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POWER PIXELS: China handset giant Huawei has partnered with German optics and camera brand Leica to up the ante in phone cameras.

Huawei powers on

03/09/2016 - 05:50

Huawei P9

EVEN though only a small number of smartphone users can be considered good photographers, many consumers take a phone's camera as a benchmark for a phone's overall appeal.

This belief has led handset makers to partner with camera brands, and the most notable one so far has been Nokia's tie-up with German optics maker Carl Zeiss, on the 41MP system for the PureView camera on Lumia devices.

China handset giant Huawei has gone the same route, and formed a partnership with the other legendary German optics and camera brand Leica to come up with the Huawei P9, the first mobile phone with Leica's stamp of approval. While the dual camera lens here has been co-engineered by both companies, and produced by a third one, the bottom line is that Huawei wanted consumers to notice this phone, and it has succeeded.

The partnership has resulted in a noteworthy smartphone camera that takes great photos, and reminds other handset makers that the battle for that pixel-perfect mobile shot is still being waged.

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One thing that smartphone users should note is that Leica cannot take a larger amount of credit for this achievement, as Huawei handsets launched prior to the P9, such as the P8 and Ascend P7, have established that the company has been making improvements in its cameras. This camera hardware trajectory should have led to the level of quality close to the P9, but the involvement of Leica secures the branding Huawei needs, to challenge Samsung and Apple.

The P9 sports a pair of 12MP rear lenses, offering images measuring 3,968 x 2,976 pixels. One is a traditional RGB colour sensor, while the other is a monochrome one. Since a monochrome sensor does not have to deal with recording the wavelengths of different colours, its main focus in on details, and the phone's software combines images taken with both sensors, to produce a single, sharper image. In essence, the Leica-certified lenses help, but much of the heavy lifting is done by Huawei's software. The end results are more highlights and details from shadows. But while colours are vibrant in daylight shots, they tend to be oversaturated in indoor ones.

Naturally, this method of processing takes a little more time. It is not very obvious with single shots, but if you press the shutter button continuously, a noticeable delay in registering sequential images in quick succession becomes obvious, compared to the newer Apple iPhone or Samsung Galaxy S.

Huawei has also added a selection of manual controls and camera features on the P9, for those who want slightly more control over their snaps. Even without the camera, the P9 is a well-engineered device, with its slim profile and features such as dual SIM capabilities. Huawei's implementation of Android is not as fluid though, and contains some bloatware that mars what should be a smooth Android user interface.

The phone adopts a newer USB-C connector, which allows for faster data transfer and charging of the phone. The catch is that the provided charger is a regular one, so owners have to pick up a separate fast charger for the P9.


Huawei P9

Price S$888 (64GB), S$768 (32GB)

Processor HiSilicon Kirin 955 Octa core (4 x 2.5 GHz and 4 x 1.8 GHz)

Display 5.2-inch Full High Definition, 1,080 x 1,920 pixels (423 pixel density)

Camera (Rear) Dual 12 MP, f/2.2, 27 mm, Leica optics, phase detection autofocus, dual-LED (dual tone) flash, (Front) 8 MP, f/2.4

Operating System Android 6.0 (Marshmallow)

Memory 32GB + 3GBRAM/64GB + 4GB RAM, Expandable microSD (up to 256 GB

Battery Life Non-removable Li-Ion 3000 mAh battery