- Compact and stylish design
- Manual controls and raw shooting
- Great 20mp mono camera
- Fingerprint sensor doubles as home button
- Plenty of ram and storage
- Great value for money
- Headphone socket
- Not waterproof
- Does not feature Optical Image Stabilisation (OIS)
- Manual controls not available in mono mode
The Honor smartphones are part of Huawei’s more affordable smartphone range, and the Honor 9 is a premium smartphone but at a more reasonable price. For example, an iPhone 7 Plus with dual cameras will cost you around £669/$870, whereas Honor’s top of the range Honor 9, with dual cameras, can be purchased for around £379/$493.
The Honor 9, made by Huawei, features two cameras on the rear, and whilst some smartphones use two lenses to offer a wide-angle and a zoom lens, such as the LG G6, and iPhone 7 Plus, 8 Plus, and X, some, such as the Huawei P10, and Honor 9 use two cameras, one colour, and one black and white. By using two cameras in this way, they can offer sharper images from the black and white sensor (through lack of RGB filter), as well as more light collection from two sensors.
The Honor 9 updates the Honor 8, with a 12mp colour camera, and a 20mp black and white camera. Using this, Honor says the 9 offers 2x hybrid zoom with no loss in quality (when shooting at 12mp).
You can shoot at 12mp (by default) or 20mp when shooting black and white or colour images.
Honor 9 Photography Features
- Dual-lens hybrid zoom, providing greater clarity even at 2x zoom
- Pixel binning technology delivers twice the brightness in low-light conditions
- 4K high-definition video. Electronic Image Stabilization (EIS, up to 1080p)
The Honor 9 offers a relatively compact smartphone, thanks to the 5.15inch screen, which has a FullHD resolution. The smartphone offers a generous 64GB of storage, and 4GB of ram or you can opt for a version with 6GB and 128GB storage.
The camera app can also use the two cameras to create “DLSR Style” photos, with a blurred background, using the “Wide-aperture” mode to create bokeh. There’s also a portrait mode with background blur and motion pictures.
Pro mode supports raw shooting and manual controls. There are numerous shooting modes including Photo, Pro Photo, Video, Pro video, 3D panorama, Monochrome, HDR, 3D creator, Night shot, Panorama, Light painting, Time-lapse, Slow-mo, Filter, Watermark, Audio note, and Document Scan. You can also add a “Good Food” scene mode.
- 12mp colour sensor, f/2.2 lens, 27mm equivalent
- 20mp black and white sensor, f/2.2 lens, 27mm equivalent
- 8mp, f/2 front camera
- 5.15inch touch-screen, with FullHD resolution
- 10fps continuous shooting burst mode
- Dual LED flash
- 4K video at 30fps with stereo sound
- FullHD video at 60fps, 720p video at 120fps
- EIS, Electronic Image Stabilisation
- ISO50 to ISO3200
- Pro mode with manual controls and raw shooting
- Available in blue, grey or black
The Honor 9 features a stylish design, with metal sides, the rear is curved at the edges and is made out of glass, so a case is highly recommended to protect the phone. The all-glass front is curved at the very edge but isn’t as curved as some smartphones like the Samsung Galaxy S8.
The Honor 9 feels very solidly built, thanks to the metal sides, although is a little slippery in the hand due to the glass design. We were also a little concerned about all the glass and felt nervous using the smartphone without a case.
The fingerprint sensor on the front, at the bottom, doubles as a home button, with two soft buttons either side. This means that the screen space isn’t used by these buttons, giving you more space for taking photos or using your apps.
When taking photos, you can use the screen to set the focus point, right into the far corners of the frame. Swipe right (from left to right), and you can view the photo modes available. Swipe left (from right to left), and you can view the settings available for the mode you’re in.
At the bottom of the screen, you can switch between playback, photo and video modes. At the top, there is quick access to camera settings. It doesn’t take long to get used to shooting with the camera app.
The USB port is a Type-C so the cable can be inserted in any direction, and there’s a headphone socket, so you can plug in headphones directly.
The screen looks clear and bright, with saturated colours. Viewing angles are good, although it can sometimes be difficult to see the screen in very bright sunlight.
Battery life – The battery in the Honor 9, is a 3200mAh rechargeable battery and should give a days battery life comfortably. As with most smartphones, daily charging is pretty much the norm.
The performance section is where we look at the image quality performance of the camera. Additional sample photos and product shots are available in the Equipment Database, where you can add your own review, photos and product ratings.
Speed – Focus and shutter response is quick. Holding the shutter release button down, the camera can shoot at roughly 11fps, shooting 100 shots in 9.3 seconds.
Kings Cross | 1/50 sec | f/2.2 | 4.0 mm | ISO 125
Red Leaves | 1/900 sec | f/2.2 | 4.0 mm | ISO 80
Park | 1/372 sec | f/2.2 | 4.0 mm | ISO 50
Park Tree Leaves | 1/504 sec | f/2.2 | 4.0 mm | ISO 50
Colour 20mp | 1/50 sec | f/2.2 | 4.0 mm | ISO 100
Mono 20mp | 1/100 sec | f/2.2 | 4.0 mm | ISO 100
Portrait With Bokeh | 1/50 sec | f/2.2 | 4.0 mm | ISO 200
Selfie Camera | 1/33 sec | f/2.0 | 2.8 mm | ISO 200
Food Mode | 1/17 sec | f/2.2 | 4.0 mm | ISO 1600
Sample Photos – There are options to adjust saturation, contrast, and brightness. Colour is bright and saturated, although using the dual LED flash for portrait shots gave our subject a slightly yellow/green tint. The 8mp selfie camera produces sharp images, however, they don’t appear as colourful as images from the rear camera.
Huawei Honor 9 Lens test images
12mp (Kings Cross) | 1/1199 sec | f/2.2 | 4.0 mm | ISO 50
12mp 2x Hybrid Zoom | 1/1124 sec | f/2.2 | 4.0 mm | ISO 50
Kings Cross 12mp | 1/650 sec | f/2.2 | 4.0 mm | ISO 50
Light Blurred Background | 1/50 sec | f/4.0 | 4.0 mm | ISO 80
Light Normal | 1/100 sec | f/2.2 | 4.0 mm | ISO 200
Scooter Blurred Background | 1/960 sec | f/4.0 | 4.0 mm | ISO 50
Lens Performance – The 2x Hybrid Zoom uses a combination of cropping and can be used at 12mp, and gives you a slightly larger image than you would if you were to simply crop into the 20mp image. Results look quite good unless you view the images at 100% and start “pixel peeping” as you can see where images aren’t as sharp as they would be if it were a true 2x optical zoom.
The 20mp black and white images are impressively sharp and detailed. The 20mp colour images aren’t as impressive, and there didn’t appear to be an instantly noticeable benefit in shooting 20mp colour images over 12mp colour images. Dynamic range was good, even without using the HDR mode.
Pro mode supports raw shooting, but you can’t select the monochrome mode in pro mode. You can adjust the saturation, contrast and brightness in any mode.
The blurred background mode, which Honor call “wide aperture”, doesn’t always work perfectly, and works best with simpler subjects. Using the portrait mode you can use the 2x Hybrid Zoom, and add the background blur/bokeh effect. The portrait mode, on default settings, gives a softened portrait image.
Huawei Honor 9 ISO test images
Colour ISO50 12mp | 1/24 sec | f/2.2 | 4.0 mm | ISO 50
Colour 20mp | 1/24 sec | f/2.2 | 4.0 mm | ISO 50
Black And White 20mp | 1/50 sec | f/2.2 | 4.0 mm | ISO 80
Colour ISO100 12mp | 1/50 sec | f/2.2 | 4.0 mm | ISO 100
Colour ISO200 12mp | 1/100 sec | f/2.2 | 4.0 mm | ISO 200
Colour ISO400 12mp | 1/200 sec | f/2.2 | 4.0 mm | ISO 400
Colour ISO800 12mp | 1/400 sec | f/2.2 | 4.0 mm | ISO 800
Colour ISO1600 12mp | 1/572 sec | f/2.2 | 4.0 mm | ISO 1600
Colour ISO3200 12mp | 1/1145 sec | f/2.2 | 4.0 mm | ISO 3200
ISO Noise Performance – Noise performance is good from ISO50 to ISO800 with low levels of noise. Noise is well controlled at ISO1600, and colour saturation remains good, with only a slight drop at ISO1600 and ISO3200. In the monochrome mode, you don’t have control over the ISO speed.
Huawei Honor 9 White-balance test images
AWB Tungsten | 1/20 sec | f/2.2 | 4.0 mm | ISO 100
Tungsten Preset | 1/20 sec | f/2.2 | 4.0 mm | ISO 100
AWB Mixed Light | 1/50 sec | f/2.2 | 4.0 mm | ISO 100
AWB Fluorescent | 1/36 sec | f/2.2 | 4.0 mm | ISO 100
Fluorescent Preset | 1/36 sec | f/2.2 | 4.0 mm | ISO 100
20mp Black And White | 1/50 sec | f/2.2 | 4.0 mm | ISO 80
White Balance Performance – Auto White Balance (AWB) performs well in tungsten lighting with a slightly warm result. Under fluorescent lighting or mixed lighting, the results are more neutral, and for most shots, you shouldn’t need to use any of the presets, unless you’re trying to create a certain look.
Huawei Honor 9 Digital filters
Filters (1) | 1/50 sec | f/2.2 | 4.0 mm | ISO 80
Filters (2) | 1/50 sec | f/2.2 | 4.0 mm | ISO 80
Filters (3) | 1/50 sec | f/2.2 | 4.0 mm | ISO 80
Filters (4) | 1/50 sec | f/2.2 | 4.0 mm | ISO 80
Filters (5) | 1/50 sec | f/2.2 | 4.0 mm | ISO 80
Filters (6) | 1/50 sec | f/2.2 | 4.0 mm | ISO 80
Filters (7) | 1/50 sec | f/2.2 | 4.0 mm | ISO 80
Filters (8) | 1/50 sec | f/2.2 | 4.0 mm | ISO 80
No Filters | 1/50 sec | f/2.2 | 4.0 mm | ISO 80
Digital Filters – There are 8 different filters available in the Honor 9 camera app, however, you can add a number of alternative apps from the Google Play store if you want to get more creative with your photos. The panoramic mode produces an image around 33 megapixels in size and is well stitched together, with good detail in good light.
Video – You can record 4K video at 30fps, FullHD video at 60 or 30fps. Slow motion video is recorded at 120fps, at a reduced resolution of 720p with sound. As the camera does not feature optical image stabilisation care needs to be taken when recording 4K video. If you are recording FullHD video (at 30fps), then electronic image stabilisation is available, and this gives much smoother video, although the image is cropped slightly.
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|ISO sensitivity||50 – 3200|
|Video FPS||30, 60fps|
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The Honor 9 offers a dual camera smartphone, plenty of ram and storage, a stylish and good looking design, and offers all of this for a much lower price than you would expect. The dual camera offers a “Hybrid Zoom” giving a 2x zoom, with only a slight loss in image quality. The black and white camera takes impressively sharp and detailed 20mp images, and noise is well controlled whether shooting colour or black and white.
Whilst the smartphone doesn’t feature a waterproof body, there are few smartphones at this price point that do. The camera also records 4K video, and results are good. The biggest shortcoming is the lack of optical image stabilisation (OIS) which not only affects photos, but also video, and at this price point, you should be able to find an alternative with OIS, although most likely without a dual-camera.
If you want to try true black and white photography, and don’t quite have the money for a Leica M Monochrom, then the Honor 9 smartphone with a black and white camera, would make an excellent choice.