OnePlus 5T vs OnePlus 5 low-light camera comparison: prepare for a plot twist


Dual cameras come in many flavors. Some phones gain a dramatically wider field of view, while others go for optical zoom and the ability to take artsy portrait shots. The latter model was pioneered by Apple on the iPhone 7 Plus and was later adopted by many other smartphone makers, OnePlus included. Earlier this year, the company launched its OnePlus 5 smartphone with a secondary camera at the back providing optical zoom of 1.6X. 

Fast-forward to present day, and the OnePlus 5T is here – better than the 5 in a number of ways, but without its optical zoom capabilities. Indeed, the OnePlus 5T still has a dual camera at the back, but that secondary shooter has a different purpose now – to help you take better low-light shots. But are such photos really better on the OnePlus 5T? Mostly yes, as it turns out. The 5T takes clearer low-light images than the OnePlus 5, with details that are a bit more discernible. Sometimes the difference is barely noticeable, sometimes it becomes very evident once you zoom in. Here's a few examples:

Now brace yourselves for a plot twist. 

None of the images above were shot using the OnePlus 5T's low-light camera. They all came out of its main shooter, which happens to be identical to the one on the OnePlus 5, at least at a hardware level. The software driving these cameras, however, appears to be different. Upon closer examination, we noticed that the OnePlus 5T has the tendency to shoot at lower ISO, which in turn results in less noise and better detail once the image has been processed. 

By now you must be wondering why the OnePlus 5T didn't use its low-light camera in the above situations. Well, that's because it only activates once the light available falls below a certain threshold, and that threshold happens to be very, very low. In fact, I took photos of no less than 20 scenes around town last night, and just a single one of them was captured using the 5T's low-light shooter. I found that out on the next day; the 5T doesn't let you switch to the low-light cam manually, and there's no indication as to which camera is active as I shoot. 

That said, here's a couple of photos that were really shot using the 5T's low-light cam:

This time around, the difference is a bit more noticeable. It appears that low-light photos out of the 5T aren't just clearer. They're also a bit more brightly exposed, and we'd say we have nothing against that look. 

At the end of the day, we're glad that OnePlus delivers on its promise of better images in low light. It's one of the things the OnePlus 5 wasn't particularly good at. On the other hand, it feels like trading the OnePlus 5's 1.6X zoom camera for the OnePlus 5T's low-light shooter is a downgrade and a bad deal. After all, people do use zoom quite often, whether their phone has a dual camera or not. In contrast, the 5T's low-light cam feels like a waste of space and resources when is barely put to any use, not to mention that a higher-quality single camera – with OIS and a larger sensor – would have most likely done a better job.

Your thoughts? Let us know in the comments!

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