The best camera phone available today
The Huawei P30 Pro is a seriously great phone, made even better by three of the best camera features available today. The phone is well designed, easy to use, and above all else, shows why the Huawei partnership with Leica makes such a difference for camera photography.
Last year, I enjoyed both the P20 Pro and the Mate 20 Pro–two of the better phones released in 2018–and they stood out for me for the strong mix of features. The P30 Pro goes a step further, improves on the overall usability, and the user experience, making this device a strong contender for the best phone so far this year.
The P30 Pro is available in two versions: one with 6GB RAM and 128GB of storage, or 8GB RAM and 256GB storage. My review covers the 8GB/256GB model, so let’s dive right in.
Design & UX
Released in a vibrant “breathing crystal”, that’s a lighter, brighter blue, and a dark black, the P30 Pro looks very similar to the P20 Pro, aside from a much smaller notch on the front for the front-facing camera, and slightly slimmer bezels.
You can choose to hide the notch (the setting effectively turns off the top half a centimeter of the display), but the notch is so small I hardly ever notice it.
The phone offers an in-screen fingerprint sensor, and slightly curved sides of the screen, but not so much that it’s hard to use the edge of the phone.
Next to other devices, the screen size is also very large, at 6.47 inches with a FHD+ 2340×1080 OLED display, and while the display could be higher resolution for gaming and videos, it’s very bright and clear.
On the back of the phone, the camera array runs down the side of the device, with the flash just to the right of it.
Otherwise, I found that the P30 Pro feels a bit more refined than its predecessor, and that’s thanks to the latest version of Huawei’s EMUI operating system, and updates to the underlying Android Pie.
As one example, I appreciated the AI built into the camera app, and I’d say it’s been improved quite a bit since the P20 Pro. The P30 Pro is just generally faster, and the options presented a little smoother.
Like a lot of current phones, the P30 Pro has no headphone jack, so if that’s an issue for you, I’d recommend a USB-C to headphone adapter, but the phone comes with a good pair of USB-C headphones.
The phone uses a nanoSIM card, and a nanoSD card in the tray at the bottom of the device. If you’re wondering what a nanoSD card is, it’s Huawei memory card format, and a 64GB card is around $85 on Amazon or 128GB retails for $129.95.
The camera is really where the P30 Pro excels, and beats all the competition with vibrant, clear images and a multitude of options for any scene, including portraits and landscapes.
On the back of the phone, the Leica quad camera is astonishing, with a 40 MP wide angle lens, a 20 MP ultra wide lens, an 8 MP telephoto lens, a Time-of-Flight camera for 3D imaging features, and a flash.
On the front of the phone, the P30 Pro also once again beats all the competition with a 32 MP camera that takes incredible selfies. This is one of Huawei’s best features that no other competitor seems ready to take on.
While there’s a lot to cover with the camera, three key modes set the P30 Pro rear cameras apart from the rest too: zoom, night, and super macro.
The zoom is truly astounding, and there’s no other phone out there today with anything like it. You can go from super-wide angle, to get a real sense of the scene in one photo, to a 5x optical zoom, a 10x hybrid zoom, and a 50x digital zoom.
To put that into perspective, the super wide angle camera works out to a 16mm equivalent focal length, compared against a DSLR; the 5x optical zoom is the equivalent of a 125mm lens; 10x hybrid zoom is like a 270 mm focal length; and the 50x digital zoom is approximately the same as 1,200mm.
In the right conditions, the 50x digital zoom can be quite impressive, but even if you just stop at the 10x hybrid zoom, the results are generally astonishing in good lighting.
As just one example with the zoom, I was several kilometres away from the CN Tower in Toronto, and I got a great photo of the main observation deck with the P30 Pro. Try that with any other phone and you’re just going to get a dark, pixelated image.
The night mode is also very impressive, and easy to use. Set the mode and hit the button and then stand still. The camera app will take a series of pictures to build up an image, and count down to when it’s done. For a little experimentation, you can also stop the process any time by pressing the button again to see what kind of image you get, which can provide some very cool effects shooting certain scenes like campfires or cityscapes.
Finally, there’s super macro mode, which lets you get up to a few centimetres away from your subject and get incredibly detailed photos. For food, small objects, and flowers, you can get some really spectacular results and fine details that I’ve never been able to capture with a smartphone before.
Otherwise, if I had one complaint it would be that I wish you could sort which camera modes are featured across the bottom of the camera app, and which ones are in the “more” tab. While the AI photo mode will usually choose the right mode for you, it would be nice to be able to change the order.
I could go on about a number of other features, including AI Cinema mode, but generally I was very impressed with all of the camera features.
Battery & Performance
With the 4200mAh battery, the Huawei P30 Pro is a powerful smartphone that will last most people the entire day. I can charge mine over night, and use it for a full day–and sometimes more–depending on what I’m using it for.
The phone’s Huawei Kirin 980 octa-core processor and the 8GB of RAM makes the phone quick to load apps and do just about anything on the device. With the higher RAM model, it’s also the right choice for anyone who is into gaming or more demanding apps on their phone, although the 6GB model should be fine for most users otherwise thanks to the solid processor.
And in terms of charging, the P30 Pro can get a 70% charge in just under 30 minutes, which is a fantastic feature if you’re in a hurry some days and need a good charge for the rest of the day.
The Huawei P30 Pro is a dependable, easy-to-use, and exceptional camera phone that’s especially a great option for power users. If you’re at all interested in photography with your phone, this is the best device on the market today, and it will inspire you to be more creative because it works so well in so many conditions.
The phone retails for $1,199.99 at most carriers or around $199.99 with an average two-year mobility plan.