Photocorner: Let's explore the OnePlus 3 camera

AndroidPIT Jessica and Ira OnePlus 3 camera test 9807
© NextPit

The OnePlus 3 goes for around $400 and offers a design with solid attention to detail, good technical specifications and performance. But how well does the smartphone camera perform? Well, I'm the AndroidPIT photographer and I'm here to let you know how well it works.

AndroidPIT Jessica and Ira OnePlus 3 camera test 9816
The star of this week's Photocorner: the OnePlus 3 camera. / © NextPit

The new top-of-the-range photographic specs on various flagships allow you to take quality pictures in different lighting conditions. This year's Samsung Galaxy series captured the hearts of photography lovers by integrating the S7 and S7 Edge with a 12 MP camera with an aperture of f / 1.7. And Huawei has partnered with Leica for its P9 and P9 Plus devices.

OnePlus has opted for a Sony IMX298 1 / 2.8" with 16 MP (1.12 mM) and an aperture of f / 2.0. It's supported by an optical and electronic image stabilizer, autofocus phase detection sensor and manual mode. On the front panel of the device, OnePlus has built a Sony IMX179 1 / 3.2" 8 MP sensor (1.4 uM) with the same aperture of f / 2.0. But what do all these technical specs mean? What we really want to know is whether the camera of the OnePlus 3 is able to take good pictures.

Pro Con
Fast Colors aren't always natural
Amazing front camera The settings aren't manual
Good field depth The pixels aren't visible to the naked eye

Struggling with manual mode

If you leave a smartphone in the hands of a photographer, the first thing he/she will do is go in search of the manual mode. And this is exactly what I did.

Accessing the manual mode is very simple: you just launch the camera app (with a simple tap or with activation gestures by drawing a circle on the display), click on the menu at the top left corner of the screen and select Manual. From here, you can adjust the shutter speed (1/8000 to 30 seconds), whites (choosing one of four options: overcast, sunlight, fluorescent, incandescent), focus and ISO. The latter can be set up to 3,200 although there is no guarantee of excellent performance in the dark.

AndroidPIT OnePlus3 camera test manual
Manual mode offers a few options for customization. / © NextPit

The camera focuses quickly despite the depth of field being not as astonishing as that offered by the Samsung Galaxy S7. But, overall, it is still great. To get an idea, take a look at the two images below, taken one after the other.

AndroidPIT OnePlus3 camera test depth of field
Focusing is fast. / © NextPit

Unfortunately, you cannot change the opening set default of f / 2 and greater flexibility of the settings would be more than welcome. 

The snapshots during the day

How does the OnePlus 3 camera cope with outdoor shots during the day? Well, I can guarantee good shots without surprises or disappointment. The colors are rather cold and tend to green, the shadows are sometimes flat but, in normal lighting conditions, the pictures are good overall.

AndroidPIT OnePlus3 camera test day normal
From the balcony of our offices. / © NextPit

If you usually use the camera of your smartphone to capture landscapes then 'landscape mode' is an option on which it is worth discussing. To be blunt, I'm not satisfied with this mode. When you are in front of bright views or shaded areas, some spots in the photo are overexposed. Unfortunately, 'panorama mode' is not able to take advantage of the HDR, which is selectable when shooting in 'auto mode'. It should be said that under normal lighting conditions this mode does its job without problems.

The front camera does not disappoint and under the sunlight ensures rich bright shots with fine detail.

AndroidPIT OnePlus3 camera test panorama
The panorama mode tends to overexpose light areas. / © NextPit

Overall, the main camera is surprisingly strong – but it did seem determined to show me the pores of my skin. Not cool, OnePlus. 

AndroidPIT OnePlus3 camera test selfie cam
The front camera provides crisp, sharp selfies.  / © NextPit

The night-shots

We have said it many times before but I'll say it again: megapixels are not everything. The OnePlus 3 with its main 16 MP camera once again demonstrated this when I compared it to the 12 MP rear lens mounted on the iPhone 6s. As you can see from the picture below, the camera of the OnePlus 3, in a photo taken at ten at night, cannot offer the same details that we find in the picture offered by the iPhone 6s. Zooming in, you can better see the difference below.

AndroidPIT OnePlus3 vs iPhone 6s rear cam 10 pm
Despite more MP available, the camera of the OnePlus 3 is blurrier than the iPhone 6s rear cam. / © NextPit

Even the front camera, which is best at night, is surpassed by that of the iPhone 6s. which offers more natural colors. In the shot made with the OnePlus 3, you notice the magenta hue of the skin, much less natural than that of its rival.

AndroidPIT OnePlus3 vs iPhone 6s front cam night
The night colors are less natural on the OnePlus 3 front cam. / © NextPit

Final thoughts

The camera of OnePlus 3 is quick and ensures good photos, especially when you consider the price of the device. It does not reach certain levels offered by the new top-of-the-range Samsung devices.The colors are good, maybe not always accurate, and clear images lose some details when you zoom in.

The camera app offers a simple, minimalist functionality, but does not provide a manual mode dedicated photo enthusiasts. It should be said that if you are a professional you'll probably find the settings restrictive. Do not expect to find effects found in the P9 or other similar options – as mentioned above. The OnePlus 3 camera software is very simple and only provides essential functions.

In short, considering the $400 price tag, the camera is more than satisfactory. However, if you are considering buying a new smartphone for its camera, then it is worth it to pay a few more bucks to get a more powerful camera.

Every two weeks, we will propose a new episode of our #Photocorner during which we will show the cameras integrated into Android devices or the best app dedicated to photography.

Would you like to know all the secrets of a particular device's camera or camera application? Leave a comment below, we'll take it into consideration for the upcoming events.

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  • Jan Bleckmann Oct 27, 2016 Link to comment

    Great article. Can you give advice for phones below 400EUR with a good camera. Im using OnePlusOne and I am still satisfied especially because I enjoy it much more than my IP6Plus I had before (and sold)! However IP cam is way much better. Im looking for a nice new device with a good camera close to IP, but with max. costs of 400 EUR....TIA!

  • ravi teja Sep 20, 2016 Link to comment

    Very useful article. Can you just let us know if this camera application has been made by 3rd party like Google Camera or this is being made by OnePlus 3 Itself. Also can you suggest better camera applications for OnePlus3?

  • Serguei Stroganov Jul 13, 2016 Link to comment

    Ira, thanks for the great article. Please review Huawei P9 camera.

  • Anna S. Jul 4, 2016 Link to comment

    Nice new article-category! Already a great fan of it :) Thanks Ira!

  • Reyn Jul 4, 2016 Link to comment

    Good article.

  • Charudatt Kumbhare Jul 3, 2016 Link to comment

    Also I I wanted to know the secrets about Google Camera app, how does it manages to take good shots to amazing shots on varied phones?

  • Charudatt Kumbhare Jul 3, 2016 Link to comment

    Great article on comparison I really like it. I own OnePlus 3 (as I live in India) . But can I get a similar article on camera comparison between Samsung Galaxy S7 vs LG G5?

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