The price and power of the Huawei P9 is impossible to ignore, you can get DSLR-esque quality, without the expense and bulk. The re-editing of photos is a joy, and gives you flexibility to go back after the event and re-imagine your pictures.
User Review( votes)
At the beginning of the year, I won a Huawei P9 for coming 9th place in a UK wide photography competition. I already had a nice shiny Samsung Galaxy S7 which I was happy with. Honestly, I thought about just flogging the Huawei P9 as brand new in box. I didn’t though, I’d heard a LOT of good things about the camera and wanted to how it worked. I wanted to give the phone a proper road test – use it as a primary device for a few weeks.
This is a nice looking phone – it feels well made, and satisfying to hold. There are no physical buttons on the front the screen is 5.2″ with a 1920 x 1080 resolution and there’s an 8MP camera for selfies. On the back are TWO 12MP Cameras with Leica lens, and the fingerprint sensor. On the bottom you’ve got a speaker, headphone socket and a USB-C socket. The phone runs Android 6.0 (with Android 7 coming soon) and the ‘EMUI’ skin on top.
EMUI is a layer between Android and the user, in my opinion – it makes the phone a little ‘iPhone’ esque. Generally, I’m not an iPhone fan, but this kind of styling with the Android flexibility is positive. It works well, and is a nice bridge if you’re coming from Apple. It has plenty of power saving options so you get the most out of the 3000maH battery.
It’s got NFC so you can use Android Pay to pay in stores – it IS lacking wireless charging. Not a deal breaker, sure, but Wireless Charging is being integrated into furniture, and popping up in coffee shops. Apple haven’t embraced Wireless Charging yet – so if you’re an iPhone user, you probably won’t mind.
Setting up the phone is pretty straight forward – your hand is held nicely throughout the process.
Those Cameras though…
So, the Huawei P9 is largely sold on the dual 12MP Leica lens(ed) cameras. One is a standard colour sensor, and the other shoots only in Black and White. When you take a picture it intelligently combines the colours taken by the RGB sensor with the detail of the monochrome sensor. It works wonderfully well and produces fantastic shots. There is a ‘Pro’ mode in the camera app where you can play with the ISO, Shutter Speeds, White Balance with simple sliders. As well as some other modes to create great pictures, standard stuff like Beauty, Panorama, HDR. Then more interesting ones you don’t often see ‘Night Mode’ and ‘Light Painting’ – These need a steady hand (or ideally a tripod), but create amazing results in low light conditions.
There’s a cracking example of the ‘Light Painting’ effect on The Verge’s Sample Gallery. Below is a copy of an image I captured in ‘Night Mode’ – It took multiple images over 14 seconds and merged them –
With a bit of HDR in Snapseed – you can really see all the detail it captured.
The Aperture / Bokeh Mode – Game Changer
This is what the Huawei P9 / Leica combo REALLY does well – the Aperture (Bokeh) Mode is insanely good. If you’re in the standard camera mode – just press the orange ‘lens’ icon and it’ll switch into Aperture Mode. This works best with subjects within 2m. I’ve found it great for food and product shots – however, it’s good for getting ‘portraits’ too. I’ve felt my Instagram account is looking better with all the Aperture Mode photos the Huawei P9 has taken.
The flexibility of the photos taken in this mode is unrivalled, because of the detail sucked in by the two sensors when you hit the shutter. You’re able to go back and edit your photos at any time. Hours, days, even weeks after the event!
To show you how it works is probably demonstrated in this short video –
There’s also an example of switching the focus from the foreground to the background on this picture I took on the London Underground. Same photos, different focal points.
As I mentioned, it can also bring a bit of ‘pop’ to portrait images too – this picture I caught of G in a café at Colchester Zoo. The blurred background makes G stand out more. It’s probably not great for fast-moving toddlers, but for thoughtful, wistful shots – you get a cracking picture.
The camera is fantastic, and all the Aperture Mode really helps you get DSLR style results – and the infinite re-edit functionality is superb. I’ve put together a sample gallery of some pictures I’ve taken with the Huawei P9. These are STRAIGHT from the camera – no touch-ups.
Huawei P9 Photo Examples
But how does it work as a phone?!
Of course – this isn’t a camera – it’s a phone and that is the primary function. It works as a modern Android phone very well. If you don’t get on with the EMUI launcher, you can install your own – same with the keyboard, and well pretty much everything. The ‘pre-loaded’ apps can be deleted too, which is not always possible on a lot of handsets. The battery is pretty good too, better than my Galaxy S7. I’ve found with the Huawei P9 I don’t have the battery angst I’ve had with Samsungs. It will happily go through the day, being used, syncing stuff and have juice for the evening. Sure – it’s always smart to have a battery pack stuffed in your bag, but – that’s just modern phones.
I think the EMUI interface does try to ‘dumb down’ the phone slightly, which is fantastic for those new to Android. However I’ve found myself annoyed at times as it’s not always so ‘power user friendly’ as stock Android.
Also, this phone is pretty cheap – the retail is £449 (cheaper on Amazon!), considering high end Samsungs and iPhones are £600+ – it’s a compelling price. It’s also nice you can pop a MicroSD card in to increase the storage for all those beautiful images.
Yeah.. But there must be some negatives?!
Of course, this phone isn’t perfect. I’m still not sold on the EMUI interface. Also the fact there’s no ‘Quick Charge’ compatibility means that it doesn’t charge as quickly as my old Samsung. You could get a dead phone up to 60% in 30 mins with that. Not so on the the Huawei P9 – so whilst the battery lasts longer, when it is down, you can’t give it a speedy boost.
The phone is pretty nippy generally, however, sometimes opening the camera, and switching into Aperture Mode is SLOOOOOOOOW. You can feel the time slipping away. It’s okay if you’re lining up the perfect product shot, less so if you want to catch your kids instantly. Also, there’s no 4K Video recording. It’s a bit of a shame, considering the ability elsewhere on the camera. I’ll forgive it though.
The price and power of the Huawei P9 is impossible to ignore, you can get DSLR-esque quality, without the cost and bulk. The re-editing of photos is a joy, and gives you flexibility to go back after the event and re-imagine your pictures. It has its foibles and quirks, but my Samsung is now on its way to being recycled, and the Huawei P9 is in my pocket. If you’re a blogger looking for a cracking phone – look no further!