Dual cameras have been all the rage the past couple of years, and it seems everyone has them now - out of the flagships only Google is getting away with just the single camera on the second-gen Pixels. OnePlus is no stranger to the trend, and the 5T isn't actually the company's first to pack a pair or rear cams - the 5 before it had a 16+20MP configuration.
Indeed, so does the 5T, only it's quite the unusual setup. You see, both the 16MP cam and the 20MP one share the same equivalent focal length of 27mm, compared to the 5's 24mm+36mm kinda-sorta wide/tele arrangement.
No biggie, you say, Huawei's been doing it since the Mate 9. Yes, and no - in Huawei's implementation, one of the sensors sees the world in color, and the other is black and white only, while the OnePlus 5T's cameras are both color. And if Huawei's monochrome cam serves to help improve lowlight image quality and, you know, take black and white photos when the mood calls for it, the OnePlus' 20MP cam is there just for the former. Well, that and portraits - portraits, of course.
Eyebrows were raised around the office, even before looking at actual photos. It's not like we're quick to jump to conclusions, but we just couldn't figure out the answers to a few obvious questions. Like 'why same focal length?'. And then, if same focal length, 'why not 2x16MP?'. 'Why not one color, one black and white?' We hoped we'd find an explanation as the review progressed. To say that we did, however, would be an overstatement.
But before we get to image quality, let's have a look at the camera app. It defaults to the stills viewfinder, but a swipe to the right (or up in landscape) will bring up one for video, while a swipe to the left (or, obviously, down) evokes the Portrait mode.
In the stills viewfinder you also have quick toggles for flash mode, aspect ratio, HDR, and self-timer.
Gone is the hamburger menu in the corner is where you'd look for other modes - now there's a tiny arrow next to the 1x/2x button that you tap to access Panorama, Pro mode, Slow motion, and Timelapse. It's not more intuitive, strictly speaking, but it is more easily accessible if you're holding the phone with one hand only - that we definitely appreciate.
The Pro mode allows manual tweaking of shooting parameters, including ISO (100-3200), white balance (by light temperature), shutter speed (1/8000s to 30s), focus, and exposure compensation. You can save 2 sets of custom parameters too, if you happen to do the same thing over and over again. A live histogram is also provided, which is a nice touch as it's quite a rare feature. RAW capture is available too.
It's been a while since we've had such a long streak of days with such drab weather, but that's been the case ever since the OP5T showed up at our doorstep. Finding color outside has been mostly an exercise in futility but the photos we shot around the office proved the OnePlus does a very pleasing job with color rendition - not overly saturated, yet not lifeless.
Venturing outdoors into the brown and gray, we're less excited about the way the OP5T draws foliage, with detail in there painted with a rather coarse brush. There's an overall softness to the images too - one we didn't observe on the old model. Dynamic range isn't spectacular either.
Low light is where the second camera comes into play. Or at least it should, but we haven't been able to reliably establish when and how it works. OnePlus says it kicks in when light levels drop below 10 lux. With its 'Intelligent Pixel Technology' it merges 4 pixels into one aiming to cancel out noise - in our book this leaves a 5MP image. From what we see, the OP5T then probably upsamples it back to 20MP, and the results don't really look too good.
On top of that, we shot in some pretty dark conditions and ended up with 16MP images, pretty much all the time. Was it not below 10 lux for the secondary camera to lend a hand? Though actually, it doesn't look like the two cameras work together merging their images to get a better end result, each one is on its own. Then why bother?
The thing is, we might not understand how it works, but if the resulting photos are awesome, we wouldn't really care. Only they aren't. And they could have been equally not awesome, with just the one camera. Alright, you need the second one for portraits - then don't make too big of a deal out of it for low-light photography.
In all honesty, the OnePlus 5T does produce slightly sharper and more detailed low-light shots than the OnePlus 5. But the OnePlus 5 isn't the competition, and the competition is ahead of the 5T.
Panoramas were a sore spot in the OnePlus 5 camera performance, and that's not changed with the 5T. For one, they can still be shot only in portrait, left to right - what if you prefer to lock the exposure on the right end of the image? The results have major stitching issues - straight lines end up jagged or wavy, ghosting is evident here and there. And the odd part is that panos were excellent coming out of the 3T - what happened there, OP?
Portraits are pretty good, let's fire this off to put an end to all the negativity upsofar. Subject separation works well, there aren't abrupt transitions from sharp to blurred, and it's perfect for selfies, because the wider angle of view lets you get your entire mug in the frame when holding the phone at arm's length - not so easy on telephoto-based implementations like the iPhone X/8 Plus or the Note8. Still, a touch stronger effect would have been appreciated.
The actual selfie cam can take selfies too, you know. You get the added benefit of proper framing, but lose the background blur. It doesn't have autofocus, which isn't an issue in and of itself - it's just that the focus plane is all too close to the phone.
Finally, you can head over to our Photo compare tool to see how the OnePlus 5T handles the controlled environment of our studio. We've pre-selected the Galaxy S8+ and iPhone 8 Plus, but you can replace those with any other two phones you feel like.
The OnePlus 5T records videos in 4K/30fps, as well as 1080p at both 60fps and 30fps frame rates. The OP5 launched with stabilization only available in 1080p/30fps, but it was quickly added to 4K recording with a software update. Naturally, the OnePlus 5T can also stabilize both 1080p/30fps and 2160p out of the box. The EIS can't be turned off, though.
Just like the previous iteration, the OnePlus 5T's otherwise dedicated video viewfinder (yay) shows you the frame before cropping it for the electronic stabilization (boo). What this means is that accurate framing is nearly impossible, which is a huge issue for us when shooting our test posters (not your problem, of course), but more importantly it robs you of control over what will actually make it in the footage.
It was a tiny window of some sunshine we were given and we barely managed to squeeze our video samples in it - no sun left for stills. Even in these less than ideal conditions, the OP5T managed to record some excellent 4K footage - nicely rendered textures, lots of detail, low noise, and likable colors.
As if nothing's happened in these 5 months between the OP5 and OP5T's releases. If you want good quality 1080p videos from the OnePlus 5, you'd better resort to the 60fps mode - a rather uncommon sight. 60fps videos are more detailed than the 30fps, and you can actually get accurate framing in this mode as there's no EIS in 60fps. Plain 1080p/30fps is noticeably softer and you'd better resort to it only if you need the provided footage stabilization.
As was the case on the OnePlus 5, the the 5T's stabilization works quite well, doing a great job of ironing out walking-induced shake and hand shake in general. When panning, however, the software takes an extra fraction of a second to determine what you're trying to do, and that results in unpleasantly jerky panning shots. Or maybe that's just us looking too close. Here are a couple of samples for you to decide.
And finally, for some extra pixel peeping head over to our Video compare tool, where you can examine the OnePlus 5T's output against any phone we've tested before. We've pre-selected the Galaxy S8+ and iPhone 8 Plus, but you can of course pick your own set.