The OnePlus 8T has largely the same camera system as the OnePlus 8. The main difference here is the addition of a monochrome camera. OnePlus has also increased the field of view of the ultra-wide camera, which they say is their widest yet. And in case you are wondering what the second white lens is next to the flash, it's a flicker detection sensor.
The Camera app has seen a handful of upgrades in OxygenOS 11. You can now press and hold on the image gallery icon and it will show a new carousel with share options for the last captured image or video. In video mode, you now have the option to record portrait videos and videos with Nightscape. Aside from those additions, the app is largely the same.
The lack of any further improvements or changes is disappointing. We would have liked to see more features, such as being able to lock exposure and focus separately (outside of Pro mode) and manual control over the depth of field in portrait mode. We also hate that OnePlus requires you to tap the tiny lock icon to lock focus and exposure instead of just pressing and holding at a point in the frame.
The video features are especially lacking; there's no pro mode for video and you still can't record videos in 24fps. There's also no wide color support, no HDR PQ for video, and no HEIF format for compressed images. There's also no audio zoom feature similar to the OnePlus 8 Pro that uses OZO Audio.
Alright, now for some image quality analysis. We will start off as usual with the main rear camera. For this, OnePlus is once again using the 48MP Sony IMX586 sensor, the same one we have been seeing since the OnePlus 7. Placed on it is a roughly 26mm equivalent f1.7 lens with OIS.
In perfect daylight conditions, the main camera produces above average results. In the default 12MP mode, the level of detail is good on larger objects. However, image processing smears some of the fine details, which makes surfaces lose some of their texture. It also tends to muddle fine, high-frequency details such as grass, which looks like brush strokes on a painting when seen up close and have some ringing artifacts.
Despite the large overall sensor resolution, the 12MP images from this camera lag behind some images from newer sensors such as the Sony IMX689 used on the OnePlus 8 Pro and also some of the native 12MP sensors. The sensor does capture a decent amount of detail on its own but OnePlus' aggressive image processing tends to smear quite a bit of it, even in well-lit conditions that would require minimal noise-reduction.
In terms of color reproduction, the OnePlus 8T goes more for an artistic interpretation rather than accuracy. Some of the colors such as green, orange, and red often get a strong boost in color volume, which makes them unnaturally bright sometimes. Greens, in particular, have a yellowish hue to them that looks distinctly unnatural to anyone who has been outside. Whether you find this appealing is subjective but OnePlus is clearly going for a look here, as it has for the past year or so.
White balance is also a hit or miss at times. The camera often chooses to go for a cooler tone outdoors under the sun but it gets more aggressively cooler in indirect sunlight scenes. This aspect of the image, however, is fairly easy to correct.
In terms of dynamic range, the camera does a reasonable job of controlling the highlights. In most conditions, the highlights are usually correctly exposed. Shadow detail isn't as impressive and the camera will often crush some shadow details.
The overall contrast feels a bit lacking at times. In daylight images, there is often not much of a difference in the intensity between the high and the mid-tones, resulting in a somewhat flat appearance usually associated with tone mapped HDR images. The image processing also doesn't handle color and light gradation very well so objects often tend to have a somewhat uniform appearance where the entire surface is just a single tone.
To elucidate further on the various shortcomings of the OnePlus 8T camera, here are some examples comparing it against the similarly priced Pixel 5.
In these examples, you can see how the Pixel 5 scores better across the board. The Pixel 5 has better exposure metering, it has better detail and texture despite having a lower resolution sensor, more accurate color reproduction and white balance, more shadow detail and better highlight recovery, better contrast, and finer gradation across the mid-tones. We know it's a cliché to say Pixel has the better camera but in these side-by-side comparisons you can see how it is objectively better.
Moving on, the OnePlus 8T also offers a native 48MP capture mode. This is a true 48MP image and not just an upscaled version of the 12MP images. These 48MP images have significantly increased detail and texture throughout. Fine detail in foliage usually comes through much better in these images. The only limiting factors are the compression and lens quality. The images are usually less than 3x the file size despite having 4x the pixels and the lens is clearly at the limits of its resolving power at this resolution.
The full 48MP images have less post-processing. This gives them a slightly more natural appearance at times, especially in the way it captures fine detail and the noise pattern. However, this also means you will get the occasional highlight blowouts. Still, we think this mode is well worth exploring if you don't mind the slower shot times.
The OnePlus 8T does not have a dedicated zoom lens. The 2x option on the camera and any subsequent zooming is all done digitally. In the 2x mode, the camera is once again shooting in the native resolution of the sensor but then just cropping a 4000x3000 rectangle from the center. This means the 2x mode isn't digital zoom per se as you are yet to start upscaling the pixels.
Images obtained in the 2x mode look nearly identical to the native 48MP images in terms of detail and resolution but have a more localized exposure, white balance, and tone mapping, so it is preferable to use the 2x mode instead of shooting in the full 48MP if all you want to do is crop afterward unless you also want to retain the full image.
Comparing the 2x zoomed images with the Pixel 5, we see the two are quite comparable in terms of detail. The OnePlus 8T is no slouch when shooting at 1:1 sensor resolution in the 2x mode but Google's clever Super Res Zoom manages to hang on quite well and actually looks more detailed in several areas. When you add to the fact the generally more mature image processing on the Pixel 5 and once again it comes across as the better camera of the two.
Moving on to the ultra-wide camera, the OnePlus 8T has the same 16MP IMX481 sensor as the OnePlus 8 but with a wider lens.
The ultra-wide camera on the OnePlus 8T is mediocre at best. The resolution isn't adequate at this focal length and most of the detail looks quite soft and blurry. Quite often, the images look like they have been upscaled from an even lower resolution. The images also have more noise and even less impressive color accuracy than the main camera. The ultra-wide also doesn't match the main camera in white balance and images can look quite different between the two.
In comparison, the newly minted 16MP ultra-wide camera on the Pixel 5 fares a lot better. Details are still quite soft but not lacking in definition. The overall image, once again, has a better dynamic range, color accuracy, lower noise, and everything else we mentioned with regards to the main camera.
The OnePlus 8T also features a new 5MP macro camera, which has been upgraded over the 2MP embarrassment on the OnePlus 8. Not that 5MP is anything to brag about but it is a better sensor overall and at least somewhat usable.
The new macro camera on the OnePlus 8T has reasonable image quality. If you are a fan of taking macro images, you will get more usable images out of this camera. The issue is once again the resolution; you lose out on the advantage of being so close to the subject if your resolution is also a third that of the main camera. This means it effectively ends up being the same and you aren't really capturing more detail with this camera up close than further away with a higher resolution sensor.
OnePlus had a superior solution on the 7T series and also on the OnePlus 8 Pro, where the phone simply uses the ultra-wide camera in macro. Ultra-wide lenses let you get much closer to the subject and the higher native resolution of the sensor meant you got much better image quality as a result. So the decision to drop that approach and add a dedicated sensor is just a marketing decision to reach that quad-camera stature.
Speaking of marketing decisions, we finally come to what is possibly the greatest marketing gimmick on the OnePlus 8T, the monochrome camera.
The monochrome camera uses a 2MP sensor. This camera presumably has no color filter array over the sensor, so it is quite literally color blind. So far, this is similar to the monochrome cameras we have seen in the past on some other smartphones, and also similar to some monochrome dedicated cameras, such as the Leica M10 Monochrome.
However, unlike those cameras, the monochrome camera on the OnePlus 8T doesn't actually capture any images. The camera system uses the information from the monochrome camera to generate a monochrome version of an image shot from the main camera.
The resultant image is literally just an image from the main camera, but black and white. You don't get any of the advantages of shooting from a dedicated monochrome camera, such as low noise, greater detail, and increased dynamic range. That's because you aren't shooting with the monochrome camera but the same 48MP main camera described before, just drained of all of its colors.
The monochrome effect is not a straightforward desaturated image but it's also not something you can't make yourself in 30 seconds. This is so much worse than the IR color filter camera on the OnePlus 8 Pro. At least that camera offered something unique, even after it was nerfed into the ground with later updates as it's not easy to create that look by yourself. Meanwhile, the OnePlus 8T monochrome look can be generated with one tap on a filter on Instagram. The only thing the monochrome camera is good at is hiding how bad the colors science is on OnePlus phones.