The Huawei P9 takes photography to the next level


  • Science & Technology
  • Sunday, 22 May 2016

Images from the dual-lens camera are brought to life on a 5.2 inch full HD display.

If photography reflects a lifestyle, then Huawei’s P9 is definitely a smartphone that lives life. This latest release from the Chinese tech giant sports a dual-lens camera co-engineered with none other than the maker of premium viewfinders, Leica.

Of course, the phone itself comes with solid specs. Although, if you don’t consider the 5.2-inch 1080p display, Kirin 955 2.5GHz 64-bit ARM-based processor and 3,000mAh high-density battery it remains a nifty device for taking pictures.

During the global launch in London in April, the brand went all out to push the photographic capabilities of the P9. The media were certainly not given a chance to forget that Leica had a hand in designing the camera.

From a half-hour presentation extolling the virtues of the rear-end 12-mega pixel camera, to bringing out renowned photographers on stage to talk about their experience using the P9, it was about the message of “reinventing smartphone photography”.

One photographer present at the event was David Guttenfelder. On the subject of documenting his travels, the 47-year-old American photojournalist said the line is now blurred between the kinds of pictures taken with professional cameras versus those snapped with a smartphone.

Guttenfelder took his phone to Mexico. His iintention was to look for photographs that were really iconic, or about traditional Mexican culture.
Guttenfelder took his phone to Mexico. His iintention was to look for photographs that were really iconic, or about traditional Mexican culture.

“Today, if I look at the pages of National Geographic and the photographs that I would be publishing in the magazine, there is probably an equal number, or close to an equal number, of which I’ve shot using a smartphone,” he commented.

Guttenfelder has been in the field for 25 years. He started out as a news photographer and has lived in Africa for a decade. According to him, things were very different back then. Being able to get quick, usable snaps using a smartphone is thus, a welcome change.

(Top & below) Guttenfelder took his phone to Mexico. His iintention was to look for photographs that were really iconic, or about traditional Mexican culture.
(Top & below) Guttenfelder took his phone to Mexico. His iintention was to look for photographs that were really iconic, or about traditional Mexican culture.

“I had to develop my film in the field every day. And sometimes I had to take the negatives and hang them on clothes lines or tree branches to dry,” Guttenfelder related, as he spoke about the early years of his career.

On giving the P9 a go while on a trip to Mexico recently, he added: “I’m very happy that the interface of the camera is like a Leica. From the virtual buttons, to even the language and font used – they’re all familiar and easy to use.”

Leica was apparently deeply involved in the development of the P9. The collaboration spanned optical design, imaging quality, image data processing, optimisation, mechanical construction of the camera module – and yes, graphic user interface.

As such, the P9’s camera is said to offer faster and more precise focus, as well as better low-light performance. While the RGB lens specialises in capturing colour, the other monochrome one helps acquire picture detail.

Mary McCartney, who has contributed to publications such as British Vogue and United States Vanity Fair, initially thought she would never use a smartphone to shoot pictures for professional means. Then, she was introduced to the P9.

McCartney spent a week in London with the P9. Her shots brought to life the city's beauty and diversity.
McCartney spent a week in London with the P9. Her shots brought to life the city's beauty and diversity.

“The lenses in it are amazing, and the quality too. I get to adjust all the different settings as I would on my Leica, but it’s in my smart phone. So I now have the spontaneity that I search for in the pictures I take,” the British photographer stated.

McCartney, 47, is the eldest child of Paul McCartney and Linda Eastman McCartney. Her past work includes portraits of Hollywood stars and famous musicians from around the world. She even photographed Queen Elizabeth II last year.

“I was walking around, and what’s good was that I had the smartphone and not a big camera. If you have a big camera, people look at you and wonder why you’re walking around with a camera,” McCartney said, about her P9 experience in London.

“When I take pictures I like them to be something I would put up on my walls, and what I’ve managed to take is quite artistic. I like the details and the grain. Also, the fact that they have some mystery to it,” she quipped.

That said, the P9 is not just for professional photographers – or Leica fans, for that matter. The camera app, for instance, is relatively easy to use and has a load of automatic modes that cater to amateur snappers.

While the manual mode offers total control over settings like shutter speed, ISO setting, exposure value, auto white balance and autofocus, it functions well enough when running under auto as well.

Cavill addresses the audience at the launch of the new P9 smartphone at Battersea Evolution in London. — AFP
Cavill addresses the audience at the launch of the new P9 smartphone at Battersea Evolution in London. — AFP

The connection between the P9 and photography is inseparable. The ad campaign for the phone further underscores the notion, featuring Hollywood stars Henry Cavill and Scarlett Johansson in a mock competition over who is better at taking pictures using the device.

“We were shooting in the backstreets of Shanghai and there was this wonderful moment where I had a chat with a man who was making noodles. He was dancing while doing it. It was quite a show, with smoke filling the frame of my shot,” said Cavill, who was present in London.

Admitting to being a tech geek, Cavill joked, saying that he had a good time “battling” Johansson. The 32-year-old heartthrob added: “It turns out she is far better at taking photographs than I am. But I definitely enjoyed the experience.”

During the launch, Huawei also took the opportunity to unveil the P9 Plus, a larger 5.5-inch model of the device that comes with additional features, as well as the TalkBand B3, a sleek and stylish wearable device.

The P9 and P9 Lite will go on sale in Malaysia on May 28. The P9 Plus is expected to be available at a later date.

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