Huawei P40 Pro vs Samsung Galaxy S20 Ultra vs iPhone 11 Pro Max: Camera Comparison
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The Huawei P40 Pro is the new kid on the camera block and it's eager to fight in the never ending camera wars with an imposing camera system that consists of a gigantic sensor for the main camera, as well as a periscope lens that allows it to zoom far and away.
But how does it compare against the camera on the Samsung Galaxy S20 Ultra, a phone that costs $1400, a lot more than the P40 Pro. And how does it fare against the iPhone 11 Pro Max, Apple's big step forward in photography.
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We took the opportunity to compare the three: Huawei P40 Pro vs Samsung Galaxy S20 Ultra vs Apple iPhone 11 Pro Max camera comparison... let's take a look at the photos!
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Zoom: who does it better?
One of the main advantages the Huawei P40 Pro has is that periscope lens that allows you to get a clean shot even when you zoom far away. That's exactly what we did here and we indeed see that the P40 Pro does an excellent job. At 10X zoom it captures an image that is practically free of noise and one that looks good at that. We notice a few minor issues: mostly, the photo is a bit underexposed and detail is slightly bit smudged, but overall... good job! The Galaxy S20 Ultra does well too, but noise is clearly more visible. It looks organic, though, as there is no artificial smoothening of the detail. The iPhone clearly doesn't belong in the same category as the other two: it lacks a periscope lens and you can tell by the grainy image.
At 5X zoom, the Huawei P40 Pro shows class: the photograph looks great! The S20 Ultra seems to be just slightly behind as it has a bit less in terms of detail. The iPhone is again clearly not in the same league: the photo it captured has a bunch of noise and grain, and is the one we are least likely to share.
And here is the way this scene looked when seen with the main camera on each of the phones. Zooming 10 times is actually quite a lot. The P40 Pro can go all the way to 50X zoom and the Ultra can go to a 100X zoom, but we found the quality just terrible when you go over 30X zoom and those are not photos you will want to share with anyone.
Zoom: there can only be one winner
One more example of the way photos look at 10X zoom. Interestingly, this time the Huawei has captured an overexposed image, as it seems to be struggling a bit with nailing the right exposure. Keep in mind that we had an early unit provided by Huawei and the company may update the camera for the retail launch. The Galaxy S20 Ultra has a lot more in terms of color and appeal, but again, it's no match for the Huawei in terms of resolved detail. The iPhone is just a blurry mess at 10X zoom. If Apple wants to match the other two in the zoom game, it will need to up the ante.
The well-detailed, clean image from the P40 Pro loses points for the overexposed look as everything basically appears washed out and not as good as it could be. The Galaxy S20 Ultra has captured the best photo here: with a good amount of color, contrast and overall appeal. The iPhone is still no match for the others at this 5X zoom level.
But let's also take a look at 2X zoom and you immediately notice that the dedicated 2X telephoto lens on the iPhone elevates it to the number one position here. The other phones use digital zoom all the way until the periscope lens kicks in (at exactly 4.7X zoom for the P40 Pro and at 4X for the S20 Ultra). The iPhone captures more detail and the image has very nicely balanced colors that look realistic and appealing.
And this is how the same scene looked when shot with the main camera on all of the phones.
Scene 1: In the forest
Okay, we have seen that the P40 Pro leads the way with its zoom camera, but what about its main camera, the one that you are likely to be using most of the time?
You will immediately notice some things that will repeat in the coming images as well: the exposure is way too bright, colors are a bit on the pale side with the yellow tonalities way over exaggerated. Detail is on the soft side, but at least it's not as artificially oversharpened as on the Galaxy S20 Ultra.
Speaking of the S20 Ultra, it has the strongest, most vibrant colors. These are not realistic tonalities, the image you see is larger than life and way too vivid as if it was edited. Some people may like this effect, but we find it a bit extreme.
The iPhone, on its part, captures a balanced photo with pleasing colors and detail that is neither too soft, nor too harsh.
Scene 2: Rocky coastline
Again, colors on the Huawei P40 Pro here look strange when compared with the others: the rocks are overexposed and colors in the bottom part of the image look washed out. This is a recurring theme.
The S20 Ultra captures a very contrasty and saturated photo, in the same style as the previous one: not quite realistic, but as if it was edited to impress.
The iPhone strikes a balance with a photo that is neither too saturated, nor too bleak, and it has a good amount of detail and dynamic range.
Scene 3: The beach
All of the tendencies in the previous photos repeat again here: the bleaker colors on the Huawei P40 Pro, the strong, overly saturated colors on the Ultra (look at that inky blue color of the sky!), and the more balanced image from the iPhone.
Scene 4: The conch
The Huawei and the Samsung have much larger sensors than the iPhone and look at what a difference this makes for depth of field! The background to the conch is nicely blurred with a very pleasing natural bokeh, while there is far less of that effect on the iPhone!
Scene 5: The hut by the sea
This bungalow by the sea is coming to life in the summer and as we are still a couple of months from summer, it was deserted and almost appeared haunted from afar.
Which of the phones did a better job to capture this image? We like the image from the Ultra here best as it has this dramatic look to it. Colors on the Huawei are a bit too bleak for our taste, and the iPhone seems to paint the colors with a bit of a yellow tint to them.
Scene 6: Rocks in the water
This shot probably is a good example of how the Huawei P40 Pro would often overexpose images and it appears as if a lot of the color has disappeared from this photo, especially when compared to the vivid images that the other two phones capture.
Scene 7: Composition
In this little composition that we set up by the sea, the Huawei's shallow focus missed the conch by just a bit and it's slightly out of focus. The other two get the focus right, but we'd have to give this round to the iPhone for its more diverse and dynamic colors that bring the scene to life.
Ultra-wide 1: The Forest
Something strange happened without us noticing when we switched to using the ultra-wide camera on the Huawei P40 Pro: it automatically changed the aspect ratio to a different one (16 by 9), for a narrower photo. We did not expect that! That's why the three photos appear a bit different.
This is an interesting decision: using such a wider ratio for ultra wide photos definitely makes sense. And while the image on the P40 Pro here lacks the color in the skies and the dynamics of the other two, we like the look and the pleasing, soft detail.
The other two look similar, but the iPhone has the upper hand with a more plentiful detail while the photo from the Galaxy suffers from oversharpening artifacts (the halo-like artifacts around tree branches).
Ultra-wide 2: The coastline
You won't be surprised by this second photo: the Huawei P40 Pro continues the trend with bleaker colors and a slight overexposed look to photos. It's a specific look that some may like, but objectively it lacks the dynamic reach and the depth of color from the other two. Which is your favorite photo here?
Ultra-wide 3: The beach
Finally, this photo of the beach is one final confirmation: the Huawei P40 Pro tends to capture well-detailed photos with a specific look to them, as colors are slightly washed out and not as saturated as on the other two. The Galaxy captures a punchy photo with noticeably oversaturated colors that go a bit overboard, but some may like that effect. Finally, the iPhone strikes a kind of a balance between those two.
So is the Huawei P40 Pro the new smartphone camera king that we have all been waiting for? It's an absolutely stellar phone if you care about that cool ability to zoom in far and away. It captures more detail than the more expensive Galaxy S20 Ultra, which is an achievement worth mentioning. Its large sensor also provides plentiful detail and images look clean and nice. One area where we wish Huawei would improve the photos is the color science. The images often come out overexposed and with colors that look bleak and washed out.
The Galaxy S20 Ultra might have lost the zoom battle, but it has those strong colors so that you really don't need to edit the photos you take with it: they are just ready to share. We wish Samsung would have not gone so crazy with the colors, though, as the professional eye would notice that Samsung just tried a bit too hard and images have deviated a bit too far from reality. Samsung could also benefit from a bit less of the aggressive oversharpening that leaves halo artifacts in photos.
Finally, the iPhone, the most conservative camera in this comparison, loses badly when it comes to the zoom battle. But if you take just its main camera that you will be using most of the time, it's an incredibly strong performer. It captures well-balanced photos with a great amount of detail and colors that are dynamic and look beautiful.
Which one is your favorite?