Most people usually consider a mediocre camera to be a deal-breaker while buying a new smartphone. While it’s almost criminal to expect a good camera in an entry-level smartphone, we’ve started seeing some decent cameras in lower and upper mid-range smartphones.

After testing the Honor 9 Lite’s (Review) camera, we had come to a conclusion that the phone’s camera was strictly average and in-line with how the phone is priced. Since the Honor 9N shares so much with the 9 Lite, we could have just redirected you to the former’s review and called it a day. However, the inclusion of a notch on the new handset led to a change in its camera setup which implores us to re-evaluate its performance.

Honor 9N: Camera Hardware, Specifications

To keep the notch small and less-intrusive, Honor had to face another challenge with regards to the selfie camera. They settled with a single 16MP front-facing shooter as opposed to the 13MP + 2MP camera configuration found on the 9 Lite. Meanwhile, the same 13MP + 2MP setup on the rear carries over from the Honor 9 Lite to the Honor 9N.

Honor 9N: Camera UI is Loaded with the Usual EMUI Bells and Whistles

EMUI comes with a fairly intuitive camera app. The top row contains toggles for the flash, wide aperture mode, beauty mode, moving picture mode, and one for moving between the front and rear camera. You can swipe left to get to the settings menu where you will find various options such as adjusting the resolution, setting a timer and so on. Swipe right from the viewfinder screen to get to the ‘Modes’ page. Here you can toggle between Photo, Video, Pro Photo and Video, AR Lens, HDR, Night Shot, Panorama and a few others. The only gripe we have with this camera app and UI is that it doesn’t offer an ‘Auto-HDR’ mode. We would have even settled with an easier to access HDR toggle on the viewfinder screen.

Honor 9N: Selfie Camera is an Upgrade Over the 9 Lite’s

While not a game-changer, the 16MP camera does perform reasonably better than the 13MP + 2MP configuration of the 9 Lite. Comparing the same image taken from the two cameras and the difference is easily discernible. Selfies captured from the 9N’s camera are comparatively sharper and capture more detail.

Moreover, you can see how the 9N captures more realistic colours while the selfies captured from the 9 Lite look paler.

By itself, the 16MP sensor works remarkably well. That is if the lighting conditions are ideal. Low-light photography presents significant noise and loss in clarity. This can be tackled to some extent using the screen-flash feature which works just as well as it did on the 9 Lite. It is safe to say that the Honor 9N provides one of the better selfie cameras in this price segment.

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Honor 9N: Primary Cameras Could Have Been Better

Since there is no change in the sensor units being used on the 9N compared to those found on the 9 Lite, it wasn’t surprising that the imaging prowess was the same as well. The Honor 9N’s 13MP+2MP setup is able to capture good quality images in bright conditions. You can snap images fairly quickly and capture some reasonably accurate colours. At first glance, captured images look like they have good detail and clarity, but zooming in reveals a fair bit of distortion. Lack of image stabilisation also results in shaky photos if you don’t keep your hands steady while capturing images.

We aren’t too convinced with the bokeh (background blur effect) that is provided by using the 2MP depth sensor either. Edge detection is a hit-or-miss ordeal, and resulting images look over-processed and unnatural. This kind of background blur effect is being offered in phones that do not have dual-camera setups, so it wasn’t really necessary to offer a dual-camera setup on the Honor 9N, but we guess they had to show the feature as per the current trend, no matter how bad the resulting images turned out to be.

The problems just get worse when it starts to get darker. Significant noise and blurriness creep in, and the resulting images are quite soft. Like the Honor 9 Lite, the Honor 9N also comes with a ‘Night Shot’ mode which still requires something like a tripod stand to work properly, or if your hands have tripod-grade steadiness.

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Honor 9N: Are The Cameras Any Good?

The overall camera performance of the Honor 9N is a bit of a mixed bag. The selfie camera is surprisingly good in bright conditions but lags behind in low-light scenes, which is kind of par in the price segment. Day-light images taken from the rear dual-camera setup are also acceptable, but its low-light performance is just abysmal. There are phones out there, such as the Xiaomi Redmi Note 5 (Review), which offer better rear-facing camera performance than the Honor 9N in the same price range.

If it’s good selfies you are after, the Honor 9N will not disappoint you. Casual rear camera photography is also possible as long as you don’t tend to take photos in the moonlight.

Awad handles gadget reviews and high priority stories for MySmartPrice. He also dabbles in translating Chinese smartphone launch events from time to time. With a degree in Software Engineering and experience with logic boards and circuits, Awad prefers to focus on the PC side of the tech world.