Camera: Just Not Very Good

The Huawei Ascend Mate 7 features a Sony Exmor RS IMX214 sensor, which is a 13-megapixel 1/3.06" CMOS unit with 1.12 micron pixels. In this camera system, the IMX214 is paired with an f/2.0 28mm (35mm-equivalent) lens. The front camera is an OmniVision OV5648 five-megapixel 1/4" CMOS with 1.4 micron pixels, paired with an f/2.2 22mm lens.

Camera performance is one area of the Ascend Mate 7 that I was quite disappointed with, seemingly marred by both bad lens and bad ISP performance. Even in good lighting conditions, I struggled to get a photo from the Mate 7 that actually looked decent, which is surprising considering the camera hardware itself - most notably Sony's IMX214 sensor - is solid enough.

The easiest way to describe photos from the Mate 7 is "dull". Images are neither accurate nor vibrant, thanks to a healthy dose of undersaturation and a tendency to choose a white temperature that's too cold. This is especially noticeable on cloudy days, where the sky is blown out and images lack the color intensity I see in real life.

Sharpness and detail when viewing 100% image crops is good, which is a pretty typical story for Exmor-based camera systems. 13 megapixel images (4160 x 3120, 4:3) are good enough for cropping and zooming, although the camera quality isn't awesome enough to make this a go-to shooter.

One glaring issue I noticed is the lens' complete inability to focus on close objects, which makes it generally useless for macro photography. It's not just photography of flowers and Lego minifigs that suffers from a lack of close focus, but also photography of things like food and documents. While the Mate 7 does have autofocus, not being able to reach that 10-25cm zone is very restrictive when most other smartphones are macro-compatible.

The Mate 7 is also weak in less than ideal lighting conditions. A lot of photos I took indoors and at night were blurry, dark and poor in terms of color quality and detail. Even though the device does come with an f/2.0 lens, small photodetectors on the sensor and no OIS really hurts the Mate here. Combined with a generally lackluster ISP and results just aren't that great all around.

It's a similar story with the front facing camera. While the 5-megapixel sensor is good enough quality in strong lighting, the optics just aren't all that flash indoors and at night, which is when many people take their selfies. Blur was something I often ran into with the selfie cam, which could be rectified with larger pixels and a smaller megapixel count.

As for camera features, I did like the clutter-free interface and access to a few basic controls. You get a fairly typical range of camera modes, including a beauty mode, acceptable HDR mode, panorama, and burst shot capabilities. There's also an "all-focus" mode that attempts to give you adjustable focus images, though the focus range of the camera isn't good enough to make this feature all that impressive or worthwhile.