WETZLAR, Germany — A replica of Marxist revolutionary Che Guevara’s black and white portrait, taken with a Leica camera, is displayed at the lens maker’s headquarters here, alongside other black and white images that went viral around the world before the smartphone era.
Guevara’s portrait, showing the Argentine with a black beret and unkempt hair, shares space on giant wave-shaped white walls with photos of Muhammad Ali punching to the camera and James Dean strolling in New York.
Established as a luxury brand, the Leica name is going mainstream with its partnership with Huawei while the Chinese smartphone maker makes a case for its P series as the best mobile camera in the market.
Leica Co-engineers the cameras on Huawei’s P and Mate series of premium phones. The P30 Pro, launched in Paris on March 26, is equipped with quad sensors for low-light and ultra-zoom capabilities that can capture the night sky and the lunar surface.
“The smartphone is a good tool for the consumer to exhaust their imagination. You can capture anything with your smartphone, anywhere, anytime,” said Changzhu Li vice president for smartphone product line at Huawei Consumer businesses group.
“Users, they take pictures and also they want to get better quality they want to get more life they want to improve their skills,” he said.
The photographer behind the iconic Che Guevarra photo, said the photo was taken in half a minute in Havana in the 1960s. It was also accidental as he was assigned to shoot Cuban leader Fidel Castro, according to The Smithsonian Mag.
“I was surprised by his gaze. By sheer reflex I shot twice, horizontal and vertical. I didn’t have time to take a third photo, as Che stepped back discreetly into the second row,” the Smithsonian Mag article quoted lensman Alberto Diaz Gutierrez, also known as Korda.
Guevarra’s portrait is among the world’s most recognizable photographs, immortalized in everything from shirts to mugs.
The P30 Pro is the current number 1 phone on camera review website DXOMARK’s ranking, dislodging its own P20 Pro.
Leica helps “design the parameters” of Huawei’s mobile cameras while a dedicated team works on “fine-tuning image quality,” Li said.
For the P30 series, Huawei and Leica swapped green for yellow, adapting RYYB or red, yellow and blue to brighten the image with help from its AI-equipped Kirin 980 chip.
The P30 Pro also includes a depth-sensing TOF or time of flight sensor for better background blur and a periscope-style lense that allows 5 times optical zoom and 10 times hybrid of optical and digital zoom.
Li said Leica engineers once missed half of a crucial football match of the German national team just to work on Huawei cameras.
Leica is “working very hard” to improve low light, zoom and image sharpness for future Huawei cameras, said the German firm’s project manager for optical design, Florian Weiler.
“We see a room for improvement in all these tasks. Especially the details, we will always have the challenge of small sensors,” Weiler said.
This year, the Shenzhen-based tech giant is again calling on Huawei users to join its “Next Image” global photo contest.
The judges include photographer Steve McCurry, who shot the TIME Magazine cover of Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai with the piercing eyes.