Huawei’s P20 Pro takes even better night pictures than the Pixel 2 XL

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Approximately half of Huawei's P20 Pro launch event this week was dedicated to the capabilities of the new device's camera, reflecting the large amount of time and attention the company has devoted to mobile photography. And the results, now that I've had a few days to try the P20 Pro, are not far from the exaggerated exaggeration. Huawei has created a formidable competitor for the crown of the best smartphone camera. I'm still not convinced that I deserve that praise, but I can say with certainty that the night mode of the P20 Pro is an innovative innovation that produces some of the best night shots ever taken with a phone. Even the praised Google Pixel 2 XL struggles to keep up with the P20 Pro.
While touring the city of Paris, home of the P20 advertisement for Huawei, I shot a lot of casual photos with the Pixel 2 XL and the P20 Pro. Below you will find a selection of the most outstanding ones, starting with the most challenging situation: night photography .

Huawe P20 Pro on the left (or higher, for mobile users), Google Pixel 2 XL on the right / bottom.

The way Huawei's night mode works is a technical marvel. The shutter of the camera is open for four full seconds, during which I see that the exposure of the image increases constantly until the night scenes begin to look like day, and then all the information collected is used intelligently to obtain an image sharp and clear. I expected the results of this process to be smooth and fuzzy, but in the pair of photos above, you can see the Huawei phone outside the Pixel. With the P20, you can still distinguish the branches of the trees in the background, there is more color (and much less graininess) in the sky, and only a better saturation in the whole frame.

Huawei P20 Pro

Google Pixel 2 XL

Another example in which the P20 Pro offers better saturation and a much cleaner night sky than the Pixel 2 XL. The Total logo and the buildings in the background are much more defined in the Huawei takeover. However, that has a price, since Huawei is not shy about adding additional layers of sharpness and noise reduction to make the image come out more. So you lose some of the naturalness of Pixel's photo, but you get a sharper image to share on mobile devices where pixel-level details are not so crucial. The remarkable thing about this capture is that the gentleman in the foreground P20 Pro kept walking during the four seconds of capture: Huawei's algorithms are smart enough to account for those moving objects and keep them reasonably fixed in place.

Huawei P20 Pro

Google Pixel 2 XL

These are incredibly good photos, given the limited amount of light available for the cameras to work. Huawei once again wins the comparison by presenting a beautifully noise-free sky, judging the exposure better and giving a more accurate representation of the reflecting surface of the pyramid.

Huawe P20 Pro on the left / top, Google Pixel 2 XL on the right / bottom.

This is the scene that I simply can not get over. The Sky P20 Pro is a freaking masterpiece compared to the Sky Pixel 2 XL, which serves as a good example of the problem that most phones have with night photography. It is not only rogue and ugly, it also turns off the luminous signs of buildings. On the other hand, it retains enough sharpness for the "hauts de seine" sign on the right side to remain legible, while the aggressive noise reduction of the P20 Pro destroys it along with many small details in the frame. Ultimately, however, for the most common objective of informal tourism snapshots, the Huawei solution will only produce more pleasing results for its user.

Huawe P20 Pro on the left (or higher, for mobile users), Google Pixel 2 XL on the right / bottom.

Make a real approach in this case, and will successfully declare the Google Pixel 2 XL as the winner for its greater degree of detail conservation. The people in that photo still look human, while in the Huawei plane, they seem painted with a thick brush. But it's not a total victory for Google because the P20 Pro does a better job of accurately displaying the red bar sign and the street light on top of the frame. The Huawei photo also looks more saturated, with the red highlights in the foreground catching the view more easily than those in the Google image.

Huawei P20 Pro

Google Pixel 2 XL

Distinguish between these two in good light would be impossible, except for one thing: the Huawei IA master processing. Automatically detects the type of scene you are trying to capture and aggressively processes the photo to make it more beautiful. In the previous example, the P20 Pro captured a trace of blue sky and decided to duplicate it at the expense of the foreground exposure. You can see how problematic it becomes when you shoot at the Eiffel Tower, especially because Huawei does not offer the option to eliminate its processing for a more natural look. Therefore, you must be careful in allowing the AI ​​to make all decisions.

Huawei P20 Pro

Google Pixel 2 XL

For the most part, the image alterations assisted by Huawei's AI are for the better. Here is an example where the P20 Pro camera detected the scene as "green" and increased the contrast and saturation accordingly. I can not say that this is the most realistic shot ever made, since the leaves before me were not as lush as the Huawei phone, but it is undoubtedly a nice, clean and extremely sharp capture. The Pixel 2 XL jack looks flat and lifeless in comparison.

Huawe P20 Pro on the left (or higher, for mobile users), Google Pixel 2 XL on the right / bottom.

I'm starting to feel bad about the fact that Pixel is being bullied in his favorite game, so here is a clear victory of Pixel 2 XL to balance things. The exclusive HDR + processing from Google exposes buildings at a better distance and keeps them much sharper than the Huawei offer. I am also in favor of the warmer color balance provided by the Pixel, although the P20 could have been a more faithful touch to life on that occasion.

Huawe P20 Pro on the left (or higher, for mobile users), Google Pixel 2 XL on the right / bottom.

Returning to the Huawei side of the ledger, this shot really shows the strength of the P20 Pro camera in basic everyday situations. Again, it seems less natural than the Pixel, due to its greater dependence on artificial sharpness, but in reality it is much sharper. What Huawei is doing is somewhere between the typical excess of consolidation that less successful companies such as LG do with their images and Google's approach of trying to stay true to the old forms of cinematographic photography. Sometimes that's worth it in spectacularly sharp images like the previous one, which lands on the verge of having too much processing.
My conclusion, which I am sure will find that it is not satisfactory, is that there is no conclusive winner in the contest between these two camera phones. I think the Huawei P20 Pro, the Google Pixel 2 XL and the latest Samsung Galaxy S9 are in a league of their own when it comes to capturing scenes in low light. As usual, I would like to have brought a less impressive phone just to show how far the Pixel and these two new competitors are from the rest of the Android field and Apple's iPhone X. For now, all I can say for sure is that the Huawei P20 Pro has one of the three best cameras on the market and legitimately tempts me to leave the Pixel for a while and try life in the manner of Huawei.

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