Huawei P40 Pro Super Resolution Zoom: How Good It Is and How Much Better It Could Be

The Huawei P40 Pro looks like the winner in the smartphone zoom race, achieving DxOMark Zoom Score of 115, the all-time high. However, its outstanding camera hardware, utilizing a 125mm f/3.4 telephoto module, is not the only key to success. Achieving the best results would not be possible without using a computational super resolution zoom technology. We did some testing to check how good it is and if better results could be achieved if using the leading Super Resolution technology from Almalence.

We will start with a side-by-side comparison and then discuss some interesting features of Huawei’s SR which we found during the testing. For the testing, we captured:

  • several JPEG images with the built-in camera app at 10x, those came out pretty different so we used the best one for comparison;
  • a series of RAW images with the 5x telephoto camera module, which were then processed with 2x Almalence Super Resolution.

The pictures were captured indoor, in good office lighting (~700 Lux). Note, as we used RAW images for processing, the colors in Almalence SR output are somewhat off.

Comparing the ability to resolve fine details shows a dramatic improvement when using Almalence Super Resolution Zoom:

Left: Huawei P40 Pro built-in 10x zoom; Right: Almalence Super Resolution Zoom

A strange effect in the next example, most of the fine text is “washed out” in the P40 Pro image. That can be caused by extreme noise filtering or input frames misalignment/deghosting.
Also note the highlighted character. It looks like Huawei’s algorithm employs a kind of a neural network, which tried to “guess” the object but in this case made a wrong guess. (We will show more examples of that NN’s job below)

Left: Huawei P40 Pro built-in 10x zoom; Right: Almalence Super Resolution Zoom

A testing with a wedge chart, Almalence SR Zoom increases the effective resolution by ~20..25% more than Huawei’s built-in algorithm:

Left: Huawei P40 Pro built-in 10x zoom; Right: Almalence Super Resolution Zoom

Getting back to the P40 Pro’s [supposedly] neural network, an interesting example below. First of all, the NN did an absolutely fantastic job resolving the hair (look at the areas 1 and 2). This looks like something beyond the normal capabilities of super resolution algorithms, which makes us convinced a neural network was involved. Exploring the image further, however, we can see that in some areas (e.g. area 3) the picture looks very detailed but actually unnatural (and yes, different from the original), so the NN made a visually nice, but actually a wrong guess. In the area 4, the algorithm “resolved” the eye in a way that it distorted the eyelid and iris geometry, making the two eyes looking at different directions; it also guessed the bottom eyelashes in a way that they look like growing from the eyeball, not the eyelid, which looks rather unnatural.

Left: Huawei P40 Pro built-in 10x zoom; Right: Almalence Super Resolution Zoom.
Huawei’s result looks more detailed, however in some areas those details are unnatural and do not reflect the original object.

To summarize, while the Huawei P40 Pro is clearly the winner in telephoto camera module hardware design, its computational zoom algorithm is not yet doing the best possible job. While having some advantages over Almalence’s Super Resolution Zoom in resolving certain kinds of objects, it could be better in terms of overall resolution capability. It would be really interesting to see what those algorithms could do if combined together, likely that would make an all-time best digital zoom technology.

Almalence makes super resolution available on camera phones

Almalence, the developer of world’s first super resolution technology commercially available on desktop computers, announces that its solution becomes available in the most advanced smartphones in 2013.

Super resolution is now used to provide high quality pictures at high zoom levels in Huawei’s flagship models Ascend P2 and Ascend P6, SHARP’s new devices and emerging devices of several Korean and Taiwanese mobile phone makers.

Nowadays, the resolution of modern mobile phones is quite enough for amateur photography, unless it comes to zooming. With no optical zoom lens, the zoomed images are nothing more than upsized and sharpened low resolution crops. For example, 4x zoom on a 8 Megapixel mobile phone has 0.5 Megapixel effective resolution at best, not taking lens blur into account.

That’s where Almalence’s super resolution can be effectively used to enhance the quality of the images. While further improvement of sensor and lens seems either impossible or very expensive, software solutions allow going beyond the camera’s physical limits.

“Almalence’s Super Resolution Zoom is a pure software solution that does not require change of sensor or lens. This allows an extremely quick and cost-effective integration” – says Eugene Panich, CEO Almalence, Inc., – “in the beginning of 2013 we have integrated Super Resolution Zoom in quite different devices developed by several OEMs in very short timeframes and with almost no efforts required from OEMs.”

Huawei Ascend P2 Super Resolution Zoom Test

Huawei Ascend P2 was the first device with super resolution zoom on the market. These comparison photos were taken at MWC 2013 where P2 was presented. (Left: usual zoom; right: super resolution zoom)

Unlike edge enhancement and noise filtering techniques, super resolution provides real increase of effective resolution, making visible the details that are indistinguishable in normal shots. It virtually doubles the megapixel count of the camera. Capturing more details in zoomed area, it replaces optical zoom lens, for a trifling fraction of cost of such lens, and adding no single atom of weight and size to the device.

Huawei Ascend P6 Super Resolution Zoom test under 150 Lux: Resolution increases 1.9 times

“Spilled coins” (aka “Dead Leaves”) chart taken with Huawei P6 mobile phone (illuminance: 150 lux). Normal 2x zoom vs Super Resolution 2x Zoom. MTF30 measurement with ImaTest shows 1.9x effective resolution increase.

Almalence’s Super Resolution Zoom is a multi-frame technology, which adds benefit of drastic noise reduction in low light conditions.

Super Resolution Zoom under low light (20 Lux). Noise is reduced with no loss of detail. (Test with Huawei Ascend P6)

Images taken with Huawei P6 mobile phone under low light (20 Lux): Normal 2x zoom versus Super Resolution 2x Zoom

Super resolution zoom by Almalence can be used in quite different modes of operation. In some devices it is a background processing while in others it works real time in viewfinder.

Comparing to the technologies that imply physical improvement of the camera, such as using BSI sensors or 41 Megapixel sensors, Super Resolution Zoom is not just a competitor, but also a good addition that is compatible with almost any kind of sensor and lens and improves the image quality no matter how good the camera is.

Almalence’s nearest plan is to implement a hardware super resolution zoom using Tensilica IVP32 image processor, which will result in a solution capable of real time video processing and processing of high resolution still images in tens of milliseconds.

More  information: http://almalence.com/embedded-imaging#superzoom

Superb quality zoom with newly available Huawei Ascend P2, first tests at MWC 2013

Camera became one of the things (if not the only one) that really make the difference in modern smartphones. Among the leading OEMs such as HTC, Sony and Intel who emphasize their new advanced camera features, Huawei offers something really unique – SuperZoom feature, allowing to take high quality images when zooming in with a mobile phone camera.

We had a chance to test SuperZoom feature with Huawei Ascend P2 phone at Huawei’s stand at Mobile World Congress. In brief, it works incredibly, see the pictures below.

Comparison: SuperZoom vs normal zoom, Huawei Ascend P2

Left: normal zoom, right: Super Zoom

SuperZoom versus ordinary zoom comparison, Huawei Ascend P2

Left: generic digital zoom, right: SuperZoom

Comparison: Super Zoom versus generic zoom, Huawei P2

Left: ordinary zoom, right: Super Zoom

SuperZoom on Huawei P2, sample image, test against usual zoom

Left: usual zoom, low detail; right: Super Zoom, high resolution and lot of details

Conclusion: SuperZoom is a revolutionary technology providing zoom quality comparable to optical zoom, on mobile devices!

Feb 25, 2013, Barcelona.