Huawei P30 Pro cameras explained: 5x zoom and better low-light shots through optical wizardry
Huawei P30 and P30 Pro camera specs
A closer look at camera zoom. How does it work?
Here's a simplified breakdown of how camera zoom does its magic. Chances are you're already familiar with digital zoom – the kind of zoom you'll find on every single phone. This is easily done by "stretching" the image in software, and while your subject does appear closer in the photo, you don't gain any detail.
Naturally, optical zoom lenses are bigger and more sophisticated than fixed ones, which is why modern smartphone cameras approach quality zooming differently. More and more phones now offer multiple cameras at the back, one of which is a telephoto camera. These telephoto cameras still use fixed lenses. They don't actually zoom optically back and forth. However, these telephoto lenses have an optically narrower field of view – they're zoomed in relative to the main cam. The telephoto camera on the Huawei P30 Pro provides 5x zoom, which is greater than what phones like the iPhone XS (2x zoom), the Galaxy S10+ (2x zoom), and the Huawei Mate 20 Pro (3x zoom) can deliver.
Huawei P30 Pro delivers real 5x zoom with clever optics
But again, the more you want to zoom in, the further away your camera lens needs to be from the sensor. In a typical smartphone camera assembly, that distance is about 4 millimeters (less than three sixteenths of an inch). To get 5x optical zoom within the same camera system, that distance needs to increase 5 times. Would you be okay with having an inch-thick camera bump on your phone? We doubt it.
To be clear, the telephoto camera on the Huawei P30 Pro has a fixed lens, so it only does 5x zoom relative to the main camera. If you zoom in at 2x, for example, that's going to be digital zoom from the main cam. Interestingly, in the range between 3x and 4.9x zoom, the phone uses both its main and telephoto cameras to capture visual information, which should result in more detail. In the range between 5x and 50x, only the telephoto camera is used, with all zooming beyond 5x done digitally.
Huawei's RYYB color filter explained
Of course, most of the time when shooting with the Huawei P30 and P30 Pro, you'll be using their main, 40MP camera. What's unique about it is that it uses a different color filter, resulting in 40% better light absorption compared to the sensor on the P20 Pro.
To explain how such a considerable gain is achieved, we need to shed light on how digital imaging works. You probably know that a typical modern display is made of pixels, and each of these pixels has a red, green, and a blue subpixel. Colors are produced by blending light from these subpixels, allowing each individual pixel to produce any color we want. But camera sensors are different. They do have pixels as well, but a single pixel can't capture any color on its own. Each pixel has a filter over it allowing only red, green, or blue light to pass through. These color filters are arranged in a pattern and are collectively called a Bayer filter (invented by Bryce Bayer of Eastman Kodak some 43 years ago).
Rules were made to be broken. Revolutionising photography with the world's first RYYB Sensor. Replacing green pixels with yellow, to let the light flood in. #HUAWEIP30 Series. #RewriteTheRules pic.twitter.com/w8iieay8vQ— Huawei Mobile (@HuaweiMobile) March 26, 2019