Huawei P20 field test: We covered the HK Film Awards with just a smartphone - does the Leica lens live up to the hype? [Review]

Great camera, good battery, higher price

Jamie Lam |

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The Huawei P20 has a camera good enough for mobile reporting.

Can a smartphone camera replace a traditional DSLR for a mobile journalist? We found out by putting the new Huawei P20 through its paces at the Hong Kong film industry’s biggest night of celebration.

Co-engineered by German camera experts Leica, the dual-lens camera system is excellent. A picture of the ceremony’s hosts Charlene Choi Cheuk-yin and Louis Cheung Kai-chung on the red carpet is vivid and full of detail, even in the dreary weather.

A picture of a performance taken in low light is also surprisingly clear and in focus, even though the shot was snapped far from the stage. Video recording performance is also good, with a short clip of Best Actor recipient Louis Koo Tin-lok during his acceptance speech captured clearly and with good audio. In short, Huawei’s camera technology is among the best in the industry at the moment.

Amazing battery life is also essential when covering a full-day event. The 3400mAh battery still had 11 per cent of juice left after seven hours of heavy use, including photos, Instagram posts and stories, and back-and-forth messaging with teammates.

The hosts of the ceremony Louis Cheung and Charlene Choi are looking good on camera.
Photo: Jamie Lam/SCMP

During a lull in the festivities, the writer also played a (few) game(s) of PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds on high graphical settings. Powered by a Kirin 970 chipset developed by Huawei and 4GB of RAM, gameplay was smooth but the temperature of the phone did rise by a few degrees. We couldn’t play with headphones on for the full immersive experience though, because the P20 is missing a 3.5mm headphone jack. This is a trend in the mobile industry, but one we personally hate. There is a USB-C adaptor in the box though, so it’s at least something.

There is no waterproof or dustproof rating for the P20, a standard feature on all other flagships. This is a major misstep that must be addressed next year, especially for journalists who sometimes need to cover events in volatile weather.

Android purists will also lament the lack of stock Android on the P20. Instead, it runs on Huawei’s EMUI skin on Android Oreo 8.1. However, there were no problems with the functions, and you can hide all the applications in an app drawer if you don’t like the Apple-style sprawl.

All in all, the P20 is a worthy workhorse for reporting on the go. At a retail price of HK$4,980, it is no longer a more economical alternative to the Samsung and Apple industry leaders. But if you’re looking for an amazing portable camera and don’t mind the steeper price, the P20 deserves a look.

This photo was taken 30 metres from the stage and detail is still acceptable.
Photo: Jamie Lam/SCMP

Edited by Karly Cox