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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1. Diego!

Posts: 880; Member since: Jun 15, 2009

Quoting: "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" WTF has Apple to do in every single article??? Stop iPhoneArena!

7. syam7863

Posts: 74; Member since: Sep 15, 2016

Yeah. And here I thought HTC did it first

9. RebelwithoutaClue unregistered

It says optical zoom AND portrait effect. HTC only did portrait effect

13. syam7863

Posts: 74; Member since: Sep 15, 2016

Oh yeah... My bad.

2. Boast_Rider

Posts: 536; Member since: Sep 14, 2017

A higher quality single camera is ALWAYS better. However, normal people(not geeks like us) think 2 > 1, and hence dual cameras sell. In reality, normal people won't care that much about the mediocre camera inside OP5/5T, since they mostly post on facebook or instagram, where photo quality matters little. It's a no-brainer for Oneplus to go with a dual camera if you look at it like that. And since they have to keep costs low, they can't put a high-end sensor like the pixel 2 or the S8, with most of their camera budget going to the other camera module.

4. Martin_Cooper

Posts: 1774; Member since: Jul 30, 2013

If anything OP phones are synonym with geeks. Every day Joe will most probably never hear about OP. So de dual camera marketing does not apply here. They just tried something different, it failed miserably and they had no time to do anything else.

15. Boast_Rider

Posts: 536; Member since: Sep 14, 2017

That might be true about the western world, where everyday joes have posh lives with $50k annual income and can just buy an iPhone with a week's income. But in poor countries like India where people just can't afford flagships( iPhone X costs more than median wage per year!), people are looking for flagship specs for cheap price. That's where Oneplus comes in, as in pure numbers game, a Oneplus 5 will beat almost every phone out there (16+20 MP back camera, 16MP front camera, 8GB RAM, SD835, and so on...). They just look at the specs and decide it's the best phone out there. Now, I have nothing against Oneplus. Their phones are excellent value for money. I just think that they get a bit too far on specs than the real experience, for marketing. There is a thing called pseudo-geeks. Who think they know what's good by looking at spec-sheet but most of the time they are wrong. Trust me, met more than I can count by now.

8. Jacksie66 unregistered

Exactly. I have an xz-premium with its single camera. Personally I think the camera is fantastic. It's not the absolute cream of the crop but it's still fantastic nonetheless.

16. bucky

Posts: 3797; Member since: Sep 30, 2009

At this point all higher end phones have compatible cameras.

3. Syracuse

Posts: 69; Member since: Aug 26, 2015

It's true. I have the 5T and they should of only put one excellent camera inside. And they should tweak their processing better. Although I mainly use GCMod5 which is slightly better than the standard camera app I haven't tested the app in the new update yet.

5. GreenMan

Posts: 2700; Member since: Nov 09, 2015

I quote: "OnePlus 5T has the tendency to shoot at lower ISO." It's not entirely good news, I'm afraid my dear PhoneArena. Lower ISO means the updated camera algorithm (or software?) is using slower shutter speeds! So keep your hands steady! VERY steady! Mr. Nick T; A good exposure has its trade-offs and a good photographer must know about these compromises! That's why we invented tripods and flashers! In any case, I'm a relatively old school, analogue person and I BELIEVE that human eye is better than any camera's software! Hence I always shoot in manual mode! Oh well, G'Day!

6. splus

Posts: 174; Member since: Nov 26, 2011

Totally agree with the article! If the second camera is better in low light then why don't OnePlus activate the second camera at a little brighter light instead of in only extremely dark scenes? How often do you take photos at pitch dark?

10. ebilcake

Posts: 1231; Member since: Jul 16, 2016

I thought it was a combination of the first and second camera working together that resulted in better low light shots not changing to the second camera as it were. It least that's how I understood it.

11. Cat97

Posts: 2029; Member since: Mar 02, 2017

OnePlus just wanted a cheap way to add a dual camera setup, for marketing purposes. With cheap 18:9 phones OIS is now out of question because the larger screens require the camera to be placed under the screen which would produce a huge bulge.

12. An.Awesome.Guy

Posts: 636; Member since: Jan 12, 2015

I think that they should let the second camera work in these night examples, and make it usable as manual .

14. Whitedot

Posts: 894; Member since: Sep 26, 2017

Nick, how much did you get paid for inserting apple and iphone in this article? Template catalogue ikr !?

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