Recently, we have seen a lot of controversy erupt over DxOMark’s reviews of flagship smartphone cameras. At one time, it seemed the general public wasn’t well-aware of DxO’s role as a consulting company which helps OEMs deliver better image quality from their cameras, which, depending on who you ask, leads to an inherent bias on the part of DxOMark.
Now, however, consumers are aware that DxOMark’s camera reviews may not accurately portray the full picture for a device’s camera quality. What’s more, the arbitrary score given by the company makes things even worse as it is obvious that devices given the same score have vast differences in actual image quality. It is very difficult to quantify smartphone camera quality, and almost impossible to quantify it with a single score. Every flagship camera this year has scored above 80, making it even more difficult to judge between two smartphone cameras on the basis of the DxOMark score alone.
For example the OnePlus 5 was given a score only one point less than cameras such as the Galaxy S7 and HTC 10, but it is understood that both of these phones have better cameras than the OnePlus 5. The Galaxy Note 8 was given a high score of 94, but DxOMark’s own test samples prove that the detail preservation on that phone is inferior to phones such as the HTC U11 and the Google Pixel XL, which received overall scores of 91 and 90 respectively.
Hence it is important to understand that DxOMark scores are not the end-and-be-all of smartphone camera quality, and many other factors have to be considered before we can conclusively determine one smartphone camera to be better than the other. It’s always better to read the actual DxOMark review than to merely focus on the score.
With that said, we acknowledge that their camera analysis can be useful in many cases. Recently, DxOMark has reviewed the cameras of the Galaxy Note 8 and the Google Pixel 2 XL in quick succession, and currently, the Pixel 2 XL holds the top spot. Now, the firm has reviewed the dual cameras of the Huawei Mate 10 Pro, and has praised them for their “outstanding still image performance.” The cameras of the Mate 10 Pro have been given a score of 97, putting them second on the top smartphone camera ranking, one spot below that of the Google Pixel 2 XL and ahead of the Galaxy Note 8, which had received a score of 94.
The Huawei Mate 10 Pro has 12MP RGB + 20MP monochrome rear cameras with a f/1.6 aperture. It also comes with Huawei’s take on the popular portrait mode blur effect, termed Wide Aperture mode here. DXOMark’s test summary for the Mate 10 Pro cameras are as follows:
“The Huawei Mate 10 Pro excels for still photography, where it achieves a phenomenal Photo sub-score of 100 points, matching the currently highest Photo sub-score of the Samsung Galaxy Note 8. Its key strengths are good exposures, particularly in indoor conditions; a very good wide aperture mode, which produces a mild, but attractive bokeh effect with few artifacts; and outstanding autofocus performance. The Huawei Mate 10 Pro is a very capable performer in video mode, too, achieving a video sub-score of 91 points. Video autofocus is fast and accurate, with good tracking capabilities and generally low levels of noise.”
DxOMark states that in bright light, the Mate 10 Pro “generally delivers good target exposure, even in tricky high-contrast scenes, where both shadow and highlight detail are well-preserved. Occasional exposure instabilities are sometimes noticeable, however, especially on consecutive pictures in challenging light, with some underexposure evident.” It seems that the major areas of daylight image quality are covered with the Mate 10 Pro, although we did observe excessive sharpening applied by Huawei in the DxOMark outdoor camera sample.
In low light and with flash, the Mate 10 Pro again does a great job according to DxOMark with wide dynamic range in indoor photos. Texture is said to be acceptable even in low light and fine detail is only lost in very low light conditions. On the downside, motion shots are challenging to capture for the cameras of the Mate 10 Pro, as sharpness decreases. The positives include white balance, as well as very acceptable colour rendering. Even flash photos are good on the Mate 10 Pro, with “accurate white balance and colour rendering, as well as good detail preservation.” On the downside, some luminance noise is present in photos taken with the flash in very low light conditions.
When it comes to zoom, the Mate 10 Pro uses its 20MP monochrome sensor and computational imaging techniques to capture a “high-quality digital zoom image.” Unfortunately, with 2x zoom the Mate 10 Pro does not have as good detail preservation as seen on phones with optical (lossless) zoom, such as the Galaxy Note 8. The firm states, however, that it is better than the single camera of the Pixel. Using digital zoom beyond 2x is not recommended as there is a significant loss of detail as well as the presence of noisy edges.
DxOMark comments that the Wide Aperture mode of the Mate 10 Pro creates a great bokeh effect with accurate depth estimation which is superior to the Portrait mode feature found on the iPhone 8 Plus. The results are repeatable and stable, but on the downside, there are some artifacts visible, and images taken in bright light are underexposed.
In terms of video quality, DxOMark is effusive in its praise, praising exposure, detail and the low amount of noise, as well as the white balance, auto focus and video stabilization. The negative points are: low texture levels, presence of residual motion despite the stabilization, and highlight clipping in high-contrast scenes.
In conclusion, DxOMark says the Mate 10 Pro follows a different dual camera approach with its RGB and monochrome sensors, but the execution is excellent. Still image performance is outstanding. While video performance is not on the same level, it is still very solid. Zoom and bokeh are also achieved well without needing a longer focal length for the second camera.
Our preliminary take on the DxOMark review: It seems Huawei did make a lot of correct decisions with the camera setup of the Mate 10 Pro, which performs like a top-tier camera. However, this doesn’t mean that it’s free from flaws, as in terms of image quality, we are already concerned about the level of sharpening in each and every photo (which is arguably worse than what was observed on the Mate 9, and which gives rise to the oil painting effect) and the smudging seen in low-light. The question of whether the Mate 10 Pro can go head-to-head in all conditions with cameras such as the Pixel 2 XL and the HTC U11 will have to remain to be answered another day.
If you want to look at the actual tests and samples to judge for yourself, follow the link below!
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