Camera performance remains one of the most important features of a modern smartphone.
OnePlus is understandably making a big deal of the camera capabilities of the new OnePlus 5. Moving to a dual-camera setup is a big move that gives the OnePlus 5 new shooting options — but at the same time, it means walking a delicate line of keeping the main camera up to speed with the competition.
Here is my first week’s worth of photos from the OnePlus 5, taken with both cameras, and a little bit of analysis of where I think it stands against the other great cameras available in the Android world today.
Main camera: The meat and potatoes
OnePlus upgraded the primary camera to a newer 16-megapixel sensor and also notably improved the aperture to ƒ/1.7, but stuck with a sensor that’s the same size as the OnePlus 3 and therefore with the same rather small 1.12-micron pixels. And then, there’s a big loss: optical image stabilization (OIS). Even with a much faster lens and improved sensor, it’s tough to get good low-light photography out of a small sensor with small pixels and no OIS.
Overall, the main camera is an improvement from the OnePlus 3. It’s a consistent shooter that, in most situations, can pull out a good photo with some nice colors — and the camera app is smart about engaging HDR to punch it up when necessary. In mixed lighting, not having OIS isn’t typically a problem — you really notice the lack of stabilization in night shots, where a slow shutter speed just isn’t possible, leaving you with a more grainy photo than other cameras.
Secondary camera: New shooting options
The “telephoto” secondary camera isn’t exactly what I’d call telephoto. It’s a roughly 40mm equivalent lens, compared to the main camera’s 24mm. For ease of use, there’s a simple “2X” button in the interface — close enough, I guess. That 20MP sensor also lacks OIS, has an ƒ/2.6 aperture and tiny 1-micron pixels.
Toggling over to the long lens gives you the power to take interesting shots with a new perspective. Whether that’s for a macro-style closeup or a city scene better suited to a longer lens. Photos from the secondary camera are a little grainier than the main camera, but it’s not noticeable unless you start zooming in to inspect pixels.
On the other hand, you can probably guess from the specs that the secondary camera isn’t really usable in low light situations. An ƒ/2.6 aperture is fine during the day, but isn’t capable at night — add in the small pixels that can’t take in much light, and it’s a rough combination. And given that the focal length isn’t that far removed from the main camera, you’ll probably feel fine just using that for low light scenes.
Portrait Mode: Blur those backgrounds
Just like a few other companies, OnePlus uses the pair of cameras here to do a “Portrait Mode.” It’s just a swipe away in the camera app, and it works just like the others do: use the two cameras to sense the depth of a scene, select a point to be in focus, and aggressively blur the “background” behind that point.
Like all other software-based blurring, the results are mixed. If you have a subject with well-defined edges and use tap-to-focus, things are great. If you have a more ambiguous surface — like a person with long hair, or a clear/reflective facade — the algorithm struggles. Since Portrait Mode is just a swipe away and doesn’t take much extra effort to use, it’s a fun feature to have that sometimes gives awesome results. It doesn’t feel like a necessary pillar of the camera experience on the OnePlus 5, though.