Camera comparison: OnePlus 5 vs Apple iPhone 7 Plus

The OnePlus 5 and the iPhone 7 Plus have a certain amount of common ground, like a fantastic camera. With a dual camera each, neither smartphone is by any means unique but aside from standard wide-angle photography, these are the only two devices to bring telephoto lens to the table. We pitted the iPhone 7 Plus against the OnePlus 5.

  • What are the advantages of a dual camera?
  • OnePlus 5 review: ultimately uncompromising

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The iPhone 7 Plus definitely has one of the best smartphone cameras around. The OnePlus 5 faces a gargantuan task in this comparison, being only half as expensive at $479 compared to iPhone 7’s $769. Before we dive into the test photos, let’s take a look at the technical specs:

The iPhone 7 Plus and OnePlus 5 camera module

Smartphone Focal length Resolution Aperture
Apple iPhone 7 Plus 28 mm 12 MP f / 1.8
  56 mm 12 MP f / 2.8
OnePlus 5 24 mm 16 MP f / 1.7
  32 mm 20 MP f / 2.6

On the iPhone 7 Plus, the focal length between both lenses differs by a factor of two – and pressing the “2x” button on the app switches the user from one camera to another, while the resolution remains the same; only the brightness is reduced in the telephoto lens due to its nature. You can also seamlessly zoom using pinch-to-zoom, and the iPhone 7 Plus then jumps back and forth between the cameras depending on the zoom level.

On the other hand, the OnePlus 5 has a somewhat more complex setting. According to the EXIF data from the photo files, the focal length of both lenses is 24 and 32 mm, which is equal to a factor of 1.33. The OnePlus’ camera app also has the “2x” button and pressing it will take you to a zoom area where the smartphone already enlarges the image, making it interpolated.

According to Carl Pei himself, the optical zoom is 1.6x – the remaining 0.4x is implemented using “SmartCapture Multiframe Technology”; it’s supposedly “lossless” but not exactly “optical” like in Apple’s case. The camera app combines several shots together, and supposedly improves image quality that way. Later on, we’ll take a closer look at how well that works.

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The iPhone 7 Plus and the OnePlus 5 pursue the same concept with the dual camera. / © AndroidPIT

Unfortunately, we cannot illustrate the divergence between 1.33x optical (using the focal lengths saved in the EXIF files) and 1.6x optical (OnePlus) at this time. Through our experiments, however, we were able to understand that the OnePlus 5 actually switches between both cameras at exactly 1.6x when seamlessly zooming in the photo app.

At this point, it’s funny how the resolution of the resulting photos — up to and including 1.9x zoom — is at 4608 x 3456 pixels, which is actually all 16 megapixels of the wide-angle sensor. At 2.0x zoom, the resolution jumps to 5184 x 3880 pixels. Although it corresponds to the tele-module’s 20 megapixels, it nevertheless takes photos in a range where interpolation is needed. At 1.6x zoom, where 20 megapixels would actually be available from the sensor, the resolution is conversely reduced to 16 megapixels.

OnePlus: Why so cumbersome? The OnePlus 5 itself has a truly outstanding camera and absolutely no need for such problems, but since the OnePlus 5 receives software updates seemingly every minute, we are optimistic that the manufacturer will straighten things out soon.

Street scene

We shot the first subject at Berlin’s Winskiez in Germany, and, while doing so, first set it to 2x zoom. The EXIF data provided vastly different values: While the iPhone 7 Plus and OnePlus 5 have a relatively similar shutter speed (1/220 s and 1/190 s, respectively) and aperture (f / 2.8 and f / 2.6, respectively), ISO values differ greatly. The Apple smartphone had ISO 20 in the EXIF data, while the OnePlus 5 showed ISO 200. I assume that this is due to HDR mode.

Both smartphones have automatic HDR enabled in this very high-contrast subject. From a purely visual perspective, I like the OnePlus 5’s outcome a bit better. The shot looks brighter and clearer. However, when zooming in on the picture, you can tell that the iPhone 7 Plus has noticeably better detail reproduction – see the round detail enlargements. And this is despite the fact that the OnePlus 5 photo is saved at a higher resolution. But like I said: There is heavy interpolation here, and that doesn’t help detail reproduction.

winsstr zoom
When using 2x zoom, the iPhone 7 Plus depicts greater detail. / © AndroidPIT

Interestingly, the result is exactly the opposite in a wide-angle shot. I like the visual impression in the iPhone 7 Plus better here; the shot simply has a fresher look. On the other hand, the OnePlus 5 can truly make use of its (real!) resolution advantage of 16 vs 12 megapixels and provides the image with better details – see the detail enlargements again.

winsstr ww
In wide-angle mode, the OnePlus 5 takes the lead over the iPhone 7 due to its higher “real” resolution. / © AndroidPIT

Low light

In the next subject, the class difference between both smartphones will become clear. The aperture difference between both is virtually negligible at f / 1.7 and f / 1.8. However, the iPhone 7 Plus has an optical image stabilizer, which allows for long shutter speeds – in this case, 1/4 s. On the other hand, the OnePlus 5 must take shots at 1/17 s due to a lack of an OIS, and therefore greatly increases sensitivity. According to the EXIF data, this is a face-off between ISO 9600 and ISO 1000.

low light ww
Optical image stabilization helps in bad lighting conditions – the OnePlus 5’s shots turned out underexposed from a certain brightness. / © AndroidPIT

Although the iPhone 7 Plus actually should have provided the darker photo based on the EXIF data, the image is significantly brighter. Obviously, Apple has more effective image processing algorithms than OnePlus – and it provides a significantly more usable result overall.

As shown in the following image, this not only applies to wide-angle images in low light but also to telephotos. Although neither the iPhone 7 Plus nor the OnePlus 5’s second sensor has an optical image stabilizer, the Apple smartphone does noticeably better here.

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The iPhone 7 Plus also has the upper hand over the OnePlus 5 when using zoom in bad lighting conditions. / © AndroidPIT

Close-up shot

Now it’s on to a close-up shot in a wide angle: In my opinion, the OnePlus 5 delivers nicer details here, and iq impressive with its effective micro-contrasts and a vivid result. However, the iPhone 7 Plus delivers more lifelike color, which is particularly noticeable in the dark red flower on the far right. Apple’s image processing is simply more realistic.

tageslicht makro
Even if the iPhone 7 Plus is more realistic, the OnePlus 5’s photo looks more vivid. What do you think? / © AndroidPIT

All in all, both cell phones deliver excellent results in good lighting conditions. Despite the significantly lower price tag, the OnePlus 5 definitely does not need to shy away from the iPhone 7 Plus.

Mixed light and zoom

Let’s start things off with a good example: We took a picture of our colleague cutting vegetables. In this shot, the lighting partly came from artificial light and partly from daylight. Here, the iPhone 7 Plus delivers a somewhat more accurate result and more beautiful skin tones; none of the two smartphones produces a heavy color cast.

However, the detail reproduction in this zoom shot is also better on the iPhone 7 Plus, and it is clearly visible on our colleague’s sweater in particular. Furthermore, image noise in the OnePlus shot was noticeably worse, and the fact that the smartphone unnecessarily blows up shots to 20 megapixels definitely isn’t an immense help.

fabi essen zoom
The OnePlus 5 produces significantly more image noise when using zoom. / © AndroidPIT

Bokeh mode

Both opponents in this comparison offer bokeh mode for portrait photos. In this mode, the smartphones use the offset of both sensors to calculate the subject’s depth map. As a result, the software can ideally show a blurred background, but leave the portrayed person himself/herself in focus. This function works quite reliably in both the Apple and OnePlus devices, although the transition from focused and unfocused is a bit more accurate on the OnePlus.

oneplus bokeh
OnePlus 5 manages to transition well between focused and blurred. / © AndroidPIT

Since larger focal lengths deliver more flattering results in portraits, both smartphones automatically switch to portrait mode on the camera module and use whichever focal length is greater. Neither the OnePlus 5 nor the iPhone 7 Plus can zoom via pinch-to-zoom – however, the iPhone 7 Plus has the upper hand here thanks to the greater focal length of the second camera, although the greater focal length makes bokeh look more beautiful on the iPhone 7 Plus.

iphone bokeh
Due to the higher focal range, the bokeh looks better on the iPhone 7 Plus. / © AndroidPIT

Software implementation

The iPhone 7 Plus has an extremely rudimentary camera app and virtually no configuration options. By Android standards, the photo app on the OnePlus 5 is extremely modest. Unlike Apple, however, the Chinese manufacturer also gives its smartphone a manual mode with numerous setting options, such as exposure time and ISO sensitivity. Which is awesome. Both smartphones take quick shots when actually taking pictures, although the iPhone 7 Plus feels a bit quicker.

Which do you think has the better camera?

Choose OnePlus 5 or iPhone 7.

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What would your friends choose?

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The OnePlus 5 performs very well in wide angle. Having said that, the zoom function is somewhat chaotic with its different resolutions and focal lengths – the iPhone 7 Plus clearly provides a more well-rounded package here.

To be fair, however, I must stress again at this point that the Apple smartphone is also nearly twice as expensive, starting at $769. Particularly because Apple is in an entirely different league than OnePlus when it comes to units sold, it has entirely different options for having a solution tailor-made for them.

This article would not have been possible without OnePlus’ support. Of course, the manufacturer had no influence over the content.


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