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Honor 70 review: the first phone to use the Sony IMX 800 super sensor

The slimline and sleek Honor 70 is the first smartphone to feature Sony's new IMX 800 sensor

A photo of the Honor 70 smartphone
(Image: © Basil Kronfli / Digital Camera World)

Digital Camera World Verdict

The Honor 70 is a mix of highlights and compromises, but for photography and camera fans, it's a solid option. While it misses out on indulgences like stereo sound, wireless charging, and water resistance, it's one of the sleekest-looking phones we've ever used. What's more, its impressive main camera, which debuts the Sony IMX 800 sensor, is flanked by a mighty autofocusing ultra-wide. So while you can get more power for your money, it's one of the best midrange camera phones we've used.

Pros

  • +

    Strong main camera

  • +

    Impressive ultrawide with AF

  • +

    Stylish and slim design

  • +

    Large curved AMOLED screen

Cons

  • -

    Single mono speaker (no stereo sound)

  • -

    No telephoto camera

  • -

    Misses out on wireless charging

  • -

    No water resistance rating

  • -

    Mono speaker

The Honor 70 is a midrange smartphone with a few flagship flourishes, but it's especially exciting, for us at least, because it debuts the new Sony IMX 800 camera sensor. This isn't Honor's top-end flagship phone for 2022 – that would be the very good Magic 4 Pro (opens in new tab), an excellent camera phone with very fast charging. The Honor 70 falls under the brand's 'N series', 'N' standing for number. 

While last year's Honor 50 (opens in new tab) was a design hit but a camera miss, this time around, Honor's intent on bringing some of its Magic 4 Pro's Alakazam camera mastery to its midrange line. That means the Honor 70 is the first N series phone to benefit from Honor Image Engine.

Costing £480 (roughly US$550), the Honor 70 is pricier than some excellent phones, including the Google Pixel 6a (opens in new tab) and the Nothing Phone (1) (opens in new tab). Can its fine-looking frame and leveled-up camera hardware and software help justify its price?

Honor 70 design

The Honor 70 is a great-looking phone. The front looks like it's nearly all-screen, the sides taper in elegantly, and the phone's profile is very slim. Available in Crystal Silver, Midnight Black, and Emerald Green, we've been testing out the frosted Emerald Green version, and it repels fingerprints very well.

There's a case in the box, along with a pre-fitted screen protector on the phone itself, so while it misses out on an IP68 water-resistant certification, it still comes with an element of protection. 

The glass front and back of the phone give the Honor 70 an instant richness, though it's interesting Honor went with a plastic frame for the phone instead of a metal one. Plastic keeps things nice and light, with the phone weighing just 178g – much lighter than the 210g Pixel 6 Pro (opens in new tab) or 240g iPhone 13 Pro Max (opens in new tab).

While on paper, its slender 7.9mm profile sounds good, in the flesh the phone feels even slimmer given the tapered edges, and that's set against a large 6.8-inch screen, making for a commanding footprint. 

Honor 70 screen

With its 6.8-inch screen, the Honor 70 is certainly big enough, but what makes the phone's display even more striking is how slimline its bezels are. Reminiscent of a Samsung Galaxy Note phone, when we first swiped through the setup process and interface, it felt like we were using a $1,000 flagship. 

This flagship-type experience is helped along by the fact you get a smooth 120Hz refresh rate on the Honor 70's AMOLED 10-bit screen. It's also HDR10 compatible (though not Netflix certified), and it's responsive to the touch.

The more we tested out the Honor 70's screen, the more midrange elements crept in. The resolution is Full HD, not QHD. That means it sports a pixel density of 395 – not bad at all, just not the 500 PPI+ we've come to expect from phones like the OnePlus 10 Pro (opens in new tab) and Oppo Find X5 Pro.

While we have no official brightness numbers from Honor, it went toe to toe with the Oppo Reno 8 Pro, reaching roughly 900 nits in auto brightness in direct sunlight. This means while it isn't best-in-class, it should be easy to make out on a sunny day – though you'll need to turn off manual brightness to hit those nits, given manual brightness peaked at around 450 nits.

Honor 70 camera specs

(Image credit: Basil Kronfli / Digital Camera World)

There are three cameras around the back of the Honor 70, a wide, ultra-wide, and depth sensor. We're encouraged to see Honor refrain from loading up a low-spec macro camera on the phone, going the same route as Nothing with its Phone (1), opting for two quality sensors instead. 

At the heart of the imaging experience is the Sony IMX800, a 54MP sensor with a 1/1.49in size, with 1-micron pixels, which are combined to 2 microns in the pixel binned 12MP photos the Honor 70 captures by default. Matched with an f/1.9 aperture, it’s interesting that the new sensor isn’t helped along by optical image stabilization (OIS). While the Magic 4 Pro was one of the best camera phones of the year, despite missing out on OIS, it’ll be interesting to see how the new sensor fares. 

There’s no telephoto camera on the Honor 70, but its ultra-wide camera is a powerful module, doubling up as a macro camera thanks to its autofocusing lens, and locking onto subjects as close as 4cm. It combines a 50MP resolution sensor with an f/2.2 lens. 

The depth sensor around the back should help with Honor's new Solo Cut feature, which tracks subjects. It also captures a portrait orientation video from a landscape video, so. you can get an extra cut of your clips for TikTok or Instagram.

As for selfies, they're captured from a 32 MP, f/2.4 camera, though images are saved at around 8MP, which pixel bins four pixels into one. 

In addition to the new Solo Cut, there's a Photo, Video, Aperture, Night, Multi-video, Pro, Slow-mo, Panorama, HDR, Time-lapse, Stickers, Documents, Super Macro, Hi-res, and Story. 

The Honor 70 Pro mode captures photos with a manual ISO of up to 12800 and a shutter speed of up to 30 seconds. 

Honor 70 camera review

The Honor 70's camera mix is very competitive. As you can see from the images below, the wide and ultra-wide cameras cover an expansive range, and they also play off one another well with their similar resolutions, especially in well-lit scenes, showcasing similar characteristics. 

Detail is strong from the IMX 800's good-looking, rich images. They're loaded with information – especially when shooting in daylight, and look balanced from a color and exposure point of view. There's a pleasing amount of contrast applied to photos too – they look layered and textured, and sharpening is clearly at work boosting photos with extra pop, without ruining them. You can crop into pictures comfortably by up to two times, but if you're a zoom fiend, you'll miss a dedicated telephoto camera.

Noise is handled well from both the Honor 70's system. When shooting at night, the primary camera's exposure is tastefully amplified. It doesn't turn night into day, but does pull out detail from shadows well, and handles mixed lighting impressively for a camera with no OIS. 

You can tell OIS is missing when you crop into a shot taken at night – the Honor 70's lowlight photos miss out on the clarity of some flagship nighttime cameras like the Pixel 6 Pro and Xiaomi 12s Ultra (opens in new tab). When shooting in poorly-lit scenes with the ultra-wide camera, it's a similar story, except there's even less clarity, and exposure is dialled back that bit more. As a system though, and for the price, the Honor 70 is a strong option. 

You can see from the examples below that shadow detail is rich in photos taken in well-lit scenes, even when zooming into photos, and the large sensor creates a pleasing amount of background blur when photographing close-up objects. 

The 32MP selfie camera is also capable of pulling off sharp, good-looking photos in bright environments. While beauty mode is on by default, it's relatively subtle, and even when you turn it off shots are warm and flattering. 

As for the Honor 70's video capture, whether shooting Full HD or 4K, footage is steadied by powerful electronic image stabilization. Just like with photos, it handles noise respectably, and focus is reliable even mid-recording, once again, grabbing a pleasing blur to backgrounds when your subject is closer than half a meter away.

Honor 70 camera samples

Honor 70 performance

Powered by a Qualcomm Snapdragon 778+ 5G matched with 8GB RAM, the Honor 70 gets the same kind of performance you see in the Nothing Phone (1), though interestingly benchmarked slightly worse. Nevertheless, thanks to its smooth 120Hz refresh rate, it's feels fast and smooth, and it was also capable of playing back most games without too many dropped frames at moderate graphics settings.

Running Honor's Magic UI 6 over Android 12, the interface is virtually identical to Huawei's EMUI, except it isn't quite as refined in areas, however, it has access to the Google Play Store which is a boon for anyone in the West.

There are a lot of pre-installed apps. Trainpal, Trip.com, Booking.com, and WPS office apps – the first few minutes we spent with the Honor 70 involved uninstalling these and more. Some Honor apps like Email and Tips could also be removed which was great, though others – Honor Store and My Honor couldn't. This bloat is just part of the Magic UI experience. There's a lot of good here, but anyone looking for a stock version of Android should look to Motorola, Nokia and, of course, Google. 

With 256GB storage, despite missing out on a microSD card, the Honor 70 has plenty of space for loads of files, photos, videos and apps. It's also packing a respectable battery, despite its slender profile, with a 4800mAh cell inside. The phone lasts a full day thanks to that efficient Snapdragon 778G+ inside, and with a fast charging 66W charger in the box, powers up in under an hour, with 20 minutes of charge pushing it past 50 percent. This is plenty fast, even if it isn't class-leading, but the phone misses out on wireless charging altogether. 

Honor 70 verdict

The Honor 70 is one of those phones that misses out on quite a few flourishes but still gets enough right to deliver a good experience. Its camera is strong for the price, it's very sleek, and its screen looks great.

There's no getting around the fact you can get wireless charging phones with stereo speakers and more power for the cost of Honor's latest offering. The interface is also a touch clunky – a throwback to old Huawei, complete with a bit of bloatware to boot. 

Nevertheless, the Honor 70 is a definite step in the right direction versus the Honor 50, and is one of the best midrange camera phones around with its new two rear cameras impressing. If Honor can stick with this trajectory, its follow-up should be a showstopper.  

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Basil Kronfli is a freelance technology journalist with a number of specialisms. He started his career at Canon Europe, before joining Phone Arena and Recombu as a tech writer and editor. From there he headed up Btekt as a director and then Future as a Senior Producer, sharpening his considerable video production skills. 


His technical expertise has been called on numerous times by mainstream media, with appearances and interviews on outlets like Sky News, and he provides Digital Camera World with insight and reviews on camera phones, video editing software and laptops, on-camera monitors, camera sliders, microphones and much more.