Excursions by Amit Gawande

State of Mobile Imaging

There has been a lot of positive craze around Huawei P30 Pro’s cameras recently. For me it started with this Twitter thread by Vlad Savov of The Verge where he compared images from this latest phone from Huawei against Pixel 3. Especially, the pitch dark, night-sight pictures. Just look at this specific example from the thread.

That’s simply criminal. Here’s Vlad summarizing his observation in the article.

In the following example, featuring an unlit bathroom where my eyes could detect shapes but no colors, the P30 Pro does the unbelievable by actually focusing and producing a very respectable image.

So now these mobile cameras can do better than our eyes? Nice. And this positive view towards the P30 camera is shared by almost all tech reviewers. Here’s what Engadget says about this.

With less light, zooming, focus and detail should be a struggle, but the P30 Pro mostly shrugged it off. The combination of dual OIS on both the primary camera and the telephoto, in addition to the digital image stabilizing trick, gives the phone a better chance to capture images at reduced noise and do it all better.

Of course, this isn’t the perfect smartphone - far from it. It isn’t even the hands-down best camera quality and experience on a mobile phone. Rene Ritchie has a nice comparison video of the phone with the iPhone XS. It is good to be aware of the capabilities and shortcoming of the overall device.

But I am amazed at the speed with which the imaging technology on the smartphones are improving. It was only few months back when we were surprised looking at what the Pixel 3 could achieve with its night-sight feature. And we already have a device that, if not tops, matches that under most conditions.

The tech pundits always made us believe that camera tech will be the next big differentiator for the smartphones — something that will separate the big, serious players from the emerging ones. However, the way things are going, I don’t think that would be the case. The camera modules will again soon be commoditized and everyone would be back to the drawing board in search of that one differentiator.

This does not bode well for Google’s hardware efforts in smartphones. Apple and Samsung, for whom their brand is the primary selling point, would be pleased with this.

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