The Mate 40 Pro's main camera photos in daylight are simply great. You get extra wide dynamic range and very pleasing, rich and slightly warmed-up colors. Fine detail is rendered naturally and random textures have a very true-to-life look. There's little noise to speak of, but if we do have to complain about something on a pixel level, it would be the relatively pronounced aliasing of straight sloping lines.
Master AI tends to boost color saturation, somewhat selectively - the Blue sky scene would give you deeper blues in particular, the Greenery scene will give foliage some extra pop, without touching the sky as much. Overall, it's not as extreme as early implementations and you could use it if you prefer more saturated photos, though we wouldn't call the regular ones lacking in this respect.
You can also shoot at the nominal 50MP resolution and that way you're getting the native 23mm equivalent focal length - 12MP shots are a little tighter at 27mm. We're not seeing extra detail in these images, though the hike in noise is hard to miss. Downscaling these to 12MP in post will let you keep the wider coverage while masking some of the noise, though they'll remain far from the in-phone-processed regular 12MP photos - we prefer those.
The periscope telephoto takes excellent pictures too. Detailed and noise-free, the images get you closer to the action with no quality penalty. Dynamic range is great too and colors have the same likeable touch of warmth that seems characteristic of the Mate's output in general this year.
The ultra wide angle camera on the Mate 40 Pro, being a new unit, was perhaps the most intriguing to us. While not extremely wide in its coverage, it's among the best ones we've seen in terms of image quality - likely in no small part precisely thanks to the more conservative focal length.
Indeed, the ultra wide photos from the Mate have great detail and next to no noise, and sharpness is maintained across the frame except for the very corners. Dynamic range is about as good as it comes on a smartphone ultra wide too. Colors are nicely vivid, similar to the main cam's but with a somewhat different take on sky blues in particular.
The Mate's ultra wide can autofocus too, as opposed to having a fixed focus at infinity like the Galaxies and iPhones of the world. That means it can deliver in one of the ultra wide's principal use cases - to draw attention to a nearby subject. Mind you, it can't focus all that close so macro style shots are out of the question with this one.
A quick comparison against the P40 Pro was always part of the plan, and we figured we might as well bring along a Galaxy Note20 Ultra. Looking at main cam output, we're seeing improved dynamic range on the Mate, compared the P-series model. The Huaweis tend to expose a little darker than the Galaxy too, but fairly consistently between the two. Meanwhile, the Mate 40 Pro has noticeably warmer colors than either of the other two - in a good way, if that makes sense. The Note's cyan skies looked quite a bit detached from reality here, and we prefer the Mate's rendition.
In the battle of the teles, the Note's 5x zoom is a bit shorter than the Huawei 5x zooms - that's what happens when there's no standard unit for 'x'. While itself more than decently sharp, the Note is bested by the P40 Pro and Mate 40 Pro. The Mate isn't quite as sharp as the P40 Pro, with Huawei seemingly having toned down the sharpening in the processing. We're also seeing improved dynamic range in the Mate's shots as well as less noise on the newer model.
When it comes to the ultra wides, the Note20 Ultra has the most ultra coverage, but dismal quality when looking at the pics up close. The Mate matches the P40's field of view, but beats it comfortably in dynamic range. Resolved detail is a bit better on the Mate, but the difference isn't as stark as the jump from 10MP to 20MP would have you believe thanks to the Mate's much less aggressive sharpening.