Here’s What Huawei’s Collab With Leica Really Means

It’s not just a marketing stunt

We’re still in Beijing, China, courtesy of Huawei to learn more about the company’s roots and vision for the future, and one of the people we spoke to today was Mr. Li Changzu, Vice President, Handset Business, Huawei Consumer Business Group. While he spoke about a bunch of technologies that powered their phones, it’s Huawei’s partnership with German camera brand Leica that really caught our attention.

If you’ve been living under a rock these past few years, Huawei partnered with Leica, a premium camera brand based in Germany to develop the dual-camera technology that first showed up in the P9. While other companies have tried dual-cameras before, the P9 was the first phone that made dual-camera tech mainstream. Since then, other smartphones by a myriad of other brands have taken the idea of combining two cameras in one device to take better photos to create their own interpretation of the ultimate dual-camera device.

During the P9’s release, there was a small controversy regarding Leica’s involvement with the P9’s camera sensor. Earlier on people believed that Leica made the camera modules for the P9, since Huawei did not completely clarify the extent of Leica’s collaboration with them. Huawei later clarified that Leica co-developed the camera modules with Leica, and didn’t actually provide lenses for the phones, but for many this slight omission meant that the brand was only banking on the German camera maker’s fame to sell phones.

Which was unfortunate, because nothing was further from the truth. Huawei and Leica’s partnership wasn’t a quick cash grab to sell more P9 smartphones – it was a legitimate partnership between two icons, further cemented by the creation of the Max Berek Innovation Lab, named after the famed optical pioneer who created many of Leica’s early lenses, right beside Leica’s headquarters in Wetzlar, Germany.

And while Leica does not create the lenses of the camera modules used in Leica-branded phones like the P9, P10, Mate 9 and certainly the upcoming Mate 10, the German brand’s lens designs lay the groundwork for the optics that are used on the cameras on these phones.

Furthermore, Huawei’s engineers also closely work with Leica’s in regards to image quality of the photos produced by Leica-branded phones. Techs obsessively tweak the image quality of the image signal processor that’s present in the phone so that it’ll pass the rigorous standard set by Leica. The standards are so strict, it takes around 5 months of tweaking for Huawei before Leica approves the the tweaks and puts their name on it.

Mr. Li emphasized that their collaboration with Leica is for the long haul. Huawei’s dual camera tech and their partnership with Leica will show up in the Mate 10 and many other devices in the future – it’s not just about marketing for them.

John Nieves

John is a veteran technology and gadget journalist with more than 10 years of experience both in print and online. When not writing about technology, he frequently gets lost in the boonies playing soldier.

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