Huawei P9: How Much Like a Leica?


Huawei P9

With inputs from Leica, the Huawei P9 promises image quality par excellence. Natasha Desai investigates.

When the prestigious optics company Leica lends its name to a cellphone, one is bound to sit up and take notice. The Huawei P9 is ‘co-engineered’ with Leica, and comes with two 12MP f/2.2 rear cameras, which have a colour sensor and a monochrome sensor, respectively. With a tinge of cynicism, I approached this Rs. 39,999 flagship.

Diving right in, the phone comes with RAW capability in the Pro Mode, which allows manual control over the photos. In bright light, I found that while the RAW DNG files hold a good amount of detail, the highlights do tend to get blown out. The details in low light are pretty good for a cameraphone. There is a fair amount of noise reduction going on which can be jarring, but the regular consumer would not have a problem with it. The JPEGs are great in bright light with a good handling of dynamic range and flare. However, in low light, the JPEGs become pretty smeary. Colour reproduction, on the other hand, is pretty punchy and vivid, something that may not be enjoyed by everyone.

A legacy that comes attached to Leica’s brand is their stunning black and white photographs, and I see the dedicated monochrome mode as a nod to it. Here, we found that the tonal range of the images is pretty good, considering that this is a cellphone sensor.

There also exists a feature that simulates shallow depth of field right from f/0.95 onwards. This is interesting for the creative use of depth, but you have to be careful of how you use it, lest it look like a Photoshop fail. One feature I like about the phone is the ability to focus on one area and expose for another, which performs pretty well.

Photograph/Natasha Desai

In the shallow depth of field mode, you can change the focus point and the depth to f/0.95, after you shoot the image. If your subject has clearly defined lines, then it functions well. In a portrait, the software does get buggy when it comes to the outline of hair. It looks fine up to about f/4.5, but any wider and it starts looking unnatural. Photograph/Natasha Desai

A Worthy Flagship?
Apart from its average JPEG engine, the cameraphone performs pretty well. Leica’s involvement with the phone makes it interesting to own, but, apart from those who understand the legacy it comes with, it may not be of significance to the regular user. Contenders include the One Plus 3, which offers great image quality and specs for much less. As for the premium user, the iPhone 6S and the Samsung Galaxy S7 are formidable options. Ultimately, it comes down to whether one would be willing to spend Rs.39,999 for a pretty good camera with a legacy attached to it, and a decent phone otherwise.

SPECIFICATIONS Dual 12MP f/2.2 rear cameras, 8MP front camera, 32GB inbuilt memory, Ocya core Kirin 955 processor, 3000mAh battery, 3GB RAM, Rs. 39,999
WHAT WE LIKE Good cameras, sleek design, good B&W reproduction
WHAT WE DISLIKE No RAW in Monochrome and Auto Modes, price, no 4k, no OIS
WHY BUY IT The phone performs resonably well, produces good images, has RAW capability and carries a Leica tag with it.
CAMERA FEATURES 12MP dual camera sensor set up,Hybrid AF  22/25 
IMAGE QUALITY  Good low light performance and RAW files  23/30
VIDEO QUALITY 1080 video at 60fps  11/15
HANDLING  Sleek and easy to hold  13/15
SPEED & RESPONSIVENESS Speedy phone without too much lag  13/15
Tags: Review, better photography, Cellphone camera, Better Cellphone Photography, Better Photography Recommended, huawei P9