Phones

Photography fun with Huawei's P9

The Huawei P9's star feature is its dual-camera setup with the two Leica lenses on the rear.
The Huawei P9's star feature is its dual-camera setup with the two Leica lenses on the rear.PHOTO: HUAWEI

The phone's plus side comes from its Leica camera

More than a month after its first-wave launch in 29 countries, Huawei's 2016 flagship phone, the P9, finally has a local release date: May 28.

The phone was co-designed with famed German camera manufacturer Leica, and sports two Leica lenses on its back.

The review set I received was a titanium grey model, but the colour resembles a darker shade of rose gold than grey. It has a smooth, polished gun-metal finish that feels really premium but also makes it rather slippery.

My first impression of the phone was just how small and light it is, and that has not changed in the weeks I have used it. With its 5.2-inch full-HD display, the P9 is a svelte phone compared with those that have larger screens increasingly favoured by consumers today.

Those who want to view the photos they take on a larger screen may want to wait for the larger 5.5-inch P9 Plus that is expected to be released by July.

  • TECH SPECS

  • PRICE: 32GB ($768, without contract) 64GB ($888, without conract)

    PROCESSOR: Huawei Kirin 955 (64-bit), Octa-core (4x 2.5GHz A72, 4x 1.8 GHz A53)

    DISPLAY: 5.2-inch, Full HD, 1,920 x 1,080 pixels, 423ppi

    OPERATING SYSTEM: Android 6.0 (Marshmallow) CAMERA: Leica 12MP, f/2.2, 27mm (Dual lens, rear); 8MP, f/1.9 (Front)

    MEMORY: 32GB or 64GB (microSD expandable up to 2TB), 3GB or 4GB RAM

    BATTERY: 3,000mAh non-removable

  • RATING

  • DESIGN: 4/5

    FEATURES: 5/5

    PERFORMANCE: 4/5

    VALUE FOR MONEY: 4/5

    BATTERY LIFE: 4/5

    OVERALL: 4/5

The star feature of the P9 is its dual-camera setup with the two Leica lenses on the rear.

Two lenses means the phone can capture more light, which helps tremendously in low-light settings. One lens contains an RGB sensor, and the other a monochrome one.

With this setup, the phone can shoot monochromatic photos straight from the camera, and not reproduce a colour photo in a black-and-white filter like in most other phones.

This means your black-and-white photos turn out with richer shadows and more detail, which can lead to some creative, artistic interplay between light and dark in photos.

I had lots of fun playing with the various modes in the default camera app, which is optimised to take advantage of the Leica lenses. These include monochrome, three different film modes ranging from standard to vivid to smooth colours, and various filters.

Photography enthusiasts can opt to shoot in manual mode, which gives them all the shooting options possible: ISO, shutter speed, metering, exposure compensation and white balance.

In auto mode, photos tend to come out a little too vivid and saturated, which makes them pop on-screen.

Despite the P9's strong focus on photography, Huawei did not pack optical image stabilisation into the P9's slim body.

It is a pity because while the phone is capable of great pictures in low light, a slower shutter speed is required sometimes and any shakiness while holding the phone can ruin your shot.

The battery life is great for a phone its size. I was able to get over a day's mileage out of it, while being constantly connected to the Internet either through Wi-Fi or 4G.

On the software side, the P9 sports Android 6.0 Marshmallow, on which Huawei has packed several of its own modifications - both good and bad.

There are a number of pre-installed apps that provide additional functionalities.

Huawei Health, for instance, tracks how many steps you take and helpfully - or maybe depressingly - informs you how many calories you have burnt every time you swipe down on the notification bar.

The default user interface, however, can be a point of contention for some. Huawei's Emotion UI drops the app drawer in favour of a more iOS-like system where all your apps populate your home screens. Furthermore, third-party app icons - anything from Gmail to WhatsApp - have a blobby white background behind them, which makes them visually unappealing.

• Verdict: The Huawei P9 makes smartphone photography fun and refreshing, and is worth getting if you intend to make full use of its Leica functionality.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 04, 2016, with the headline 'Photography fun with Huawei's P9'. Print Edition | Subscribe