Smartphones are getting into portrait photography more than ever.
Even with as many food photos we take, smartphone makers are realising that the photos people really cherish are those of their favourite people. So Apple introduced the Portrait mode on the iPhone 7 Plus and an increasing number of smartphones are incorporating dual lens camera set-ups.
The recent Huawei P10 Plus is no exception. The P10 Plus uses a combination of hardware and software to give you the shallow depth of field or blurred background that everyone associates with great looking people photos. But how does that translate in reality? We tried it out to see if there's any truth to its bold claims of "making every shot a cover shot".
Eyes on the prize
Here's the lowdown on its pair of eyes on the back. Leica-certified, it comprises of a 20MP monochrome and a 12MP RGB Summilux lens. The former is responsible for giving you the light and detail you need in your shot, while the latter gives you great colours. It also comes with an ƒ/1.8 sensor that will let in more light. It's comparable to the iPhone 7 Plus’ ƒ/1.8 wide-angle lens.
And just like the iPhone 7 Plus, the P10 Plus comes with a dedicated Portrait mode built right into its camera app to give you that dreamy bokeh effect.
What's the difference between the two? Well, the most obvious is in the interface. The iPhone 7 Plus’ Portrait mode comes with instructions, telling you if you should move closer to the subject or if there is even enough light to take a good portrait shot with plenty of bokeh. It is focused in helping you get a good shot, but with that focus comes restrictions like placing the subject within 2.5m and having a certain amount of light.
The Huawei P10 Plus does things quite differently, giving you flexibility in operation. It has a beautification setting you can adjust while in Portrait mode and uses what Huawei calls 3D facial recognition to cast your subject in the most flattering light. It's similar to studio lighting except you don't have to do any of the hard work of moving and adjusting the lights. Essentially, it recognises the high points of your face like your cheekbones and nose to highlight them without having to smother your face in highlighter powder. As a result of the two factors, you look better without looking like you’ve gone under the knife. Sort of like having that radiant post-exercise glow without having to break a sweat.
In our experience, we found that using the Portrait mode on the iPhone 7 Plus would require us to move farther back before the depth effect kicked in while the P10 Plus didn't have that distance restriction. That's due to the wider field of view the P10 Plus' camera has thus offering users greater flexibility in getting close to their subject.
In the dim outdoor bar setting, the iPhone 7 Plus flat out refused to take portrait shots, but the P10 Plus obliged willingly. In low light, your shots will get grainy if you're using the front camera, so remember to trigger the flash. Results from the rear are significantly better.
Classic black and white
There's nothing more timeless than a black and white photo. Because of that 20MP monochrome eye, you get the option of having your Portrait shots in classic black and white without having to rely on a third party app. It's not some half-baked filter, but proper mono lens that makes all the difference in the shades in between. Turn on that feature by tapping on the Portrait icon, then swiping to the right to access the different photography modes. Select Monochrome to start shooting your subject in black and white.
We dare say that the combination of black and white with the bokeh effect make people look even better than if they were in colour. Unfortunately, it's only available on the rear camera and not the front.
If you’re looking to turn that depth of field on yourself, the Huawei P10 Plus is the handy one that comes with the feature baked into its 8MP front-facing camera. If you want to get a bokeh-ed selfie with the iPhone 7 Plus, you’ll have to turn the rear camera on yourself, or use a third-party app.
Even at the maximum beautification setting, the effect isn't overkill and leans more towards natural than plastic-surgery fake. The lines on the subject's face still exist but appear softer. However, we do wish that more smartphone makers would brighten rather than whiten when it comes to turning on the beautification charm.
What’s that beside the Portrait icon? It’s the Wide Aperture mode. Not only can you adjust the amount of background blur before the shot, you can also do it after, and select what you want to be in focus. Yes, even what’s in the background or have the whole shot in focus if that's what you wish.
There's a lot more flexibility with this mode. However, we'd advise against maxing out the aperture setting unless you like to feel a little faint while looking through your photos. We found that the lines can get a little soft around the edges in challenging light conditions, but it could also work in your photo's favour depending on the effect you're going for.
Take a shot
Compared to other phones, the Huawei P10 Plus offers a lot more flexibility when it comes to photographing people in the best light, especially with its dedicated Portrait mode. It is incredibly flattering in the right circumstances, especially in monochrome.
Sometimes the lines do get a little soft but between being able to use both the front and back camera to capture your portrait shots, the colour options and the different modes, there's definitely more than enough for you to find what you need in order to create the shot you want. Especially if you like more control than the iPhone 7 Plus' Portrait mode offers.
The only problem you will have most of the time is probably deciding which photo to use as your de facto Facebook profile picture.