Huawei Mate 10 Pro camera: Enhancing auto mode through artificial intelligence

Smartphone cameras have improved significantly over the last couple of years, but the majority of people still use auto mode and just like to point and shoot. Many phones have manual mode for highly customizable shots, but Huawei is attempting to combine the best of both convenience and power with intelligence.
Written by Matthew Miller, Contributing Writer

ZDNet's Sandra Vogel posted a formal review of the Huawei Mate 10 Pro, giving it an outstanding 9/10 rating. I've been spending quality time with this business-ready powerhouse and think that the AI found in the camera is worth discussing in a bit more detail.

Huawei's partnership with Leica has resulted in some fantastic cameras and performance that is tough to beat. DxOMark awarded the Mate 10 Pro it second highest overall score, 97, and best still image score, 100. Keep in mind, these scores are not scaled to 100.

One of the statements made in the DxOMark testing is that the Mate 10 Pro provides very fast and repeatable autofocus experiences. This may be due in part to the AI being used by the camera to provide consistent experiences for similar subjects.

The Huawei Mate 10 Pro identifies, in real-time and in offline mode with its neural processing unit, 13 types of scenes and objects. The camera then adjusts color, contrast, brightness, exposure, and post-processing to produce vibrant, sharp, and compelling photos. These adjustments are not filters, but automatic settings changes and processing algorithms designed by Huawei after analyzing more than 100 million images. Essentially, the AI is doing the work of the photographer and given that most of us aren't professional photographers, it makes sense to let a computer take over and optimize the photo.

My dog Wendy

One fantastic aspect of the Mate 10 Pro is that Huawei still offers you the ability to use manual mode or other mode options for more advanced photography so the AI is not limiting you in any way, but just present to help you capture the best photos possible with the phone.

The 13 types of subjects and scenes currently identified include blue sky, flower, plant, beach, sunrise/sunset, performance, food, text, nightscape, snow, cat, dog, and portrait. When one of these subjects is identified, a small icon will appear in the lower left just below the viewfinder to inform you that AI took over and is applying these settings.

The camera correctly identified my food, flower, plant, cat, dog, text, and people. I haven't yet been in situations to test all of the 13 modes, but plan to over time. These 13 objects and scenes make sense and likely capture most of what people take photos of. Fast moving kids may be another great subject to consider as Huawei continues to improve the camera AI.

Artificial intelligence (AI) is a popular buzz word today with the Kirin 970 chipset supporting the neural processing unit (NPU) and newly announced Qualcomm Snapdragon 845 also promoting AI as a future technology for smartphone manufacturers. When it comes to smartphones, AI is primarily focused on machine learning functions to help lift the load on repeatable actions. The Mate 10 Pro uses a database of photos, Huawei states it is not composed of your personal photos, to help the camera come up with the best settings for particular subjects and situations.

George the cat (note the cat icon)

Like most people, I rarely enable manual mode and just want to point and shoot with my phone. Currently, the camera AI knowledge is trained and managed on the cloud side and offered as part of the phone experience so there is no active data being transferred to learn your photo practices. Huawei states that it does have plans to enable the phone to learn your preferences and adjust to the way you like to capture photos.

I've captured some great shots with the Huawei Mate 10 Pro and have seen the AI icon appear a number of times. I'm currently testing the Mate 10 Pro against several other cameras and will continue to evaluate its performance. Anything that can be done to improve auto mode is appreciated and Huawei is helping with both the settings and post-processing.

We see Google and Apple working to improve auto mode photography on the processing side, but Huawei looks to be leading the pack in tweaking camera settings to provide optimal capture experiences for the end user.


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