Huawei P9 Review

May 31, 2016 | Amy Davies | Rating star Rating star Rating star Rating star Half rating star


The announcement of the Huawei P9 was met with much fanfare surrounding the inclusion of Leica branding. The Huawei P9 features a dual camera set-up, which was claimed to have been designed in conjunction with the historic camera manufacturer. There has since been doubts cast on the exact involvement of Leica, but none-the-less the Leica branding is found on the back of the P9. Both of the cameras on the back of the Huawei P9 are 12 megapixel BSI CMOS sensors, with f/2.2 max aperture lenses. One of the cameras has a colour (RGB) sensor, while the other only shoots monochrome. Huawei says that this means the dual set-up can capture more light and detail than a standard single-camera setup. Although there’s two cameras, only one image is captured at a time. On the front of the Huawei P9 is an 8MP f/2.4 camera. Other features include compatibility with micro SD cards and Android 6.0.

Ease of Use

The Huawei P9 ships with Android 6.0, so if you’re coming across from another Android phone that uses the same OS, you should be very at home with the P9. If perhaps you’re coming from an iPhone or Windows phone, you may need to spend a little time readjusting, but it’s pretty easy to use.

On the back of the Huawei P9, towards the top and middle of the phone, is a fingerprint sensor. If you set this up, it allows you to unlock the phone without entering your passcode or pattern. If however you only want to use the camera, you can simply press the unlock button on the side of the phone, and swipe up on the screen from the bottom right hand corner. You can open the camera app once you’ve unlocked the phone by tapping on the appropriate icon, too.

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Front of the Huawei P9

You should see that the camera launches in whatever configuration you were last using it in. You will also see that the fonts and terminology used are the same as in Leica cameras, a nod to the partnership with the famous brand.

In order to move between the different modes and options that are available to you, you can utilise a swiping action. You can use “Pro” mode by swiping up from the bottom of the camera area. This will allow you to control various aspects of the camera - we’ll go over this in more detail shortly. If you swipe from the left you can choose a different shooting mode - the default is called simply “Photo”, while the there’s also options such as HDR, Slow-Mo, Night Shot and Beauty available. Swipe from the right and you can alter some of the camera’s settings, including switching on the ability to shoot in raw format and image resolution size. If you’re not shooting in Pro mode, you won’t be able to switch on raw format shooting.

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Rear of the Huawei P9

Let’s assume you’re shooting in standard Photo mode without the Pro section swiped up. Along the top of the screen (or left hand side if you have the phone in landscape orientation), you’ll see some icons. There’s a flash icon, which you can switch to automatic, always on, always off or lightbulb mode.

Just next to this is a lens icon, which allows you to switch on one of the Huawei P9’s most talked about features, the shallow depth of field effect mode. With this switched on, you select an aperture on the screen, and the camera will shoot as if you were using a very wide aperture lens. You can even change the focus point and aperture after you’ve taken the shot, since this is an effect added post-shot, rather than actually utilising a real wide aperture. If you are using this feature, you need to switch it off again before you can go back to using Pro mode.

To go back to the icons at the top of the main screen, there’s three circles overlapping each other, which activates the different digital filters that you can use, including “Valencia”, “Nostalgia”, “Dawn” and “Halo”. The final icon on the top of the screen allows you to switch between using the rear cameras and the front camera.

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The Huawei P9 - Camera Settings

At the bottom of the screen, you can tap to look at images you’ve already taken.  If you’re opening the camera from the lock screen, you’ll only be able to look at images you’ve taken in the current session, but if you’re opening the camera from the main menu, you’ll be able to look at all the photos you’ve taken. On the opposite side at the bottom is an icon for switching to video recording.

Now to go back to the Pro mode. Once you have this activated, you’ll see a range of changeable options along the bottom (or right hand side if you're holding in landscape format). To make changes to the settings, you tap on whichever setting you want to change, and then using the slider which appears to move to the position you need. The options here are metering, ISO, shutter speed, exposure compensation, AF mode and white balance. ISO, shutter speed and white balance all have automatic options, which you can leave them in if you prefer. It’s not possible to set aperture, which is a shame.

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The Huawei P9 In-hand

In the top right hand corner, you’ll see that there’s a sun icon which sometimes appears. This is if you’ve made changes to settings which the camera thinks will result in an incorrectly exposed image. If you tap it, all of the settings will return to the automatic defaults, or, in other words, what the camera thinks is best for the situation. It’s a handy tool which helps you to know whether or not you have made the right settings changes, but it can be confused in some situations - such as using a very long shutter speed.

Although there’s not anywhere near the level of control afforded if you shoot in the standard Photo mode, you can change exposure compensation - after you’ve tapped an autofocus point you’ll see there’s a small sun icon appear - if you drag your finger up and down near the AF point box, you’ll be able to add or remove brightness.

In order to actually take a photo, you have a couple of options. You can use the virtual shutter release which appears on the screen when you’re using the camera in any mode. Alternatively, you can set up the physical volume button on the side of the camera to take a shot. This is a little awkwardly placed to take the shot with your right hand, so you’ll probably find you use your left hand - something which takes a bit of getting used to if you’re used to using a standard camera where your right hand controls the shutter release.

Image Quality

All of the sample images in this review were taken using the 12 megapixel JPEG setting, which gives an average image size of around 4Mb.

One of the biggest claims that Huawei made about the P9 is that detail would be improved by having the two sensors. It would seem that, in good light, that theory is correct as the phone is capable of taking some fantastically detailed shots - especially for a phone camera. If we look at shots taken at low ISOs (100-200) for something that contains a lot of detail, it’s an impressive performance.

Step up to mid-range ISOs and darker conditions though, and the performance is a little underwhelming when compared to the hyperbole of the press materials about the Huawei P9. The overall impression of detail is good, so to be fair if you’re only using the phone to share images online or perhaps print small, then ISO speeds of 400 - 800 are fine. However, if you examine at 100%, you can see that there’s quite a bit of image smoothing and loss of detail going on, even as low as ISO 400. At ISO 3200, images are fine, but again, don’t stand up well to close scrutiny, especially if you are shooting in pretty dark conditions.

You can shoot in the universal raw format - DNG - with the Huawei P9. By looking at corresponding raw files it’s possible to see how much noise reduction and processing goes into the JPEG files - if you want to bring back some lost detail you could do that in post production. Of course it’s perhaps questionable how many average mobile phone users will bother with that - especially given that raw shooting can only be used when switching on the Pro shooting mode.

Directly from the Huawei P9, colours are well saturated with a satisfying amount of punch, especially again at the lower sensitivities. Automatic white  balance copes well with a range of different lighting conditions, producing very close to accurate results when faced with artificial lights. Similarly, all-purpose metering does well to produce accurate exposures in most conditions.

The shallow depth of field mode produces incredibly mixed results, and again, is not exactly up there with what a DSLR can produce. Most of the time, the results look fake (which they are) and as if you’d created the effect in Photoshop. You can experiment with the mode, and it works better for some subjects than others, but it feels more like a gimmick than anything else.


The Huawei P9 has 6 manually-selectable ISO sensitivity settings available at full resolution, ranging between ISO 100 and ISO 1600.


ISO 50 (100% Crop)

ISO 50 (100% Crop)

iso50.jpg iso50raw.jpg

ISO 100 (100% Crop)

ISO 100 (100% Crop)

iso100.jpg iso100raw.jpg

ISO 200 (100% Crop)

ISO 200 (100% Crop)

iso200.jpg iso200raw.jpg

ISO 400 (100% Crop)

ISO 400 (100% Crop)

iso400.jpg iso400raw.jpg

ISO 800 (100% Crop)

ISO 800 (100% Crop)

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ISO 1600 (100% Crop)

ISO 1600 (100% Crop)

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ISO 3200 (100% Crop)

ISO 3200 (100% Crop)

iso3200.jpg iso3200raw.jpg

Focal Range

The Huawei P9's fixed focal length lens is equivalent to 29mm in 35mm camera terms. Digital zoom is available, but with a corresponding reduction in image sharpness.



Digital Zoom


File Quality

No image file compression options are available, but the Huawei P9 can shoot at various resolutions and aspect ratios.

12MP (4:3)

9MP (16:9)

12mp4by3.jpg 9mp16by9.jpg

9MP (1:1)

8MP (4:3)

9mp1by1.jpg 8mp4by3.jpg

6MP (16:9)



The Huawei P9 able to focus as close as 5cm from a subject. We found this claim to be accurate, though autofocussing does occasionally struggle to lock on at this kind of range.




The Huawei P9 uses an LED flash, and as usual for this technology, it gives a much weaker flash burst than a standard xenon camera flash. Shooting a white surface from a distance of 1.5 metres reveals the flash is unable to properly light the scene and there's significant vignetting.

Flash Off


Flash On



Thanks to the optical image stabilisation and a wide f/2 maximum aperture, the Huawei P9 performs fairly well at night. This image was taken at the camera's iso 100 sensitivity, and though there's some noise and detail smoothing, the result is still comparable to what a typical compact camera would produce.




The Huawei P9's camera app includes eight filter effects, but this being a smartphone, extra effects are only an app away.

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filter2.jpg filter3.jpg
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The Huawei P9's automatic sweep panorama mode works well and lets you stop panning at will. The results aren't always perfect, but ghosting is rare. Unlike most regular camera panorama modes which produce significantly downsized images, the Huawei P9 has enough processing power to capture at high resolutions, so panoramas are usually around 3000 vertical pixels.


Page 1
Introduction / Ease of Use
Page 2
Image Quality
Page 3
Sample Images

Sample Images

This is a selection of sample images from the Huawei P9 camera, which were all taken using the 12 megapixel JPEG setting. The thumbnails below link to the full-sized versions, which have not been altered in any way.

Sample RAW Images

The Huawei P9 enables users to capture RAW and JPEG format files. We've provided some Huawei RAW (DNG) samples for you to download (thumbnail images shown below are not 100% representative).

Sample Movie & Video

This is a sample movie at the highest quality setting of 1920x1280 pixels at 30 frames per second. Please note that this 16 second movie is 33.9Mb in size.

Product Images

Huawei P9

Rear of the Huawei P9

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Front of the Huawei P9

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Front of the Huawei P9 / Turned On

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Front of the Huawei P9

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Front of the Huawei P9

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Front of the Huawei P9 / Camera Mode

Huawei P9

Front of the Huawei P9 / Depth of Field Mode

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Front of the Huawei P9 / Shooting Modes

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Front of the Huawei P9 / Filters

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Front of the Huawei P9 / Image Displayed

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Front of the Huawei P9 / Photo Effects

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Front of the Huawei P9

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Front of the Huawei P9

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Bottom of the Huawei P9

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Top of the Huawei P9

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Top of the Huawei P9

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Top of the Huawei P9

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Top of the Huawei P9


The biggest problem with the Huawei P9 is the huge fanfare that was made about the partnership with Leica. The resulting camera(s) is very good, and produces some great quality, detailed shots, but a “DSLR in your pocket” this really is not.

If you’re a photographer looking for a phone which offers a good level of control, then this is a good choice as you can shoot in Pro mode and shoot in raw format mode. The average smartphone photographer is also well-catered for by the automatic modes.

As is often the case with smartphones and small sensor compact cameras, the Huawei P9 performs best in good light. If you’re using it for your holiday photos, or just every day life photos, then you’re likely to be impressed by its performance. If you often shoot in low light, the images produced are good, but not anywhere near as amazing as has been claimed by advertising material - Nikon and Canon needn’t worry too much just yet.

Using the inbuilt camera app is easy to navigate around once you get used to all the different swipes you need to do to change various settings. It’s also nicely designed with smart fonts which have been brought over from Leica to give a high quality feel. Changing settings when using Pro mode is quick and easy, and the ability to quickly jump back to the defaults is also very handy. Of course being an Android phone, the Huawei P9 can be customised and you can use different apps to get the most from the camera, too.

The much lauded shallow depth of field mode is quite fun to use for some subjects, but often it ends up looking gimmicky and fake - again, there’s no need to ditch your DSLR just yet. Whether Huawei will be able to convince people to move away from the Samsungs, iPhones and LGs of this world is debatable, but the onboard camera is very good - if not as amazing as the hyperbole would have you believe.

4.5 stars

Ratings (out of 5)
Design 4.5
Features 4
Ease-of-use 4
Image quality 4
Value for money 5

Main Rivals

Listed below are some of the rivals of the Huawei P9.

Apple iPhone 6s

The Apple iPhone 6s is the latest version of the most popular smartphone of all time. The iPhone 6s offers photographers a 12 megapixel sensor and 4K video recording. Read our Apple iPhone 6s review, complete with full-size sample photos, test shots, videos and more...

HTC One (M9)

The HTC One (M9) is a new flagship Android smartphone with a conventional 20 megapixel sensor, 5-inch screen, RAW file support and a MicroSD card slot. Read our HTC One (M9) review to find out if it can satisfy the photographer in you...

Huawei Mate S

The Mate S is Huawei's flagship smartphone, offering photographers a 13 megapixel sensor, a 29mm f/2 lens with optical image stabilisation, full manual shooting mode, and 1080p movie recording. Can the Huawei Mate S really replace a compact camera? Find out by reading our in-depth Huawei Mate S review...


The LG4 is a smartphone that focuses on image quality, with a 16 megapixel sensor and f/1.8 lens onboard, along with Raw format support and even a manual shooting mode. Is this the smartphone that every photographer has been waiting for? Read our LG4 review to find out...

Nokia Lumia 1520

The Nokia Lumia 1520 is a new 20-megapixel smartphone with a massive 6-inch screen, a 26mm fixed lens with fast f/2.4 aperture and built-in optical image stabilisation, and 1080p video recording at 30fps with stereo sound. Read our Nokia Lumia 1520 review now...

Panasonic Lumix DMC-CM1

Is it a camera? Is it a smartphone? No, it's the new Panasonic Lumix DMC-CM1, which is bravely offering both in one device. Can the Panasonic CM1 replace a high-end camera and a premium smartphone? Read our Panasonic Lumix DMC-CM1 review now to find out...

Samsung Galaxy S6

The Galaxy S6 is Samsung's flagship smartphone, offering photographers a 16 megapixel sensor, a 28mm f/1.9 lens with optical image stabilisation, and UHD movie recording. Can the Samsung Galaxy S6 replace a compact camera? Find out by reading our in-depth Samsung Galaxy S6 review...

Sony Xperia Z5

The Sony Xperia Z5 is a new flagship waterproof smartphone that features a lot of cutting-edge camera technologies. The Xperia Z5 has a 23 megapixel sensor, 24mm fixed lens with fast f/2 aperture, 4K and 1080p video, sweep panoramas, a range of picture effects and Hybrid AF system featuring phase detection points. Read our in-depth Sony Xperia Z5 review now...

Review Roundup

Reviews of the Huawei P9 from around the web. »

Since the arrival of the Nokia 808 PureView manufacturers have been battling ever harder to create the very finest phone camera. We've seen everything from mainstream adoption of optical image stabilisation to custom technologies like LG’s laser autofocus and HTC’s Ultrapixels – which reappeared on the new HTC 10.
Read the full review » »

Huawei wants to play with the big boys. The Chinese company wants to be taken seriously as a competitor to Apple and Samsung, but right now it's rooted firmly among the second tier of Android manufacturers, competing with the likes of Sony, LG and Motorola in western markets.
Read the full review » »

Huawei has been chipping away at the flagship smartphone block for years now, gradually adding appeal to its seemingly desired western audience with each iteration. But while last year's P8 lost its way with sloppy software and knuckle-based nonsense, this year's P9 - which mimics the same handset design as the last - cleans up its act, pumps up the power and, crucially, adds its point of difference: dual Leica cameras (including one that's a monochrome sensor. No, really).
Read the full review »


Market Name
(Global single SIM version)
Model Name
145mm * 70.9mm * 6.95 mm (H x W x D) about 144g (Weight)
Titanium Grey
Mystic Silver
5.2" FHD Screen, 2.5D, 1080p (1920 x 1080), 16.7M colours
HUAWEI Kirin 955 (64-bit), Octa-core (4 x 2.5 GHz A72+ 4 x 1.8 GHz A53)
Operation System
Android™ 6.0
4G TDD LTE:Band38/39/40
4G FDD LTE:Band1/2/3/4/5/6/7/8/12/17/18/19/20/26/28
3G UMTS: 800(B6,Japan)/800(B19,Japan) /850/900/AWS/1900/2100MHz(Band6/19/5/8/4/2/1)
SIM1: 850/900/1800/1900MHz
Dual SIM Support
Support NFC
Wi-Fi 2.4G/5G, a/b/g/n/ac with Wi-Fi Direct support
BT4.2, support BLE
USB Type C (High Speed USB)
Fingerprint Sensor, G-Sensor, Gyroscope sensor, Compass, Ambient Light Sensor, Proximity sensor, Hall effect sensor
Main camera
12MP x 2, F2.2
Dual-tone flash

Front camera
8MP, F2.4
Audio decoding formats

Audio file formats
Video decoding formats
4K video, H.265, H.264, H.263, MPEG-4, MPEG-2, RV7-10, Xvid, VP8, WMV9

Video file formats
3GP, MP4, WMV, RM, RMVB, and ASF
Image decoding formats
PNG, GIF (static), JPEG, BMP, WEBP, and WBMP

Image file formats
Emotion UI
EMUI 4.1
In the box
Handset ×1
Headset ×1
Charger ×1
USB-C Cable ×1
Eject tool x1
Quick Start Guide ×1
* Disclaimer: specifications may change without notice, images are for illustration purpose only. Colour may vary, colours and features may not be available in all market, please check with local retailers for exact offer.

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