MoDaCo team member Simon Lovejoy writes:
The power of smart phone photography caught me by surprise really. After returning from a trip to New York I realised that almost all of my pictures were taken on my humble Moto G in glorious 5mp quality rather than the 14mp compact camera we took with us. The Moto was always right there when we needed it. So for a recent trip to Kenya and Zambia the question was what if we threw some more glory at the smart phone? Thanks to Huawei, I took the not even nearly humble Huawei P9 with its’ dual Leica lenses and 12mp sensors to find out.
First let's get something out of the way: I don't really know what I'm doing with photography! I know a good picture when I see one, but I couldn't tell you how to make sure you'll get a good picture, or so I thought. Turns out it’s as easy as: take a P9 everywhere you go and snap everything you see. The law of large numbers takes care of the rest. It's then just a case of picking out the good ones.
Things I loved
The fingerprint sensor
Wait, what? How does that help?
While everyone else is waiting for the zoom on their camera to open or unlocking their phone like I used to, I've already taken selfies with 3 giraffes and videoed an elephant dancing. Or in the case of this Zebra, I didn’t want to stick around and get in his way but I couldn’t miss the opportunity of a picture this close!
There's something classy about a black and white picture and the dedicated monochrome lens on the P9 doesn't disappoint. These 2 shots from the Avani Hotel at Victoria Falls tell the story for me. OK, the colour one shows you what I saw, but the monochrome captures the mood and emotion. It's somehow less gaudy and it picks up so much light!
This is definitely one of the features I'd love to spend more time exploring.
I can't tell you what exactly is working here, or doesn't work with other smartphones I've used, all I can say is that the pictures I see in my gallery look exactly as I remember them. The balance is correct, no blueish hue, not washed out, bang on every time. These 2 are examples. The clouds came over, but we still got the light balance and all the detail is still there. Both one handed shots too!
OK, so this is not exclusive to the P9, but the speed of capture made it really useful! There was an occasional delay where it didn't register that I'd held down the shutter button, but nothing serious. Being able to pick the best of a selection of shots is great, but also the fact that Google Photos automatically turns collections of burst shots into animated gifs makes bringing back the memories even easier
Here I am feeding a giraffe at the giraffe center in Nairobi (I'm the shorter one with the jacket on).
I love the quality, the stability even the sound capture. Once again the colour reproduction is great, worlds apart from the compact camera we took as a backup.
Another pretty standard feature I guess, but again a really smooth experience and captures the moment very well. I really like that the UI shows you how far up or down you go from level as you go along. The stitching is excellent.
I guess this is where the real photographers get very excited. I didn’t use it much, but it was great when I did to be able to change the film or shutter speed to lighten up a shot and pick out some detail or freeze some running water as below (1/40 on the left 1/125 on the right). In Pro Mode it gives you an onscreen level indicator which is really nice, it’s also really easy to tweak one setting and let the phone adjust all the rest to compensate. It reminded me of my old 35mm SLR.
There something about using this phone as a camera that made me enjoy taking pictures. I guess the combination of all that’s written above. But it meant I reached for it constantly and so ended up taking hundreds of shots, some of which I love and keep coming back to. Here are a few of my favourites:
Normal Phone Stuff
So I’m not a heavy user, but I found I could almost always get 2 days of normal use from a battery charge unless I was killing it with the camera. But even then I only had to resort to my external battery pack on a couple of extra heavy days.
Once I’d installed Google Now Launcher, the UI is close enough to stock android not to annoy me constantly, although I would give almost anything for a normal notification shade... which just so happens to be coming (for the most part) in the EMUI 5 Nougat update. Excellent!
Build quality is fantastic; it feels premium in the hand.
Things I’d change
Not much really! I would love for Huawei to provide a tripod accessory. Night mode is pretty useless without one I found. Though I did rig something up from my car vent mount to get this shot in Ireland.
There were some times that I needed a zoom lens. I would love even a fixed zoom accessory (2x or 4x would probably be enough) then I wouldn’t feel the need for another camera at all probably. The new Mate 9 provides zoom, a bigger battery (but is also rather large)... maybe the best of all worlds?
I’ll be sad to see this little P9 go back. It’s probably the best phone I’ve used for any real length of time. Am I converted to spending north of £300 on a phone? Heart says yes, Wallet says no... but if I was going to this is probably what I’d end up spending it on.
Edit by Paul: Since Simon wrote this article, he has bought a P9. I think that says it all! Thanks again to Huawei for the loan of the device.