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This story was shot on a smartphone

Photographing life’s moments, whether big or small, has never been easier thanks to the rate that technology continues to innovate and progress.

Written by Christopher Penrose

Boasting features like a 5X Hybrid Zoom, built-in AI, and a Leica Triple Lens, HUAWEI’s newest phone captures the very best of a DSLR camera in one small handheld device. To celebrate its launch, we sent our writer to South Africa to put the P20 Pro to the test as he joined Phinda Game Reserve’s team of researchers to help in its conservation efforts. Here’s how it went.

DAY 1

To get to the Phinda Game Reserve, we travelled by plane and car from Johannesburg, seeing our first glimpses of South Africa’s incredible wildlife (zebras, rhinos, giraffes, warthogs) along the way. That was my first chance to test the Leica Triple Lens on the HUAWEI P20 Pro as we traversed through a small corner of the 30,000-hectare property, which was surrounded by fencing to keep the animals in (and the poachers out). The phone’s artificial intelligence mode came in handy as it surveyed the surroundings to adjust the camera settings, producing beautiful, crisp images.

DAY 2

I joined the team that protects rhinos from poaching by removing their horns, which can go for more than $100,000 USD per kilo. I travelled with the ground team while a helicopter tracked and sedated the rhinos we would be dehorning that day. Our first rhino succumbed to the powerful cocktail in a dense forest, while the second one was tracked in an open vista. Not being shy to partake in such an incredible experience, I held down the ears of a rhino to block the noise of the dehorning and used my body to keep it from rolling over. The fact that I could capture this entire process with a tool as powerful as a DSLR in my back pocket was really quite something (and made for easy travelling).

DAY 3

We trekked over the small mountains that make up the southern end of the Great Rift Valley, which reaches all the way up to Ethiopia. Over the course of the day, I used Pro mode, which lets you change your ISO, shutter speed, white balance, image size (up to 40M with an option for RAW images) and even allows for manual focus. We saw almost every animal you could dream of in this landscape, but it was a male bull in musk who let us sit a few feet from him as he ate that became the day’s rare gift.

DAY 4

Being our last full day, we hit the trail early and then rode out again in the evening to take in the sunset and capture as much as we could. At this point, I was really starting to get the hang of how many options the P20 offers. Portrait mode let me capture personal images with both people and animals that actually communicated the intimacy of those moments. I made use of night mode at sunset to capture the colour of the sky, along with the detail of the warm light on the grassy landscape. I can’t imagine a more ideal setting to test out this game- changing camera in a phone. Next stop: the concrete jungle.