Camera Still Picture Performance

The Mate 8 is equipped with a new camera module sporting a new sensor from Sony. The IMX298 is a 1/2.8” sensor with a 1.12µm pixel pitch offering resolutions of up to 16MP in 4:3 format. This marks a departure from the RGBW design that Huawei had adopted last year with the IMX258 in the P8 and Mate S. While the RGBW sensor definitely was able to demonstrate advantages in low-light photography it lacked detail compared to traditional Bayer RGBG sensors in well-lit scenarios.

Camera Setup
  Main (Rear) Front
Sensor Sony IMX 298
1/2.8" 1.12µm pixel pitch
Sony IMX179
1/3.2" 1.4µm pixel pitch
Resolution 4608 × 3456
16MP 4:3
3264 × 2448
8MP 4:3
Optics F/2.0 aperture
27mm eq. focal length
F/2.4 aperture
26mm eq. focal length
Stabilization 3-axis 1.5° OIS -

For the first time we see Huawei push the sensor’s resolution up to 16MP which should theoretically allow the new module to resolve more detail compared to last year’s models as well as the Mate 7. Huawei continues to maintain a F/2.0 lens aperture with a 35mm equivalent focal length of up to 27mm, enabling a wide field-of-view.

Early software issues: A case of severe near-sightedness

When I received my Mate 8 review unit I was curious to test out Huawei’s promised improvements in camera quality, but I what I was met with were some very concerning samples that were worse than what a cheap budget smartphone could produce.


Mate S - Mate 8 B116 - Galaxy S6

The phone consistently was producing extremely blurred pictures that were far inferior to any other smartphone. At first I didn’t know what was causing this as the Mate 8 introduces both a new sensor, module as well as ISP in the Kirin 950.

 
 
 
Mate 8 vs Mate S

After further testing and investigation it seems that the focus mechanism of the camera is malfunctioning. A good way to demonstrate this is to launch the camera in the phone’s “Professional” manual mode and to open up the manual focus slider UI. While focusing on objects via manual selection on the screen, one can see the focus slider adjust between its minimal and maximal focal length. 

The issue seems to be that the Mate 8 in its early software isn’t able to focus correctly on objects further away than ~75cm-1m away and tries to focus to infinity in basically any shot that is not a close-up frame of an object.

Reaching out to Huawei they confirmed that this is currently a software issue and that we’ll be seeing an update pushed out in the “near future”. Unfortunately this means that I wasn’t able to complete a proper camera evaluation of the Mate 8 as basically all pictures suffer from severe blurriness and chromatic aberrations due to the out-of-focus lens. 

We’ll be updating the article with a revisited camera evaluation and comparison tests against competing devices once Huawei pushes out the firmware update to resolve the focus issue.

Day-Time Photography

As such, the following samples aren’t representative of the end product but at least we’ll be able to get an idea of Huawei’s processing and exposure handling in the Mate 8.


Ignoring the lack of detailed due to the focus issue, the Mate 8’s daylight camera samples seemed to lack vibrancy, colour saturation and contrast. This was mostly caused by the HDR mode that tended to cause shots to become washed out as the SDR shots were better in terms of colour reproduction in bright light. The issue with the SDR shots however were that they consistently weren’t exposed enough.

Night-Time Photography

In night-time shots the Mate 8 fared much better and seems to offer good exposure and colour reproduction with low noise levels. Unfortunately again because of the focus issue it’s hard to give a more detailed evaluation as we continue to see blurred out photography. 

Overall it’s just impossible to rate the Mate 8’s camera so we’ll have to delay the full verdict to more in-depth follow-up once Huawei updates the device’s firmware.

Battery Life & Charge Time Camera Video, NAND & WiFi Performance
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  • WiZARDka - Saturday, March 26, 2016 - link

    Any news/update on the camera? Reply
  • doyleconan - Tuesday, April 5, 2016 - link

    I brought the phone and tested the camera. With the latest version frameware the camera focus correctly. Although, the image taken sometimes slightly under exposed, when shot with auto exposure. Reply
  • moh.moh - Sunday, April 10, 2016 - link

    Are you sure? Because every other phone with this sensor, (xiaomi mi5 and the oppo r9 plus) also seems to produce rather blurry shots.; so is the sensor the problem? I therefore really hope that this review can be updated, since you state the camera has improved. Furthermore, have you also seen any inprovements in low light? Reply
  • Moonraker - Thursday, August 25, 2016 - link

    Great review Andrei thank you. 2 points/questions - haven't the battery life tests been superceded now? I wond er too if you're going to update the camera section of the review in the light of firmware updates (assuming these have happened!) Perhaps you could rerun the battery life tests using the new benchmarking and include a report on these at the same time as the camera review? Reply
  • Whocares? - Friday, November 18, 2016 - link

    Not that it matters anymore since the Mate 9 has been released, it would have been nice if you updated the review regarding the camera like you said you were going to do. I hate reviewers who promise to do something and then don't come through! Screw Anandtech! Reply
  • cmvrgr - Thursday, February 23, 2017 - link

    You forgot to mention that this is the last - Dual Sim Full Active - Mate from Huawei and that is a reason that Mate series got many buyers.

    (This is the reason that I ditched Mate 9 because it is Dual Sim Dual Standby and I bought a new Mate 8 and if they will not bring back the DSFA Feature in Mate 10 I will "fly" away to other brand).
    Reply

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