P30's yellow pixels the 'future of photography'? They are not that great vs S10+, XS Max, or Pixel 3 cameras

This article may contain personal views and opinion from the author.
Huawei P20 Pro
Huawei P30 Pro
Huawei P20 Pro Huawei P30 Pro
Richard Yu, the CEO of Huawei's Consumer division, is on record saying that the "...P30 Series is a fundamental breakthrough after decades of digital camera technology development; it will rewrite the rules and reshape everyone’s perception of mobile photography."

How come? Well, with what Huawei calls a SuperSpectrum sensor using yellow instead of green pixels. It still consists of a Quad Bayer layout, but with Red-Yellow-Yellow-Blue matrix. On paper, using the subtractive RYB color-building method that painters are intimately acquainted with, instead of the traditional additive RGB coloring with a light source, allows for more light to be absorbed by the sensor from an area unit.

The SuperSpectrum sensor actually performs as advertised, too, making visible scenes out of what other phones perceive as pitch black frames. That niche situation, however, like taking a picture or shooting a video of a completely dark room or alley, is not nearly as widespread as, ahem, taking snaps in broad daylight, and that's where the RYYB arrangement's disadvantages come into play more often than not.

P30/Pro yellow vs P20 Pro, S10+, XS Max or Pixel 3 RGB camera sensors


The RYYB arrangement indeed collects much more light compared to RGGB, yet it has its own set of unique challenges in controlling chromatic aberrations and color representation

The RYYB arrangement indeed collects much more light compared to RGGB, yet it has its own set of unique challenges in controlling chromatic aberrations and color representation


What can be observed on both the P30 Pro and the P30 which sport the same yellow-for-green pixels swap, is that there is often a yellowish overcast and sometimes reddish artifacts on the resulting picture, due to the warm-leaning white balance, as if taken through an Instagram filter. 

We've taken numerous pictures with both and compared it with other top-shelf phones in the office, like the Samsung Galaxy S10+, Apple iPhone XS Max and Google's Pixel 3, as well as with Huawei's 2018 RGB sensor flagships P20 Pro and Mate 20 Pro, and the P30/Pro often churn out what the average user can only describe as, well, yellow pictures.

Samsung Galaxy S10+
Huawei P30 Pro
Samsung Galaxy S10+ Huawei P30 Pro
Huawei P20 Pro
Huawei P30
Huawei P20 Pro Huawei P30

That's not to say that the iPhones don't produce warm, yellow overtones, too, but at least the sky still looks blue, while on the P30 Pro that overcast is taken to the extreme, to the point that everything looks like we've placed a yellow glass bottle in front of the lens. Here comes science to explain that white balance choice as a normal tradeoff of using the RYYB instead of a more common RGB sensor. 

Grass is greener on the RGB side, but yellow is good in low-light indeed

The sky may not be blue, too

From a Society for Imaging Science and Technology paper, authored by Orit Skorka, Dave Jasinski, Radu Ispasoiu, and Vladi Korobov from the Image Sensor Group, ON Semiconductor, San Jose, CA:


Well, Huawei did what it could with its powerful 7nm chip and dedicated image processing but apparently that hasn't been enough to overcome the white balance/dynamic range tradeoffs of using yellow pixels on the sensor instead of the usual green ones. 

In low light and indoors, however, the P30's sensor indeed manages to capture more light than its peers, and the warm tonality is rarely to be seen, so, if you can live with some off-brand hues for better detail and exposure, the P30/Pro camera sets have plenty of other virtues to latch on.

Huawei Mate 20 Pro
Huawei P30
Huawei Mate 20 Pro Huawei P30

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31 Comments

1. ebilcake

Posts: 1215; Member since: Jul 16, 2016

Apple has been dethroned, we have a new yellow picture king!

22. jjface

Posts: 209; Member since: Jun 07, 2017

Nah can't beat apple at yellow. Just stick a person in the photo. Or anything white.

2. alanrock

Posts: 237; Member since: Oct 04, 2018

few low light / night light / zero light photos would be nice if you are already talking about pros and cons of Huawei new sensor ....

24. jacky899

Posts: 359; Member since: May 16, 2017

I just bought the P30 pro a few hours ago to replace my cracked screen Note 8 that cost $400 to replace. Comparing side by side photos, the P30 Pro kills the Note 8. The difference is huge especially when you zoom in on the details and what yellow tone is LA talking about? Colors are just fine. Not any more yellow than the ones taken on my Note 8.

3. Bankz

Posts: 2478; Member since: Apr 08, 2016

PA be doing the most.

4. mohsin845

Posts: 24; Member since: Apr 05, 2014

How Funny!!!

5. Hyperreal

Posts: 360; Member since: Oct 08, 2013

It is the white balance that is on the warm side and can be easily fixed via na update but PA is doing a very deep "scientific investigation" to criticize an impressive camera hardware on the new Huawei phones.

10. User123456789

Posts: 377; Member since: Feb 22, 2019

No it cannot because it is hardware situation. Yellow pixel is responsible for that. It cant give you as accurate colour info as the green pixel.

13. d1g1te

Posts: 51; Member since: Oct 04, 2016

Lets face reality, P30 PRO is out 20 days? It received 1 software update .124 so far. Color accucacy is already quite good considering RYYB sensor is used. I already edited quite few RAW files from P30 PRO and color accuracy can be finetuned when auto WB flips. Its bit more work but definitively worth tradeof for more detail expecially indoors and low light and low light video. Lost detail on the other side, cannot be fixed easily with software without introducing noise like Pixel 3 does to compensate weaker camera HW or smearing all detail like S10 noise reduction does.

7. Bondurant

Posts: 769; Member since: Jun 04, 2014

Comparing with Samsung photos for color accuracy? Face palm.

14. d1g1te

Posts: 51; Member since: Oct 04, 2016

Especially that occasional Samsung S10 magenta hue for less than ideal light, thats pretty color accurate. :) All smartphone cameras have their compromises, they have to, in order to defy physical limitations. For me personally more resolved detail with less noise is more important than being more color accurate, as that is much more easier to fix. But I understand that for certain people resolved photo detail stripped away by noise reduction (like S10 does) is not so important or they dont care about noise so much (like Pixel 3 users).

32. ramdroid

Posts: 122; Member since: May 21, 2016

are you talking about S3 days ? have you even touched a s10 or watched the reviews at least ?

8. jacky899

Posts: 359; Member since: May 16, 2017

Here the P30 camera shines is the amazing level of detail it captures. Sadly PA camera comparisons do not provide original uncompressed photos for you to compare. The color tone can be fixed easily by setting white balance.

11. User123456789

Posts: 377; Member since: Feb 22, 2019

It cant ...

9. User123456789

Posts: 377; Member since: Feb 22, 2019

I read on photography websites that there was a concern about the colours, since the Yellow can lead you to wrong way... I prefer to have a phone with 1/1.5" with 44MP but WRGB sensor, 11 million of each colour.

25. Methlab

Posts: 7; Member since: Apr 19, 2019

Got get that one, we'll keep the P30 Pro.

27. User123456789

Posts: 377; Member since: Feb 22, 2019

Nobody has ever made a WRGB sensor. Let's wait ..

29. ijuanp03

Posts: 489; Member since: Dec 30, 2014

12. d1g1te

Posts: 51; Member since: Oct 04, 2016

Excellend dynamic range by P30 PRO. Quite step up from Mate 20 PRO and P20 PRO expecially in shadows. Only S10 can somehow match. But that one have bit too much boosted colors for me, nice for social site sharing and instragram ready but personally I peffer more natural colors.

15. Aruminiumaian

Posts: 209; Member since: Jul 22, 2017

While P30 series' main camera has its own set of problems, what PA wrote in this article is blatantly incorrect. 1. Warm white balance is absolutely nothing to do with the newly introduced yellow pixel, but is to cover up one huge disadvantage that RYYB sensor carries: the lack of dynamic range. The RYYB sensor has narrower dynamic range than traditional RGGB sensors and cyan shift becomes very noticeable in blue channel, and Huawei presumably decided to hide it by applying a warm cast to the whole image. This makes colors *look* desaturated, but it's fixable in post or even by using pro mode and selecting colder white balance. Or, Huawei can push out a software update that combines more exposures in HDR mode so that it can prevent the blue sky from being clipped into cyan. 2. Green looks greener on other phones because, again, they tend to use colder white balance than P30 series. It's not because it's using yellow pixels. Remember how iPhone 7 was criticised for producing extremely dull looking photos with warm white balance? P30 seems to have almost identical issue to it. 3. The real problems that PA hasn't covered here is the number of artifacts produced by this new CFA structures. My P30 sometimes exhibits color artifacts that others don't show, such as red fringing in the strong light reflection and around yellow light sources, purple fringing in some backlight scenes, overexposed red/orange channels abruptly turning yellow/green, etc. But instead you guys just wrote a whole article about how yellow pixels make the picture yellowish, which isn't even accurate to say in the first place. Sigh.

16. redmd

Posts: 1896; Member since: Oct 26, 2011

Let's face it, when compared to other phones, daylight photos on the P30 pro looks overly warm. I hope Huawei can fix this. Low light photography is where its strength.

17. Shkselectah

Posts: 31; Member since: Jun 26, 2018

P30's yellow pixels the 'future of photography'? They are not that great vs S10+ or Pixel 3 cameras

18. GuitarPlayer

Posts: 54; Member since: Nov 15, 2012

Iphone are is back . Worse than this was the comparison of photos with the LG G8 where PA managed to take the worst bucket effect photos I've ever seen

19. HarysViewty

Posts: 57; Member since: Apr 04, 2015

I still think RGBW is a much better bayer design. RGBRGB vs RYBY (RRGBRG) Seriously I'm hoping for Samsung to mass produce their RWBW sensor ASAP

30. ijuanp03

Posts: 489; Member since: Dec 30, 2014

Google already did this with the Moto Xhttps://www.extremetech.com/computing/162830-googles-moto-x-latest-to-jump-on-low-light-bandwagon-with-rgbc-clear-pixel-camera Of course you CANNOT compare image quality from 5 years ago to today but someone already did.

33. Nevita

Posts: 30; Member since: Sep 01, 2018

Thant kind of sensor creates moire, a lot

23. jjface

Posts: 209; Member since: Jun 07, 2017

I don't see such a yellow hue to everyone else's p30 pro. Odd

28. HarysViewty

Posts: 57; Member since: Apr 04, 2015

https://www.facebook.com/553118224892887/posts/974490769422295/ From anandtech & notebookcheck muted washed out green, reddish tint (especially on video recording), higher luma resolution, lower chroma resolution

31. skratch16

Posts: 1; Member since: Apr 24, 2019

I have looked on another review from Anandtech, where it has the p30 and p30 pro for image comparison. The thing is that the normal P30 has the same arrangement of pixels, but does not have the yellow tint and the P30 pro does. To conclude, I think there is a software correction needed for the pro model to have this changed.

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