Gadgets for humans

The Huawei Mate 20 Pro has a handy ‘fireworks mode’

Your mileage may vary, however.

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Today in the UK is Guy Fawkes Day, colloquially known as Bonfire Night, which is marked by Brits setting off a bunch of fireworks. Much of the festivities took place over the weekend, which, coincidentally, was when I got the new Huawei Mate Pro 20, which is rapidly shaping up to be the best phone of the year.

I’ve written extensively about the photographic capabilities of Huawei’s phones in the past. I was deeply impressed with the P20 Pro (and, by extension, the Porsche Design Mate RS, which is identical in all but the price tag.) With the company’s latest model in my hand, I wanted to see how it’d perform at a firework’s display taking place over the River Mersey.

One of the most feted features of Huawei’s most recent flagship phones is the ability to automatically detect the subject of a photograph, and adjust the settings accordingly. That’s how I discovered the Mate Pro 20 (and possibly earlier Huawei flagship phones) packs a “fireworks mode.”

I shouldn’t have been that surprised. As I wrote in my coverage of the P20 Pro, Huawei’s camera AI software is extremely versatile. With the latest model, it’s even better and can recognize and compensate for over 1,500 different settings and subjects.

Huawei’s Master AI 2.0 software can, for example, optimize camera settings based on whether it detects greenery or blue skies. It even has a dog mode, which, at last count, could recognize 32 different breeds of canine.

So, how did fireworks mode perform? Decently, given the conditions, which weren’t great.

Although the fireworks were lit from a small flotilla of barges in the Mersey, everyone was observing the festivities from the city center. This means light pollution and plenty of it.

Compounding things was the fact that it was a somewhat cloudy night, and I was stood at a distance, forcing me to rely on the phone’s built-in (and excellent) optical zoom.

But I was impressed. As was the case with its predecessor, the Mate 20 Pro performed exceptionally well in low-light conditions and did an excellent job at capturing the more delicate details of each fireworks explosion. As smoke built up with each detonation, it created a stunning backdrop.

One side-effect of the AI is that it “softened” the water in the picture, creating a sort-of muddy watercolor effect. We saw something similar with the “greenery mode,” which looks cool, but might not be everyone’s cup of tea. While the above photos are unlikely to win any prizes, they’re more than good enough for social media.

The good news is that if you want to take the reins away from Huawei’s camera AI, you can, as it comes with a “pro” mode. This gives you a similar amount of control as you’d have with a standard camera, and lets you adjust much of the settings, from the ISO and shutter speed to the white balance.

But if you’re not quite photographically adept, you can take comfort in the fact that Huawei’s software will handle almost all of the legwork for you. You only have to line up and take the picture.

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Published November 5, 2018 — 10:50 UTC