This Is the First Leica Huawei Smartphone

April 6, 2016

By Greg Scoblete

Last month, Leica surprised the world by announcing a major foray into the smartphone market in partnership with Chinese phone maker Huawei.

Today, the first fruits of the partnership–what Leica’s CEO dubbed “the best of German engineering inside a Chinese phone”–were officially announced to the world. The Huawei P9 will feature a pair of Leica lenses and cameras on the back of the phone. The dual camera setup features one 12-megapixel RGB and one 12-megapixel monochrome sensor. The monochrome sensor adds 300 percent more light and 50 percent more contrast the final image than using a single RGB sensor alone, according to Huawei. Pixel size for the sensors will be 1.25um, slightly larger than the iPhone 6s’ 1.23um.

The phone uses a laser autofocusing system and will run a dedicated depth processor for calculating autofocus. Using dedicated hardware improves speeds by 200 percent vs. software calculators, the companies said. There’s also a dual LED flash to light things up in low light.

The P9 supports manual control over ISO, focus, shutter speed, exposure and white balance. The aperture of each of the Leica lenses is fixed at f/2.2. The cameras will allow a relatively shallow depth of field with, Huawei promised, “professional bokeh.” An early CNET hands-on suggests you’ll be able to refocus an image after it’s been recorded.

You’ll also enjoy RAW image capture in the DNG format

The P9 will have several Leica film, color and black and white modes to compliment the high-end hardware. The shutter will even sound like a Leica, at least according to Leica.

The phone will run Android 6, aka Marshmallow.

Among the other specs:

* 5.2 inch full HD display (423 pixels per inch) with 96 percent color saturation and 500 nits brightness

* 32 GB of internal storage plus a microSD card slot

* Kirin 950 processor with 3GB of RAM

* USB Type-C connection

* six choices of colors

The phone was launched in the UK and there’s no word as of yet as to when (or even if) it will ship in the U.S., though it’s expected to.

Huawei’s partnership with Leica is part of the company’s strategy to become a the leading premium smartphone brand, dethroning Apple and Samsung in the process. Whether the prestige and technology of Leica are enough to move that particular needle remains to be seen.

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