OnePlus Nord vs iPhone SE (2020): camera comparison

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The OnePlus Nord is the newest value offer from OnePlus — a midranger, which arrived with a splash, an affordable handset that offers a lot for a price in the $400 neighbourhood. Know what else costs $400? The iPhone SE (2020).

Apple's tiny iPhone might not be the most modern-looking handset on the market — it has that 6-year-old iPhone 6 design, which is definitely long in the tooth. But it gets plenty of praise for its powerful processor and very good camera. The OnePlus Nord definitely looks more modern. But what about that camera?

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Well, we took them out for a spin. Here's how the comparison turned out!

Scene 1: the flower pillar

The photo looks detailed and colorful out of both phones. You will notice some more contrast in the OnePlus Nord shot, which makes some colors and highlights pop out more. However, you will notice that the iPhone SE's HDR did better — notice the gradient over the horizon in the background. The iPhone pulled more of the setting sun's colors and they blend into the sky smoothly. On the Nord photo, there's a stark line, which splits the gradient in two.

Scene 2: excuse me, sir, which way to the pool?

With the statue in the shade, the iPhone SE definitely outdid the Nord here. We get an overall brighter shot from the iPhone SE camera, as well as finer detail, and better contrast. As a result, the details pop out more and all the curves and dents in the rocks and statue look a lot more life-like.

Scene 3: road overlook

A good shot from both phones here. The Nord's photo is a bit darker, but that's not necessarily bad. It captured the sunset's red light hitting the trees on the left much better than the iPhone SE, which gave us a more balanced, non-risky shot overall.

Scene 4: attempts at flight

Another good shot from both phones. The biggest difference that you can spot in this image is the color calibration of both phones. The Nord comes out with a colder, magenta-tinted image, while the iPhone SE does that signature yellow-ish tint. Again, the Nord's photo is a bit more contrast-y and a bit darker, but retains the blue color of the sky. The iPhone SE pretty much blew it out to white.

Scene 5: fountains of rust

The Nord's tendency to go for darker, more contrast-y shots is very apparent here and the photo from the iPhone SE looks a tad better — we just get more to look at. Or at least that's how we feel. Otherwise, both pictures look pretty close in terms of detail and sharpness.

Scene 6: the museum

Another stark difference between the two phones — the Nord's tendency to oversharpen and add deeper contrast makes the grass patch in the middle to look kind of weird — patches of grass are lumped together and kind of look like leaves. Again, we have popping highlights from the Nord, whereas the iPhone SE went for a more "balanced" look. The difference in color calibration shows up yet again — a magenta tint from the Nord, a yellow-ish cast from the iPhone.

Scene 7: monuments of old times

The iPhone SE came up with a lot more detail in the rocks here, giving us more to look at. The OnePlus Nord picture is a bit flat and stale and doesn't manage to reproduce the intricate dents and curves in the rock monuments.

Scene 8: for victory

Both phones handled the dynamics here really well — despite the statue being against the backdrop of a bright sky, we can still see a lot of detail in it. The iPhone SE picture is a pinch brighter, but both images look pretty good.

Scene 9: sunset cathedral

Again, very close results here. Both phones managed to capture the beautiful colors of the sunset without sacrificing too many shadows. Both images look a tad underexposed.

Scene 10: urban portrait

The OnePlus Nord and the iPhone SE have Portrait Modes of their own, so of course we tested them. In this image, both phones did great with background separation and the faux bokeh looks convincing on both sides. The Nord seems to have done a bit too much of HDR work, so it looks a tad weird — a halo effect around the head and flat lighting on the tree leaves in the background. The iPhone SE applied a blur on the brick wall where it shouldn't have, so if you spend a couple of seconds examining it, you can spot the "fake" depth of focus.

The OnePlus Nord also allows you to zoom in when taking a portrait shot, simulating a telephoto lens experience. The iPhone SE doesn't do that, unfortunately.

Scene 11: discount Steve Austin

Again, the OnePlus Nord applied a weird HDR or faux studio lighting effect over the photo, which kind of messed up the skin tone and details on the face. Also, the edge detection had an oopsie around the top of the model's head. The iPhone SE did a good job here — it wasn't even tricked by the gray t-shirt against the gray background.

Scene 12: midtown selfie

Dynamics were handled pretty well by both phones. The Nord kind of missed the skintone and washed out some of the details in the face. It does look a bit sharper around the beard, though.

Scene 13: selfie portrait

You can use a selfie Portrait Mode with both phones and, in this photo, they performed quite close. Both struggled a bit to separate the subject from the colorful background, but the iPhone SE held it together a bit better. There's a slight difference in color, but nothing too dramatic or unnatural on either end.

Scene 14: a night at the park

The iPhone SE does not have a Night Mode, so we kept away from Nightscape mode on the OnePlus Nord. Still, the Nord came up with a more colorful and sharper shot than what the iPhone gave us here.

Scene 15: the night's young

Both phones struggled with focusing in on the doggie here. The Nord came up with a very slightly brighter photo, but aside from color calibration, there are no major differences.

Scene 16: the building with all the lights

Both photos look really close here. But if we look closer, we see a lot of noise on the iPhone SE picture.

Scene 17: how much LED is too much?

Great dynamics on both phones here. The shadows in the Nord photos are a bit darker, but we didn't lose a lot of visual information — we got a more contrast-ey image instead. Both pictures have sharp detail and did great around the LED signs — no blur or fuzzyness is apparent.

Scene 18: selfie in the dark

This shot was taken in a spot with very little lighting. Here, the OnePlus Nord applied tons of noise-reduction in order to get rid of the luminance noise. As a result, everything is blurry and dream-like. The iPhone SE, on the other hand, doesn't apply aggressive noise reduction, so we get tons of grain. Neither of the photos is awesome, but that's understandable, considering there was next to no light. The Nord's picture is a lot more colorful, though, so if we were to pick a better candidate for a social media post — this one would be it.

Scene 19: step into the light

Same time at night, but we stepped into the well-lit street. The Nord's long exposure and aggressive noise-reduction made for a hazy selfie, with washed out facial features. The iPhone SE doesn't shy away from keeping some of the noise in a shot, but we did get a more accurate shot, with better skintone and details.

Video 1: let's play already

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Video 1 is set up to test the autofocus capabilities of both phones. These clips were recorded at 4k 30 FPS and both cameras have us sharp details and really fast focus speeds. You can spot the differences in color calibration — the Nord goes a bit magenta, while the iPhone SE has that yellow-ish hue. Just like in the pictures, the shadows in the Nord video are darker.

Video 2: stabilization test

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Chased the doggo around a bit to see how the phones do with stabilization. You can also spot some sharp details and vivid colors on the Nord. They look nice, but the iPhone SE's color is closer to reality here. In any case, the Nord proved to be great at stabilizing the shaky footage. The iPhone SE has some weird jitter sometimes — perhaps the jog was too much for it.

Video 3: selfie clip

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A short selfie clip recorded for our video comparison between the two phones. The iPhone SE definitely outdid the Nord here in terms of skintone, details on the face, as well as sound quality. That's not to say that the Nord did a bad job, mind you.

Video 4: nightcrawler

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Taking the phones for a walk at night, we recorded a short clip. Neither of them had a good time, with noise and blurriness present in both videos. Though, the Nord definitely dropped the ball here with a lot of bloom around the lights and nauseating jitter. But hey, we did push the limits here.


Well it was a heated battle. These phones really do have amazing cameras for your $400. They are quite close in night time and perform similarly with video, but the iPhone SE is a step above in almost every daylight shot. Still, it's worth noting that the OnePlus Nord has an ultrawide camera and a dedicated night mode, which you simply can't get on the most affordable iPhone. So, there are pros and cons. Which one of these is for you?

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