The lens aperture on smartphone cameras is by norm not adjustable, but the new HUAWEI Mate 50 Pro shows it’s possible to be different: its main camera has a f/1.4 lens with variable aperture.
Ended the partnership with Leica, which since 2016 helped HUAWEI to get more photography into its smartphones, some asked what the company would do next: well, the HUAWEI Mate 50 Pro is the answer. This is the first smartphone offering a camera with a lens that features an “Adjustable Physical Aperture of 10 sizes”, as HUAWEI puts it.
The lens variation comes with a name, Ultra Aperture XMAGE Camera, and it allows for the aperture on the lens to be adjusted, says HUAWEI, “10 different aperture sizes”, so that you can tailor the blur and depth of field in your latest masterpiece. Before you get too excited with the idea, it’s important to say that the physical variation of the aperture only happens between f/1.4 and f/4, so if you were thinking about having absolute control of the exposure, with values as f/16 or f/22… you’ll have to wait a little longer.
Still, this is a step forward, and one that shows HUAWEI’s R&D in photography continues. In fact, it even appears to have moved forward quite a bit, as this new option reveals. Until now the only recent smartphone offering more than one aperture is the Xperia PRO-I, and what it does is to change from f/2.0 to f/4.0 without any intermediate value. The HUAWEI Mate 50 Pro offers a total of 10 apertures; meaning it gives you 1/3 each time you adjust it. HUAWEI does not explain this on their website, but the complete scale will be something like this: f/1.4, f/1.6, f/1.8, f/2.0 , f/2.2, f/2.5, f/2.8, f/3.2, f/3.5, f/4.
An aperture that you can adjust
This variable aperture is applied to the 50 MP Ultra Aperture Camera (F1.4~F4.0 aperture, OIS) which is the main camera of the HUAWEI Mate 50 Pro. While the minor changes in aperture will not make much different in terms of the exposure or even the depth of field, the fact that the company discovered a way to implement variable aperture on such a small system is a huge step forward for photography – and video, I believe – with smartphones. The second good thing about the Ultra Aperture XMAGE Camera is that in Pro Mode you can adjust the aperture.
While the announcement of the use of a variable aperture on the HUAWEI Mate 50 Pro may surprise some, the fact is that last year, according to the website “Huaweicentral”, a Huawei patent for an aperture camera module, and an electronic device describing a six-blade camera aperture technology was registered, pointing to the development now announced.
Besides the main camera – 50 MP wide-angle, f/1.4-f/4.0, 24mm, which is the star of the new smartphone, the HUAWEI Mate 50 Pro also features a 13 MP ultra wide-angle lens, f/2.2, 13mm, and a 64 MP telephoto camera, f/3.5, 90mm (periscope telephoto). Autofocus uses both phase focus, and contrast focus and in terms of image stabilization OIS and AIS are used. As usual for smartphones, the cameras offer different zoom modes, which HUAWEI names as Digital Zoom, Optical Zoom, Hybrid Zoom.
A breakthrough for a mobile imaging system
Super Night Mode, Professional Portrait, Super Macro are also included, and the company says the “50 MP Ultra Aperture Camera takes in 24% more light, thanks to the ultra-large F1.4 aperture and RYYB sensor, working seamlessly with the XD Fusion Pro image engine to keep brightness and contrasts pristine. Super night mode takes you deep under cover of darkness, capturing enthralling details that bring night to life.”
When it comes to portraits, HUAWEI says the HUAWEI Mate 50 Pro allows you to “capture stunning portraits that put personality on full display”, adding that “the larger aperture works in concert with a cutting-edge submillimetre segmentation algorithm to produce pro-level blurring and breathtaking bokeh effects. The smaller aperture allows you to put more under focus, making it ideal for group shots.”
Introduced by HUAWEI last July, after the partnership with Leica ended, the XMAGE mobile camera imaging technology is “the condensation of our past innovations in the field of imaging and our commitment to the exploration of the field of imaging in the future. Breaking through new heights of moving images, so stay tuned”, said the company. According to He Gang, President of Handset Business, Huawei Consumer Business Group, the XMAGE technology represents, “a breakthrough for a mobile imaging system”, something the HUAWEI Mate 50 Pro fully embodies, as the first smartphone offering lenses with variable aperture. It’s a small step, from f/1.4 to f/4, but it points in the right direction.
The HUAWEI Mate 50 Pro is not available in many markets, but the path its technology opens will, no doubt, be followed by other brands, so there may be more smartphones with cameras that feature adjustable apertures, something that would bring smartphone closer to cameras, as until now we’ve had to deal with fixed apertures.