OnePlus 5 vs. iPhone 7 Plus: Dual-camera shootout
We tested these dual-camera wonders around San Francisco shooting portraits, street scenes and low-light locales to see which one is better.
by Patrick Holland
Dual rear cameras on phones are officially a thing. Like the iPhone 7 Plus, the OnePlus 5 uses dual cameras to make zoomed-in pictures look great and create photos with bokeh (gorgeous, out-of-focus backgrounds). But unlike the iPhone, the OnePlus has higher-resolution cameras with slightly wider apertures that let in a bit more light.
On paper, the OnePlus 5’s camera hardware looks impressive (see chart below), especially since the OnePlus 5 costs hundreds of dollars less than the iPhone. But when it comes to photography, the proof is in the pictures. That’s something the iPhone 7 Plus proved in our tests against single-camera shooters like the Google Pixel and the Samsung Galaxy S8.
However, the iPhone hasn’t gone up against the OnePlus 5. Until now. And the OnePlus 5 gives it a run for its money.
I took this pair of dual-camera twins around the Mission in San Francisco for an old-fashioned camera battle royale, snapping pics of people, cityscapes, murals, food, indoor golfers and skateboarders.
All images are right off the phone without any post-processing and features like HDR were left in auto mode while shooting.
The dual-camera weigh-in
OnePlus 5 and iPhone 7 Plus camera specs
|OnePlus 5||iPhone 7 Plus|
|Standard-angle resolution||16 megapixels||12 megapixels|
|Telephoto resolution||20 megapixels||12 megapixels|
|Optical image stabilization||None||Photos and videos (standard-angle only)|
|Digital image stabilization||Video||Video|
|Video||4K and HD||4K and HD|
|Slow motion||120fps at 720p, 60fps at 1,080p||240fps at 720p, 120fps at 1,080p|
|Front camera resolution||16 megapixels||7 megapixels|
|Front camera aperture||f/2.0||f/2.2|
|Price (USD)||$479 (64GB), $539 (128GB)||$769 (32GB), $869 (128GB), $969 (256GB)|
|Price (GBP)||£449 (64GB), £499 (128GB)||£719 (32GB), £819 (128GB), £919 (256GB)|
|Price (AUD)||AU$750 (64GB), AU$830 (128GB) — converted||AU$1,269 (32GB), AU$1,419 (128GB), AU$1,569 (256GB)|
It was a perfect sunny day at Dolores Park, which meant each phone could really shine in all that gorgeous sunlight. I walked away with so many good shots from both phones that it felt almost unfair to choose a winner and a loser. Overall though, photos on the OnePlus had a tad more detail. But the colors on the iPhone looked more true to life.
On the way to the park, I snapped a couple of photos of a building covered in graffiti of cartoon cats (obviously home to some cat lovers). Each phone has its own photo character. Pictures from the iPhone 7 Plus looked more accurate with cooler tones. Images from the OnePlus 5 had more contrast and saturation and looked more vivid. In this sense, which took the better photo comes down to personal preference.
The OnePlus 5 captured pictures with more detail than the iPhone, but sometimes camera shake made that hard to see. Optical image stabilization inside the 7 Plus helped it avoid this blurry problem.
Give the people bokeh
One of the runaway features on the 7 Plus is its Portrait Mode, which uses both rear cameras and some clever processing to simulate bokeh. This artistically blurs the background and makes for a truly stunning photo. It became a main selling point of the phone and Apple even launched an advertising campaign behind it.
The OnePlus has the same mode on its phone. As I was out and about, I used Portrait Mode to take pictures of people indoors, outdoors, in good light and low light. Neither camera was perfect, but the iPhone yielded consistently better results, especially for pictures of people. Portraits looked more natural and had better fall-off from in-focus to out-of focus areas.
The OnePlus 5’s portraits had less background blur and sometimes the bokeh effect was patchier than the iPhone’s. When ithe OnePlus 5 did nail a Portrait Mode shot, images were comparatively flat.
But, because the OnePlus 5 engages Portrait Mode within a foot of your subject, I snagged lots of nice shots of food and inanimate objects. To get the same shot on the iPhone, I had to be about an extra foot farther away, which widened the shot and made it less dramatic.
Get closer to Prince
All phones use digital zoom, which basically crops into a photo as you take it. The results are less than stellar. Pictures are usually unsteady, noisy and super low-resolution. The advantage of dual cameras on these phones is that they have a fixed optical zoom: 2X on the 7 Plus and 1.6X on the OnePlus (this is in addition to the 8X digital zoom on the OnePlus and the 10X digital zoom on the iPhone). Now when you zoom in on a scene, your photos will get much better results than doing it digitally.
There is a 2X zoom button on the OnePlus that uses digital “multi-frame technology” to zoom at 2X. The 2X button on the iPhone 7 Plus actually uses optical zoom to do the same.
I visited Clarion Alley and walked between Valencia and Mission street past dozens of jaw-dropping murals.
Both phones made zoomed-in images of the murals look fantastic, especially if I only used optical zoom. It’s worth noting that the iPhone didn’t get any help from optical image stabilization because its telephoto camera doesn’t have it.
Kickflip those photo bursts
I went over to the SoMa West skatepark to test burst mode. The iPhone smoked the OnePlus and was like the Energizer bunny: Its bursts just kept going and going. The OnePlus, on the other hand, stopped after 20 images. This was so frustrating. I missed key moments like a skateboarder doing a kickflip because the OnePlus had reached its burst limit.
The next stop was Dandelion Chocolate where I got the phones up close to some delicious chocolate delights and fired off a few macro shots.
Both phones took wonderful close-up macro photos, but the OnePlus had the slight edge because its minimum focus distance is 3 inches instead of the 3.5 inches on the iPhone.
The OnePlus 5 also has a Pro Mode for additional camera settings like manual focus, which let me focus more precisely for macro shots than autofocus.
Golf under low light
The dimly lit indoor mini golf course at Urban Putt challenged both phones (as well as my short game). The OnePlus took much better images in low light than the 7 Plus and had less visible noise. The low-light photos from the iPhone suffered from too much noise reduction, making photos look a dull painting.
Lights! iPhone! Action!
My adventures around the Mission gave me plenty of chances to shoot video: 4K, HD and slow motion. But the iPhone simply rules smartphone video. It can shoot 120fps at 1,080p or 240fps at 720p, which means it captures hundreds of frames per second at a high resolution to give videos that buttery-smooth slow-motion look. Also, the iPhone’s optical image stabilization minimizes any bounces and shakes when shooting video.
It’s all about me
The OnePlus 5 has a selfie camera with 16 megapixels, which is more resolution than the rear cameras on the iPhone 7 Plus. Though higher megapixels don’t always translate to better pictures, there is definitely more detail in the selfies I took with the OnePlus. Also, the pictures looked more natural and less contrasty than the ones off its two rear cameras.
Oh, there it is
The main controls on both phones are very similar. But camera settings on the OnePlus were easier to access and change than the ones on the iPhone. And while both phones are capable of shooting raw photos, the OnePlus can do so within its camera app using the aforementioned Pro Mode. The iPhone can only shoot raw with a separate third-party app.
And the winner is…
The OnePlus 5’s dual cameras are definitely impressive especially considering its price. Keep in mind: The OnePlus 5 (128GB) we shot with costs $330, £320 and roughly AU$590 less than the iPhone 7 Plus (128GB) we used. That’s a huge deal, especially when you’re on a budget.
Both of these phones are great dual-camera phones. But the iPhone 7 Plus is a little bit better in all the right places: video, image stabilization, burst mode and Portrait Mode. And while the OnePlus 5 didn’t win this camera battle, you should definitely consider it next time you’re shopping for a new phone and want a bunch of really great photo features.
- Find out why we love the OnePlus 5: Our full review of the OnePlus 5.
- Two is better than one: We round up all of the dual-camera phones out there.
- How many cameras will your next phone have?: A chase for the best photos.
- The photographer’s phone: Our full review of the iPhone 7 Plus.
CNET Magazine: Check out a sampling of the stories you’ll find in CNET’s newsstand edition.
Batteries Not Included: The CNET team shares experiences that remind us why tech stuff is cool.