Monochrome mind: Huawei P9

Huawei P9, the new flagship phone of the world’s third largest Smartphone manufacturer, just reached the milestone of 6 million sales since its debut in April. The Huawei P9 owes its success to the innovative dual Leica camera module that it brandished on the rear.

Talking of the camera hardware, the Huawei P9 includes two 12MP sensors on the rear with Leica optics, f/2.2 aperture 27mm lens, PDAF and two-tone flash. The size of individual pixels is fairly large at 1.25 micrometers, which allows the camera sensor to catch more light even in low light conditions.

The camera software allows you to shoot in different modes -Vivid, Standard, smooth- And you can also take monochrome shots, which are black and white images or shots rendered in different shades of black and white.


Now, these Monochromes are nothing like what we have ever seen before. Most cameras desaturate the image to get Monochrome effect but the Huawei P9 takes and entirely different approach, which yields in true Monochromes with astonishing details and great dynamic range.

To understand how this is made possible, let’s discuss a few camera basics.

When light reflected from an object and reaches camera sensor, it is captured in small photosites called pixels. You can think of pixels as bowls, the bigger the size of bowls, the more water (light in this case) they can fill.

That is also why DSLRs are better at photography because they have the liberty to house a bigger, thicker sensor with large individual pixel size, something which isn’t possible for smartphone cameras. That’s also why adding an extra sensor on the Huawei P9 acts as a workaround for this constraints and allows it to capture more light.

Your smartphone camera sensor, however, is blind to colors. Thus to determine colors a Bayers Filter is placed between the light entering the camera lens and the camera sensor.

The ‘light’ is nothing but a combination of different color wavelengths. This Bayers Filter has alternate Green, Blue, and Red sieves (RGBG to be precise) layered on sensor pixels, and allows only a particular wavelength of light to pass through to the Camera sensor.

So, the light from the object is filtered before reaching the camera sensor. This means each pixel records either Green, Blue or Red color light and the true color is determined by measuring the Red, Green and Blue color intensities of adjoining pixels. This is called demosaicing and demosaicing algorithms are crunched by the Image Signal Processor (ISP).

So, why Huawei P9 camera clicks awesome Monochromes?

Because one of the two camera sensors on the rear doesn’t have Bayer’s filter on top. Since the light isn’t filtered into Red, Blue, Green before falling on individual photo-sites, 3x more light enters the sensor and thus the details in the shadow regions are jaw-dropping good and so is the dynamic range in Monochrome shots.


More light captured by the second sensor is also used to enhance shots clicked in other modes. Besides, the second camera is also used to determine the depth of the object in the image and add bokeh effect by blurring the background. The Huawei P9 also lets you see real time bokeh effect previews in the camera viewfinder even before you press the shutter.

Among the current generation of dual camera devices, the Monochrome sensor implementation is unique to Huawei and makes the most sense. Inspired by the same, even Qualcomm has released a similar dual camera module for high-end Snapdragon 820/821 powered handsets. Here are some of the sample monochrome images clicked using Huawei P9:

So, if you like capturing black and white images, Huawei P9 is the best smartphone for the purpose.

Author: Pooja

Pooja is passionate about blogging and Tech which makes life easier and interesting. While she is not exploring tech trends, you can find her devouring epic fantasy adventure literature and movies from across the globe.

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