Two Hundred Megapixels worth of memories
Who knew we’d get to the most exciting part of this four-parter review? We did. Hence why we’re here. Part 2 is concerned with the phone’s most acclaimed feature, the camera system. This also includes the selfie camera, the sweet 50MP selfie camera that can do 4K, by the way.
To reiterate, the Honor 90 comes with a 200MP Samsung ISOCELL HP2 primary camera, a 12MP ultrawide, and a 2MP depth sensor. The phone can create macro shots even without the macro camera. Yes, it can do this with both the 200MP Primary and 12MP Ultrawide hence why we’re continuing to call those 2MP macro cameras useless because they are, and the camera systems on the Honor 90 proves that.
Before we get to the sample shots, we’d like to introduce our fellow techies to the camera interface first. At first, it’s nothing out of the ordinary. The camera modes are at the bottom and the settings, including AI and Live Photo, are at the top. You also get additional settings by tapping the gear icon on the top right. This includes video resolution and frame rate settings as well as watermarks, grids, and smart features like Smart Movie. Here, you can also enable the horizontal level so that when you create shots, it’s not misaligned.
When you go to the “More” section, you can see how creative you can get with the phone’s dual camera system and selfie camera. You can create Facebook-ish Stories, create a large 200MP shot, do vlogs with multi-video mode, scan documents, and create “My Day” with the stickers feature. They really made the Honor 90 a phone packed for avid photographers and vloggers to the point it’s nearly perfect. You can download more stickers by tapping the download button at the top. The sample above shows the “Story Mode” feature. By the way, you can use both the rear and front cameras for this one like Multi-video mode. We’ll let you explore the rest of the features so it can still be exciting to get the Honor 90.
Short story. When we presented the Honor 90 to our friends who aren’t versed in the tech space, they really found the cameras quite amusing, even comparing it to the iPhone’s camera capabilities. They love how enhanced each image is and how great the portrait shots are. They did notice, however, that the phone lacks a “Tap to Capture” feature. Keep in mind that these people are the average consumer who would buy the Honor 90 not because they know the phone much, but rather the opposite as if hooked in by a salesperson. If they found that impressive, surely others would too.
Enough of that, let’s actually discuss the camera performance. First of all, we really like how natural the colours look. They aren’t exaggeratingly oversaturated. Even if you’re just using “Photo” mode, there is a pretty wide dynamic range. We love how balanced the contrasts and brightness are in a daylight image. Also, there is a high level of sharpness retained when zooming in so no image feels soft or low quality. Though, they consume so much space that 512GB feels more like a necessity. We took some of these images on a hot noon and the sky is not overblown, you can tell that Honor carefully mastered their processing here so each image feels professional.
By the way, when not using Hi-Res Mode, each image is shot (horizontally) to 4064x3048px or approximately 12.4MP and consumes at least 4MB of space while Hi-Res Mode has a resolution of 16256x12912px or approximately 209.9MP and consumes a whoppingly large 25MB of space. It also takes a few seconds for the phone to capture the image due to the large size. This means, the phone needs a really powerful chipset and the SD7G1 does that job well.
By the way, indoor images also look nice and colourful. The lower level lighting did not significantly impact the performance of the 200MP Primary camera, another sign of Honor slowly perfecting their craft.
These 200MP shots are super heavy and that’s why even Instagram would try to dramatically compress this if you upload it. Heck, a sensor of this resolution is much more appropriate for a billboard than it is to share for social media. Even the average consumer is more than satisfied with the default photo mode if what they really need is just to keep memories. After all, Photo mode does a pretty great job on its own already.
To reiterate, each 200MP shot requires at least 25MB of space and a powerful chipset. We counted and it takes the phone 3 seconds to process each one and you cannot use zoom features. The resulting image has a resolution of 16256x12912px, or approximately 209MP. Even our website has trouble uploading them due to their extremely large size and WordPress does not exactly compress them, unlike Facebook, Reddit, or Twitter.
The main reason why large MP sensors are used is to create a makeshift telephoto sensor since those are pretty expensive. Large MP sensors, like the 200MP Primary used here allow you to zoom in digitally without losing image quality but of course, that comes with a cost, literally. Take for example these 10x zoom shots. A lower-resolution sensor would make these pictures very noisy but a high-res one would maintain their sharpness.
However, for those who are actually curious about the quality. Fairly enough, it is very detailed even at night. Noise is kept quite low and when you zoom in, the photo’s details remain strong. Probably too strong as this is a 9-in-1 pixel binning method and so as you can tell (or probably not), each image is oversharpened which is still one of our main issues with these large MP sensors.
Each ultrawide shot is in a perfect 4000x3000px resolution in a 4:3 aspect ratio so not many changes happen here.
As for the shots themselves, we first noticed that there is a small distortion for each ultrawide shot (that’s how we knew that it is indeed ultrawide). It may not be visible to those who aren’t observant and it does not destroy the overall image quality. With that small issue out of the way, the ultrawide shots are detailed during the day are sharp and detailed, though less sharpened than the primary camera which is honestly better. Dynamic range is pretty good too and we also like the natural colour reproduction. That seems to be the thing with Honor phones. Some of these images
While you can create night images using “Photo Mode”, it is ideal to use the dedicated “Night Mode” since that improves each photo more significantly.
While the daylight shots are great, the phone shows its weakness in shooting night shots. Weak for a phone priced at a sub-25K price point. The first image with the Toyota Innova is taken without any sort of decent lighting, apart from the house on the left. This was a very dark scenario and the phone managed to light up the scene nicely and even retain some details but the resulting image is soft and we found the dynamic range to be bad. Darker areas, like the house at the front, have washed-out colours. It appears that the Honor 90’s AI is trying to light up the image without boosting the colours way too much because the phone tends to keep a more realistic colour tone
In SM Mall of Asia By The Bay, where we took our night shots, has pretty decent lighting already and still the resulting images are oddly oversharpened, lacking details, and have terrible colour reproduction. It’s the sensor trying to reduce noise and what it apparently does is increase sharpness but does that to a large extent. We honestly prefer how phones from BBK Electronics, like the OnePlus Nord, produce night shots. That can be somewhat unfair as that phone uses a flagship Sony IMX890 sensor at 50MP while the Honor 90 uses a midrange 200MP Samsung one. This is evidence that megapixels aren’t everything.
By the way, the 12MP Ultrawide does no better than what the Primary camera produces.
Before taking a shot, you can adjust the aperture from f/0.95 all the way to f/16. The stronger the value, the more blur. For these examples, we stuck to f/2.4 aperture.
For what the Honor 90 lacks in night mode shots, it makes up for it in other areas, such as the excellent background and foreground separation. For the most part, the phone managed to separate the subject and the background and apply a natural-looking blur to each of them accurately while also securing the necessary details. If this was a different phone, my fingers would have been blurred too but the Honor 90 knows that they are part of the subject. It’s one of the best portrait modes we’ve seen in any midrange and we’ve tested a lot.
However, it won’t always be consistent because the phone has a slow shutter (which is oddly, becoming a standard now, even with flagships) and has no OIS. So there would be times that the blur will overshoot and blur unwanted parts of the subject, especially during the dark. When it does work, the phone can accurately separate the foreground and background.
The Honor 90 has a unique, but gimmicky feature called Aperture Mode which is basically a clone of Portrait Mode but only for the rear cameras. To us, this feature is no different to Portrait Mode so we’re not sure why Honor even bothered creating this one. It also works very similarly and you can adjust the aperture from f/0.95 to f/16.
Despite the lack of a macro sensor, the Honor 90 can still create a macro shot, even for the ultrawide camera. This just goes to show how useless that 2MP macro really is.
Oddly enough, despite using literally the 200MP and 12MP sensors, these macro shots have bland colour reproduction, ironically produced fewer details even up close, and have worse dynamic range than what you can do with regular Photo mode and just zooming in to your subject. We’re wondering why it’s trying to mimic a 2MP macro when it does not have one.
Just to prove how better the Photo mode is at shooting macro shots, take a gander at the comparison shot above. The left is using the “Super Macro” mode, the right is “Photo” Mode.
We’re not sure why Honor isn’t highlighting the selfie camera more because it is the best thing about this device. Hence why we named this article “Selfie Starter Pack” because the camera app is loaded with tons of fun features designed for vloggers, including AI Noise Reduction for videos which we will discuss later.
We love how detailed and colourful the results are on the selfie camera. Just a small nitpick but we would love it if the selfie camera also has a watermark because we checked and there’s none. Going back, aside from the great colour reproduction, we love also how it brightened each image without blowing up the exposure. Though we noticed that these shots still look a little too sharp for our tastes.
50MP SELFIE PORTRAIT:
Aside from the fact that this selfie
expert genius (sorry someone else took the opportunity for that label) can create 4K videos, its portrait mode is shockingly good. Just like the rear cameras, the separation on the 50MP selfie is accurate, almost too accurate in fact, and this is a phone priced at a sub-25K price point which not every phone can do. Each of these shots feels as if it’s a magazine cover or a green screen and the blurring also looks natural and not “plasticky” which is a recurring problem even for phones at a similar price point. The phone has auto face detection which will lock its focus when it finds a face. It also supports the “high five” selfie gesture and when you use that, the phone enables a 3-second timer to prepare yourself.
Yes, the selfie camera has a dedicated night mode as well and these produce images that are mediocre with the same problems we have as the night mode on the primary camera. Particularly terrible colour reproduction and soft imagery.
Normally, we would also record in 720p but these days, the minimum standard is 1080p and many are now transitioning to 4K, so we believe it’s time for us to let 720p videos go.
The phone can record up to 4K@30fps, as well as 1080p@30fps and 1080p@60fps. The first thing we noticed is that the phone automatically stabilized itself as EIS is enabled by default and cannot be disabled. This stabilization is outstanding because it almost feels like OIS to how steady all videos look. Sharpness is also pretty great on these videos and we also love the decent colour reproduction and details it produces. What we noticed, though a little too late, is that the glass reflects on the sensors too much. A bit of wiping should solve that issue. Sound quality is also solid even without AI noise reduction
50MP SELFIE VIDEO:
Due to the bitrate, there is a chance that YouTube compresses the videos but they may still retain their original qualities. Anyway, we’re still surprised that the 50MP Selfie can create 4K@30fps videos because even phones at a higher price range couldn’t do it and they also use high-res front cameras.
What we love most about here is the sound quality. It’s surprisingly rich and the AI Noise Reduction works very accurately as if you have a professional mic with you. Although we don’t like how you need to start a video first to enable this feature but once you do, it will automatically all background noise as accurately as it could so only your voice will be heard. This phone is really meant for vloggers and we’re impressed by it.
The video samples above are overexposed. That’s because we took this video at dawn, 6 PM and the phone tries to brighten the video up and make it appear we took these earlier. Under decent lighting, however, all three video resolutions produced decent videos, though slightly shakey. They all have good colour reproduction, and consistent frame rates, especially 4K videos, and despite the lack of EIS, they remain very steady so we’re assuming that even here, EIS is automatically enabled. Have a look at our vertical 4K sample above.
The main caveat with 4K videos is that they take a considerable amount of storage and for the Honor 90, they are limited to 15 minutes. The only other phone that limits 4K video duration is the TCL 10 5G which also limits it to 15 minutes.
Wow, this is probably the longest we’ve been at reviewing a phone’s cameras. There are just too many features to mention and the review here doesn’t even feature all of them. That is up to you, fellow techies, to discover. Stay tuned for part 3 as we discuss the Accelerated Edition chipset of the Honor 90 5G.