Posted on Jun 20, 2017
Updated on Jun 23 with new images
I was lucky enough to be contacted at the end of April by OnePlus to be part of the shooting campaign for the new OnePlus 5. At the end of April, I received a working prototype of the OnePlus 5 and my duty was to test the camera, giving some feedback to the company and recording some nice pictures to use for the launch of the device.
I’ve to point out that my prototype was hidden by a quite bulky white cover that was impossible to remove. In this way, I wasn’t able to have an idea of the final look of the device until I got my final unit some days ago!
The focus of this review will be about the photography with OnePlus 5, from a perspective of a professional photographer.
You may be interest to give also a look at the OnePlus 5T review from a professional photographer point of view:
OnePlus 5: targeted for photographers and enthusiasts
There’s no secret that for the last few years, the camera is one of the key aspects of a new smartphone. While all the average smartphone was able to arrive at a very satisfying level on some aspect as screen color and resolution, quality of the radio signal, GPS, quality of the speaker and building construction, the photo camera department of a smartphone is a continuous war battlefield for the producers. Everyone tries with the new smartphone to let us get better, sharper and more balanced photos.
Yes, photography! Photography today is one of the main parts of our life. We share continuously images. We look at images. We want to get more images. The smartphones have changed drastically the world of photography: now everyone has the opportunity to have a good camera in the pocket and has the opportunity to produce some good photography.
With this possibility open to everyone, the challenge to get some great photos has risen up more and more.
OnePlus 5 photography: dual lens setup
OnePlus is not the first company to use a dual lens setup, but the way that the device works with the two lenses is different from what we can find for example on the Huawei P9 and P10 smartphone.
One the OnePlus 5 we have a dual lens setup. The lenses and sensors are independent of each other. The first lens that has a wider field of view and uses a sensor of 16 Mp of resolution with a f/1.7 aperture, the second lens use a narrow field of view with 20 Mp of resolution and a f/2.6 aperture.
The key aspects of the OnePlus 5 are: the 1x or 2x mode, and the portrait mode.
The 1x and 2x mode on the OnePlus 5
When you open the OnePlus camera, you will find on the bottom of the screen a small 1x rounded icon. When pressing on that icon you will be able to switch from the 1x mode that is equivalent of the first lens with the wider field of view, to the 2x that has a narrow field of view and correspond to the second lens.
I’ve found this mode quite useful when traveling. In my recent trip to Prague, with the 2x mode I was able to photograph some details or get a better composition of some scenes using this mode/lens instead of using the 1x mode/lens.
One important thing to remember: the second lens and sensor of the 2x mode have a smaller aperture (f/2.6) so I don’t suggest to use it in the darkest situations.
OnePlus 5: Portrait mode.
This is the second key feature of the OnePlus 5. The company, thanks to the dual lens setup, was able to build an algorithm that creates a depth map around the subject you photograph. Let’s start saying that your subject has to be between 0.3 to 3 meters of distance. In this distance you will achieve your subject on focus while the background will be blurred, simulating the result of a professional camera with a bigger sensor.
Is to point out that in the portrait mode, the OnePlus 5 use for the shot the wider lens, so this way you will have to get enough close to your subject.
How are the quality results of the portrait mode? Let’s say that when you are inside that given distance the results are quite convincing. You are able to preview the effect already when shooting on the screen, but I can say from the experience of these months of shooting with the One Plus 5 that the final picture recorded is better and with fewer artifacts of what you see on the preview while shooting.
The mask around the subject is very convincing and there’s only some situation in witch we can notice little edges, usually when you have some high-frequency details close behind your subject.
OnePlus 5: pro mode
The Pro mode in the OnePlus allows the photographer to set all the shooting parameters as Iso, Shutter speed, White Balance and Focus distance. Those are important keys since every photographer can control the camera and get the desired results.
For instance, with the Pro mode, using a slow shutter speed (with the smartphone placed on a tripod) you can achieve the light painting effect or the blur of the water in the panorama images.
The Pro Mode in the OnePlus 5 has some new addition compared to the previous One Plus device: now we can save our settings in two different settings to recall them quickly. Then we have the opportunity to show a live histogram on the photo to judge better the exposure before the shot, then there’s an immersive mode (you have to set from the options) that allows you, with a finger swipe up, to hide all the parameters and see only the picture you are shooting.
Let’s remember also that when we shot in the Pro Mode we can save the photos in the raw DNG format to be able to edit them with Snapseed or Lightroom.
OnePlus 5: video and selfie and extras
Let’s talk now about some other feature of the OnePlus 5. The device can record video with a resolution up to 4k. Then we have a Time Lapse mode with a quality up to 1080p and a slow-motion mode with a final quality resolution of 720p. There’s also the panorama mode.
I’ve to point out that in all of these modes, the 1x and 2x works! In this way, you can record a video using the wider or the narrow field of view and you can switch between one or the other even when you are recording.
About the frontal camera for a selfie: the camera has a 16Mp resolution. Compared to the previous One Plus 3/3T now we have the opportunity to set up a “flash” to enlighten the faces in the picture. The “flash” is just the screen that gets very bright to give an extra boost for the selfie picture in low light. It works! 🙂
OnePlus 5: consideration about the photo quality
After I have spent two months and a half with the OnePlus 5, I can that the quality of the pictures is very high and convincing. There’s one aspect that has impressed me: the quality of the HDR mode in the OnePlus 5. Usually, HDR mode on some smartphone tends to give very un-natural results with fake colors and too low contrast. On the OnePlus 5 the results are always pleasing and the colors not too much saturated.
The details in the pictures are very convincing and the same I can say for the portrait mode (see my though above).
OnePlus 5: noise and quality on the night shots
There’s another aspect in which the OnePlus 5 shines: the quality of the low light pictures. The company was able, thanks to the new camera and the new algorithms inside the software, to allow us to record photos with a very low lever of noise. And looking at the details I can say that there’s a good balance between the noise reduction and the details recorded.
Some of the above images have been shot in the late month of April, some in May and some other in June 2017. I want to point out this since during these months the pre-production phone I had was constantly updated with the camera improvements. Probably the device you will have today in your hand could deliver even better quality pictures thanks to the last final improvements!