Huawei nova 9 review

GSMArena Team, 6 November 2021.

Four cameras on the back lead by a 50MP main sensor

Huawei doesn't advertise the sensor types used on the nova 9, but we discovered that they are using a high-end 50MP Sony IMX766 1/1.56" sensor with 1.0µm pixels behind the f/1.9 lens. The same unit can be found on the Oppo Find X3 Pro, albeit with a more sophisticated lens.

Huawei nova 9 review

The ultrawide camera relies on a more common 8MP 1/4.0" sensor joined by an f/2.2 lens. The other two cameras are for depth sensing and macro photography, both 2MP with f/2.4 apertures.

The selfie camera is 32MP, 0.8µm pixels, f/2.0 aperture and going by previous experience with such configuration, the sensor size should be 1/2.8".

Camera software

The default camera app is no different from any other Android camera software - the main modes are arranged in a carousel formation, and you can switch between them with a swipe. There's a More sub-menu housing the rest of the modes. The general settings menu is in the upper-right corner of the viewfinder.

Default camera app - Huawei nova 9 review Default camera app - Huawei nova 9 review Default camera app - Huawei nova 9 review Default camera app - Huawei nova 9 review Default camera app - Huawei nova 9 review Default camera app - Huawei nova 9 review
Default camera app

A Pro mode is also available giving you full control over the main camera's focus, ISO, shutter speed, exposure and white balance.

Daylight samples

Main camera

When it came to daylight photos, these are not very competitive for the price range, but they are quite okay.

What struck us the most is that the autofocus is inconsistent, and we would sometimes get photos that are less than ideally sharp. Except for these, the nova 9 generally outputs nice and pleasant photos, which are nice and sharp.

12.5MP main camera samples - f/1.9, ISO 50, 1/2770s - Huawei nova 9 review 12.5MP main camera samples - f/1.9, ISO 50, 1/3356s - Huawei nova 9 review 12.5MP main camera samples - f/1.9, ISO 50, 1/2933s - Huawei nova 9 review
12.5MP main camera samples - f/1.9, ISO 50, 1/2315s - Huawei nova 9 review 12.5MP main camera samples - f/1.9, ISO 50, 1/3891s - Huawei nova 9 review 12.5MP main camera samples - f/1.9, ISO 50, 1/3401s - Huawei nova 9 review
12.5MP main camera samples - f/1.9, ISO 50, 1/5376s - Huawei nova 9 review 12.5MP main camera samples - f/1.9, ISO 50, 1/5000s - Huawei nova 9 review
12.5MP main camera samples

Dynamic range is more than adequate as even challenging conditions couldn't ruin the shadow/highlight balance. Colors are also pleasant - a bit saturated but definitely not over the top. And we didn't notice any noise at all.

12.5MP main camera samples - f/1.9, ISO 50, 1/4255s - Huawei nova 9 review 12.5MP main camera samples - f/1.9, ISO 50, 1/5155s - Huawei nova 9 review 12.5MP main camera samples - f/1.9, ISO 50, 1/4785s - Huawei nova 9 review
12.5MP main camera samples - f/1.9, ISO 50, 1/1942s - Huawei nova 9 review 12.5MP main camera samples - f/1.9, ISO 50, 1/4132s - Huawei nova 9 review 12.5MP main camera samples - f/1.9, ISO 50, 1/3509s - Huawei nova 9 review
12.5MP main camera samples - f/1.9, ISO 50, 1/3257s - Huawei nova 9 review 12.5MP main camera samples - f/1.9, ISO 160, 1/50s - Huawei nova 9 review
12.5MP main camera samples

Going for the 50MP AI mode won't give you any benefits beyond the more natural processing, which, however, is hard to appreciate on the phone's screen.

50MP main camera samples - f/1.9, ISO 50, 1/5587s - Huawei nova 9 review 50MP main camera samples - f/1.9, ISO 50, 1/5155s - Huawei nova 9 review 50MP main camera samples - f/1.9, ISO 50, 1/4348s - Huawei nova 9 review
50MP main camera samples - f/1.9, ISO 50, 1/5236s - Huawei nova 9 review 50MP main camera samples - f/1.9, ISO 50, 1/5263s - Huawei nova 9 review 50MP main camera samples - f/1.9, ISO 50, 1/4975s - Huawei nova 9 review
50MP main camera samples - f/1.9, ISO 50, 1/3584s - Huawei nova 9 review
50MP main camera samples

2x zoom

We tried the 2x zoom photos, and they are par for the course. They appear to be cropped and upscaled to 12MP from the regular camera photos.

2x zoom samples - f/1.9, ISO 50, 1/5319s - Huawei nova 9 review 2x zoom samples - f/1.9, ISO 50, 1/5814s - Huawei nova 9 review 2x zoom samples - f/1.9, ISO 50, 1/5236s - Huawei nova 9 review
2x zoom samples - f/1.9, ISO 50, 1/765s - Huawei nova 9 review 2x zoom samples - f/1.9, ISO 50, 1/1698s - Huawei nova 9 review 2x zoom samples - f/1.9, ISO 50, 1/3460s - Huawei nova 9 review
2x zoom samples - f/1.9, ISO 50, 1/4505s - Huawei nova 9 review
2x zoom samples

Ultrawide camera

The ultrawide's performance, although not great, is still in line with what most competitors have to offer. The images are somewhat soft and lack detail upon close examination. The contrast could be better, too, and color reproduction is largely different from the main camera's.

Ultrawide camera samples - f/2.2, ISO 50, 1/1361s - Huawei nova 9 review Ultrawide camera samples - f/2.2, ISO 50, 1/2247s - Huawei nova 9 review Ultrawide camera samples - f/2.2, ISO 50, 1/2183s - Huawei nova 9 review
Ultrawide camera samples - f/2.2, ISO 50, 1/2770s - Huawei nova 9 review Ultrawide camera samples - f/2.2, ISO 50, 1/2119s - Huawei nova 9 review Ultrawide camera samples - f/2.2, ISO 50, 1/2494s - Huawei nova 9 review
Ultrawide camera samples - f/2.2, ISO 50, 1/940s - Huawei nova 9 review Ultrawide camera samples - f/2.2, ISO 50, 1/1074s - Huawei nova 9 review
Ultrawide camera samples

On a more positive note, there's no color fringing, and the algorithm keeps the barrel distortion in check.

Low-light samples

Main camera

The nighttime performance of the main camera is nice at first glance but, again, lacks consistency. Some photos appeared inexplicably out of focus.

Other than that, we are impressed by the amount of detail resolved in the shadows as well as the well-contained highlights. The nighttime colors are quite vivid as well.

Low-light main camera samples - f/1.9, ISO 1600, 1/20s - Huawei nova 9 review Low-light main camera samples - f/1.9, ISO 1600, 1/20s - Huawei nova 9 review Low-light main camera samples - f/1.9, ISO 800, 1/20s - Huawei nova 9 review
Low-light main camera samples - f/1.9, ISO 500, 1/20s - Huawei nova 9 review Low-light main camera samples - f/1.9, ISO 400, 1/33s - Huawei nova 9 review Low-light main camera samples - f/1.9, ISO 500, 1/33s - Huawei nova 9 review
Low-light main camera samples - f/1.9, ISO 400, 1/20s - Huawei nova 9 review Low-light main camera samples - f/1.9, ISO 400, 1/20s - Huawei nova 9 review
Low-light main camera samples

Switching on the Night mode won't net you much better results. There's minimal to no difference between the standard Photo and the dedicated Night mode. The latter might get the highlights in check and improve sharpness by a little but not enough to make the images comparable to the competition.

Night mode main camera samples - f/1.9, ISO 1000, 1/20s - Huawei nova 9 review Night mode main camera samples - f/1.9, ISO 1000, 1/20s - Huawei nova 9 review Night mode main camera samples - f/1.9, ISO 1000, 1/20s - Huawei nova 9 review
Night mode main camera samples - f/1.9, ISO 640, 1/20s - Huawei nova 9 review Night mode main camera samples - f/1.9, ISO 500, 1/33s - Huawei nova 9 review Night mode main camera samples - f/1.9, ISO 500, 1/33s - Huawei nova 9 review
Night mode main camera samples - f/1.9, ISO 500, 1/20s - Huawei nova 9 review Night mode main camera samples - f/1.9, ISO 800, 1/20s - Huawei nova 9 review
Night mode main camera samples

We would even go as far as saying that the wait time for the Night mode just isn't worth it. That time is better off invested in a couple of standard Photo mode shots and making sure the focus is right. You will increase your chance of getting a non-mushy nighttime picture.

2x zoom camera

The cropped 2x zoom photos are acceptable and look very good on the phone's screen, but they don't look hold up to scrutiny, as they are very soft and lack fine detail. The absence of noise, however, is pretty impressive, especially for cropped images.

Low-light 2x zoom samples: Normal - f/1.9, ISO 400, 1/20s - Huawei nova 9 review Low-light 2x zoom samples: Night mode - f/1.9, ISO 800, 1/20s - Huawei nova 9 review Low-light 2x zoom samples: Normal - f/1.9, ISO 400, 1/33s - Huawei nova 9 review
Low-light 2x zoom samples: Night mode - f/1.9, ISO 500, 1/33s - Huawei nova 9 review Low-light 2x zoom samples: Normal - f/1.9, ISO 400, 1/20s - Huawei nova 9 review Low-light 2x zoom samples: Night mode - f/1.9, ISO 800, 1/20s - Huawei nova 9 review
Low-light 2x zoom samples: Normal • Night mode

Ultrawide camera

Nighttime snaps by the ultrawide camera are again quite soft and have plenty of noise, however, they look good on the phone's screen due to the good tonal development. Zooming further than that reveals how soft and mushy the fine details are.

Low-light ultrawide camera samples - f/2.2, ISO 3200, 1/17s - Huawei nova 9 review Low-light ultrawide camera samples - f/2.2, ISO 3200, 1/17s - Huawei nova 9 review Low-light ultrawide camera samples - f/2.2, ISO 3200, 1/17s - Huawei nova 9 review
Low-light ultrawide camera samples - f/2.2, ISO 3200, 1/20s - Huawei nova 9 review Low-light ultrawide camera samples - f/2.2, ISO 3200, 1/17s - Huawei nova 9 review Low-light ultrawide camera samples - f/2.2, ISO 3200, 1/20s - Huawei nova 9 review
Low-light ultrawide camera samples

Here's how the primary camera on the Huawei nova 9 stacks against the rest of the competition in the controlled environment of our Photo Compare Tool.

Photo Compare Tool Photo Compare Tool Photo Compare Tool
Huawei nova 9 vs. Xiaomi 11T and the Samsung Galaxy A72 in our Photo compare tool

Portraits

Portraits are a mixed bag - most of them look sharp with natural colors, wide dynamic range and lots of fine detail. Although, some may come out soft again. The biggest issue, however, is the edge detection and the faux bokeh effect.

Portrait samples: Super - f/1.9, ISO 500, 1/25s - Huawei nova 9 review Portrait samples: Circles - f/1.9, ISO 50, 1/3205s - Huawei nova 9 review Portrait samples: Super - f/1.9, ISO 50, 1/699s - Huawei nova 9 review
Portrait samples: Circles - f/4.0, ISO 50, 1/631s - Huawei nova 9 review Portrait samples: Super - f/1.9, ISO 50, 1/140s - Huawei nova 9 review Portrait samples: Circles - f/1.9, ISO 50, 1/132s - Huawei nova 9 review
Portrait samples: Super - f/1.9, ISO 50, 1/1698s - Huawei nova 9 review Portrait samples: Circles - f/1.9, ISO 50, 1/1698s - Huawei nova 9 review Portrait samples: Super - f/1.9, ISO 50, 1/3663s - Huawei nova 9 review
Portrait samples: Circles - f/1.9, ISO 50, 1/3509s - Huawei nova 9 review Portrait samples: Super - f/1.9, ISO 100, 1/50s - Huawei nova 9 review Portrait samples: Circles - f/1.9, ISO 100, 1/50s - Huawei nova 9 review
Portrait samples: Super - f/1.9, ISO 250, 1/100s - Huawei nova 9 review Portrait samples: Circles - f/1.9, ISO 250, 1/100s - Huawei nova 9 review
Portrait samples: Super • Circles

Firstly, you don't have a regular blurred background, so you have to choose between different styles. Of all the modes we've tried, the so-called Super and Circles effects produced the best results. And even then, the blur turned out to be too strong. Secondly, the edge detection is a bit rough around the edges, literally. The software fails to blur out objects in the foreground as well. All in all, the faux bokeh isn't very convincing. Switching off the effects entirely would just snap a standard photo.

Selfies

Selfies turned out to be pretty good. They seem sharp enough, and the 32MP camera resolves quite a bit of fine detail. The dynamic range is wide, the subject's face is always well-exposed, and colors seem close to natural. We are even surprised by the Portrait mode's dynamic range as HDR isn't disabled in this setting. Most of the time, HDR isn't active on portrait selfies.

Selfies: Normal - f/2.0, ISO 160, 1/50s - Huawei nova 9 review Selfies: Portrait - f/2.0, ISO 160, 1/50s - Huawei nova 9 review Selfies: Normal - f/2.0, ISO 160, 1/60s - Huawei nova 9 review
Selfies: Portrait - f/2.0, ISO 160, 1/60s - Huawei nova 9 review Selfies: Normal - f/2.0, ISO 160, 1/60s - Huawei nova 9 review Selfies: Portrait - f/2.0, ISO 160, 1/60s - Huawei nova 9 review
Selfies: Normal - f/2.0, ISO 50, 1/3067s - Huawei nova 9 review Selfies: Portrait - f/2.0, ISO 50, 1/3300s - Huawei nova 9 review Selfies: Normal - f/2.0, ISO 50, 1/523s - Huawei nova 9 review
Selfies: Portrait - f/2.0, ISO 50, 1/500s - Huawei nova 9 review Selfies: Normal - f/2.0, ISO 50, 1/128s - Huawei nova 9 review Selfies: Portrait - f/2.0, ISO 50, 1/126s - Huawei nova 9 review
Selfies: Normal • Portrait

Video recording

The handset records videos of up to 2160p@30fps while the cinematic mode with a 21:9 ratio is capped at 1080p, understandably.

To our surprise, the ultrawide camera can also record 4K videos, even though the sensor's resolution is just 8MP. Some upscaling is possible. But let's start with the main camera first.

The footage seems a bit too soft for 2160p, has a tad lower contrast than we would like. We definitely expected more from the main camera's 4K videos.

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The ultrawide's 4K video is softer and has washed-out colors.

Stabilization, on the other hand, is downright impressive. No matter if you are running or just walking slowly, the software picks up every vibration. And it does so perfectly even at 2160p resolution. Take a look at the two sample clips below - the first one is normal walking, the second one involves some running.

Once you are done with the real-life scenarios, take a look at our video compare tool to see how the Huawei nova 9 stacks against the other phones we've reviewed. Unfortunately, the nova 9 appears unable to focus properly in close ranges, and all of the video samples appear out of focus. This is something we'd definitely revisit.

Video Compare Tool Video Compare Tool Video Compare Tool
2160p: Huawei nova 9 vs. Xiaomi 11T and the Samsung Galaxy A72 in our Video compare tool

Reader comments

  • Tom
  • 07 Aug 2022
  • uhk

This is my first time using a mobile without GMS and it really is taking some time to use to it. In fact, I think we've been held hostage by uncle Google for too long that we are lost without it. It is very similar to what Microsoft does on PC a...

  • D0r1
  • 14 Jul 2022
  • PtJ

I have still Huawei nova 5T of 2019, it had google services, and let me tell you with 128 and 8 RAM, still is a contender for most new middle range phones, and I belive Nova 9 is practically same.

  • Anonymous
  • 17 May 2022
  • D7x

After buying this mobile I am really disappointed. It is not user friendly at all. Important apps are not available on Huawei store, searching apps should have the exact name! and I have no idea what « search » means to them in 2022!! Gspace is tra...