Finally, it is time to talk about that one feature which really sets this beautiful device by Huawei ahead of many of its adversaries. Huawei has included Dual Leica Cameras on its Mate series flagship, which include a regular 12 MP sensor and a monochrome 20 MP sensor, both having an f/1.6 aperture. The 12 MP color sensor has Optical Image Stabilization while the 20 MP sensor doesn't have any sort of stabilization. At the front of the device, there's an 8 MP sensor with an f/2.0 aperture capable of recording videos at 1080p with autofocus.
The camera setup is similar to the one seen on the Huawei P10 Plus and with the Leica branding, Huawei Mate 10 Pro brings all the benefits Leica offers. The software offers full color or black and white shooting modes and software controlled aperture modes where it is possible to apply an f/0.95 aperture. This pseudo-aperture works to varying degrees of success, as found in other Huawei devices, but can be good fun for selfies and portraits to blur out the background. Even though both cameras are wide-angle, it doesn't offer an ultra-wide view such as the one offered by the LG G6. Huawei has found a smart way to zoom into shots by cropping into monochrome image and lossless application of the data from the color image to give the perception of zoom, something Huawei is calling "Hybrid Zoom". For autofocus, Huawei Mate 10 Pro combines all four methods: laser, depth, contrast-detect and on-sensor phase-detect focus which delivers some really good and quick autofocus, coupled with a new scene recognition system to adjust settings according to what the camera sees.
This new Scene Recognition system uses the NPU, combining artificial intelligence and machine learning, as the device has been fed over 100 million images from which it defines what it sees to select the right picture profile (a list of 13). It can differentiate between individual faces, group shots, movement for sports/action, and even define the difference between plants and flowers to ensure the exposure and color balance is on point.
While testing the camera against the Samsung Galaxy Note8, I noticed that the portrait shots from the Huawei flagship were more refined and way ahead than the ones shot from Samsung's Galaxy Note8. Perhaps most impressive of all is how quick the shutter is, there's zero lag when taking a shot and the camera being ready to go for the next frame. The camera also works pretty well at night, despite apparent texture and grain given the conditions, and has lots of pop from brighter-lit scenarios. Colors and dynamic range looks better on photos taken from the Huawei Mate 10 Pro, while white balance was also pretty accurate, going towards the warmer side of the color range.
Shooting videos on the phone was a charm, with sharper videos and better dynamic range than the Samsung Galaxy Note8, however, at 4K, there was a massive need for stabilization which is not available with the Huawei Mate 10 Pro's camera. You cannot shoot videos in 4K at 60 fps which is another downer, however, the regular 1080p videos at 60 fps look really good, with sharp colors and stabilization available.
Some of the software features in the camera app are an overkill though, and if Huawei cleans down the interface a bit, the Huawei Mate 10 Pro has a camera setup which more than capable of competing with its counterparts. Right now, Huawei is not winning the best camera race but it is certainly getting there.