Launched almost exactly one year after its predecessor, the P20 Pro, the Huawei P30 Pro is the Chinese manufacturer’s brand-new flagship smartphone and comes with a triple-camera setup (quad-camera, if you count the time-of-flight sensor) that offers a plethora of improvements over both the P20 Pro and the Mate 20 Pro (launched in October 2018).
The primary camera comes with a 1/1.7 40MP quad sensor that produces 10MP image output. The 27mm-equivalent lens comes with an f/1.6 aperture and is optically stabilized—a first for this sensor size in a smartphone. Thanks to a minimum focus distance of 25mm, the 20MP super-wide-angle (16mm-equivalent) camera is capable of capturing macro shots, but the arguably most exciting innovation is the stabilized tele-camera that uses folded optics to achieve a 5x optical zoom factor (125mm equivalent).
5x optical zoom with folded optics
The laws of physics make it difficult to fit a longer zoom lens into a thin smartphone body. Even using smaller-than-usual image sensors and clever lens design, manufacturers have only managed so far to achieve 2 or 3x optical zoom factors in conventional high-end smartphones.
For the P30 Pro, Huawei uses folded optics to overcome this limitation. The image sensor is placed vertically within the phone and aimed at a lens with an optical axis that runs along the body of the phone, and a mirror is used to reflect incoming light into the lens and onto the sensor. This allows for a much longer equivalent focal length than would be possible with a camera oriented in the usual fashion—that is, one constrained by the phone’s thickness.
“Field-of-view fusion” zoom
The P30 Pro doesn’t rely just on hardware alone for zooming, however. Software is just as important, and the P30 Pro uses a system Huawei calls field-of-view fusion, a combination of optical and algorithm-powered digital zooming that adapts to the chosen magnification factor. Up to 3x magnification, the tele-lens remains unused; instead, the camera performs all zooming with the help of a super-resolution algorithm—a concept similar to what we saw on the Google Pixel 3, one in which the camera merges several RAW frames into one high-resolution frame that it then crops for zooming.