So are the OnePlus 8 cameras better than the 7T?
Did ditching the telephoto for the macro work?
“How do its cameras compare with the OnePlus 7T?”
That is the question that a lot of folks have been asking us ever since we put up our first impressions of the OnePlus 8. And that is hardly surprising. Ever since OnePlus announced the OnePlus 8, the more affordable of the OnePlus 8 series, a lot of discussions have revolved around its cameras. It was not just about how good they were, but very pointedly about how they compared with the ones on the OnePlus 7T. And that is because, on paper, the difference between the cameras on the two phones did not seem too great – in fact, many felt that the OnePlus 7T was superior – well, we did say that the OnePlus 7T was going to be a headache for the OnePlus 8, but that’s another story (hint: read it here).
For those who might have missed it, the OnePlus 8 comes with a 48-megapixel Sony IMX 586 sensor with OIS and an f/1.75 aperture, a 16-megapixel ultra-wide lens with f/2.2 aperture and a 2-megapixel macro lens. The OnePlus 7T on the other hand came with a similar main sensor (but with a larger f/1.6 aperture, a similar ultra-wide sensor, and crucially a 12-megapixel telephoto sensor. Both phones seem to have similar 16-megapixel front-facing cameras.
But of course, if specs were everything in phone photography, then the world would not be bossed around by phone with a 12-megapixel main sensor, right? So, the big question is: does the OnePlus 8 offer a better photography experience than the OnePlus 7T. Now, the cameras on the OnePlus7T were a huge improvement over the very mediocre ones on the OnePlus 7, so much so that we had compared with those on the more pricey OnePlus 7 Pro.
The answer, after about two days of random (and very careful – check the mask in the selfie) photography from the two phones, is not clear. You can, of course, decide for yourself by seeing the sample shots below, but our findings can be summed up as follows:
- That macro matter: Let’s begin by getting the biggest query out of the way – the OnePlus 7T’s macro shooting is better overall than the OnePlus 8, even though the latter has a dedicated macro sensor (in the OnePlus 7T, the job is assigned to the ultra-wide camera). Both let you take pictures from about 3-5 mm, but while the OnePlus 8 did get a little more detail, the OnePlus 7T’s snaps had better colors. We do not think the extra detail really makes up for the slightly duller shots, really.
- Matching optical with hybrid zoom: We must however confess to being genuinely surprised at how well the OnePlus 8’s lossless or hybrid 2x zoom (basically a cropped image) compares with the dedicated 2x optical zoom of the OnePlus 7T. On paper, you would have felt that the OnePlus 7T would have bossed the OnePlus 8 with a dedicated sensor, but in actual results, the difference was not that great. We got reasonable detail in both situations – the 7T has an edge, but a very slight one.
- Color counts: Moving on to the main sensor, we felt that the color handling on the OnePlus 8 was slightly more realistic than on the OnePlus 7T, which seemed to slightly over saturate shots, especially red and brown shades (that did make macros look like, come to think of it). Now, we are sure there are some folks who would prefer the OnePlus 7T’s results, but overall we think the OnePlus 8 handles colors better.
- Honing in on detail: In terms of detail, we could not spot too much of a difference between the two phones – sometimes one seemed to capture a bit more, sometimes the other did. They are both very competent snappers. And we are referring to both normal and ultra-wide sensors.
- Low light battles: Low light photography, surprisingly, seemed a little better on the OnePlus 7T. Is it the slightly larger aperture? We do not know, but while both phones were handling colors equally well (and we think they did a decent job by camera phone standards), we felt that the OnePlus 7T was capturing just a little more detail.
- Nightscape nous: Sticking to low light photography, both phones have Nightscape, which does brighten up low light shots (no, do not bother using the flashes – they are not very effective). And here we felt the OnePlus 8 actually did better, as it did not try to brighten up the shot too much, and retained its largely dark labor – the OnePlus 7T was a lot more aggressive.
- Bring on the bokeh, portrait mode: Moving on to portrait mode, we think the OnePlus 8 has a clear edge here. Pun intended. The subject was much more clearly defined by the OnePlus 8 than on the OnePlus 7T, which tended to get some other objects into focus well. Portrait mode on the OnePlus 8 also worked a whole lot better with objects than the OnePlus 7T, which still seems more human-oriented. Mind you, both phones control the portrait photography experience, so you have to keep moving back and forth until the phone indicates you are the right place. It can be a little annoying at times.
- Selfie snaps: Finally, on to the selfies, and here the tables turn a little – although both phones sport similar 16-megapixel selfie shooters, we felt that the OnePlus 7T was a little plain while the OnePlus 8, which delivered slightly richer colors. Portrait image
- Video ties: Video quality on both remains decent – they both do 4K video at 30/60 fps and both can do slow motion (240 and 480 fps) and time-lapses. We would have liked better sound, but we do not see too many people complaining.
- The filter factor: A key addition in the camera UI of the OnePlus 8 is the presence of filters in the camera app. There are just three – matte, vivid, and black and white – for stills, while videos get five – vivid, vintage, yummy, night, and black and white. They may not be numerous but we are delighted to have the option to shoot in different shades. Hopefully, they will come to the 7T as well through a software upgrade.
So where does that leave us? Well, it is a very tough call (see the images for yourself), but the difference between the two phones in camera terms is not a massive one. The OnePlus 8 seems to get slightly better colors and does portrait mode and selfies slightly better, the OnePlus 7T captures a little extra detail and scores on macros and low light and (a little on) optical zoom. If cameras are a factor, you can safely opt for either of these handsets and not really miss out on too much. Yes, the OnePlus 8’s cameras are not a massive step forward from the OnePlus 7T. In fact, they do not seem to have moved much, but the phone has not really lost out much by omitting its telephoto, although its macro sensor does not seem to add a lot of value.
So if you have to choose between a OnePlus 7T and a OnePlus 8, or have a OnePlus 7T and are wondering whether to upgrade to a OnePlus 8, do not spend too much time thinking about the cameras. They are not massively different in terms of performance.