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OnePlus 5 vs OnePlus 3T - how good is the new camera?

The OnePlus 5 brings an all-new dual camera but is it any better than last year's OnePlus 3T? Join us to find out as we pit both cameras head-to-head!

Published onJune 26, 2017

OnePlus 3T vs OnePlus 5

The OnePlus 5 is now official and as the successor to the OnePlus 3 – and the OnePlus 3T – it brings with it some interesting improvements over the phones that came before it. The biggest improvement is the new dual camera, with OnePlus not only upgrading the main sensor from the OnePlus 3T, but also adding a new secondary telephoto lens.

The new main camera is a custom tailored 16MP sensor with f/1.7 aperture, while the secondary camera is a 20MP telephoto lens with f/2.6 aperture,  and is used primarily for depth of field and zooming into photos. Meanwhile, the OnePlus 3T sports a 16MP sensor with f/2.0 aperture, Optical Image Stabilisation (OIS), and Phase Detection Autofocus (PDAF).

While the OnePlus 3T uses the standard PDAF mentioned above, the OnePlus 5 adopts a new Fast Autofocus (Fast AF) standard.  PDAF uses half the pixels while Fast AF uses the full pixel, which results in a large increase in focus speed. OnePlus has also made tweaks at the software level to improve and optimise the focus. According to OnePlus, the combined software and hardware tweaks net a 40% increase in focus speeds over their previous flagship.

The faster focus means OnePlus can adopt a faster shutter speed and for this reason, the company says there was no need for OIS in photos, but the OnePlus 5 does offer the optimised Electronic Image Stabilisation (EIS) that came to the OnePlus 3T a few months ago. With the key feature changes out of the way, just how much better is the OnePlus 5 camera over the OnePlus 3T, if at all? Let’s find out!

Looking across this set of images, one thing becomes apparent rather quickly – the difference in the post processing of colors. The OnePlus 5 takes photos that are slightly brighter and vivid, at least in the foreground,while the OnePlus 3T photos are a little under exposed resulting in slightly duller colors. However, the OnePlus 3T arguably takes the more accurate photo with the images more accurately reflecting the scene at hand. Similar to the Galaxy S8, it seems the OnePlus 5 images are tweaked to provide a shot that is more pleasing to the eye, if not a little less accurate than its predecessor which favored accuracy over saturation.

In selfies, the differences in color processing is also noticeable, as is the slightly wider field of view on the front camera. This could have been down to slight variations in the positioning of the two phones, but there’s also differences in the exposure, with the OnePlus 5 better than the OnePlus 3T at adjusting the exposure to ensure David’s face was properly exposure.

In the second picture, again the OnePlus 5 sample is better exposed, with the ball less blown out than the picture taken via the OnePlus 3T. Proper exposure in the OnePlus 5 image ensures that the post-its, graffiti, scribblings and detail in the darker parts is more legible on the OnePlus 5 and as you zoom in, the OnePlus 5 image has less noise and more detail resulting in a better overall picture.

These two images provide an interesting comparison as they don’t really follow the established norm from other samples. In fact, one thing becomes clear throughout this gallery and it is that, while there are distinguishable patterns in the differences, both cameras are capable of taking images that, overall at least, are almost identical.

In the first image, the OnePlus 3T takes a shot that is properly exposed, while the ARCADIA sign is slightly underexposed on the OnePlus 5 camera sample. My personal pick here is the OnePlus 3T camera as the image is more accurate and properly exposed. In the following image, the OnePlus 5 has proper exposure but it doesn’t adjust the white balance properly while the OnePlus 3T image has slightly muted colors and is slightly out of focus but has better white balance.

That’s in daylight but how does the OnePlus 5 stack up in lowlight to last year’s flagship? The OnePlus 5 drops Optical Image Stabilisation in favor of a faster shutter speed and electronic stabilisation but which phone takes the better images when lighting isn’t the best?

This picture shows the differences between Optical Image Stabilisation and Electronic Image Stabilisation as soon as you zoom in. Looking closer at both images, the OIS on the OnePlus 3T ensures the finer details – such as text on the 47th St sign, dots on the building artwork and the Banana Republic sign are all less noisy. On the OnePlus 5, EIS is only apparent in video recording so for photos, OnePlus is reliant on a faster shutter speed and fast autofocus but this doesn’t quite fully compensate for the lack of OIS.

With both of these images, zooming in to 200% allows you to see how the OnePlus 5 is sorely lacking some form of hardware stabilisation. From the details in the lit-up ornament to the leaves of the flower-bed plants, the lack of hardware stabilisation on the OnePlus 5 results in a loss of detail far sooner than on the OnePlus 3T. Color-wise, the OnePlus 5 again produces a slightly better-lit image with more vibrant colors but at a significant cost, at least in these lowlight images.

In both of these images, there are slight differences in the amount of detail captured by both cameras but the real differences come in the white balance, with the OnePlus 5 capturing a warmer image that distorts the colors of the marble and results in an image that, at least in my personal opinion, looks worse than the OnePlus 3T.

Looking at the images in these galleries, it’s safe to say that while OnePlus has made a few improvements in the OnePlus 5 camera, they’re not quite as large as I initially expected. In fact, OIS and better white balance on the OnePlus 3T suggests that the OnePlus 5 lowlight performance has actually deteriorated. With that said, both cameras take images that are mostly similar and the major features in the OnePlus 5 camera are related mostly to the all-new second camera.

A major feature of the dual camera is portrait mode and we’ve gone into this in a separate post, comparing the OnePlus 5 camera to the HUAWEI P10 and iPhone 7 Plus. The results are rather interesting, especially between the iPhone 7 Plus and the OnePlus 5. We’ve also broken down how the OnePlus 5 dual camera works as well as gone into detail on it in our full OnePlus 5 review! The OnePlus 5 camera professes to take good photos but how does it compare to the competition? Find out in our OnePlus 5 vs LG G6, HTCU11, Sony Xperia XZ Premium, Pixel XL and Galaxy S8 camera shootout!

What do you think of the OnePlus 5 camera and the improvements made from the OnePlus 3T last year? Would you buy the OnePlus 5 for its camera? Let us know your thoughts and which of these two phones you think has the better camera in the comments. Also be sure to vote in our poll below!

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