OnePlus 5 compared to the best smartphone cameras: OP5 vs Galaxy S8 vs Google Pixel vs iPhone 7 Plus


Just like any major phonemaker striving to deliver a top-notch product in 2017, OnePlus too has put considerable effort into making the camera of the OnePlus 5 something special. After touting partnership with DxO and claiming the OP5 to have the highest resolution dual camera on any smartphone ever, we were more than a little bit curious to see just how well it performed in reality.
 
Right off the bat, the camera is one of the biggest changes that the OP5 introduces when compared to its predecessors. Ditching the single shooter for an iPhone 7 Plus-like setup with lossless optical zoom, the latest “flagship killer” from China is equipped with a traditional, wide 16MP camera, as well as a 20MP telephoto camera that can be used to simulate a shallow depth of field effect (a.k.a bokeh), but also comes in handy when you simply want to zoom in on the scene without compromising quality.
 
All said and done, the OP5 has the potential to be a great cameraphone, but just how well does it perform in the field against the best smartphone cameras? That's what we're here to find out, folks! We are pitting the OnePlus 5 against the Samsung Galaxy S8, the Google Pixel, and the iPhone 7 Plus for this comparison, and we're expecting a neck and neck fight, considering that three of the four contenders are already established quality pocket cameras.
 
But without further ado, let's jump right in!
 

Close-ups






As we've stated many times before, if there's one thing that most current smartphone cameras excel at, it's close-ups. The OnePlus 5 doesn’t break the trend and delivers some nice-looking shots from up close. In this case, the lavender flower is sharp in focus, while the background is uniformly blurred with a pleasantly “creamy” look to it. As far as color and exposure are concerned, the OP5 manages to strike a well-balanced look, unlike the iPhone 7 Plus, which for some reason produces an image where the shadows are too dark and the colors – drab.
 
However, when compared to the result from the Pixel side-by-side, it becomes apparent that the OnePlus 5 uses a more aggressive form noise filtering, which results in a painting-like effect in the smooth gradients in the out-of-focus areas.
 
In usual Samsung fashion, the Galaxy S8 produces what many would call an “artificial-looking” image that is overall brighter and more vibrant than the rest. While this brings some “pop” to the background, the shadows in the lavender flowers are a tad too bright and detract from the overall contrast of the image.
 
As a whole, the OP5 produces the most balanced image from the bunch (color- and exposure-wise, at least), although the aforementioned “oil painting” effect is a bit too prominent in the background.

General day-time photography


Scene 1: The crow




In this scene, the OP5 delivers a surprisingly soft image, which, unfortunately, will be a recurring theme throughout the remainder of our comparison.There’s a not-so-subtle glow effect plaguing the entirety of the frame, which almost makes the image appear slightly out of focus, although in reality it’s not. And no, I didn’t forget to wipe the lens beforehand (#BasicPhotoTips). Still, the OP5 manages to adjust the white balance for this scene correctly.
 
The Galaxy S8, Google Pixel, and the iPhone 7 Plus are pretty much on par in this test, delivering good-looking, detailed results. However, one of them has the edge, and that’s the Google Pixel.
 
While the S8 shot looks good, the color temperature is too high, resulting in a faint bluish tint across the frame. The iPhone 7 Plus does a tad better in terms of delivering a more accurate white balance, but the final result looks somewhat washed-out and lacking in contrast.
 
The Pixel manages to capture the scene well, delivering the most color accurate image, alongside the OP5, although Google’s camera trumps that of the “flagship killer” in terms of sharpness.
 
Scene 2: Cyclist lane




Despite the OnePlus 5 using a newer sensor in its main camera, I can’t help but feel that it takes consistently worse photos than what I’m used to from the OP3T. In this scene again the OP5 delivers an image that is decidedly murkier than the rest. Even when upscaling all the other photos to 16MP to compare full-sized crops to the OP5 shot, they still remain a lot sharper, despite coming from 12MP cameras.
 
The Pixel and the OP5 deliver similar images in terms of color and exposure, although the Pixel shot boasts superior detail across the board, including in the shadows. Although the shadows are a bit too dark in both pictures.
 
The iPhone 7 Plus and the Galaxy S8 produce the brightest images in this scenario, with the S8 having a slight edge when it comes to detail and color reproduction.
 

Low-light photography

 
Scene 1: Dining at the port
 


In this test, the OP5, the Pixel and the iPhone 7 Plus are neck and neck. When inspecting the main focal point of the photos—the restaurant and the people passing by—it becomes clear that the OP5 has produced the noisiest result. This is not necessarily all that bad in this particular scenario, as at least there’s enough detailed present where it matters.
 
Moving on to the Pixel, we can see that it produces an image that has about the same level of detail as the one from the OP5, but is not as noisy around the well-lit area. It is also quite a bit brighter and a tad warmer, and although the noise is taken to a minimum in the foreground, there’s a lot of it in the uniformly-colored sky.
 
The iPhone 7 Plus fares very similarly to the OP5 and the Pixel. It mostly manages to preserve the finer details of the scene and produces an image that’s relatively noise-free throughout the frame.
 
The Galaxy S8 manages to deliver a sharper picture than the rest, thanks to the more aggressive unsharp masking it applies after taking the photo, but it also manages to keep the noise to a very commendable minimum.
 
Scene 2: The ship
 


This scene is a tough one. If the previous scene was shot in what would be considered “proper” low-light conditions (so far as smartphone camera tests go, at least), then this one would have to be classified as “extreme” low-light, or something along those lines. I wasn’t sure anything would come out of the shots before I took them, but was actually pleasantly surprised in the end! Well, not all phones managed to perform equally well, but that’s to be expected at this point. So, let’s see how the four contenders handle shooting at what can arguably be considered less-than-optimal lighting conditions for a smartphone camera.
 
In this test, the OP5 delivers a somewhat mixed result. While the the photo is not overly noisy, which is no small feat under such conditions, it is also lacking in detail and is way too dark. This is not the worst a smartphone camera can do in this situation, as we’ll see in a moment, but it’s not the best either.
 
The Galaxy S8 once again proves itself as a great low-light camera by delivering a sharp, well-exposed, and vibrant picture that’s not too heavy on noise. This is easily the best shot from the bunch and there’s not much else to say about it, really. The result speaks for itself.
 
The Pixel… oh, the Pixel. This phone has impressed me with its camera so many times before, that I was not even remotely prepared for the colossal failure that this test would be. I had to retake this picture 4 or 5 times just to make sure that this wasn’t a one-time problem, but no – every shot came out the same way. This has to be the darkest that I’ve taken photos with the Pixel in, but I still was not expecting this dire of a result from Google’s otherwise very capable camera. I’ll have to look into this in more detail, but I unfortunately didn’t have the time to do so when taking these pictures.
 
The iPhone 7 Plus does an OK job in this test. The image it produces is a bit on the noisy side, although it manages to capture more detail than the OP5 and fares much, much better than the Pixel. However, when compared to the Galaxy S8 shot, the one from the iPhone is less detailed, noisier, and has duller colors.
 

Conclusion

 
Quite frankly, we expected more from OnePlus 5’s camera. Quite a bit more. The new telephoto lens is a neat thing to have alongside the main camera, but it doesn’t make up for the latter’s inconsistent performance. Sometimes the OP5 manages to capture nice shots, but more often than you'd like, you’ll find yourself retaking the same shot numerous times until it comes out good. Despite your best efforts to tap on the thing you want to focus on and meter for, OP5’s camera will often act up and take a messy picture where nothing looks in focus. You can try again and again, and the phone will eventually get it right, but is this really the point?
 
I was really excited by the fact that OnePlus decided to introduce a dual-cam setup with a telephoto lens, seeing as how I found the optical zoom feature on the iPhone 7 Plus quire useful, but I was also expecting a stellar main camera to go along with it. As it stands, the OP5 is more or less on par with last year’s top flagships, but is a step (or two) behind the Galaxy S8 in pretty much every way imaginably, except maybe color reproduction, which largely comes down to personal preference anyway.

What's even more troublesome is perhaps the fact that OnePlus 5's camera seems like a step down from last year's OnePlus 3T in many ways. The main 16MP camera on the OP5 actually takes lower resolution pictures than the one on the OP3T (4608 x 3456 vs 4640 x 3480 on the 3T), and although the difference in size is not that big, the new OnePlus flagship produces images that are also occasionally blurrier and noisier than what we've come to expect from its predecessor. All said and done, it seems that this year's "flagship killer" from China is not quite ready to kill it in the camera department.

Related phones

5
Galaxy S8
Pixel
iPhone 7 Plus

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