Sure, Huawei P30 Pro’s 50x zoom is a creepy, privacy nightmare, but it’s nothing new

There will always be ways to stalk someone but that was possible well before the P30 Pro showed up.

Now that the Huawei P30 Pro has gone on sale and is available for purchase almost globally (save for the US, of course), a number of videos have popped up on social media channels showcasing the smartphone’s imaging capabilities.

Every smartphone shoots photos and videos, but there is a growing trend among smartphone manufacturers to deliver something more. We saw Samsung start off 2019 with an additional ultra-wide-angle camera on the Galaxy S10 Plus but it also included a 2X optical zoom, one that was also present on the Galaxy S9 Plus in 2018.

The Huawei P30 Pro. Image Tech2/ Prannoy Palav

The Huawei P30 Pro. Image Tech2/ Prannoy Palav

Huawei, being Huawei, took a giant leap from there. It announced a smartphone with a 5X optical periscopic zoom lens that could also use hybrid zoom (up to 10X) and then go all the way up to 50X by cropping the output of the 20 MP smartphone camera sensor.

While these zoomed in photos are jaw-dropping even to passersby, there have been tweets calling the smartphone a privacy nightmare and the fact that it can actually let you stalk someone.

We tried it out for ourselves (not the stalking part) and it seems borderline capable of doing just that, but it’s not as stable as a superzoom point and shoot’s lens so even the slightest hand movement at the far end of the zoom, will result in a slightly blurry shot. Also, the results of the digital zoom will keep deteriorating till you reach 50X. Not that they look bad for a smartphone, but it’s just that such images aren’t as clean as what some of these fake videos on twitter show them to be.

The video shared in the tweet below is clearly a fake one shot from a superzoom point and shoot camera of some sort.

The video below is the one we shot and you can clearly appreciate the limitations of the smartphone’s imaging capabilities.

The smartphone in India is priced at Rs 71,990, which does not really make it accessible to the masses. To the creeps who can afford to buy one, there are DSLRs with far better sensors, and telescopes well below that price range that have been available for a decade, well before the P30 Pro arrived. Cameras like this one make the P30 quite redundant:

Yes, a smartphone is a privacy nightmare, but those privacy nightmares are of a different kind. When it comes to Android phones, you should be more worried about apps stealing your data, your voice input being put on permanent record, and of course, the recurring allegations of data being shipped off to Chinese servers.

Creeps will always find a way to get what they want and they will use any and all technology to achieve their ends. Why blame the tools?

Out here in India there is strict regulation on the use of drones for the same reasons. But you don’t need a license to own a capable telescope that will let you observe craters on the moon, or even snoop into an apartment in your neighbouring building. There’s no license needed for powerful zoom lenses that are used for wildlife photography as well, ones that would also let you more effectively and creep on others.

So yes, the Huawei P30 Pro can zoom in farther than any smartphone can but creeps with that much cash to spare have in all probability already invested in a telescope or powerful point and shoot camera (that can reach 125X optical zoom with ease) and are probably pointing one at your window right now. So yes, it is a problem, but there’s really no way to escape it.

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