The Huawei Mate 20 X has the same triple-camera that premiered on the Mate 20 Pro. This means the primary is a 40MP camera with f/1.8 lens. It spits 10MP photos by default as due to the Quad-Bayer filter this is its native resolution, but if you feel like it - you can still opt to save the 40MP image.
There is also an 8MP snapper with 80mm f/2.4 long-range lens and optical stabilization - once again lifted from the P20 Pro.
Finally, the monochrome camera has been replaced with an ultra-wide-angle 16mm 20MP snapper behind a f/2.2 lens.
As an added bonus to the ultra-wide-angle camera, Huawei says everyone will be able to shoot some impressive macro shots with all cameras as the phone can focus from as close as 2.5cm.
Huawei likes to mark its zoom as 3x optical and 5x hybrid, just like on the Pro. You will find 3x and 5x options in its camera app, while the wide-angle camera is called 0.6x. Well, if we have to be technically correct, when you compare the focal lengths of the wide and tele ends (16-80mm in 35mm terms), we'd say the Mate 20 X offers a 5x optical zoom as opposed to 3x. Even when the hybrid magnification adds a bit on top of that, you essentially get an overall 8x magnification. Of course, this is only a nuance in wording and would not concern regular users, but we just wanted to mention this to avoid any confusion. When presenting the camera samples below, you will see we name the cameras as Huawei does.
The camera app is enhanced by Huawei's AI just as before. There is Master AI 2.0, which can now recognize and tune settings for up to 1,500 different scenes. Huawei has made it less aggressive on the trees and skies, after the negative feedback they received for the P20 Pro where the Greenery and Blue Sky modes were over the top. We are happy with the presets used on the Mate 20 X but if you'd like to keep the Master AI turned off, the switch for that is hidden in the Camera app's Settings page.
The camera app itself hasn't changed much since the Huawei P20 Pro. First off, you have a mode selector on the bottom. You swipe left or right to change modes, but you can't swipe on the viewfinder, just on the selector itself. Swiping up and down doesn't switch between front and rear camera either, you have a button for that (admittedly, it's at the bottom within easy reach). Basically, you're still wasting the viewfinder by not having gestures enabled on it, except for pinch to zoom.
As for zooming, a tap on the '1x' button in the viewfinder toggles consecutively the '3x' (80mm), 5x (135mm), and the 0.6x (16mm) cameras. The 5x mode is what Huawei refers to as hybrid zoom (as opposed to optical one). The camera tandem will work in conjunction to deliver a sharp and detailed image, quite successfully as you'll see.
There's a Pro mode here where you can adjust parameters yourself - ISO (50 to 102,400), shutter speed (1/4000s to 30s), exposure compensation (-4 to +4EV in 1/3 stop increments), and white balance (presets and light temperature). You can also choose the metering mode (matrix, center-weighted and spot), and the focus mode (single, continuous and manual). If the phone thinks you messed up the exposure, an icon will pop up to warn you.
The monochrome mode is still available in spite of the Mate 20 X not having a B&W camera. It's in the 'More' section, where the extra modes are: Monochrome, Panorama, and HDR, among others.
Since bokeh effects became all the rage, Huawei phones have had both a Portrait mode, and an Aperture mode. There's now more differentiation than ever between the two. In Aperture you can choose the simulated aperture in the range from f/0.95 to f/16. Post shot, you can change the aperture and the focus point within the Gallery.
In Portrait mode you can enable and disable the background blur (why disable it, though), but you can also choose the bokeh shapes - circles, hearts, swirl or discs - and those turned out really nice! You can also opt for simulated lighting, and you can even add some beautification on a scale from 0 to 10.
The Mate 20 X records video up to 4K resolution at 30fps - there's still no 4K/60fps mode, though. You can, however, choose between h.264 and h.265.
There's super slow-mo recording as well, in what's become the industry-standard 720p/960fps, as well as 'regular' slow-mo in 720p/240 and 1080p/120fps. While the regular slow-mo clips are only limited in length by your free storage, the super slow-mo clips last precisely 10s - 6s of slow-mo and two seconds of regular speed action on both ends.
Huawei is offering the so-called HiVision smart assistant as part of the camera app. It's basically a smart lens, which automatically recognizes landmarks, art, and food. Some of the smart functions include text translation and calories count.
The default (wide-angle or 1x) photos come from the 40MP sensor, and after the phone works its magic on them, it saves a resulting 10MP image. There is one easy rule with the Mate 20 X - if the ultra-wide-angle camera didn't take it, then it's a 10MP photo. That's right; even the 8MP zoom camera spits out 10MP images - go figure!
Anyway, the 1x photos which are captured during the day are as flagship-level as they come. There is plenty of detail, impressive dynamic range, lively and accurate colors, superb contrast, and, overall, very nice rendition. The images are sharp enough, but not over-sharpened.
If you really need to shoot in 40MP - you can do it - but the samples you'll get are far from impressive. The resolved detail is nothing special, the images are soft and noisy, and while they get to keep the great dynamic range, the photos were never meant to be the ones you keep for the generations. We shot all the scenes in 40MP as well, and you can see for yourself why you shouldn't use this option. Oh, and the files are 15, sometimes even 20MB big.
The 80mm tele camera is only 8MP, but the photos we get out it are 10MP, so we suspect the 40MP one lends a hand through some image stacking because the '3x' shots turn out as great looking as the regular 1x ones without any signs of upscaling. They are sharp and detailed, bringing your subjects closer. The color, contrast, and dynamic range are equally brilliant, even if the noise levels are a tiny little bit higher.
The hybrid 5x zoom is digital, and you can tell right away. Huawei enhances the digital zoom by combining information from two of the snappers, and the photos come up somewhat better than if you were to zoom and crop the 3x pics by yourself. It's not a ground-breaking boost, but the benefit is still noticeable.
Finally, we snapped some 20MP shots with the ultra-wide-angle camera, too. There is enough resolved detail in those images. The color rendition is excellent, true to life, the noise levels are more than tolerable, and the dynamic range is often superb, probably due to the multi-stacking magic.
There is noticeable corner softness and visible chromatic aberrations, but it was to be expected with such a wide lens. Those don't ruin the picture and are quite hard to spot if you are not pixel peeping from up close.
The ultra-wide-angle cam can also do for macro shots just like the other cameras. These are quite good in quality and will do for the occasional shooting of flower petals, bugs, and other tiny peculiar things. Yes, chromatic aberration is still noticeable here and there, but it's inevitable.
Master AI ver.2.0 is available on the Mate 20 X and it no longer gets you oversaturated Greenery and Blue Skies photos. If the phone recognizes a Blue Sky or Greenery scene, the algorithm applies only some contrast boost and minor saturation of the blues or greens. But nothing over the top as on the P20 Pro.
Huawei has always tried to excel in low-light photography and the Mate 20 X has the maker's most advanced setup and algorithms to date.
The 10MP low-light photos we took with the regular 1x camera are very impressive. It has bright f/1.8 aperture and even though it lacks optical stabilization, the shutter speed won't go lower than 1/20s, so blurred images are highly unlikely.
The pictures are very good - enough detail for a low-light scene, nice exposure, excellent contrast, and some nice-looking colors.
The Mate 20 X has the company's signature Night mode. It will produce some stunning results, even if it has its limitations. It creates pseudo long exposures by stacking multiple frames gathering light along the way. We're talking three-, sometimes five-second-long hand-held exposures which would otherwise result in a blurry mess. Those are not always keepers and you still need to have a reasonably steady hand, but you'll be getting usable photos in situations you'd otherwise get none. The phone also does a remarkable job of retaining color where others would lose saturation.
If the phone is mounted on a tripod and you opt for the Night Mode, it will shoot for 12 seconds and you will get one very impressive shot, sharper than if done handheld, and with barely noticeable moving objects such as people or cars. The first image from the samples below was shot on a tripod, while the rest were captured handheld.
The optical zoom doesn't work at night. Instead, the phone digitally zooms and then crops from an image taken with the regular snapper. The telephoto snapper has darker f/2.4 lens, which explains why Huawei isn't even trying to use it.
The 20MP camera has f/2.2 aperture and isn't optically stabilized, so the regular low-light photos are rather disappointing. You can see what's on them, but they are blurry, and the noise reduction has smeared a lot of the fine detail.
The Night Mode works with the ultra-wide-angle camera, too, but the pictures are not as impressive as the ones from the regular wide-angle shooter. So, better stick with the default camera for those.
And here you can see how the Mate 20 X cameras compare against other Huawei snappers in our extensive pixel-peeking database.