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Huawei in Paris - First Look at the P30 Pro

The P30 Pro takes smartphone photography to a whole new level, and we went to Paris to take a closer look.

Huawei has been doing well recently. The company's market share is increasing globally and it's one of the few Chinese brands that has managed to shed the connotations that many people have between Chinese and cheap. Therefore, when we attended the P30 Pro launch event in Paris this week, we observed a confident Huawei that's eager to draw in more customers from western markets into their high-tech community. Amid a large crowd of tech-enthusiasts, YouTubers and all sorts of journalists, we were able to have a look at their upcoming products.

The event was packed with tech enthusiasts.

The highlight of the day was obviously the launch of the new P30 smartphone series. Consumer Business CEO Richard Yu took to the stage and took his time to convince those present that the P30 and P30 Pro are among the top smartphones available today. The preceding P20 (Pro) was lauded for its camera performance and Huawei has tried to trump that phone's performance this year. The event was aptly called "rewrite the rules of photography" and a lot of effort has gone into the P30 Pro's camera upgrade.

The P30 Pro still sports a combination 40MP, 20MP and 8MP camera's like the P20 Pro did, but they have been upgraded and a fourth, Time of Flight-type camera has been added to the mix. The 40MP f/1.8 main camera on the P30 Pro now features a 'SuperSpectrum' lens; the standard Red-Green-Green-Blue sensor has been replaced by a Red-Yellow-Yellow-Blue sensor which allows 40% more light to pass through, according to Huawei. Secondly, there's the same 20MP wide field-of-view camera that was also on the P20 Pro. The 8MP zoom-capable lens has been upgraded, though; instead of 5x zoom the P30 Pro can take photos at 7.8x optical zoom, up to 10x lossless hybrid zoom and up to 50x digital zoom. All cameras work together to give you the option to go seamlessly from wide-view to 1x, 5x, 10x up to 50x zoom, aided by the ToF-camera to achieve remarkably sharp results.

As you can see, the zoom on the P30 lets you get closer to distant objects.

During the keynote, the P30 Pro was directly compared to the Samsung Galaxy S10 Plus and the iPhone XS Max on numerous occasions, with a large number of slides detailing how the P30 Pro bests the competition in both zoom capabilities and low-light performance. Richard Yu's assistant even used all three phones to take live pictures on stage. At one point we wondered whether the camera was being bloated out of proportions, for example by an amazing highest ISO-count of 409600, which sounds great on paper but doesn't guarantee a good picture in the end. Luckily, we were able to test the P30 Pro's camera the same evening during a walk around Paris (head to the next page to see some of the snaps we took).

Our impression: it seems Huawei is not exaggerating. If you take your time and manage to keep the P30 Pro steady, the camera delivers amazing photos. The low-light performance is especially good. In the camera app's night mode, you can easily choose the exposure time by hitting a timer button when the shot is right for you. Very dark scenes that other smartphone cameras would fail to handle altogether can become almost like daylight using the P30 Pro's night mode. The zoom on the camera is also quite spectacular. Images zoomed in up to ten times are still of high detail. Zooming in further things gets progressively blurrier, but still clearly better than anything offered on a smartphone up until now. Additionally, Huawei ascribes a so-called 'Pro-Bokeh' quality to its portrait shots. As far as we could tell, the combination of cameras delivers great results in this regard as well, with the low-light performance aiding in indoor portrait shots. Our impression after about a day's use is undoubtedly positive, but it'll take a bit more testing to confirm all of the camera's claimed advantages.

The P30 Pro

Based on a day of usage, video quality is on par with the quality of the photographs. Being able to shoot wide-view shots and the ability to use the 10x lossless zoom opens up a lot of possibilities for shooting creative videos. Stabilisation on the videos is solid, but if you're going to use the P30 Pro for serious filming a gimbal will remain a necessity. What will definitely make the P30 Pro a top performer is the scheduled addition of Dual-View video (coming in May). This allows recording with both the wide-angle and close up cameras for a very novel way to record your memories.

Coming back to the event in Paris yesterday, Huawei also unveiled a collaboration with Korean brand Gentle Monster and the company's first smart-glasses. Gentle Monster's CEO Hankook Kim explained that the techy design of most available smart glasses today makes them unattractive for most people to wear. That's why Huawei's smart glasses focus on a good-looking design that's wearable on a daily basis. The glasses on the device are interchangeable, switching between clear and sunblocking lens, for example.

It does mean that the 'smart'-part of the glasses is rather limited; you're able to make a hands-free phone call and that's about it. There's no camera or any other smart technology present on the glasses. According to Huawei staff we talked to during the event, the company thinks the market is not ready yet for fully smart glasses. This collaboration is a way to familiarise people with Huawei as a maker of smart glasses and with the type of product in general. In other words, what comes after these glasses might really be interesting and a step forward for smart wearables. Right now, it seems unlikely that a lot of people will start wearing glasses just to make a hands-free phone call. 

Huawei Watch GT

We also used the opportunity to check out some of the other announced products. The existing circular-shaped Huawei Watch GT gets two additional versions. There's an Active version with a very pleasant 1.39-inch AMOLED screen and a smaller 1.2-inch Elegant version. Both devices have a very premium feel to both the watch and the rubber wristband. Another novelty comes in the form of Bluetooth headphones, which the company dubbed 'FreeLace' neckbuds. Their novelty lies in the fact that you can disconnect the wire between the left and right headphones, exposing a USB-C plug that connects to your phone. This allows you to charge the earphones directly and rapidly using your smartphone, with a charge of four hours of battery life when you connect for just five minutes. Lastly, Huawei showcased new true wireless earphones called 'FreeBuds Lite' and a new power bank.

The Paris event centred around the P30 series highlighted the fact that Huawei is a mature global tech company that's up there with Samsung and Apple in the smartphone market. Looking at Huawei's smartphone camera capabilities, its venture into smart glasses, and our conversations with Huawei staff, it's clear the company is full of ideas to transform the tech market in the years to come.

Head to the next page to see a gallery of the images captured while out and about in Paris.