How to does the OnePlus 5’s Portrait mode compare to the iPhone 7 Plus’s?
There are many features to consider when buying a smartphone. None, perhaps, is more important than the camera.
The camera(s) on both the front and back of phones have really transformed from potatoes to point-and-shoot replacements in the last few years. Virtually every flagship phone released last year takes great photos. Hell, even budget phones stepped their photography game up.
For a little while there, Samsung’s flagship Galaxy phones were regarded as having the best cameras (particularly for low light), but Apple’s iPhone 7 Plus leapfrogged ahead with its dual camera system and professional “Portrait mode“.
And now, the OnePlus 5 is the first phone to match the iPhone 7 Plus’s dual cameras. Or does it?
On paper, the OnePlus 5 and iPhone 7 Plus’s dual camera systems work exactly the same way.
On the backside of the OnePlus 5, you get a regular lens (16-megapixels f/1.7 aperture) and a secondary “telephoto” lens (20-megapixels f/2.6 aperture) that offers 2x optical zoom. On the front of the camera is a 16-megapixel f/2.0 aperture selfie camera (more on that later).
Comparing the specs of the OnePlus 5’s dual cameras with those of the cameras on the iPhone 7 Plus (dual 12-megapixels; regular lens with f/1.8 aperture and telephoto with f/2.8 aperture), you’d probably think the iPhone 7 Plus bites the dust.
But because photography is so subjective, it’s nigh-impossible to declare any smartphone camera the best. It’s like comparing cameras from Canon, Nikon, Fujifilm, Olympus. All of their best DSLRS and mirrorless cameras take fabulous photos the differences are in the details and it’s all a matter of preference.
Still, that doesn’t mean we can’t show you those differences. So we grabbed the OnePlus 5 and iPhone 7 Plus and pit them against each other all set to auto their default camera settings. But we didn’t stop there. We also put the OnePlus into a shoot-out with the Google Pixel XL and Samsung Galaxy S8.
How’d the OnePlus’s cameras hold up in various conditions? Let’s take a look.
You can really see the difference color temperatures in this shot. If you’re looking for more realistic true-to-life colors, the iPhone is the way to go. The OnePlus 5’s photo has a cooler tone to it, which I kinda like, but that’s not always the case.
Here’s some flowers shot under a tent. You can see the colors are pretty oversaturated on the OnePlus 5, which muddles a lot of the dynamic range particularly in the reds and yellows. But at least you get better exposed details (look the ground at the top center of the pics).
Photos taken indoors in fluorescent lighting are a little better compared to the Google Pixel. Look at how washed out the colors look on the pillars and yellow platform edge in the Pixel image.
As always, Samsung’s Galaxy S8 takes excellent photos. I’m torn on which photo of the New York skyline I like better, TBH.
The OnePlus 5 excels at low-light photography with shots that look more natural, but some of the details get muddied up sometimes. If there’s one thing to know about the OnePlus 5’s camera, it’s that it’s not very consistent. Sometimes shots look super crisp, but other times they’re soft.
Portrait mode shootoff
OK, so the OnePlus 5 takes solid regular photos, but let’s stop beating around the bush. How does its secondary camera handle its fancy Portrait mode handle blurring out backgrounds? Can it compare to a DSLR camera armed with a prime lens?
The short answer is no. But then again, neither does the iPhone 7 Plus’s Portrait mode. For phone photography, Portrait mode is a game-changer, but the details are literally rough around the edges.
The OnePlus 5’s dual cameras do a solid job isolating the foreground and background, but I noticed a few things.
It works best when you tap on the subject so the camera knows what should be in focus; on iPhone 7 Plus, it automatically activates the “Depth Effect” when the cameras detect a subject is within the proper distance of the lens.
Here’s a Portrait photo of Mashable Tech Editor Pete Pachal channeling his inner 007. Both look pretty good, but the quality of the blur, or “bokeh”, on the iPhone 7 is a “creamier” (what you want). Take a look at the white text on the black card just above his head to see what I mean.
But again, like the regular camera, the OnePlus’s Portrait mode, is kinda inconsistent. In the above photo, we’ve got Chief Correspondent Lance Ulanoff looking sharp. But the bokeh is noticeably softer (again, what you want) on the OnePlus 5.
Same goes for outside Portrait photos. The iPhone 7 Plus produces slightly better blur, but the OnePlus 5’s higher-resolution pics are so, so much sharper. It’s really hard to call.
Just for good measure, I tossed in the Google Pixel XL and Galaxy S8, which don’t have a second camera for Portrait mode, but have software features that can intelligently blur out the background. On Pixel XL, it’s called Lens Blur, and on the Galaxy S8 it’s Selective Focus. They’re no substitute for a dual camera setup, but the results surprised me. See for yourself (click to enlarge each image).
iPhone 7 Plus
Google Pixel XL
Lastly, we can’t talk about phone cameras without bringing up selfies, because they matter. They matter a lot. (Probably too much.)
As with all of the other photos, the OnePlus 5 takes some pretty great selfies. Sometimes they’re clearer and sometimes they’re fuzzier than other phone cameras. It’s so hit-and-miss that it can be frustrating sometimes, but if you use best practices (like tapping on your face to lock focus), you can get some Insta-worthy selfies.
All of the selfies were shot on auto settings (so just like you’d get out of the box) with the phone determining which settings to use.
The best phone camera or nah?
Two years ago I went on a search to find the best smartphone camera. As you can probably guess, I didn’t find one. The iPhone 6S had the most consistent camera at the time, but it fell short in certain areas.
There is no perfect smartphone camera. There will probably never be a perfect smartphone camera, just as there will never be a perfect “real” camera.
The OnePlus 5’s cameras aren’t the best outta any phone, but they’re not total turds either. They’ll do the job well, so long as you’re happy with the results. There are some areas where it could be better, and OnePlus could fix some of these through future software updates, but overall, I’m pretty satisfied with the photos it takes.