Update: We have revised the OnePlus 5 Primary Camera rating, dropping it from 8.7 to 7.5. The reason for this is the poor implementation of software to switch between the two lenses and the misleading claims of lossless zoom. You can read a detailed analysis of what has gone wrong with the OnePlus 5’s dual camera.
For the first time, OnePlus is bringing the dual camera system into the fold. The OnePlus 5 comes with a 16 megapixel sensor that utilizes the wide angle lens (f/1.7 aperture) and a 20 megapixel secondary sensor with a telephoto lens affixed to it (aperture f/2.6). The two sensors have a pixel pitch of 1.12um and 1.0um respectively, which is smaller than what we’ve seen from other flagships such as the Google Pixel XL, Samsung Galaxy S8+ and even the LG G6. Regardless, OnePlus says that their team may have sourced the components from Oppo, but the software for imaging has been built ground up and we couldn’t help but put the phone’s dual camera to test and see if it brings flagship level performance to the table
In the Studios
Starting off with the tests in the lab, we tested both the OnePlus 5 cameras against our standard test target. We first tested the wide angle lens in both good light (ISO 500) and poor light that could be considered indicative of shooting at night (ISO9600). In good light, the OnePlus 5 produces very consistent colours across the board. We saw slight over-saturations in the reds, but that is normal given that almost every mobile sensor in the market will have issues with the colour red. If you don’t like that, you can always just shoot in RAW, where the images are completely flat in colour and contrast. The center sharpness is commendable and the loss is minimal going towards the edges. The detail retention in the feathers could have been better and we do start to see some muddling of the resolution lines above 9megapixels (in the resolution chart). The low light photos on the other hand, show some loss in detail, however, the colour accuracy maintained by the sensor is commendable.
The performance of the telephoto lens/sensor combination is somewhat diminished in comparison to its wider counterpart. For starters, the aperture is reduced from f/1.7 to f/2.6, meaning that the ISO gets bumped up for the same kind of lighting. Secondly, a denser packed sensor is bound to suffer from some degradation in image quality. Keeping the lighting identical, we noticed that to shoot our “well lit” test shot, the ISO got bumped up to ISO 1000. While the image was sharp across the frame, we did notice a significant change in how the colours showed up. While most colours seemed to be a little washed out, the red was still oversaturated. What was most interesting was the amount of luma noise we saw across the frame. The grain is excessive for an ISO 1000 photo but we hope that OnePlus can fix this with a software update. The low light shot (ISO 9600) was not what we had expected. Sharpness was significantly down and the photo had a slightly pink cast to it.
In the Real World
Moving onto the real world test, what is unquestionably evident is that the autofocus on this smartphone is not only very reliable but also extremely fast. Not just that, but the shutter is incredibly responsive with no lag between the moment you tap the shutter button and when the photo is taken. The time between shots is also pretty negligible, so if you find yourself in a situation where you need to keep taking photos in succession, the OnePlus 5 wouldn’t disappoint. The colours straight out of the camera for JPG files are great, though RAW files need a significant amount of work. Great colours, amazing contrast all make for great images from the OnePlus 5, but there are two main problems with the OnePlus 5’s camera.
The first issue is with respect to background detail. We noticed that the JPG files suffer from a massive loss in quality, not just in the foreground, but the background as well. The sample below is of tree roots, with a crop from the frame on the side. The crop reveals the excessive blending of details, almost making it appear like a water colour painting.
The second issue is with regards to shooting in RAW. Unlike in previous versions of OxygenOS, RAW images can only be shot when using the Pro Mode. This means that you will now be forced to use Pro Mode if you want to shoot in RAW. This was not the case in earlier OnePlus flagships. However, the real issue comes when you switch over to the telephoto lens. We observed that while the JPG photo was a telephoto shot, its RAW counterpart was not. The RAW file looked like it had been shot through the wide lens. The resolution on both the RAW and JPG file is the same (16 megapixels) and a closer examination of the JPG file makes us believe that the OnePlus 5 is actually using the wide angle lens to shoot the image, but then up-sampling the final file. Below is the RAW file and its telephoto counterpart, presented in 100% crop from both the files. We processed the RAW file to make it visually appealing, but did not apply any sharpening. You can compare the detail in the leaves yourself.
The OnePlus 5 has good camera hardware in place, which we can tell from the quality of the RAW files, however, their software still needs work. It is unacceptable to turn a detail-rich RAW file into a water-colour painting wrapped up in the JPG format. Then there is the whole confusion over the fact that despite shooting from the telephoto lens, the RAW output shows a wide angle frame, with a 16-megapixel resolution instead of 20 megapixels. A JPG file shot in the auto mode using the telephoto lens does register a 20-megapixel resolution, but somehow, the Pro mode is just not able to read into that.