Camera - Low Light Evaluation - Night Sight

Low-light capture was a forte for Huawei this year, as they were the first to introduce a low-light mode that was able to capture vastly superior exposure shots without having to use a tripod. The results on the P20’s were excellent, so let’s see how the new Mate 20’s fare.

Click for full image
Mate 20Pro     ] - Mate 20   ] - P20Pro   ]
P20   ] - Mate 10Pro   ] - [ Pixel 3 ] - [ Pixel 2 ]
[ Pixel XL ] - [ iPhone XS ] - [ iPhone X ] - [ Note9 ] - [ S9+ ] - [ S8 ]
 [ LG G7 ] - [ LG V30 ] - [ OnePlus 6 ] - [ OPPO FindX ] - [ MIX2S ]

In the first scene, the Mate 20 Pro goes off to a bad start as noted focus issues when capturing the scene. Here the phone multiple times took out of focus captures, with none of my night mode shots actually ending up in focus. In the regular mode, the Mate 20 Pro’s camera switches over to its unique high ISO mode and is able to deliver great results at ISO25600. We have to remember that the phones don’t actually have OIS, so again like on the P20 Pro this is quite remarkable. Also a big change compared to the P20 Pro is the colour rendition, here the Mate 20 Pro is able to extract much better colours out of the scene, and all while reducing noise significantly.

The Mate 20’s regular mode isn’t all that impressive as pretty much in line with how most sensors behave in low light. Here turning on Night mode is a requirement, and greatly improves the picture quality.

Google’s new Night Sight mode outmatches Huawei’s phones in terms of light capture, noise and detail retention, however the images is so bright that it’s less natural than the Mate’s results.

Click for full image
Mate 20Pro   ] - Mate 20    ] - P20Pro   ] - P20   ]
Mate 10Pro  ] - [ Pixel 3 ] - [ Pixel 2 ] - [ Pixel XL ]
[ iPhone XS ] - [ iPhone X ] - [ Note9 ] - [ S9+ ] - [ S8 ]
[ LG G7 ] - [ LG V30 ] - [ OnePlus 6 ] - [ OPPO FindX ] - [ MIX2S ]

The second scene the Mate 20 Pro does a very different exposure to the P20 Pro, the latter did a much more accurate representation of the brightness and colour temperature of the sodium street lamps. Turning on night mode improved things a lot for both phones.

Overall the Mate 20’s are among the best low light shooters thanks to night mode, only recently dethroned by Google’s Pixel phones.

Click for full image
Mate 20Pro    ] - Mate 20   ] - P20   ]
Mate 10Pro   ] - [ Pixel 3 ] - [ Pixel 2 ] - [ Pixel XL ]
iPhone XS ] - [ iPhone X ] - [ Note9 [ S9+ ] - [ S8 ]
[ LG V30 ] - [ OnePlus 6 ] - [ OPPO FindX ]

The next scene the Mate 20 Pro varies in its results while in auto mode. The first shot has better dynamic range and also better detail retention, here Huawei needs a way to keep things more consistent. The regular mode on the Mate 20 is also good, although it’s lacking in texture detail as well showing some very weird blur in the right part of the image. Here I think the lack of OIS is hampering the phones.

Turning on night mode again improves the quality, but again the regular Mate 20 is giving out some blurred results here as its multi-frame stacking doesn’t seem to work correctly.

I would say the Mate 20 Pro along with the Pixel’s Night Sight modes are leading closely together.

Click for full image
Mate 20Pro   ] - Mate 20   ] - P20Pro   ] - P20   ]
Mate 10Pro   ] - [ Pixel 3 ] - [ Pixel 2 ] - [ Pixel XL ]
[ iPhone XS ] - [ iPhone X ] - [ Note9 ] - [ S9+ ] - [ S8 ]
[ LG G7 ] - [ LG V30 ] - [ OnePlus 6 ] - [ OPPO FindX ] - [ MIX2S ]

Partial blurriness is again an issue of the Mate 20 in this scene. The Mate 20 Pro doesn’t have any issue in this regard, and captures the best regular mode shot among all phones.

Switching to night mode, it brightens up things for both units, and also resolves the blurriness issue on the Mate 20. Although Huawei’s phones are showcasing more realistic exposures, the Pixel phones night mode outclass them in terms of detail retention.

Click for full image
Mate 20Pro   ] - Mate 20   ] - P20Pro   ] - P20   ]
Mate 10Pro   ] - [ Pixel 3 ] - [ Pixel 2 ] - [ Pixel XL ]
[ iPhone XS ] - [ iPhone X ] - [ Note9 ] - [ S9+ ] - [ S8 ]
[ LG G7 ] - [ LG V30 ] - [ OnePlus 6 ] - [ OPPO FindX ] - [ MIX2S ]

This scene again showcases some big blur issues on the regular Mate 20’s auto shots that are only resolved by turning on night mode. The Mate 20 Pro’s auto mode here produces the most natural result out of all phones.

In night mode, things brighten up a bunch, and Huawei manages much better results than other devices, but is yet again beat by Google’s new software.

Extreme low-light

Extreme low light scenarios is something as early as last year we wouldn’t have expected phones to be viable in. Again I started shooting such scenes earlier in the year when Huawei made its Night mode usable without a tripod – along with vendors like LG introducing pixel binning modes that quadruple the light capture of the sensors.

Click for full image
Mate 20Pro   ] - Mate 20   ] - P20Pro   ] - P20   ]
Mate 10Pro  ] - [ Pixel 3 ] - [ Pixel 2 ] - [ Pixel XL ]
 [ iPhone XS ] - [ iPhone X [ Note9 ] - [ S9+ ] - [ S8 ]
 [ LG G7 ] - [ LG V30 ] - [ OnePlus 6 ] - [ OPPO FindX ] - [ MIX2S ]

In extreme low light scenarios, the Huawei phones were in a league of their own until just very recently. The Mate 20 Pro in its regular mode relies on ISO25600 to achieve a very good shot, beating all other phones including the P20Pro. The Mate 20 doesn’t fare as well here as its sensor just can’t capture enough light.

In night mode, the Mate 20 Pro gains in sharpness and sheds some of the noise, and the Mate 20 now manages to sufficiently light up the scene, although sharpness and detail aren’t too good. Although the Huawei again have a better natural reproduction of the light in the scene, Google’s night sight just produces a just ridiculously brighter scene that offers significantly better details.

Click for full image
[ Mate 20Pro ] - [ Mate 20 ] - [ P20Pro ] - [ Mate 10Pro ]
Pixel 3   ] - Pixel 2    ] - Pixel XL    ]
[ iPhone XS ] - [ iPhone X ] - [ Note9 ] - [ S9+ ] - [ S8 ]
[ LG G7 ] - [ LG V30 ] - [ OnePlus 6 ] - [ OPPO FindX ] - [ MIX2S ]

Finally, in the darkest possible conditions, in a path under the light of the moon, the Mate 20 Pro and P20 Pro are the only camera sensors able to capture anything, with the Mate 20 Pro using its maximum ISO102400 mode. The Mate 20 largely remains blind. Night mode on the Mate 20 Pro actually regresses things in these conditions, while on the Mate 20 it allows to finally make out some parts of the scene.

Again both phones are beat by Google’s new night sight, achieving some pretty astounding results.

Low-light conclusion

Overall in low light conditions, the Mate 20 Pro is a clear leader in terms of its hardware capabilities. Just like on the P20 Pro, the massive sensor as well as is high ISO capabilities prove very beneficial for the phone.

The Mate 20 fared less well in regular mode, and underperforms most other flagships. Here the use of night mode is a requirement to get better shots out of the phone.

Up until recently this would have been the end of my conclusion, but the recent introduction of Google’s new night sight mode means that Huawei no longer is the best in low-light conditions. While I do feel that Google is overdoing it a bit and Huawei still produces the more realistic and representative exposures, the Pixel phones just have a tremendous detail and noise reduction advantage. Still, this is not to take away from Huawei’s great low-light performances, as it still stands above that of many other devices.

Camera - Daylight Evaluation Camera Video Recording
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  • SydneyBlue120d - Friday, November 16, 2018 - link

    I'd like to see some mobile speed test compared with Snapdragons and Intel modems :)
    Great review as always, included the Lorem Impsum in the video recording video page :P
    Reply
  • Andrei Frumusanu - Friday, November 16, 2018 - link

    Cellular tests are extremely hard to do in non-controlled environments, it's something I'm afraid of doing again as in the past I've found issues with my past mobile carrier that really opened my eyes as to just how much the tests are affected by the base station's configuration.

    I'm editing the video page, will shortly update it.
    Reply
  • jjj - Friday, November 16, 2018 - link

    When you do the GPU's perf per W, why use peak not hot state average? And any chance you have any hot perf per W per mm2 data, would be interesting to see that.

    Have you checked if the Pto with max brightness throttles harder and by how much?
    Hope LG can sort out power consumption for their OLED or they'll have quite some issues with foldable displays.
    Reply
  • Andrei Frumusanu - Friday, November 16, 2018 - link

    It's a fair point, it's something I can do in the future but I'd have to go back measure across a bunch of deices.

    What did you mean by Pto? The power consumption of the screen at max brightness should be quite high if you're showing very high APL content, so by definition that is 2-3W more to the TDP, even though it's dissipated on a large area.
    Reply
  • jjj - Friday, November 16, 2018 - link

    The Pro question was about the SoC throttling harder because of the display, could be and should be the case to some extend, especially if they did nothing about mitigating it but was curious how large the impact might be in a worse case scenario. - so SoC throttling with display at min power vs max power.
    Also related to this, does heat impact how brightness is auto-adjusted?
    Reply
  • Andrei Frumusanu - Friday, November 16, 2018 - link

    The 3D benchmarks are quite low APL so they shouldn't represent any notable difference in power. Manhattan for example is very dark. Reply
  • jjj - Friday, November 16, 2018 - link

    I suppose you could run your CPU power virus while manipulating the display too, just to see the impact. The delta between min and max power for the display is so huge that you got to wonder how it impacts SoC perf. Reply
  • Chitti - Friday, November 16, 2018 - link

    Nothing about speakers and sound output via USB-C and in Bluetooth earphones ? Reply
  • Andrei Frumusanu - Friday, November 16, 2018 - link

    I'll add a speaker section over the weekend, the Mate 20 Pro's speakers have a good amount of bass and mid-range, however there's some lacking presence in the higher frequencies, as well as some obvious reverberations on the back glass panel. Covering up the USB-C port where the sound is coming from muffles things hard, so this is a big no-no in terms of audio quality when you have it plugged in.

    The Mate 20 just has the bottom mono speaker, which is a disadvantage in itself. Here there's some lack of bass and mid-range, with a very tinny bottom firing sound.

    The USB-C headphones are good, but lacking a bit in clarify / lower high frequencies. They're ok but definitely not as good as Apple/Samsung/LG's included units.
    Reply
  • jjj - Friday, November 16, 2018 - link

    Went over the review quickly, is there anything on the proprietary microSD and storage (NAND) in general, just point me to the right page if possible. Reply

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