Tuesday, April 16, 2024

The Pixel 7 Pro’s camera has finally met its match

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Huawei was once the camera phone brand to beat, with amazing models like the Mate 20 Pro and Huawei P30 Pro impressing with their ability — and setting significant trends in motion.

Contents

  • This is the Huawei P60 Pro
  • Huawei P60 Pro vs. Pixel 7 Pro camera specs
  • The P60 Pro’s main camera is a beast
  • Google still has the edge for ultrawide photos
  • A tough telephoto comparison
  • Both phones work well in the dark
  • Huawei’s back on its gameShow 2 more items

But over the past years, it has struggled to compete with Samsung and Google — and more recently with brands like Xiaomi. However, there’s something different about the new Huawei P60 Pro.

Huawei P60 Pro (left) and Google Pixel 7 Pro Andy Boxall/DigitalTrends

The company has been working on its XMage camera system since the partnership with Leica ended, and it’s now beginning to become a real competitor. To find out if Huawei is about to regain some of the ground it lost in camera supremacy, we tested the P60 Pro against the Google Pixel 7 Pro. Here’s what happened.

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This is the Huawei P60 Pro

Huawei P60 Pro (left) and Google Pixel 7 Pro Andy Boxall/DigitalTrends

Huawei has announced the P60 Pro for global release, so what’s the phone itself like? It has a 6.67-inch OLED screen with a variable 1Hz to 120Hz refresh rate, plus a quad-curve body with a choice of two finishes — matte black or the stunning Rococo Pearl seen in our photos. The phone is powered by a Qualcomm Snapdragon 8+ Gen 1 processor with a 4G modem, and the 4,815mAh battery has 88-watt wired charging and 50W wireless charging.

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The Huawei P60 Pro will be released on May 22 in the U.K., but pre-orders begin on May 9 through Huawei’s online store and some retailers. The basic 8GB/128GB version in black costs 1,200 pounds (about $1,515 U.S.), while the 12GB/512GB Rococo Pearl model is 1,399 pounds (about $1,767). A U.S. release is extremely unlikely. You can buy the Google Pixel 7 Pro today in the U.S. for $899 (or 849 British pounds in the U.K.)

Huawei P60 Pro vs. Pixel 7 Pro camera specs

Huawei P60 Pro Andy Boxall/DigitalTrends

The Huawei P60 Pro has three cameras on the back: its main 48-megapixel Ultra Lighting camera, a 48MP RYYB telephoto camera for a 3.5x optical zoom, and a 13MP wide-angle camera. A 10-channel spectrum sensor is also on board, along with a feature where you can manually shift between an f/1.4 and f/4.0 aperture. We also saw this on the Mate 50 Pro and something similar on the Xiaomi 13 Ultra.

Huawei has worked to improve lowlight performance, with the P60 Pro’s main camera taking in 3x more light than the P50 Pro for more detail in dark areas, fewer artifacts, and more balanced colors. There’s a three-axis anti-shake system for more stable shots, a macro mode, and a maximum of 200x zoom.

Google Pixel 7 Pro Andy Boxall/DigitalTrends

The Google Pixel 7 Pro has been around for a while now and is recognized as a brilliant camera phone. It has a 50MP main camera, a 48MP telephoto camera for a 5x optical zoom, and a 12MP wide-angle camera. It also has a spectral sensor, laser autofocus, and optical and electronic image stabilization.

We only had a few hours with the Huawei P60 Pro, so this test isn’t as comprehensive as some of our other comparisons, where we take photos over the course of multiple days and in different environments. Here, the photos were taken over one evening and some on the following morning. For example, we didn’t test out the macro or manually adjustable aperture. However, the main cameras got a serious workout, and we can still come to a satisfactory conclusion.

The P60 Pro’s main camera is a beast

The two cameras don’t take exactly the same photo, and there are distinct similarities between them, as you’ll see as we look at images taken with the main camera. Our first was taken as the sun was setting, and both handled the color of the giraffe in an almost identical and very realistic way. The Huawei P60 Pro has boosted the color of the sky, which is a little-washed out in the Pixel 7 Pro’s photo, but it does reveal a little more detail in the shadows around the scrub.

  • 1.
    Huawei P60 Pro
  • 2.
    Pixel 7 Pro

Our second shot was taken in a moving vehicle, but there’s no evidence of shake at all from either phone. The sunset is very different, though, and it’s clear where Huawei has worked on color balance specifically for this situation; the Pixel 7 Pro’s sunset is blown-out, and the P60 Pro’s shot is far more appealing. There’s also a lot of noise throughout the Pixel 7 Pro’s image. Although the sun was setting, neither phone used night mode here.

  • 1.
    Huawei P60 Pro
  • 2.
    Pixel 7 Pro

While this beautiful realism makes the P60 Pro’s camera look strong so far, it doesn’t always deal with color very well. The next photo was taken shortly after the sun had set, but again, Night mode didn’t come into action. Here, the Pixel 7 Pro has done a far better job of capturing accurate colors. It’s not just in one area, but the color of the sky, trees, the ground, and the vehicle itself.

  • 1.
    Huawei P60 Pro
  • 2.
    Pixel 7 Pro

In other challenging lighting, the P60 Pro really does excel. This photo was taken in a church in quite low light, facing a window with a bright day outside. White balance is absolutely spot-on, and there’s so much more detail and color accuracy than in the Pixel 7 Pro’s photo. The P60 Pro’s image is slightly sharper too.

  • 1.
    Huawei P60 Pro
  • 2.
    Pixel 7 Pro

I didn’t tap to focus in the last image, as I didn’t think I’d have to, but the Pixel 7 Pro has opted to focus in the center of the image, so the cake is blurry, while the Huawei P60 Pro has captured the slice of the cake perfectly in focus. The colors are excellent, there’s a lovely depth of field in both images, and the white balance is just about right too. But only the P60 Pro took the photo I’d want to share, and that’s a big advantage in situations where you may only get the chance for one shot.

  • 1.
    Huawei P60 Pro
  • 2.
    Pixel 7 Pro

The P60 Pro’s camera takes sharp, realistic, colorful, and vibrant photos, often with less noise than the Pixel 7 Pro. Google’s excellent camera is reliable and very capable, but it can’t quite match the P60 Pro in this short test.

Winner: Huawei P60 Pro

Google still has the edge for ultrawide photos

The differences between the wide-angle photos are interesting, as the Huawei P60 Pro has a tendency to lessen the amount of blue, while the Pixel 7 Pro is more accurate with its treatment of the sky. It’s noticeable throughout the wide-angle photos and may be a software tuning issue — or even something that’s caused by Huawei’s unusual RYYB sensor (where the pixels use a red, yellow, yellow, blue color spectrum instead of red, green, and blue. It’s certainly not a bad look, and the rest of the colors in the first photo are more pleasing and accurate than in the Pixel 7 Pro’s, but the sky does look a little off.

  • 1.
    Huawei P60 Pro
  • 2.
    Pixel 7 Pro

It’s visible again in the second photo, which was taken on a different day and in a different location from the first image, yet the color of the sky is different in the same way. The Pixel 7 Pro’s stronger HDR effect makes the photo pop, especially in the stonework and the wooden fence, and the photo is sharper than the P60 Pro’s too.

  • 1.
    Huawei P60 Pro
  • 2.
    Pixel 7 Pro

The final wide-angle photo shows how much wider the P60 Pro’s camera is compared to the Pixel 7 Pro, but the same differences in color and exposure persist. The Pixel 7 Pro’s photo has a harder HDR effect and deeper blues, while the P60 Pro has a smoother, colder look.

  • 1.
    Huawei P60 Pro
  • 2.
    Pixel 7 Pro

The Huawei P60 Pro has a wider-angle camera than the Pixel 7 Pro and will create a more epic image in the right environment, but the colors aren’t quite as well balanced as the Google camera’s — and they aren’t always as sharp and focused either, allowing the Pixel 7 Pro to consistently take more attractive wide-angle photos.

Winner: Google Pixel 7 Pro

A tough telephoto comparison

Rather than break this down into individual sections, we’re going to look at the overall ability of each phone when using the various zoom modes. Time with the P60 Pro for this test was limited, and we didn’t take as many photos as usual, making it fairer to assess the telephoto as a whole for now. The photos in the two galleries below were taken at different zoom levels, allowing us to understand the versatility of each phone instead of concentrating solely on photo quality in each mode.


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A photo taken with the Huawei P60 Pro using the zoom mode.Huawei P60 Pro 10x Andy Boxall/Digital Trends

A photo taken with the Huawei P60 Pro using the zoom mode.Huawei P60 Pro 3.5x Andy Boxall/Digital Trends

A photo taken with the Huawei P60 Pro using the zoom mode.Huawei P60 Pro 3.5x Andy Boxall/Digital Trends

A photo taken with the Huawei P60 Pro using the zoom mode.Huawei P60 Pro 10x Andy Boxall/Digital Trends

A photo taken with the Huawei P60 Pro using the zoom mode.Huawei P60 Pro 10x Andy Boxall/Digital Trends

Let’s begin with the Huawei P60 Pro. All the images were taken at 3.5x and 10x zoom, which are the default shortcuts in the camera app. Results are good, and you’ll be pleased with the 3.5x shots, which usually have a lovely tone and can add in a strong depth of field to help you be more creative. There’s plenty of detail too. The 10x shots use a digital zoom, but in good light, you’ll have to look hard to see much evidence of this. However, the focus can be a little off at 10x, and there’s a lot of noise and smoothing in low light.


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Photo taken with the Pixel 7 Pro's zoom mode.Pixel 7 Pro Andy Boxall/Digital Trends

Photo taken with the Pixel 7 Pro's zoom mode.Pixel 7 Pro Andy Boxall/Digital Trends

Photo taken with the Pixel 7 Pro's zoom mode.Pixel 7 Pro Andy Boxall/Digital Trends

Photo taken with the Pixel 7 Pro's zoom mode.Pixel 7 Pro Andy Boxall/Digital Trends

Photo taken with the Pixel 7 Pro's zoom mode.Pixel 7 Pro Andy Boxall/Digital Trends

For the Pixel 7 Pro, the shots were mostly manipulated to match the P60 Pro’s zoom level, making it a serious challenge for the Pixel as these are outside its optical zoom range. However, Google uses its Super Zoom software feature to enhance zoomed images, and it’s very impressive. The 3.5x and 10x shots easily compete with the P60 Pro’s in detail, although the colors are not as strong. However, in low light, the Pixel’s zoom rarely captured colors and tone more successfully than the P60 Pro.

  • 1.
    Huawei P60 Pro
  • 2.
    Pixel 7 Pro

What’s interesting is when you compare the 3.5x on the P60 Pro with the Pixel 7 Pro’s 2x. The final two photos above show a car taken at these zooms, and the Pixel 7 Pro’s photo is more natural-looking in terms of color — but it contains a lot less detail and more smoothing. It’s attractive when you glance at it, but examine it closely, and Huawei has it beaten. When I was taking photos in an ever-evolving situation, such as with the animals, the P60 Pro was more versatile and produced better photos in more lighting conditions. In this preliminary test, it wins over the Pixel 7 Pro.

Winner: Huawei P60 Pro

Both phones work well in the dark

Because I only had a short time with the Huawei P60 Pro, there was only one night to try the camera in low light, so it’s difficult to assess it fairly. That said, I can come to a preliminary decision, just like with the telephoto camera.


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A photo taken with the Huawei P60 Pro using Night mode.Huawei P60 Pro Andy Boxall/Digital Trends

A photo taken with the Huawei P60 Pro using Night mode.Huawei P60 Pro Andy Boxall/Digital Trends

A photo taken with the Huawei P60 Pro using Night mode.Huawei P60 Pro Andy Boxall/Digital Trends

What have we learned? The Huawei P60 Pro takes sharper and better-focused photos in low light and dark conditions, but its colors are often unrealistic and contain a heavy blue tint. There’s also clear evidence of digital processing, which is obvious enough that it can spoil photos.


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Photo taken with the Pixel 7 Pro's Night mode.Pixel 7 Pro Andy Boxall/Digital Trends

Photo taken with the Pixel 7 Pro's Night mode.Pixel 7 Pro Andy Boxall/Digital Trends

Photo taken with the Pixel 7 Pro's Night mode.Pixel 7 Pro Andy Boxall/Digital Trends

The Pixel 7 Pro’s Night mode photos have more natural and realistic colors, and they avoid introducing edge enhancement in the way the P60 Pro does. However, the photos have a lot less detail, and they are far less sharp too. It’s difficult to choose a winner here, as both have significant positive and negative aspects. Without the benefit of further testing, it’s going to be a draw.

Winner: Draw

Huawei’s back on its game

Huawei P60 Pro (left) and Google Pixel 7 Pro Andy Boxall/DigitalTrends

The Huawei P60 Pro has taken two out of the four wins here, with the Pixel 7 Pro only taking the win in one section and the pair drawing in another. The P60 Pro won the crucial main camera category, showing the company may have bounced back from its lull while it dealt with Leica’s departure and the development of its own XMage camera system.

It’s also showing promise with the telephoto mode, another area Huawei has innovated in the past, but the real test will be against the Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra, which has an optical 10x zoom in addition to other settings. The Pixel 7 Pro held its own, though, and still took some great zoom photos. The Pixel also took better wide-angle photos, and in many ways, I personally prefer the night mode photos it takes, but dislike the noise introduced in them. It’s by no means a total Huawei win here, but the outlook is good, and it really has impressed during this short test.

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