The Mate 9 Pro does an admirable job with low-light settings, preserving detail and, to a certain extent, color. But only if you shoot close-ups as was the case with our Picture Compare Tests. If you are going after landscape samples, the dusk photos are fine, but the night images quite often lack sharpness due to either focusing issues or camera shake even though the Mate 9 Pro is equipped with plenty of tools to help it get them right.
And now check the night shots.
Mounting the phone on a tripod did help it get a better focus, though the detail is still severely compromised by the high amount of noise.
Using the manual mode and a tripod does make wonders, though. If you set the ISO at 100 and use manual shutter speed around 2s or 4s, you can get some stunning shots.
In full-on Night mode, you can manually select a shutter speed up to 32s and ISO up to 1600. The viewfinder image will change as the exposure develops, so if you figure you've gathered enough light you can stop at any time.
Then there's the Light painting mode, which includes four sub-modes: Car light trails, Light graffiti, Silky Water and Star track. You'd need some form of fixing the phone to stand stable for these, like a tripod or a beanbag, as these extremely long exposures can't be done handheld without camera shake.
The panoramic shots taken with the Mate 9 Pro are very good. They're not the full vertical resolution, but at about 3,100px tall there's plenty of pixels. Detail is on par with still images; stitching shows no obvious issues, and exposure variation is handled smoothly. The dynamic range once again deserves praise.
Thanks to the depth information the Mate 9 Pro can gather from its two cameras, it can try and reproduce the blurred background of a proper portrait lens. The feature is accessed from the Wide aperture mode toggle and lets you simulate apertures from f/0.95 to f/16.
As with all such implementations it works more often than it doesn't, and now and then you may end up with some good portrait shots like those below. They wouldn't hold up to close up scrutiny, but they are still good enough.
You can play with the wide aperture on some sculptures, too.
The Mate 9 Pro has an 8MP f/1.9 front-facing camera with autofocus. It produces great results in daylight with plenty of detail and pleasing colors, and also quite good dynamic range. On occasion, the Mate 9 Pro's selfie cam may choose to focus on the background instead of your face, so it's worth keeping an eye on the final images.
There's a beautification feature that when dialed up to the extreme does a remarkably cartoonish and overexposed rendering of reality with oversaturated colors and smeared details. We're clearly not ones to be able to appreciate it, but you can check out the end results below.
The Huawei Mate 9 Pro encodes its 4K videos using the H.265 codec. The consequences are two-fold. On the positive side, the bitrate of 30Mbps is very low for 2160p footage, and hence files take up less space (compare that to the ~50Mbps MPEG-4 4K videos of most competitors). The downside is that YouTube still doesn't offer support for this standard, so we've uploaded the test samples on Vimeo instead.
We also observed some bad compression artifacts when we examined the Mate 9 Pro videos of our lab test charts. In real life footage, however, we didn't notice any issues. Apparently, the algorithm doesn't like stationary uniformly gray objects. So while we do suggest you check out the video compare tool below, be aware that it's not strictly representative of real world scenarios.
1080p videos use MPEG-4 compression, so they're YouTube-friendly.
The 1080p/30fps videos have a rather standard bitrate of around 17Mbps, while 1080p/60fps is exactly double that - in effect, you'd get larger files per second of footage from the Mate 9 Pro's 1080p/60ps mode, than from its 4K mode. But that's expected as the 1080p videos use H.264 video encoding.
Audio is recorded in stereo at 192kbps, which is great.
4K videos are sharp and detailed and exhibit good contrast and pleasing colors. In our ever-windy shooting location, the Mate 9 Pro managed to cancel out a lot of the wind noise, but not all of it.
As it happens all too often, the 1080p footage is just okay, nothing spectacular. The good thing is that the smoother 60fps mode doesn't come at the expense of detail.
One limitation the Mate 9 Pro enforces on you is that video stabilization only works in 1080p resolution and not in 2160p. That's the software part of it; the optical stabilization is available at all times.
We'd say it does a really good job of stabilizing handheld videos when walking - perhaps the ultimate test for a smartphone video camera. It's also great in that you get a real-time stabilized preview in the viewfinder.
And those two videos below rely only on the optical stabilization. It helps, of course, and limits the shake from the walking.
And here's the promised video compare tool, where we've pitted the Mate 9 Pro against the Mate9 and Galaxy S7 edge.