On paper, the OnePlus 3T main camera is yet another department, which OnePlus decided to carry over from the vanilla sibling. This is a good thing too since both phones offer a solid camera experience.
That being said, however, mobile camera capabilities have come a long way, especially in the last few months, so what we are trying to say is that perhaps the camera of the OnePlus 3T is not competitive today as it was on the OnePlus 3.
It is still a solid snapper by any means and it performs consistently and reliably under all conditions. It seldom requires more than a single attempt to capture the desired shot.
The camera utilizes the same Sony IMX298 sensor, which is not Sony's cutting-edge offer but is still good enough to power some other excellent flagship cameras, like the Xiaomi Mi 5 and the Huawei Mate 8. The very same sensor is also found in the Oppo R9 and R9 Plus, the ZTE Nubia Z11 family as well as the Vivo Xplay 5 and the XPlay 5 Elite.
The 16MP camera has a 1.12 µm pixel size and an aperture of f/2.0. The sensor measures 1/2.8". It is also OIS-enabled and has a single LED flash at its disposal.
As for the selfie camera, OnePlus has decided to offer an upgrade. The simple 8MP camera in the OnePlus 3 has been swapped for a 16MP one in the OnePlus 3T. The new snapper has a f/2.0 aperture, but don't expect anything too fancy in terms of performance. The snapper is still fixed-focus, and there is no front-facing flash. Then again, OnePlus has never really advertised a stellar selfie experience.
But let's start by telling you more about the camera UI. The default camera app is based on the stock Android solution and is about as straightforward and streamlined as it gets. On the surface, it even looks to be missing some features, and there are a couple of things we would have liked to see, like still resolution control and perhaps some filters. However, those do seem to be the only absent pieces.
Other than that, you have the most important toggles close at hand - flash, HDR and Oxygen OS's HQ mode in stills and only the LED control under video. The quick setting button next to the shutter release holds a few extra things, like aspect or video resolution control, the self-timer and the grid.
Other more obscure settings such as geotagging, preferred storage and the shutter sound are all hidden away in the settings menu. There is even RAW support that saves files alongside the compressed ones, so the camera is undoubtedly full-featured.
There are also quite a few modes for you to experiment with. Besides the usual Photo and Video, there is also Panorama for stills, Time-lapse and Slow motion for video. Then there is the powerful Manual mode. It offers granular control over ISO, contrast, shutter speed and focus and it works really well. We particularly like the fact that a convenient auto setting is still left in all the sliders.
Regarding image quality, the OnePlus 3T may have the same camera hardware as the OnePlus 3 but it comes with a new factory tuning. In-camera sharpening is more prominent now. Noise reduction is dialed back, and there is noticeable noise from as low as ISO 100. The level of detail is higher than the OnePlus 3 in most scenarios and especially in high ISO scenarios. Edge-to-edge sharpness and contrast are superior to the OnePlus 3. The result is impressively sharp and pleasant looking images and we really can't ask for more out of a €440 handset.
The camera offers consistent performance and most of the time it just worked. We rarely found ourselves having to re-shoot a specific scene. Most often than not, we didn't need to adjust anything and the Auto mode worked just fine for most occasions.
Auto HDR worked great during our testing and managed to kick in just in time. The processing itself is also very mature, definitely not too excessive. We also appreciate the on-screen notification whenever Auto HDR kicks in. This way you are always clear exactly what the camera app is doing.
And if you happen to fancy a little bit of extra processing, the OnePlus 3T is more than happy to deliver upon request. The HQ toggle in the camera app does just that - it enables some additional enhancement algorithms that try to recover some of the finer detail that might have gone missing.
In broad daylight the effect of the HQ mode is perhaps too subtle to make a difference. However, in low light conditions, it works amazingly well. You can think of it as a per-request extra processing mode. When turned on it tries to remove as much of the noise it can and then recover the detail.
Panorama mode works great with practically no trace of stitching, misalignment or other artifacts.
You can see how the OnePlus 3T compares in a controlled environment as well in our testing tool below.
As previously mentioned, the new 16MP front-facing camera is a great performer. It produces some impressive stills. The 1080p video is also great for most conversational or even vlogging purposes. Capturing stills is a bit on the slow side, but it never actually got on our nerves.
It hardly comes as a surprise that the powerful Snapdragon 821 has plenty of horsepower to deliver 4K video recording. The video recording UI is just as simple as its photo counterpart. You don't really get a whole lot of options, besides a grid and resolution controls.
The vanilla OnePlus 3 does quite alright with 4K capture as it is, but something appears to have changed behind the scenes on the OnePlus 3T.
For one, the videos come out with a whopping 55 Mbps bit rate, compared to 42 Mbps on the OnePlus 3. Audio has remained the same - 2 channels at 96 Kbps and 48KHz. The amount of resolved detail in the 4K videos is high, but not the best we've seen. The colors are accurate, the contrast is high, while the dynamic range is slightly above the average. The framerate is smooth and consistent at 30fps. Focus-hunting is kept at a minimum during recording. There is some shaking to note on some of the samples, but that is entirely due to the strong wind.
1080p naturally isn't as impressive as 4K capture. There is a bitrate improvement compared to the original OnePlus 3 in this area as well, but the end result can still benefit from some extra detail. One nuisance that we noted back in the OnePlus 3 review was the significant mismatch between the viewfinder and the actual framing in 1080p.
We still believe firmly that this is a relatively small software error that shouldn't take long to patch. However, it is still in place on the OnePlus 3T.
Just like the OnePlus 3, the updated version has OIS as well. Sadly, the system is still just as poorly implemented. In fact, this is probably the camera's biggest weakness. The OnePlus 3T can't really handle shaking all that well.
One thing that OnePlus did implement with the OnePlus 3T is a 60 fps capture mode in 1080p. It works pretty well and maintains a fluid frame rate, just like the regular 30fps mode. Also, current OnePlus 3 users can expect to see it as well in an OTA. It is just one of the many OnePlus 3T features that will trickle down to the vanilla sibling.
Finally, you can use our Video Compare Tool to see how the OnePlus 3T stacks against the competition when it comes to video capturing. We have included both the 4K and 1080p samples.
UPDATE April 2017: OnePlus improved the video stabilization in 1080p through the Nougat 7.1 update so we decided to test out how it affected the footage. It turns out the new electronic stabilization works wonders with the optical one to create a very smooth video. Below you can see the EIS+OIS work before and after the sotware update. Mind that the test is very drastic - we were running for half of it, which makes the result all the more impressive. You can read our dedicated article on the improved stabilization here.