Mobilizing :: Mate 9 Review

Posted on May 04 2017

Back in January while I was out in Las Vegas teaching a workshop at the Vegas Leica store the famed C.E.S. convention was also going on. While I am not one to really care for every new device that is coming out there was one that I was really curious about. This was the Huawei Mate 9 smart phone. To be honest I wasn't too familiar with the brand at the time but I was intrigued by their partnership with Leica on this phone. As you already know I am a fan of Leica cameras and lenses so I was curious to see what this collaboration would bring in the form of a hand held device such as this. 

I was lucky enough to be able to spend a few days with the Mate 9 back then, given that it had just been announced to the U.S. market at C.E.S. Being that I have been using iPhones for the past 10 years it was different getting adjusted to the Android system. But that is not what I want this review to be about. Actually I wouldn't call this a review but rather I am just going to share my thoughts on the Mate 9's camera features. 

I love the idea of cameras in smartphones. It democratically gives everyone the chance to be a photography and to discover this beautiful art form. While some may get the hang of it faster than others it allows us to always have some form of a camera on us to capture the world as we see it. As mentioned earlier I had been a fan of the iPhone much like everyone else since they had come out. The only issue for me has been that the camera on the iPhone along with the files had not advanced much in the past 4 to 5 years. 

Having become unsatisfied with the files I would get when I would make photos I found myself rarely using the camera feature. Instead I would always be sure to have one of my Leica's on me. So when I heard the specs of the Mate 9 I got really excited. To me as someone who loves making photos I would love to have the best tool on me as often as I can to make my photos with. Sometimes that tool happens to be my smart phone. 

Before I get deeper into this lets just run down some key points of the camera on the Mate 9....

- 20 megapixel images with a .DNG raw file when shooting in color

- True Monochromatic images thanks to having two lenses. No filter needed. 

- The camera features full manual control including selective metering, iso selection, shutter selection and ev adjustments. No need for a third party app.

- Aperture mode which in my opinion is way better than the portrait feature on iPhone plus. You are able to select your focal point after you have made your photo in this mode as well as select which f-stop you would like it to be at. You have a range of 0.95 to F/16. 

There are other features as well but these are the key ones I am going to touch on. 

When I received my Mate 9 it was exciting to hold something that felt a lot more progressive than what I had been using for the past 10 years. There is something comforting in knowing that if I run out to the grocery store and leave one of my cameras behind that I will still be able to make a photo of quality with my smart phone. This has happened a few times and I find myself becoming worrying less and less if I don't have a traditional camera on me. With that said lets get to some sample images. All the photos I will be sharing are out of camera. Meaning no editing has been done to them. While they were 20megapixels they have been formatted to fit my blog. 

First up is low light/night photography. Being able to manual control the settings is very clutch in these moments. Having this feature built into the Mate 9 is a huge advantage. While it is still a camera in a smart phone and may not be a low light monster per say I feel it can hold its own.

Now some daytime/color photos. I felt the colors much like the lowlight/night images were pretty true. 

Below is a quick sample of the aperture mode showcasing the ability to select a focal point and aperture after you made your photo.

Next up are some photos from a few shoots with some models. I wanted to showcase skin tones as well as the ability to use the Mate 9 for similar shoots or look books even.

Loved this image....

But was even more blown away at the retained detail when I cropped in! 

The Mate 9 also has a Beauty feature in the camera which smooths out the skin. I decided to try it out while shooting with Nicolette and the results were good. I have seen some after market apps that try to do this and just fail.

Finally I am going to share some monochrome images. This is where I feel that the Mate 9 really shines. I love how these photos come out when using this setting. The detail is very impressive and it handles light and shadows great.

Made this while driving along the freeway.

I loved using the monochrome mode with the flash. Definitely had a great feel to it.

In my attempt to keep this short and sweet I have been more than pleased with my Mate 9. Sure it was an adjustment switching from the iOS platform to Android but I don't miss it. I actually feel there are a lot of features that Apple needs to catch up on. Now this blog post was more to showcase how the Mate 9 handled a variety of settings. If there is one thing I have heard from my photography peers in regards to smart phone devices is that a better camera no matter the platform could sway them to put the apple down. I really think this is that tool.

With Leica helping Huawei to develop a device that reacts as it should to a photographer is great. For me it is comforting to know that even if I leave my house with just my phone that I can still do what I love in the best quality possible for such a device. 

Would I recommend it to someone who wants to have the best camera possible in their smart phone? Absolutely. If you are too tied into the iOS system I get it, but you would be surprised on how much you are missing out on (especially the insanely good battery life). If you are interested in check them out, they are available at most Best Buys . For more info on the Mate 9 check out Huawei Device USA.


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