more dual sim models and are often slightly cheaper.

 

Anyone who read my recent article “is your camera like your car” will know how much I feel that products are marketed by segmentation and spec sheet comparisons, often damned with feint praise or unfavourable comparisons within or across perceived product “class”.  At £169, my new phone would probably be regarded as an entry level mid range phone, yet it manages to use the same 8 core processor from last year’s Huawei flagship, and with attractive specification for its screen, cameras and battery.  Huawei claim it uses an “AI” processor, but since silicon cannot change its behaviour, I interpret this to mean the firmware adjusts the processor clock speed or use of cores to maximise performance or battery life as needed.  Generally, it runs smoothly and feels snappy, and the battery lasts well even with heavy use.  Given the hardware requirements of the relatively resource hungry Android, I regard this as a significant achievement at the price.

 
A storm overhead. Honor 10 Lite, “aperture” mode
 

Not so many years ago, even an expensive phone had something like an 8mp rear camera and a 1.3Mp front facing camera for video calling.  Now, my inexpensive phone has a modest 13Mp rear camera behind a 26mm f1.8 lens, and an astonishing 24Mp front facing (selfie) camera with a fixed focus 26mm f2 lens.  Both cameras vary the output file size by shooting mode and lighting conditions, down-sampling the photos to reduce noise. 

 

The front facing camera automatically starts in “Portrait” mode for obvious reasons, and has “beauty mode” turned on by default.  This can be adjusted or turned off, and performs some airbrushing on faces, smoothing skin tone and removing spots and lines. Up close the results look a little lacking in detail and skin texture, but at full screen size they look surprisingly good, and far better than the worst excesses of the breed.  I wouldn’t hesitate to use it if I wanted to avoid manually retouching files later or wanted to flatter.  The camera can perform face detection, release the shutter when smiles are detected, or count down with a hand gesture, but will shoot at up to ISO2500  File quality is fair – there seems to be quite a lot of processing being applied to reduce noise and sharpen the images that doesn’t look particularly good at 100%, but is actually quite pleasing when seen full screen.  This was undoubtedly a deliberate choice by the developers, and I regard it as a intelligent one.  Consumers don’t look at their selfies at 100% – they want them to look good on the phone screen.

 
Obligatory selfie. Honor 10 Lite, “Portrait” mode, ISO2500, adjusted in PaintShopPro
 

The rear facing camera is probably of more interest to those whose photography doesn’t centre entirely on themselves.  The Huawei camera app has a wide variety of shooting modes, including panoramas, time lapse, light painting, HDR and a “pro” mode.  The latter offers full manual control over metering mode, ISO, shutter speed, exposure compensation, autofocus mode and white balance.  The rear camera has 2 modules – the 13Mp picture taking camera, and a secondary 2Mp sensor behind an f2.4 lens that is used in “portrait” and “aperture” shooting modes.  Both of these create a shallow depth of field effect, where apparently the second 2Mp camera is used to capture “depth information”.  Since the camera offers near infinite depth of field at normal subject distances, the point of focus can be placed almost anywhere in the frame post capture, and then a simulated shallow depth of field is applied.  The depth of field can also be varied by adjusting an aperture value between f0.95 and f16.  The result is akin to the Lytro field camera.

 
Japanese Manhattan. Honor 10 Lite “aperture” mode
 

It would be easy to dismiss this aperture mode as a cheap gimmick that could never achieve the same results as from a “proper” camera, but there interesting things about what it does.  The depth information that it claims to capture from the low resolution second camera does appear to allow some approximation of subject distances for different things in the frame, and as a result different amounts of blur are applied, sometimes with a true sense of depth.  In the photograph below you can see that the railing on which the pigeon stands is blurred as it moves away from the camera, and the birds on the ground behind the railing have varying amounts of fall off from focus.

 
Pigeon 1. Honor 10 Lite “aperture” mode
 

Of course it’s not perfect, and it can break down when the software has difficulty distinguishing edges of overlapping objects, of with complex objects at different distances – for example, background seen through bars of a nearer fence, as can be seen in the example below.

 
Pigeon 2. Honor 10 Lite, “aperture” mode. Note that some grass seen between the vertical bars of the fence has not been blurred. However, I find the rendering of distant water and trees very attractive, particularly in black and white.
 

The other interesting shooting mode is “night”.  This is Huawei’s alternative to Google’s own “night vision” camera mode, and shoots a series of different exposures over a 4 second period that are then instantly aligned and combined into 1 photograph.  The result won’t appeal to purists, as it creates a very heavily sharpened kind of “ultra HDR” effect, but the photographs are quite clean and vivid, and suit some subjects.

 
Cloudy city lights. Honor 10 Lite, “Night” mode
 

Now to bring us back to our earlier discourse on camera phones, and whether very expensive models that try to do everything are what consumers want.  Firstly, let’s admit that for some consumers, having the latest premium handset is important in itself for vanity and the “cool factor”.  A £169 phone certainly isn’t cool.  When I met a friend for drinks shortly after I’d bought it, he immediately turned on the camera and took a selfie and said the photo was very bright and clear, and then in the discussion that followed he commented that it didn’t really matter whether a phone was expensive or cheap, because most people just wanted social media and a decent enough camera.  I strongly believe that the law of diminishing returns sets in quite low down phone ranges, and clearly a £1000 phone isn’t 6 times better than one that costs £169.  It may not even be twice as good.  Then we come back to the premium phone camera as a do-it-all master of all situations – ultimate travel zoom, ultimate low light, ultimate resolution – and whether it’s what consumers want, or whether it’s enough to tempt them into a £1000 purchase rather than a £200 one.

 

To answer that, we should reflect on what it is that can be good about the camera phone.

 
Blue Sky Thinking. Honor 10 Lite, “AI” mode
 

Firstly, to quote that tired old cliche of photography, “the best camera is the one you have with you”, and the benefit of the camera phone is just that – you always have it with you.  So when you come across something interesting or unexpected, you are ready. 

 

Photographers from the past become so steeped in mythos that we lose sight of what we have in our pockets.  HCB used Leitz cameras because at the time they used a smaller format that allowed the cameras to be smaller, more portable and more discrete.  Could anyone seriously argue that he would choose to use a Leica now, when the most portable and discrete camera now fits in your pocket and is effectively invisible in social situations?  Modern phones probably have far more ability than the cameras that HCB used to photograph the streets of Paris.  If you put my phone in manual focus mode and set the focus distance to about a meter, you get near infinite depth of field and a fast shutter response, so that’s the other photographic cliche of “the decisive moment” taken care of. 

 
Unexpected Park Life. Honor 10 Lite, “aperture” mode
 

There is another advantage of camera phones that I wasn’t initially aware of.  Having always used 135 format cameras that took photographs in 3×2 ratio, I’d always been slightly uncomfortable with moderate wide angle lenses, as I never seemed to be able to get comfortable compositions.  I’d never understood why many street photographers and the cameras and lenses they liked were often around 28mm focal length, as I always found it an awkward field of view.  Last year, to say goodbye to a phone I was replacing, I undertook a project to use it on holiday, as described in my article “are I going crazy? (using an inexpensive camera phone)”.  The phone has a 28mm f2 lens, and I found that I really enjoyed using it.  It wasn’t until I was in discussion with Pascal about it that he commented that 28mm of the 4×3 format that most phones use is somehow easier to compose for, and somehow more “relaxing” for a wider field of view. 

 

Most phones come with a lens with an equivalent full frame focal length around 24-35mm, and most use a native 4×3 format sensor.  I don’t know what sensors made for phones are in 4×3 ratio, but I think it’s attractive for wider focal lengths.  Again, when we put all the mythos of HCB and 135 format to one side, what we are left with is a format whose size and ratio has it’s origins in movie film, which happened to be small and convenient for smaller and more portable stills cameras.  Would 3×2 format be so dominant now had it now been for the accident of history and the rise of 135 format?  4×3 ratio makes for much more comfortable compositions and framing when used with wider lenses, and suits group portraits and other subjects much more than the 3×2 that resulted from the historical tyranny of Leitz.

 
Seeing the light. Honor 10 Lite, “aperture” mode
 

The final thing that could be good about camera phones is that they can have a “look”.  What instantly struck me about the aperture mode simulated shallow depth of field effects from my new phone was their visual quality.  Backgrounds aren’t just blurred, there is some sense of a three dimensional scene, and out of focus specular highlights are rendered as discs with a very slightly hardened edge, just like real lenses with less then perfect bokeh.  Depending on the scene, such as the example below, there can even be some nervousness not far behind the simulated plane of focus, with the “wirey” look that some lenses can give to things like foliage. 

 
Without a means of support. Honor 10 Lite, “aperture” mode. Note how the twig suspending the leafs has been incorrectly blurred to create “magic” hanging leafs.

The developers could have aimed for a “perfect” blur, like that produced by lenses such as the Minolta 135mm STF with it’s apodisation filter, but instead they seemed to opt for something with a little character.   The results can sometimes look quite “painterly”, and I find them genuinely attractive and appealing.  The aperture mode pictures also look good when the default Huawei black and white filter is applied, which I think gives a very classic feel to the results.  Pascal suggests that character is better than technical perfection, and I’m inclined to agree.  It’s why camera phone apps have so many filters that ultimately try to make bland modern photographs look interesting.

 

In the weeks after I got the phone I sent a few samples to Pascal and we discussed phones and their merits. When I sent him the sample below, hastily snapped in the garden a few days after I’d bought the phone and curious to see how well it close focused, his reply was “The look on that file would make an Otus owner swoon. It is so delicate”. For full disclosure I told him that the original had been underexposed because of the bright sky, so I’d had to adjust it in an app on my phone, recover some detail in the blown highlights of the sky, and applied a filter, all from a jpeg. I regard his comments as high praise for a photo from an inexpensive phone crudely adjusted using simple apps on a 5″ screen

 
Delicate flower. Honor 10 Lite, “aperture” mode
 

That a cheap phone and free software that requires a few swipes of the finger produces something that might be compared to the delicacy of an Zeiss Otus lens just shows there is simply no point in sticking your head in the sand, going into denial and trying to stop your world from changing.

 

I’m torn between the idea of the camera as a “do it all” photographic tool, and Pascal’s “keep it simple” philosophy. Some phones take great 4K video, but their 28mm lenses are useless to capture action at a stage event. Wide angle lenses sometimes make for difficult compositions, and wouldn’t be my first choice for a portrait. Recently, with the ever increasing capability of cameras that broaden the shooting envelope, I’ve always asked “what can I use this for?”, whilst many enthusiast photographers who may be resistant to change adopt a Luddite attitude of “why would I want that?”

 
Park Life. Honor 10 Lite, “AI” mode
 

When I think about the pocket cameras that I’ve most enjoyed using, they weren’t the ones with crazy zoom lenses or that had the manual control of an SLR, they were “point and shoot” fixed focal length cameras. There is a freedom and greater sense of enjoyment when using a simple camera with a decent lens, as it means that the photographer’s attention is on the composition and the pictures, not worrying about settings. That’s exactly what our camera phones give us: a point and shoot camera, usually with a decent quality fixed focal length lens, that allows us to think more about pictorial quality and less about settings.

 

Photos in this article were all taken with an Honor 10 Lite phone and post processed to taste on the phone using Huawei Gallery, Adobe Photoshop Express and Snapseed, and are included here at full resolution should you want to inspect them more closely.

 

Pascal adds

Phones get a bar rap because so many people are using them that the average Joe is not interested in quality photography. Just like the average Joe 40 years ago, except he didn’t take photographs at all. But phones are great photographic tools.

 
 

As Adrian writes, it’s the camera that’s always with us. But to me, it’s the instinctive use and the look that make it most precious.

You try things with phones that you wouldn’t get your expensive kit out for and those often turn out to be good pictures. There’s something fresh, almost naive about phone photographs compared to so many “real camera” pics that can feel so belaboured. They sometimes smell of sweat where the phone’s offerings carry the scent of mountain dew 😉 And the seemingly infinite depth of field is so useful in many circumstances.

 
 

That being said, I wonder whether manufacturers aren’t trying too hard for their own good. Probably not, as punters buying phones for personal photographic creativity are probably vastly outnumbered by those who enjoy the pixel count of the selfie cam (I thought Adrian had made a mistake when he explained selfie cams are higher quality than the back facing cam !!!!! What a weird old world).

 
In my book, that’s really cool!
 

Still, the fun aspect could be lost if these beasties ever become complex to use and too expensive. My old Galaxy S6 had a nicer look (but was lousy at night) than my current S9. It was also a heck of a lot cheaper and more solid. I do think Adrian is on to something with cheap phones. Find 3 with different looks and you’ll have spent less than on a soulless lens and less than half what big Apple is charging for top of the line ego boosts.

Go cheap phone, go!

 
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  • John W says:

    Be very careful of phones made in China!!!! The Chinese govt. is partner and part owner of the phone companies (and most industries) in China. The Huawai 5G system is banned in North America due to concerns about its ability to collect and store user data which would then become available to their partner … the Chinese govt., or any of its agencies including intelligence and surveillance. Effectively the phone could be used a tool for espionage and the owner/user would never know.

    Just a thought.

    • Adrian says:

      Hi John,

      the timing of this article was slightly unfortunate given this weeks news about US trade embargos.
      You are right that potential security issues have been raised about the use of Huawei made networking hardware used in communications infrastructure.

      This weeks announcement of Google being no longer able to supply Android for future Huawei phones (which at the time of writing is due to commence in 3 months) isn’t specifically about Android, but merely because Google as to comply with US trade restrictions. I am not aware or any specific issue with Huawei’s use of Android, or any specific known security issue with Huawei phone’s running Android.

      Google make Android freely available to handset makers purely as a mechanism to maximise their installed user base, since every handset provides a platform to collect user and usage data, which has commercial value. The entire family of “free” Google products are services is entirely funded by their ability to commoditise the consumers who use them, because data about them and their use has value to them. Google have also been involved in a number of cases of illegal data capture and processing, including (but not limited to) collect packets of private wi-fi data as part of the Google Street View image capture. These packets included private emails and health records. When discovered, Google claimed that the software had been “accidentally” implemented on the cars collecting Street View pictures.

      “Free” social media platforms are also funded in the same way, by commoditising user data for commercial purposes, and have also been widely reported to have misused data or collected it unlawfully.

      Lastly, it is rumoured that Apple may secretly work with the US government to allow them access to Apple devices. Apple were also found to have been illegally collecting device location data without consent, and also throttling the performance of their devices in spite of claims that they were not. Apple devices are manufactured in China.

      Although I understand your concerns, I think it is disingenuous to vilify one company or one nation, when the problems of privacy and security are widespread, and perpetrated by many large multinational companies. If someone wants absolute security and privacy, then they should probably avoid using a smartphone, and social media and most online services.

  • Kristian Wannebo says:

    Adrian,
    has your phone research revealed a phone with an additional long lens and with about the same progressive blur quality (and at a moderate price)?

    Up to now I’ve been rather sceptical of “phone blurring” but your examples look much better, with blur being so nicely progressive I’m ready to forgive some artefacts.
    I just might stop looking for a pocket zoom I like, even a 1″ camera would struggle to achieve so short DOFs.

    My favorites,
    This way
    Little Brother
    Cloudy city lights
    Seeing the light.

    Thanks for a great post!

  • Cliff Whittaker says:

    Guess I’m leading the sheltered life of a recluse…. I still have a flip phone and only got it in case of an emergency on the road. I think it has a camera app but I’ve never tried to find out. And I don’t text. In fact, I don’t always answer it when it rings unless I’m in my truck. The truck has a bluetooth connection to the phone and I can use the speaker.

  • jean pierre (pete) guaron says:

    I use my phone to make phone calls. And for SMS messaging. And as an alarm clock. And a pocket watch.
    I have had a cellphone since last century – there’s no novelty to it.
    I have been using computers intensively for half my life – nearly 40 years – and even did some of my own programming. I also had one of the first 5 portable computers in the state where I live.
    And so far, I have only needed to use my cellphone to take ONE photo – a purely technical shot, in a supermarket, to teach them a lesson about displaying correct prices. They mislabelled a cheese I wanted. When I got to the cash register and they tried to charge the “correct” price, I challenged it and told them it was not the marked price. They went to check and came back claiming I was wrong. All hell broke loose when I producedthe photo and accused them of lying, in front of all the other customers by then waiting to be served. I left shortly afterwards with $40.00 worth of imported French cheese, for which I paid $2.50.
    Like may others, I use cameras to take photos. And I have two pocketable ones, so I am scarcely ever without one.
    Camera sales have been in decline for some years. But they are still there. And a surprising rise in interest in cameras, and ” real” photography. Guys going over to cellphones – and their wives turning up with cameras, and even joining camera clubs! So it ain’t all over yet!
    I also don’t own or wear a baseball cap.
    And I don’t drink beer.
    Each to their own! If not, the world would become exceedingly dull and boring.

  • Adrian says:

    Hi Kristian

    Unfortunately my phone choice was made very quickly as my previous handset wouldn’t charge, so I needed a replacement before the battery died so I could back it up and get all the content off it!
    I know Huawei have a model with a zoom lens, but that may not work with the “aperture” mode. I’ve think some other brands that have multiple cameras on the back include longer focal lengths, but again that may or may not work together with the depth sensing camera to create the shallow DOF field effects. Worth checking carefully, particularly before an expensive purchase.

    The “aperture” effects that Huawei seem to have developed look much better than, for example, early samples of Apples portrait mode, which just seemed to blur backgrounds a little. After you have focused and taken the picture, you can move the point of focus to anywhere that was in focus in the frame, adjust an aperture value, and it computes the result. It seems to work best, particularly at closer focus, when the actual point of focus is the chosen point for the effect (which is what happens by default). I did prepare a gif to show the effects of varying it, but WordPress doesn’t support the file type, and unfortunately just showed a static image – a shame as I thought it really brough the effect to life.

    I agree that most smaller sensormpocket cameras would struggle to achieve a small milarly shallow DOF naturally, but of course would have other benefits such as a bigger sensor, better low light performance, and a zoom lens. I nearly bought one last year, but end led up with a Sony A5100 as it was just as small, had a bigger sensor, and was cheaper! Admittedly with pancake zoom it won’t quite fit in a shirt pocket, but for me it opened up more possibilities that a fixed lens smaller sensor camera. Your needs will be different.

    Thanks for the comments about the photos. For full disclosure, they have all been adjusted post capture, but I’m pleasantly surprised at how nice they look.

    • Kristian Wannebo says:

      Adrian,
      Thanks for the additional info on your phone camera.
      I quite agree with you on early phone photo blurring, also with such primitive blurring the remaining artifacts seemed too disturbing. I’ve read about some of the short+long lens phones, in a year or two there’ll surely be some also with progressive blurring – and later also affordable.

      For a pocket zoom camera the 2/3″ sensor seems right to me (my XF1 was only a little over 3cm thick) but with the 1″ sensor they are bulkier and still the zoom lenses often seem to be a bit more of a compromise.

      ( Also I have considered a pancake zoom, e g. the 12-32mm for m4/3, but an over 6cm thick camera is more than I’m willing to always have with me.
      A Raynox tele extender could fit my DXO One, but it’s rather large, and the 20Mpx do allow some cropping.)

      One has to choose, carry a bag with a camera that fits how one likes to capture scenes or adapt to what a pocketable camera can do.
      And your new phone camera seems to bridge some of that gap well enough to let me forgive the artifacts you reported – except that I too often want a longer lens.

      • Adrian says:

        Hi Kristian
        It may be that some phones combine a Tele lens camera module or a zoom lens with aperture effects – it’s just that since it requires a secondary camera to capture depth data, I don’t know if that combines with Tele lens or zoom camera modules. On my phone (which only has 1 rear camera plus the depth camera), other modes cannot be combined with aperture effects, which also disables digital (pinch) zooming.

        All cameras, particularly small ones, are a comprimise. Some of the 1″ cameras are very small for their sensor size, and APS-C models from Fuji and Ricoh are very small, but I didn’t like a fixed 28mm lens. Ironically, the A5100 body is smaller than some compact cameras, but lacks the “enthusiast” controls. You lose on size when you fit a lens, I gain with the flexibility of being able to mount any of my E mount lenses. You win, you lose. I liked some of the 1″ compacts, some of the Sony models particularly appealed with their PDAF focusing and frame rates, plus Sony’s modes for low noise night photos etc – but I didn’t feel like paying the same price as a higher tier SLR or CSC… So I compromised on an A5100, as it offers some of the convenience of a phone with a much bigger sensor (= significantly better image quality).

        Since Unused my Lumia 640XL phone for last year’s “am I going mad?” article, I’ve realised that phones can be ligitimate photographic tools if used to their strengths. The Lumia was really good at HDR exposure blending, and had surprisingly good low light ability up to iso6400, and shot really good clean low light video. In comparison, my new Honor creates really attractive shallow depth of field effects and dramatic night time photos, but isn’t close for HDR, low light and video.

        My Lumia is retired as a phone, but I would still use it for it’s camera. So as Pascal says, buy several cheap phones and use them for their strengths!

        • Kristian Wannebo says:

          Hi Adrian,
          You’re probably right to suggest that an additional tele lens would need its own depth sensing module.
          – – –

          Our further equipment thoughts seem to follow similar paths…
          ( If needed, I’d coat pocket my older Canon M(1) with the 22mm and 40 (or 50) mm – Magic Lantern helps.)
          – – –

          > “.. buy several cheap phones and ..”
          Yes!
          And one in each pocket!

          ( Like carrying a somewhat to large photo bag, one is tempted to add a couple more lenses – and the motif is gone before the “right” lens is fitted!
          Btw., all photo bags are the wrong size, with a smaller one the lens one wants is always missing!)

          But then, why not?

  • Kristian Wannebo says:

    Another example of low light phone photos:
    (with Huawei P30 Pro)
    https://fstoppers.com/landscapes/these-milky-way-and-meteor-photos-were-taken-phone-372397

    ( The sensor is said to have a RYYB pattern to increase light sensitivity.)
    – – –

    This phone camera is said to have a laser to assist with better depth info.
    That might be enough to make also the grass behind that fence blurred.

    • Adrian says:

      Hi Kristian
      Those samples look really good, at least on my phone screen. I don’t know much about the P30 Pro camera as I’m not interested in the phone due to the high price – I assume the sensor is larger than other camera phones, and I think one of its camera modules is a 16mm equivalent lens, which is interesting to me as I do use ultra wide camera lenses for architecture and city scapes etc.
      Laser? Sounds scary! I’ve heard of some other phones that use “laser focusing”, which I assume is similar to those IR focusing systems found on film era compact cameras.
      What all of this shows is mentioned toward the end of my article – there is no point being in denial about phone camera technology, it is eroding the need for real cameras for all sorts of applications, and the quality is often hard to deny.

  • philberphoto says:

    What a great post! And a great buy, if you can stomach buying from Huawei, which I for one wouldn’t, having firsthand knowledge of the company. But they make fine products at a great price, as you so ably demonstrate. I find myself at the other end of the decision spectrum, having just bought a iPhone Xr, and it too is a remarkable imagemaker. Which it bloody well should, at 4 times the price of yours.
    Your pics speak for themselves: it is now “real photography”, as far as I am concerned. A different brand of photography, to be sure, but totally legitimate nonetheless.
    Again, a super post! Congrats!

    • Adrian says:

      Thanks for your kind comments.
      I’ve been surprised by how nice some of the photos look – you probably couldn’t (or wouldn’t want) tomorint them large enough to hang on a gallery wall, but I think they would print on A4 and still look good.
      My previous phone which broke was a Nokia under the new management of HND Global. I bought it because I’d had such good experience with the value and durability of No Kia and Microsoft branded phones running Windows OS. Unfortunately, the charging port because faulty a few months after purchase and Nokia UK refused to service it.
      In some ways I have as much problem with Apple as Huawei, with their “we know best” slightly sanctimonious tone, and their refusal to make a product at a price point suitable for emerging markets. In my opinion, their intransigence and perceived superiority will be their undoing in the end, and the signs are already there. Plus they’ve been proven to have been dishonest on a number of occasions, which doesn’t fit well with the house than thou self image. Personally, £1000 for a phone is ridiculous, and eqauls huge profit for everyone along the supply chain, except the poor sods who work at the factories in China where they are made. Blets not forget some of Samsung’s management recent scandals either.

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