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OnePlus 5 camera review

Although the OnePlus 5 is a pretty great phone all-round, it’s the dual lens camera that’s being touted as its standout feature. And with good reason.

At the core of the camera is a dual lens set-up similar to the iPhone 7 Plus and Huawei P10.

But by pairing a 16-megapixel camera with a 20-megapixel telephoto camera, it offers significantly better specs than other dual-lens smartphone shooters.

Combine those with improved Sony sensors and a wide f/1.7 aperture to let in more light and you’ve got a smartphone camera that’s packed with cutting-edge technology.

Perhaps more importantly, though, the OnePlus 5 is easy to use and makes it simple to get good results. Even if you’re not the sort of person who knows what technical terms like ‘bokeh’, ‘fast glass’ and ‘chimping’ mean.

The interface is very intuitive and easily accessible via the home screen camera icon, or by double tapping on the power button. That means there’s virtually no delay in opening the camera.

You can also set it to open when tracing a letter on the screen - even with the phone on standby. This can be customised in Settings > Gestures.

OnePlus 5 camera interface

Fig 1) Still camera as standard. Fig 2) Swipe left for video Fig 3) Swipe right for “depth mode”. Note that the “1x” button that will switch to the 2x telephoto lens.

Why two lenses?

It’s a good question. And the short answer is that two is better than one when it comes to attaining certain photographic effects.

Of those two rear cameras we mentioned, the first is regular 16-megapixel camera of the type you would find on a single-lens phone. It comes with a f/1.7 aperture that lets in more light for better shots in low light.

Next to it sits a 20-megapixel telephoto lens with 2x optical zoom that’s great for landscapes.

But where the two cameras really work well together is in producing a stunning ‘bokeh’ effect’, whereby the background of an image is blurred, while the subject is brought into really sharp focus.

It’s something that really brings portraits to life. It’s also great for wildlife photography and any time you want to give images a dreamy, ethereal quality.

We take a closer look at how it helps with portraits below.

The Portrait Mode, or depth/bokeh mode, is one of the OnePlus 5’s most attention-grabbing features. And it’s only one swipe away in the camera interface.

OnePlus isn’t the first to incorporate this feature in a smartphone camera. It was already present on both the iPhone 7 and the Galaxy S8. But it’s certainly unique at this price point.

As you can see in the images below, it makes a world of difference when shooting portraits, bringing the focus strongly on to the subject and simulating an effect that until recently was beyond the capability of most smartphones.

OnePlus 5 portrait mode

The Depth Mode works very well for portraits, even with plenty of background in view.

OnePlus 5 portrait mode tractor

The effect works well on larger objects too. So it’s well worth experimenting.

OnePlus 5 camera sample dog

Cockapoo is ready for his close-up.

Landscapes

A light hike on a bright day was the perfect opportunity to see how the OnePlus 5 fares with landscapes and to test the effectiveness of the optical zoom.

It didn’t disappoint. The colour reproduction is vivid and the optical zoom gives a pleasing sense of depth for sweeping vistas, with no loss of detail when you want to get really close.

The zoom can be accessed by tapping the round icon by the shutter button. And once you start using it you’ll find yourself going back to it again and again.

OnePlus 5 camera sample before zoom

Landscape photo taken with standard lens.

OnePlus 5 camera sample after zoom

The zoom lens does an excellent job of capturing the details and colours of the fields in the distance with no discernible loss of detail.

Low-light

The OnePlus 5 really excels at low-light photography. And that’s largely thanks to the main sensor’s wide aperture that lets in more light to help illuminate scenes and subjects in challenging conditions.

If there was any ‘noise’ (a fancy term for image distortion and discolouration), we couldn’t discern it when we looked at our photos on the phone screen.

And even when blown up on a computer screen, it’s easy to see that the camera strikes a good balance between minimising noise and maintaining detail.

OnePlus 5 camera sample low-light staircase shot

There’s little other light on the staircase apart from the fairy lights. But the OnePlus 5 still manages to deliver vibrant colours with minimal noise.

One word about white balance

White balance is how the camera compensates for the environmental colour temperature, so that the colours are true to life.

The OnePlus 5 was excellent at reading the conditions and adjusting colours to best effect.

On a couple of occasions, I reached for the pro-mode to adjust it manually. When I did, it was very easy to do and I found it made a big difference in producing good colours.

The white balance can be accessed in the Pro-mode and then by tapping “WB”.

OnePlus 5 portrait mode toys

Selfies

Around the front of the OnePlus 5, you’ll find a 16-megapixel camera for selfies.

For low-light self-portraits, it’s been equipped with a handy screen flash mode that activates just before you take the shot.

We found the selfie camera served up sharp images, which are easily the equal of those taken on much more expensive smartphones.

OnePlus 5 camera sample selfie

Pro Mode

For more technically gifted snappers and anyone who takes photography a bit more seriously, the OnePlus 5 has a Pro Mode. This includes manual controls that give you more scope to edit images and play around with camera settings.

Open up Pro Mode and there’s a brilliant, easy-to-use interface that lets you can adjust shutter speed (how long the sensor is exposed to light) and ISO (its sensitivity).

It also features an exposure histogram and the option to select the level of exposure and focus separately.

The exposure histogram on the top left shows the brightness found in your photograph ranging from black (0% brightness) to white (100% brightness).

Also note the handy spirit-level, which is the green line in the centre of the frame that helps you get straight shots.

OnePlus 5 screen shot camera pro mode

Videos

Videos are rich with details, with very fast focus and an accurate auto-exposure level.

The maximum resolution is 4K at 30fps, but you can choose full HD at 60fps.

The colours really 'pop' on this stop-motion clip.

Verdict

Usually when smartphone-makers try to undercut the likes of Apple and Samsung, it's the camera where compromises are made. We're glad to say that this is not the case for the OnePlus 5.

OnePlus has without a doubt put a lot of effort in equipping their latest flagship with a camera that makes it easy to get good shots While at the same time, incorporating advanced features for anyone who wants to get creative.

We loved its high dynamic range, superb performance in low light and the genuinely useful second lens with optical zoom. Team all that with a manual mode that may well be the best we've encountered and you've got a smartphone camera that's nigh-on pixel-perfect.

Camera specifications

Rear camera:

  • Lens 1: 16MP wide-angle f/1.7 aperture Sony IMX398 lens
  • Lens 2: 20MP telephoto f/2.6 aperture Sony IMX350 lens (1.6x optical zoom)
  • Dual LED flash
  • AutoFocus
  • EIS (no OIS)

Front camera:

  • 16MP f.2.0 aperture Sony IMX371 lens
  • Fixed Focus
  • EIS

Both rear and front camera shoot at 4:3 ratio. If you set the ratio to 16:9, the resolution for both goes down to 12 megapixels.

Find out more and pick up the OnePlus 5 SIM free here.

Category: Reviews
Tagged: oneplus, oneplus 5

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