Smartphones with dual cameras have become all the rage and Huawei was one of the first OEMs to showcase what was possible with two lenses and continues to do so with the Huawei P10. LG and others followed suit, before Apple made it truly fashionable with the iPhone 7 Plus last year. OnePlus became the latest to fall into line with the OnePlus 5, which was announced yesterday and is the cheapest of the phones in this showdown.
Looking at all the dual cameras, there’s one thing that’s very clear – the second lens provides an easy way for OEMs to differentiate their phones. The ‘main’ sensor on most Android phones is usually a 12MP or 16MP sensor with a large aperture, optical image stabilisation or the like, and good all-round color performance. The second lens is where OEMs take very differing approaches: Apple, OnePlus, and others have opted for a telephoto lens with a longer focal length, while LG and others have gone for a wider-angle. Huawei (and others) have embraced a third approach by focusing on color, with a secondary larger monochrome sensor to compliment the main color sensor.
Why these OnePlus 5, Huawei P10, and iPhone 7 Plus for this comparison? All three OEMs have highlighted the ability of their phones to take images with excellent depth of field and natural bokeh — images where the subject is separated from the background, with the latter blurred out in a pleasant way.
Which of these devices is the best for portraits? How good is the OnePlus 5 camera in comparison to the other devices? Let’s find out!
The battle on paper
On paper, how does each smartphone camera compare?
|OnePlus 5||Apple iPhone 7 Plus||Huawei P10|
|Second camera||20MP telephoto|
|Front camera||16MP, 1.0µm, f/2.0||7MP, f2.2||8MP, f/1.9|
|Other||Gyro based EIS||28mm focal length on main camera||Dual Leica Optics|
The Portrait Battle
We’ve all seen those pictures of a flower that’s in focus, with the rest of the flowers out-of-focus in the background. Yes, you might go out and want to take that shot, but you’re more likely to use it to take amazing pictures of friends and family.
This first gallery reveals a trend that remains prevalent throughout this shootout: each smartphone approaches portrait shots differently. The iPhone 7 Plus crops the image and blurs out the background, while the Huawei P10 seems to use the full image and intelligently blur the background to achieve a similar effect. As for the OnePlus 5, it’s the best of both worlds – it crops the sensor a little but doesn’t crop it as much as the iPhone yet still manages to apply that lovely bokeh effect.
As for the images themselves, the Huawei P10 blurs out the edges David’s face while the iPhone 7 Plus warps around David’s nose a little. Both devices also struggle to keep all of David’s hair in focus, with the iPhone in particular struggling the most. Personally, the OnePlus 5 camera wins this round just as its portrait mode seems to suit this image the best and the images seem to be the most detailed.
Winner: OnePlus 5
A slightly different scene to the above and it’s quite a busy scene, with Edgar’s wild hair combined with a feature-rich background and the blue skies above. The Huawei P10 definitely disappoints here with its main photo, although the portrait idea is a little better with the sky in the background. The iPhone 7 Plus captures the main image really well and also does a good job in the portrait battle, albeit with some parts of Ed’s face a little out of focus.
Lastly, the main image from the OnePlus definitely pops but the portrait mode is a little muted and the result is an overall natural shot that doesn’t quite pop as much as the others. A tough call but for accuracy, the OnePlus 5 wins while for the most pleasing image, the iPhone 7 Plus wins. We’ll call this a double winner.
Winner: OnePlus 5 / iPhone 7 Plus
There’s one clear winner here and that’s the Huawei P10. Both, the regular and the portrait images pop a lot more than the other two devices and in particular, the portrait image definitely looks the most pleasing to the eye. Although there are edges of my hoodie that are blurred out, the image definitely looks better than the under-exposed image captured by the iPhone 7 Plus and the balanced image (that’s a little muted in comparison) captured by the OnePlus 5.
Winner: Huawei P10
From one stand out image to a failure to deal with contrast in the sky and the Huawei P10 definitely struggles with this scene. By comparison, the iPhone 7 Plus captures the regular scene with the most detail and the portrait image is has detail, albeit it’s a little more cropped and lacking in color than we’d have liked. The OnePlus 5 camera again takes a pleasing regular image but the portrait image is a little more muted but considering the three images, the OnePlus 5 is the best of the bunch.
Winner: OnePlus 5
In the main images, the OnePlus 5 does the best job at keeping the colors balanced and displays the most detail in David’s face without over-saturating the whole image. By comparison, the Huawei P10 has a lot of color but is a little darker around the subject, while the iPhone 7 Plus seems to be well balanced overall. It’s when we get into the portrait images that the true story is told: the Huawei P10’s bokeh is interesting, and really brings David and Edgar to the forefront of the scene while the iPhone 7 Plus’ image far too cropped and also a little washed out.
While I personally prefer the real bokeh effects from the Huawei P10, the OnePlus 5 has the best all-round bokeh as it keeps David and Edgar in the forefront of the scene but also retains enough detail to see what’s in the background.
Winner: OnePlus 5
In this scene, the real test is not just the detail in David and Edgar’s faces but principally, the detail and amount of bokeh applied to the Golden Gate Bridge in the background. An interesting test for any smartphone, even without portrait mode enabled, this is largely a test of the intelligent processing capabilities of each manufacturer’s algorithm. In the case of the Huawei P10, the main image is rich in color with a blown out sky, while the f/0.95 aperture is way too much for the portrait mode where parts of David’s face is missing.
The iPhone does an good job of retaining natural colors and capturing detail in portrait mode. Details around both faces are retained, without losing the familiarity of the Golden Gate bridge in the background. The photo does look a little hazier, though. Meanwhile, the OnePlus 5 performs comparatively to the iPhone in portrait mode, but can capture a slightly brighter and crisper image. The OnePlus 5 will have to take the round.
Winner: OnePlus 5
The Object Battle
From people to objects and how does each phone handle objects in different scenes? From a trashcan with graffiti on the pier to a small table plant and others in between, which phone applies the best bokeh to a picture with an object in it?
Although portrait mode is most likely to be used for human (or feline) subjects, there are times you might want to use it to take a really artsy picture. In this scene, we’re attempting to see which phone handles the detail in the Google I/O Android figurine the best, as well as which loses the detail in the antennae in portrait mode.
The Huawei P10 takes a solid all-round picture but in portrait mode, the antennae lines are a little warped. Meanwhile the iPhone 7 Plus and OnePlus 5 both take good all-round pictures and in portrait mode, the colors pop more in the iPhone picture and the background has more bokeh, resulting in a more pleasing overall photo.
Winner: Apple iPhone 7 Plus
Ah yes, fruit – and in particular oranges, which seem to make it into almost every camera shootout possible! Nonetheless, this plate of fruit gives us a chance to see how each phone handles close-up shots of colorful objects and whether the detail of the surrounding oranges and the table is lost in portrait mode. The Huawei P10 takes a really pleasing overall picture and at f/0.95 aperture it produces a very interesting portrait photo with the background orange blurred out more than on other phones.
The iPhone 7 Plus seems to also take a decent overall picture but in portrait mode, it barely applies any bokeh, instead prioritising the whole plate of fruit. The OnePlus 5 camera does a good job in the overall photo but crops the images far too much in the portrait image, barely allowing you to see anything but oranges. The clear winner here is the Huawei P10.
Winner: Huawei P10
Our last test takes us back outdoors and a trash can with graffiti set against a backdrop of the sea and forestry. In the main image, the Huawei P10 captures a lot of the colors but seems to be lacking in some of the finer detail, while in the portrait image it does well to preserve the background while keeping the trash can as the main subject.
The iPhone 7 Plus takes a great regular photo here with a lot of detail and rich, vibrant colors, while its portrait image is equally impressive with lots of detail, although it’s a little too cropped for our liking. Lastly the OnePlus takes a pleasing overall images with accurate colors and lots of detail, while its portrait mode combines the best of both the Huawei P10 and the iPhone 7 Plus into an image that’s correctly framed, offers lots of detail and has the trash can as the main subject.
Winner: OnePlus 5
While all three phones are very capable of taking pictures with bokeh, it’s in the software that we see a lot of differentiation. Apple and OnePlus both let you use the telephoto lens as a form of optical zoom (it’s optical up to 2x and goes up to 10x using digital zoom), with smooth scrolling as you zoom in and out. Both have very similar interfaces, with a tap of the button taking it to 2x zoom and scrolling the button to zoom in or out.
Huawei however, doesn’t, or at least not to the same degree. Instead, the company uses the data from the larger secondary sensor to clever effect and the wide aperture mode lets you set the aperture to between f/0.95 and f/8, giving you total control on the amount of bokeh (or blur) in the background. Huawei also has a separate portrait mode which combines the company’s beauty mode – an effect that can be used to make selfies or photos of people more pleasant to the eye by smoothing skin – with the wide aperture so you can take excellent portraits.
In the above examples, you can see how the wide aperture mode on the Huawei P10 offers up a lot of control over the amount of bokeh. With the iPhone 7 Plus and the OnePlus 5, the software performs the calculations around bokeh and the distance you need to be from an object, but Huawei’s implementation allows you to customise it as you wish. Sadly, there’s no preview so you may find the bokeh too little or too much once you’ve taken a shot but with a little practice, it can be a valuable feature to have at hand.
Winner: Huawei P10
The winner is…
Arguably the hardest part of any camera comparison is declaring a winner and in this case, it’s even harder as the winner depends on your personal preferences more than ever. Tallying up our results, the overall winner is OnePlus 5 followed by the Huawei P10 in second, with the iPhone 7 Plus bringing up the rear. Of course, there’s more to this than just an arbitrary count and each person will have their own preferences on the type of shots they want in a smartphone.
For some users, the simplified approach adopted by Apple and OnePlus is the winner as the phone does everything for you: it essentially offers the ability of DSLR-like bokeh with the convenience and ease of a point and shoot camera. However, for photography lovers and those who want more control over their photos, the Huawei P10 could prove to be the better option as there’s tons more control, in terms of aperture, as well as the Pro ‘manual’ mode with DSLR-like controls.
Which of these dual-camera phones would you pick for portraits and object shots, and why? Do you take a lot of portraits and would you want to see front-facing cameras with two lenses to be able to take selfies with the same level of bokeh? Let us know in the comments below!