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Huawei P30 Pro Camera Explained: Why is a RYB sensor so special?

by Nicole on March 26, 2019

The Huawei P30 is yet another smartphone, we don’t feel like we need to dive into specs, hardware and software very much since the Huawei P30 Pro is very similar to the still current Huawei Mate 20 Pro (except for the display). If you’re really curious about the specs, you can scroll down to the end of the article for these details.

Huawei P30 Pro – Huawei SuperSpectrum Sensor

Getting the most out of the light is the main motive when it comes to the Huawei P30 Pro camera. The smartphone itself comes with four cameras. The main sensor is a 40MP Huawei SuperSpectrum Sensor with optical image stabilization (OIS). According to Huawei, the development of this new sensor was very time-consuming and expensive. The main reason for this is that the standard Bayer array sensor is not being used. Something that has been the standard sensor set up in smartphones for decades.

Bayer sensors use a simple strategy: capture alternating red, green and blue colors at each photosite, and do so in a way that twice as many green photosites are recorded as either of the other two colors. These photosites are then intelligently combined to produce full color pixels using a process called “demosaicing” (also called “debayer”).

Huawei’s approach is slightly different, the sensor still works similarly to a RGB matrix. What’s different, is that this color sensor is not Red-Green-Blue but Red-Yellow-Ylue instead: RYB.

Switching up one color doesn’t sound like a huge difference, but it fundamentally changes the way the camera works. In the additive process, all three colors are mixed to get white, so the more you mix, the brighter the color becomes. The light hits the sensor and is divided into red, green and blue. Displays use the RGB palette too, as they emit light and since the human eye works very similarly to see colors, the processing via ISPs, DSPs and software is pretty simple and uncomplicated.

But with yellow instead of green we have a completely different process, because the mixture of the three colors results in black. So to get the colors we want, we have to use a subtractive method. We already know how this works from printing, where we use cyan blue, magenta red and yellow as primary colors (black as an extra color being excluded). Here colors are reproduced by absorbing or subtracting the opposite. For the use in cameras, this process makes no sense and is very impractical.

The Huawei P30 Pro does things differently as it combines both methods. The colors are only divided into red and blue. The yellow only focuses on the light or the luminance. The receiver therefore receives an image with “red minus yellow” and “blue minus yellow”. If you add yellow again, you will get red and blue again of course, but it is quite complex to get green with this combination of colors and the chances of misregistration in the image is increased by about twice. In order to display the image correctly it is probably connected with a mixture of processes like multiple gamma corrections, as well as additions and subtractions. This as a concept is nothing new, but because it is very complex and very expensive, as far as I know, camera manufacturers have never dared to use this method. Huawei basically had to build everything from the ground up: Sensor, DSP, ISP, software etc. Huawei managed to implement it in the Huawei P20 Pro and it probably paid off for the result.

The night mode on the Huawei P20 Pro was its top feature that beat out all the competition, where other manufacturers like Google are still trying to catch up. The sensor was able to display images up to ISO 102.400, which is really a lot for a smartphone. Thanks to the new Huawei SuperSpectrum sensor, the camera can now reach ISO 409.600. You can only get this from cameras like Sony a7S and some pro level camera, which allow you to practically see in the dark. This seems to be the case with the Huawei P20 Pro as well. We tested the P30 Pro in a completely dark room. My eye and my camera could not see anything. The Huawei P30 Pro however created a visible, sharp image. When we tried it out with the Mate 20 Pro it could hardly see anything. Of course this type of completely dark scenario is unrealistic unless you try to catch some ghosts. In a real world scenario you’d always have some light, which of course means better results in low light. Generally this is really impressive, as it widens the boundaries of what Smartphones can achieve with just a tiny sensor.

The sensor also plays a big role with HDR. The image is taken apart and with the help of an exposure map created by the camera sensor with the help of the AI. With this it is attempting to expose all areas of the image correctly. This feature is called AI HDR+ and backlighting should not be a problem, because you’ll have much better dynamic range than usual.

You can also look forward to a night mode for videos. Unfortunately, Huawei was a little thin on details and so we will have a look at it when we get to play around with the phone again.

We are really looking forward to testing the camera in everyday low-light situations, because the Huawei P30 Pro does a surprisingly good job and seems to be far ahead of other manufacturers.

Huawei P30 Pro – Periscope Zoom Sensor

If you’ve seen the teasers from Huawei about the new smartphone: Zoom is a big thing with the Huawei P30 Pro. We all know how good Huawei’s hybrid zoom has worked in the past. Here Huawei takes a big step forward. In photos you will surely have noticed that this phone has a square sensor. The triple optical zoom has been replaced by an optically stabilized 8MP fivefold zoom sensor. Since this requires more space, a rectangular prism is used here, which redirects the image by 90 degrees inside the device and leads it through a periscope system with five lenses until it hits the sensor. In hybrid mode with a combination of the zoom sensor together with the 40MP main sensor and the artificial intelligence, you get 10 times zoom. The image quality is very good and sharp.

The digital zoom is crazy!

The Huawei P30 Pro achieves 50x magnification. The amazing thing about it is that the image is relatively sharp. On a small boat trip through Paris we were allowed to try out the camera, where I zoomed into a building far away. Something was written on its tower. With the eye one could only assume that it was text. With the 50x zoom, which was just so close that the font fit on the whole screen, one could read the text and when zoomed, the image stabilization did a pretty good job, even though I was holding the phone by hand.

More on Huawei P30 Pro sensors and hardware

A sensor we know well from the Huawei Mate 20 Pro comes back with the 20MP ultra-wide sensor with 16 mm focal length. It is supposed to be of better quality and still allows macro photography at a distance of up to 2.5 cm to the object.

We also have a Time of Flight sensor, which became a trend this year and helps to better determine distances by measuring how long the (for us invisible) light it emits takes to reach the object and back. This means we get portraits with a better bokeh effect, because depth information is recorded with way more layers. This makes the depth of field much more natural. When we tried it out, we could immediately notice a difference and it was more difficult to find errors in the usually spots inside a portrait picture.

Apart from that, the Huawei P30 Pro finally comes with a new front camera sensor. It has a resolution of 32 MP and at first glance seemed to be much better than its predecessor. Many users who had criticized the sensor of the Mate 20 Pro for its average quality will be happy about this.

That’s about all left to talk about the camera of the Huawei P30 Pro without doing a full test. How much will it cost will cost will be announced later, but we can imagine that it could be a bit more expensive if only because of the new “SuperSpectrum Sensor”.

We’re looking forward to the review and extensive hands on time, it’s really exciting to see something really new like on the smartphone camera market.

Price

In Europe pricing for the Huawei P30 is 749 EUR for 6GB RAM and 128 GB of storage, the P30 Pro will cost 999EUR come with 8 GB RAM and 128 GB of storage and if you want to jump up to 256GB of storage that will cost you 1099EUR. All of them will be available in April.

Here is, as already promised, the table with the specifications of the device:

Display
  • 6,47 Zoll OLED Display
  • 19,5:9 Verhältnis – mit mini Notch
  • Full HD+ Auflösung (2340 x 1080)
  • AOD statt Benachrichtigungs-LED
Procsor
  • HiSilicon Kirin 980
  • Mali G76 GPU
RAM
  • 8 GB RAM
Storage
  • 128/256/(512 nicht in DE) GB Speicher
  • Erweiterbar per Huawei NM Card
Rear Camera
  • Leica Quad Kamera
  • 40 MP Huawei SuperSpectrum Sensor (27 mm, f/1.6, OIS), RYB (Red, Yellow, Blue)
  • 20 MP Ultrawide Sensor (16 mm, f/2.2, 120° FOV, Macro bis 2,5 cm)
  • 8 MP optischer 5-Fach-Persiscope-Zoom Sensor (125 mm, f/3.4, OIS)
  • Time of Flight Sensor
  • ISO 409600
  • 10x Hybridzoom (270 mm)
  • 50x AIS Digitalzoom
  • Weitere Features: AI Image Stabilisation, Handheld Nachtmodus mit 4-6 Sekunden Langzeitbelichtung, Silk Water Effekt, AIS Portrait, AI HDR+, Multi Level Bokeh, AI Measure

 

  • Videostabilisierung OIS und AIS
  • Low Light Video mit SuperSpectrum Sensor
  • 10 Fach Hybrid Video Zoom
  • Kein 4k 60 FPS
Front Camera
  • 32 MP, f/2.0
Operating System
  • Android 9, EMUI 9.1
Battery
  • 4200 mAh
  • Huawei 40 Watt Supercharge
  • 15 Watt Wireless Charging
  • Reverse Charging
Connectivity
  • Bluetooth 5.0, A2DP, LE, aptX HD
  • GPS: A-GPS, GLONASS, BDS, Galileo
  • NFC
  • USB Typ-C
Sensors
  • Optischer InDisplay Fingerabdrucksensor
  • Infrarot-Sensor
Size
  • 158 x 73,4 x 8,41 mm
Weight
  • 192 g
Other Details
  • Farben: Pearl White (nicht in DE), Breathing Crystal, Black, Amber Sunrise, Aurora
  • IP68
  • Dolby Atmos
  • Frontlautsprecher: Display als Resonanzkörper
  • Kein Klinkenanschluss