The P Smart 2019 comes with a similar camera setup to the one on last year's model - a 13MP primary module with an extra 2MP sensor just for depth detection. The main unit has gotten an improved lens and now has an f/1.8 aperture as opposed to f/2.2, but that's about it.
There is, of course, autofocus, and it's based on phase detection, while a single LED flash is there to throw some light at very dark scenes. There's no optical stabilization, which isn't a huge surprise.
Naturally, there's AI powered scene recognition, which will recognize 22 categories of scenes and adjust image parameters accordingly. The real-life effect, as a general rule, is pumped up contrast and heavily boosted colors. The good thing is that there's an easily accessible toggle in the viewfinder so you can enable/disable it without delving into settings.
The camera app would be familiar to anyone who's picked up a recent Huawei smartphone, which means it's messy and scattered as usual. You have a mode selector on the bottom that you swipe left and 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, on the bottom within easy reach). One would think that touchscreen navigation should be more than just tapping on software buttons. Well, there is pinch to zoom.
There's a host of special modes in the 'More' section on the selector, including Panorama, Light painting, HDR and Pro. Since you may not want to have AI on all the time, having a dedicated HDR mode is nice to have for those extra contrasty scenes when you might want the added dynamic range.
In the Pro mode you can adjust parameters yourself - ISO (50 to 1600), shutter speed (1/4000s to 8s), 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.
As we've come to expect from Huawei phones, the P Smart 2019 has both a Portrait mode and an Aperture mode. 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?), you can change the simulated lighting, and you can also add some beautification on a scale from 0 to 10.
In the not so photographic, but fun section, there's the AR lens mode with Huawei's Qmoji in there. You can choose between a number of different characters and create a gif of yourself making funny faces. Alternatively, you could place yourself in front a landmark with a filter applied to match the vibe of the particular spot (and also mask the fact that you're not really there).
In daylight, the P Smart 2019 takes okay photos for its class. Detail is decent and about what you'd expect from a 13MP sensor plus it's a step up from the previous model. Contrast has been slightly improved too. There's a noticeable refinement in noise performance, though admittedly the older P Smart didn't set the bar too high with its noisy skies.
Colors are reasonably vivid without being over the top, but the reds are way off towards magenta. Dynamic range is nothing spectacular, but not bad either, considering the class.
Turning on AI results in only the smallest of differences, particularly in scenes with a lot of sky in them, but even then it's not the dramatic oversaturation we saw on early Huawei aI implementations. What is significantly different is the resolution - AI shots are 8MP as opposed to 13MP.
Similarly, HDR mode doesn't make a world of a difference. You can expect to have some highlight recovery and virtually identical shadows in high-contrasty scenes, when comparing to images taken in the regular Photo mode.
Lowlight performance is just barely passable with images taken in Photo mode coming out noticeably soft and noisy. Color preservation is decent, at least. If you opt for the AI mode and it selects a Night scene (it randomly picked Portrait every now and then), you'd get improved sharpness, but again - lower resolution at 8MP.
The dedicated Night mode with its pseudo long exposures is that extra bit sharper, plus it does keep highlights from blowing out thus retaining detail in there as well. Even though it's not as magical as on Huawei flagships, it is your best bet for night time shots on the P Smart 2019.
Once you're done examining the real-life samples you can have a look at our Photo compare tool for some studio shots. We've pre-selected the Galaxy A7 (2018) and the Realme 2 Pro but you can pick any other set of phones to compare once you're there.
It's common practice with more affordable phones to pack a low-res secondary cam just for depth detection and such is the case with the P Smart 2019. Business as usual, this model too has both a Portrait mode and an Aperture mode.
In both modes, the resulting shots are 8MP, unlike other Huaweis where we've gotten full-res Portraits, and lower-res Aperture shots. Subject isolation with humans in Portrait mode is pretty good, though a particular set of circumstances will fool the algorithms, as usual. Our customary advice stands - take multiple shots, varying slightly the angles, and that will give you a higher likelihood of ending up with a convincing portrait.
What we observed is that you need plenty of light for a sharp portrait - anything less than ideal light and images end up blurry.
In aperture mode you get to pick the simulated aperture between f/0.95 and f/16. It's also your only option for isolating non-human subjects as Portrait mode doesn't work on them.
The P Smart 2019 comes with either an 8MP or a 16MP selfie camera depending on the market. Our review unit has the 8MP one. Our biggest beef with the selfies here is perhaps the fact that switching to the front camera defaults to the Portrait mode, instead of the general Photo.
Portraits look alright with generally good subject detection. There's only the slightest detail penalty when shooting in Portrait as opposed to Photo. Enabling AI results in a certain boost of saturation depending on which scene it chooses - the first one on the bottom was taken with optimizations for Room, the second wasn't recognized at all.
Selfies in Photo mode turn out good as well, with the focus fixed at the correct distance for arm's length shots. Skin tones are nice as are colors in general. AI tends to brighten up exposures to make facial imperfections less visible.
The P Smart 2019 records video at up to 1080p resolution - Huawei's Kirin 710 can't do the number crunching for 2160p capture. 1080p can be shot in either 30fps or 60fps. There's no electronic stabilization, not even in 30fps, making run and gun footage extremely jerky.
Video is encoded using the h.264 codec by default with a toggle to switch to h.265 if you so wish. That said, the bit rates with h.264 are more in line with what you'd get with the more efficient h.265 from other phones - 1080p/30fps videos get around 10.8Mbps, while 1080p/60fps is treated to about 17Mbps. Audio is always stereo, recorded at 192kbps.
1080p/30fps footage is decently detailed, particularly for comparatively low bit rate. Contrast is a bit too much, however, resulting in much too dark shadows. Color rendition is on point, with the reds actually looking deeper and truer than in stills.
The last stop is, of course, our Video compare tool where you can compare the P Smart 2019's output against other phones we've tested. We've pre-selected the Galaxy A7 (2018) and the Realme 2 Pro, but a different set of devices is only a few clicks away.