Photography is anything but a simple task. Getting good results is part composure, part experience, and part hardware. The mobile phone space has been blowing up over the past few years with fewer and fewer people buying dedicated point and shoot cameras and instead relying on their smartphone. Honor has risen to the task though with the Honor 20 lineup and today we are going to talk about how to get the best out of the Honor 20 Pro and its many camera sensors, techniques to get the best shot, and how Honors Master AI system helps meet that challenge.
If you aren’t familiar with the Honor 20 Pro’s cameras, here is a quick rundown of all the specs. The main sensor is a 48MP Sony IMX586 with Phase Detect and Laser autofocus, Optical and Electronic Image Stabilization, and a bokeh enabling f1.4 lens that brings in significantly more light than competitors F1.8 or F2.0 lens. The second camera is a 3x 80mm f2.4 telephoto lens that also features Phase Detect and Laser autofocus. The third is an ultra-wide 16MP camera and the fourth is an industry-first dedicated Macro camera. The Honor 20 Pro has a vast array of cameras for every situation, so let’s go over some of those common scenarios and how the Honor 20 Pro helps you get your best result
AI Master On vs AI Master Off
The Honor 20 Pro features MagicUI’s AI Master mode to automatically identify and adjust the shot settings for whatever scenario you are in. Take the below examples for instance and see how AI Master has its advantages and disadvantages.
Honor 20 Pro – AI On
Honor 20 Pro – AI Off
Depending on what your desired end result is, you first have to decide if you want to have AI Master enabled or disabled. The above images reflect the changes that AI on and AI off make. While the second image is closer to reality, the AI Master mode does make the flower pop a lot more and adds more yellows and greens. This type of shot would be ideal for Instagram.
Honor 20 Pro – AI On
Honor 20 Pro – AI Off
This second image taken with the wide-angle sensor shows how much more of a difference the AI Master mode makes on panoramic shots. Each of the colors is well beyond what they are in real life, but it does make for a photo you won’t need to retouch for Social Media sharing and does have a WOW-factor.
Honor 20 Pro – AI On
Honor 20 Pro – AI Off
In this final test of AI Master, you can see that it keeps everything very realistic and just applies normal HDR settings to the shot.
Regular and Zoom Vs Macro
As we have discussed, the Honor 20 Pro features both a 3X zoom sensor and a dedicated Macro sensor. Sometimes you might want to get super close on an image and you have a choice, should you use the Macro sensor or get right up and close with the primary one. What about the zoom lens, could you just zoom in on it? See how the below image perspective and feel is changed depending on what lens you use.
Honor 20 Pro – AI On
Honor 20 Pro – 3X
Honor 20 Pro – Macro
The Primary sensor clearly delivers the best all-around shot, but the 3X sensor does a really good job as well. While its colors could use some tuning, thanks to the narrower field of view you get a larger than life feel from the zoomed-in shot. The final image taken with the Macro sensor shows its advantages and disadvantages. You can really get super close on an object and see things you normally couldn’t, but it also doesn’t have the quality of the larger sensors and at 2MP you will not be able to blow up this image to print or see on a larger screen for more details.
Honor 20 Pro – Macro
Honor 20 Pro – Primary
This image though shows the benefits of using the Macro sensor. I could get very close to my subject and still have it in focus whereas the primary sensor could not focus at this close range.
48 Megapixel Ultra Clarity Mode Uses
We’ve already discussed in previous articles the benefits to using the AI Ultra Clarity mode available on the Honor 20 Pro. It is great for large panoramas and areas with little movement. Below you can see a less than ideal scenario where leaving the camera in the 12MP mode is superior.
Honor 20 Pro – 48MP Ultra Clarity
Honor 20 Pro – 12MP
The image on the left was taken using the 48MP Ultra Clarity mode and resized for uploading to the site. You can see that the benefits from stacking the images for the 12MP image are in the detailed shadows and overall image exposure. The 48MP photo does have more detail, but you can see that there is less detail on any moving objects. 48MP Ultra Clarity takes about 6 seconds to shoot and process, so any moving subjects could have blurring due to the process. While this mode is ideal for landscape shots, you won’t want to use it for closeups or objects that are moving.
Honor 20 Pro – Regular
When to Use the Ultra-Wide Angle
One of the most common questions I see asked is when to use the normal wide-angle camera versus the ultra-wide-angle camera. The answer is whenever you want a super wide or tall shot and you are not taking a portrait of a person. The neat thing about wide-angle shots is that you can take them in both landscape and portrait for some neat angles and interesting shots.
Honor 20 Pro – Ultra-Wide
Honor 20 Pro – Regular
Honor 20 Pro – Ultra-Wide
Honor 20 Pro – Regular
Night Mode vs Pro Mode and Regular Mode
The Honor 20 Pro features Honor’s excellent night mode, and that is what we are comparing next. One of the downsides of the night mode is the time to shoot. It can take up to 6 seconds to capture the scene, so you need to have steady hands and no moving objects for the best result. With the last image, I decided to put the phone into night mode, lower the ISO to 400, and shutter speed to 1/10 to capture a really cool nightscape with very little noise.
Honor 20 Pro – Regular Mode
Honor 20 Pro – Night Mode
Honor 20 Pro – Pro Mode
The Honor 20 Pro has one of the most versatile setups available today, and we hope these tips will help you to master the camera and its various settings!
quad cameras, punch hole displays, and the Kirin 980
A new challenger has entered the battle of the 2019 budget flagships: Honor. The smartphone brand unveiled its latest flagship smartphone duo, the Honor 20 and Honor 20 Pro, at an event in London today. It’s only been a few months since the Honor View20 launch, but the recent flood of impressive-looking budget flagship smartphones like the OnePlus 7, Xiaomi Mi 9, and ASUS ZenFone 6 has prompted Honor to launch new smartphones with significant camera upgrades over the last generation model to stay competitive.
The Honor 20 and Honor 20 Pro have all the hallmarks of a 2019 budget flagship: a speedy processor in the Kirin 980, a nearly bezel-less display, a beautiful design, and multiple cameras on the back. But the same is true for all the other budget flagships, so Honor’s latest devices are no longer in the position that the Honor View20 was when it came to market in January. Honor needs to do more than just check off the list of flagship-tier specifications if they want people to buy their latest smartphones. Let’s cover everything we know about the new Honor 20 series to see how it stands up to the competition.
Honor 20 Pro First Impressions
Check out our first impressions of the Honor 20 Pro from TK Bay on our YouTube channel.
Above: Honor 20. Below: Honor 20 Pro.
Honor 20 Series Design
The Honor 20 Pro with an “All-view” punch hole display.
You’d be hard pressed to tell the new Honor 20 and Honor 20 Pro apart from one another. Unlike “Pro” models from other smartphone brands, the Honor 20 Pro doesn’t have a better display than the Honor 20. Instead, both models have a 6.26-inch “All-view” IPS LCD with a 4.5mm hole punch in the top-left corner.
Honor boasts that their hole punch is still the smallest of its kind, resulting in the two devices having a 91.6% screen-to-body ratio. That means there’s more screen on the front of the phone than on the Xiaomi Mi 9, OnePlus 7, and Samsung Galaxy S10 series, but the ASUS ZenFone 6 and OnePlus 7 Pro have higher screen-to-body ratios at 92% and 93.22% respectively. The ASUS ZenFone 6 and OnePlus 7 Pro achieve such high screen-to-body ratios by moving the front camera to a mechanical flip-top and pop-up camera module respectively, which has their trade-offs in durability and facial recognition speed. On the other hand, the 32MP front camera sensor on the Honor 20 and Honor 20 Pro is located under the display where the hole punch is located.
The Honor 20 Pro in Phantom Blue.
Honor created a great-looking phone in the Honor View20 with its reflective glass back creating a “V-shaped color gradient with a gleaming effect.” Honor is following up on the View20 with an equally impressive design on the Honor 20 series. The company is calling the design on the back their “Dynamic Holographic Design” which employs a two-stage process to create a 3D curved glass back with a “depth-inducing” optical effect.
The Honor 20 series comes in 4 different colors: Midnight Black and Safari Blue for the base model and Phantom Blue and Phantom Black for the higher-end model. Oddly, the Phantom Blue appears greenish in person while the Phantom Black looks purple.
Camera and Fingerprint Scanner Placement
Both the Honor 20 and Honor 20 Pro have 4 cameras on the rear, though as expected the Pro model has slightly better camera hardware. The difference between the two models isn’t as substantial as the difference between the Huawei P30 and Huawei P30 Pro, though, so you’re not missing out significantly by opting for the regular model.
Like the Samsung Galaxy S10e, the Honor 20 series have side-mounted fingerprint scanners embedded in the power button. Honor couldn’t pack an optical fingerprint sensor underneath the display like the Xiaomi Mi 9 or OnePlus 7 because the Honor 20 series has an LCD; the company also likely didn’t go for an ultrasonic under-display fingerprint sensor to save cost. While having an under-display fingerprint scanner is cool, the side-mounted physical sensor is more practical since unlocking happens within 0.3 seconds of placing your finger on the power button. No need to wake the screen before using the fingerprint scanner – you turn on the screen with the power button and unlock the phone at the same time.
Although both of Honor’s latest flagships have quad rear cameras, there are a few subtle differences between the two even among the shared image sensors. Here’s a rundown of the camera hardware on both models:
The main difference between the cameras on the Honor 20 and Honor 20 Pro is that the Honor 20’s 2MP Depth Assist sensor is substituted for an 8MP Telephoto sensor with OIS on the Honor 20 Pro. The 48MP main camera on the Honor 20 Pro also has OIS and a wider f/1.4 aperture for better low-light photography.
Honor is bringing back the 48MP AI Ultra Clarity mode from the View20. This mode allows both Honor 20 models to take sharper 48MP photos by combining multiple 48MP shots over a 5-second interval. If you’re not a fan of overly processed images, then you can use the Pro Mode to save in RAW.
Honor’s “AIS Super Night Mode” is also returning, making it possible to take handheld long-exposure shots that aren’t overexposed and still retain a good amount of detail. There are 4 steps in the process: handheld detection, light detection, image processing to compensate for shakes, and image compositing. The “AI” in “AIS” comes from the fact that the Kirin 980 analyzes sensor data from the gravity sensor and gyroscope to compensate for handheld shaking by “moving the lenses in the opposite direction of the motion in the picture.”
Unlike the Huawei P30 which uses auto-focus on its wide-angle lens for macro shots, both the Honor 20 and Honor 20 Pro have a 2MP 4cm fixed-focus Macro lens. Users will have to manually select the Macro mode in the camera app to take photos close to the subject, but Honor is considering adding a recommendation to Master AI to automatically switch to the mode when appropriate. The inclusion of a dedicated Macro lens is interesting since the Huawei Mate 20 and Huawei P30 series both pull off awesome Macro photography without a dedicated lens. Honor is still experimenting with what works, like when they had a TOF sensor on the Honor View20. The idea is to allow users to take photos at all distances. With a wide-angle, telephoto, and macro lens, nothing is too far or too close to take a photo of.
While the wide-angle lens on both smartphones isn’t stabilized, Honor has brought its Super Night Shot camera mode to the wide-angle lens. On the Honor 20 Pro, they’ve also added a 30X digital zoom option and a handheld “moon shot” which, like the Huawei P30 Pro, uses AI to optimize details in photos taken of the moon. The Huawei P30 Pro’s Moon Mode raised suspicions that the camera software was replacing the moon in the image, but Huawei shot down those rumors in a statement to AndroidAuthority.
“Moon Mode operates on the same principle as other master AI modes, in that it recognizes and optimizes details within an image to help individuals take better photos. It does not in any way replace the image – that would require an unrealistic amount of storage space since AI mode recognizes over 1,300 scenarios. Based on machine learning principles, the camera recognizes a scenario and helps to optimize focus and exposure to enhance the details such as shapes, colors, and highlights/lowlights. This feature can be turned on or off easily while taking a photo. While there is a Moon Mode, the shot can still be taken without AI mode because of the periscope lens.” – Huawei spokesperson in response to inquiries about the Huawei P30 Pro’s Moon Mode.
We’re hopeful that Honor is using the same algorithm, but we’ll have to test the Honor 20 Pro’s own moon shot mode to see how it stacks up against the Huawei P30 Pro’s version. We’ll also test the camera quality on the Honor 20 series, and in particular, on the Honor 20 Pro. Famed camera testing lab DxOMark has already rated the Honor 20 Pro with a score of 111 overall (117 for Photo and 97 for Video), tying the OnePlus 7 Pro but barely falling behind the Huawei P30 Pro and 5G Samsung Galaxy S10.
For high-end performance, Honor has equipped the Honor 20 and Honor 20 Pro with the latest 7nm HiSilicon Kirin 980 SoC. The CPU on the Kirin 980 consists of 2 ARM Cortex-A76 cores @ 2.60GHz, 2 ARM Cortex-A76 cores @ 1.92GHz, and 4 ARM Cortex-A55 cores @ 1.80GHz. The GPU is ARM’s Mali-G76MP10. In raw performance, the CPU is slightly bested by the Qualcomm Snapdragon 855 while falling significantly behind it in GPU performance benchmarks.
Benchmarks don’t tell the whole story, though. Our test of the Honor View20 against the most performance-intensive Android games from Google Play as well as emulators of retro game consoles proved that the Kirin 980 is more than capable of handling whatever you throw at it. Furthermore, the Honor 20 series launches with Magic UI 2.1, a re-branded EMUI 9.1, out of the box. The software, based on Android 9 Pie, comes with an upgraded GPU Turbo 3.0 for faster touch responses and lower energy consumption in supported games. One of those supported games, Fortnite, is getting some special attention by Honor. The company has worked with Epic Games to allow players to run Fortnite Mobile at 60FPS, and they’re also offering another exclusive Fortnite skin.
The available memory and storage capacities will be more than enough to handle your needs. With up to 8GB LPDDR4X RAM, the Honor 20 series can handle multi-tasking between games, documents, music playback, and most importantly, Google Chrome tabs. With up to 256GB, Honor’s new devices have enough storage to hold your photos, videos, documents, and other media files. Sadly, the storage is non-expandable. Honor has yet to support Huawei’s NM Card standard, which would allow the second nanoSIM slot to be used for expandable storage. The storage meets the UFS 2.1 standard which is still plenty fast, but slower than the new UFS 3.0 standard in storage benchmarks. How much of a day-to-day improvement a move to UFS 3.0 storage would make is something we can’t say, however.
Battery Life and Charging
Although both smartphones are the same thickness, the Honor 20 Pro has a slightly larger battery at 4000mAh versus 3750mAh on the standard model. At least charging speeds are equivalent between the two devices, with both supporting 22.5W SuperCharge 1.0. So far, the only Honor smartphone to support the faster 40W SuperCharge 2.0 is the China-only Honor Magic 2.
Honor has equipped both of its latest smartphones with “Virtual 9.1 Surround Sound.” This allows the user to hear where the sound is coming from, which can be useful if you’re playing a game with directional sound like PUBG Mobile. It requires the use of headphones, though. Honor says most headphones and earphones will work, fortunately. I don’t know if Honor developed this audio technology in-house or if they’re licensing it from a company, but I have heard similar technology in-person so I can say that it’s not a gimmick. Lastly, Honor is introducing what they’re calling “AI frequency compensation” to reduce earphone irritation and fatigue.
The Honor 20 series has a single speaker, but unlike the Honor View20, there’s no 3.5mm headphone jack. You’ll have to use the USB Type-C port or Bluetooth to take advantage of “Virtual 9.1 Surround Sound.”
Honor is shipping both smartphones with its custom Android 9 Pie-based software called “Magic UI 2.1.” Magic UI 2.1 is EMUI 9.1 in all but name as it has the same design, features, and apps. EMUI 9.1 is a minor improvement over EMUI 9.0, which we’ve already reviewed extensively in a two-part review.
EMUI 9.1 offers a few improvements over EMUI 9.0 such as the upgraded GPU Turbo 3.0, a new Assistant power button shortcut, new icons, and other under-the-hood changes. All of EMUI’s best features are there including Easy Projection, full-screen navigation gestures, and Digital Balance.
Now, this is where things get a little tricky. Days before the Honor 20 launch, Reuters published an explosive report alleging that Google has revoked Huawei’s Android license. Statements made by Google and Huawei strongly suggest that this indeed has happened, though the U.S. Government has given Huawei a 3-month reprieve. We’ve covered all the details of what this means and the latest updates in this article, so be sure to read it thoroughly.
Honor operates as a separate brand under the Huawei Consumer Business Group, so it’s unclear if the restrictions on Huawei apply to Honor as well. If they do, then that puts Honor in a tough spot. Will the company be able to update the Honor 20 to Android Q? Will they be able to roll out timely security updates? As the U.S. trade war with China plays out, we’ll have to see how it affects Honor’s business. If we learn more information about Honor’s software update policy in light of the recent news, we’ll update this article.
Miscellaneous Odds & Ends
Honor is one of the few smartphone brands that still includes an IR blaster in their smartphones, and that’s still true for the Honor 20 series.
Pricing and Availability
The Honor 20 costs 499 Euros for the 6GB RAM + 128GB storage model. On the other hand, the Honor 20 Pro will cost 599 Euros for the 8GB RAM + 256GB storage model. In India, Honor has partnered with Flipkart for sales.