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From OnePlus One to OnePlus 9 Pro: How much have OnePlus' cameras improved?

How far has OnePlus' camera quality come in seven years?

Published onMay 5, 2021

In the last seven years, the smartphone industry has seen some incredible evolutions in technology. Security is better, batteries are more efficient, and displays feature advancements like high refresh rates. Still, these improvements pale in comparison to the changes found in smartphone cameras. With the OnePlus 9 Pro so heavily marketed on its photography prowess, I thought it fitting to compare the brand’s latest flagship with the original flagship killer, 2014’s OnePlus One, to see how much OnePlus’ camera tech has evolved.

The OnePlus 9 Pro comes with a 48MP custom Sony IMX 789 sensor, whereas the OnePlus One shipped with a 13MP Sony IMX214 sensor — the same sensor found on the Google Nexus 6. There’s already a big difference between the two phones on paper, but due to pixel binning, the OnePlus 9 Pro pumps out a 12MP image in its default setting. Still, the 1.12µm pixel sizes are the same (without pixel binning), but the 9 Pro has a much larger 1/1.43-inch sensor versus the old 1/3.06-inch sensor found on the OnePlus One. The OnePlus 9 Pro also comes with further advancements in technology and is equipped with omnidirectional phase-detection AF, Laser AF, and OIS, whereas the OnePlus One had none of these.

Related: The best camera phones you can get

Also, it should be noted that this comparison is between just the main cameras on these devices, as the OnePlus One only has one lens. How far have OnePlus’ camera phones come in seven years? Check out some of the samples below to find out, or watch the video above for an even deeper dive into the differences between the two phones.

OnePlus 9 Pro vs OnePlus One camera samples

In almost every image produced by the OnePlus One, there is a general lack of contrast and detail. The phone tends to create an inaccurate white balance, delivering a low contrast and green image. The OnePlus 9 Pro, on the other hand, produces images with excellent color accuracy, white balance, and contrast.

Another critical difference is the amount of HDR in each of these images. The OnePlus 9 Pro consistently produces well-detailed images with a healthy amount of HDR. Images produced balanced highlights and shadows while maintaining good contrast. By comparison, the OnePlus One delivers images with little to no HDR, and even when there is some dynamic range, the OnePlus one tends to blow out the whites and crush the blacks.

In theory, this should make for a higher contrast image, but the software processing on the OnePlus One still manages to raise the mid-tones of the images, making the general photo look washed out.

OnePlus 9 Pro vs OnePlus One: The verdict

OnePlus 9 Pro vs OnePlus One 4
Luke Pollack / Android Authority

After looking at these photos, I’m surprised how much improvement has been made in the last seven years. The OnePlus One performs worse than I remember, and I did not realize the limitations of poor software processing on a smartphone camera.

Obviously, there are plenty more differences between these two devices than just software. Major improvements in hardware have been made as the OnePlus 9 Pro has three different cameras and support for portrait and night mode, features you could only imagine having back in 2014. Still, I think this comparison shows just how important software is when it comes to image processing.

More OnePlus 9 Pro camera shootouts:

For instance, the Pixel line, Google uses the same sensor in a lot of its phones, yet the software processing is so good that it almost doesn’t matter what hardware is being used. I’m not saying that companies shouldn’t update their hardware; that said, the software is more important than is often thought, and I think this comparison is a good example of that.

The bottom line is it’s impressive to see how far OnePlus phones have come. Still, the 9 Pro produces consistent and accurate images that, unsurprisingly, blow the OnePlus One out of the water.

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