Camera

The biggest upgrades to the OnePlus 5 come in the form of the camera. Gone is the single-sensor solution, replaced by a dual camera system that packs similar functionality to the iPhone 7 Plus. What we’re getting here is a wide-angle “1X” camera and a “2X” zoom camera; it seems OnePlus incorrectly reports the focal lengths for these cameras, but we can confirm the difference between each camera’s field of view is 2x.

The wide-angle camera gets a 16-megapixel Sony IMX398 sensor with 1.12µm pixels and an f/1.7 lens, while the zoom cameras is a 20-megapixel IMX350 with 1.0µm pixels and an f/2.6 lens. There is a 1.25 stop difference in aperture between the wide and zoom cameras, as well as 20.3 percent smaller pixels, so it’s clear the zoom camera is not nearly as equipped for low light photography. Neither camera has optical image stabilization either, though OnePlus does cite electric stabilization as a feature.

With this setup, OnePlus is bucking the trend of improved low light ability in favor of pure resolution. In fact one of the main points OnePlus uses in their advertising is that the OnePlus 5 has the highest resolution zoom camera on any smartphone. I’d prefer to see larger pixels and OIS here, as well as a camera with dual pixels or some other form of focus-assist technology.

The OnePlus 5 isn’t a slow camera by any means, and OnePlus have managed to improve focus times over the OnePlus 3 without any additional hardware. However, it’s not as fast as flagship cameras that use dual focus pixels, like the Galaxy S8.

Looking at the quality of images from the OnePlus 5’s camera, it’s clear the company spent more time adding additional hardware ­– namely the second zoom camera – rather than improving image quality. Across the board, the OnePlus 5 simply doesn’t produce images as good as the best smartphone cameras out there, such as the Pixel XL, Galaxy S8, LG G6 and iPhone 7 Plus. The OnePlus 3 had a reasonable though not top-end camera, and it seems the OnePlus 5 follows in these footsteps with only minor improvements to image processing.

Image quality from the dual camera solution is fine, though I didn’t capture any images with this phone that elevated it to the top of the pack. Outdoor photos are bright and detailed, indoor shots are reasonable, and low-light photos are as expected for a camera setup without a focus on light capture. Metering is decent, leading to mostly accurate photos, with enough saturation for lifelike results. Dynamic range is a little on the weak side compared to other top-end phones, particularly the Pixel with its always-on and ultra-fast HDR mode.

The OnePlus 5 does have an automatic HDR mode, though it doesn’t activate often enough, and even when it is used, the results aren’t massively different from standard shots. The Xiaomi Mi 6 stands out with an extremely effective HDR mode that should be used all the time for the best camera results, but the same can’t be said for the OnePlus 5.

I’d still have the Pixel XL and Galaxy S8 as the best Android cameras on the market today, while the OnePlus 5 is a bit further back in the pack. I don’t mind zoom cameras, though I’m not completely sold; I’d prefer a better zoom to see objects further away in greater detail. Of the dual camera solutions I’ve used, I think the LG G6’s wide angle system provides the best functionality.

There are also noticeable differences in processing between the wide and zoom cameras, which indicates OnePlus only worked on general image processing for the camera rather than implementing specific tweaks for each sensor. Similar to the Xiaomi Mi 6, the zoom camera produces warmer imagery, however I prefer the results from the wide camera, which are slightly more natural. The wide camera also produces better detail, even though its megapixel count is lower, as it has far better light capturing ability which leads to less grain in every shot.

In fact the zoom camera’s light capturing ability is poor enough that it doesn’t activate in dark conditions. Instead, switching to the 2X camera in these conditions will simply apply a 2x digital zoom to the wide angle camera. This is something to be aware of, as using the 2X zoom mode in dark conditions may lead to images that aren’t as detailed as you might expect.

The two main features provided by the OnePlus 5’s camera app are the portrait mode, and the manual mode. Portrait modes are becoming common after Apple first included it in the iPhone 7 Plus, although its method of simulating bokeh around a subject was found in Android devices under a different name years beforehand. The portrait mode on the OnePlus 5 works as expected, to provide additional bokeh that’s pleasant enough, though not amazing. The manual mode, on the other hand, is very impressive and offers a lot of control for those that love to fine tune image processing for the best results.

On the front of the OnePlus 5 is a 16-megapixel IMX371 sensor with 1.0µm pixels and an f/2.0 fixed-focus lens. The quality of this camera is good and exhibits decent dynamic range for a selfie camera, but I’d have liked to see larger pixels or a wider lens for better low light capture. The lack of autofocus is also starting to emerge as a downside when some flagships are including the feature for their selfie cameras.