It's so rare we start a chapter with a critique, but that's the reality. It doesn't really matter if OnePlus or Oppo came up with this new dual-camera setup, it still doesn't make any sense as an advancement to us.
Just like the Oppo R11, the R11s packs a 16MP+20MP dual camera setup with the same sensors on its back. But now those sensors share the same equivalent focal length of 27mm, compared to the R11's 24mm+36mm kinda-sorta wide/tele arrangement. Both apertures are equally wide, too, at f/1.7.
Both OnePlus and Oppo claim the secondary 20MP camera purpose is to improve the low-light shots and help gather info for the portrait shots, of course. And while even a 2MP secondary cam would have done a fine job for portraits, we once again wondered how a higher-res camera with the same lens as the primary one will improve the low-light quality. And if it happens you, just like us, hoped to find some answers this time around, we are sorry to disappoint you.
But before we dig into details, let's take a look at the camera app. The interface has borrowed a lot from the iOS app, of course. Most settings are on the left (or top, depending on the orientation), while different modes can be selected on the right next to the shutter key. Strangely, the left-hand side also has a few additional modes that didn't find a spot in the right carousel.
There are a few settings, including location tagging and guidelines, separated out in their own menu in the phone's settings. There is a total lack of any clear resolution control for stills. All you get is a choice of aspects, between the standard 4:3 one, 1:1 and 16:9. It's not clear which aspect ratio is native to the sensor, and how choosing any of the other affects the resolution of the images.
Expert mode is available for those seeking more manual controls. It comes with a handy horizon level and can change most settings on the primary camera (this mode doesn't work on the selfie cam). The shutter speed control lacks fine adjustment, good mostly for very low-light shooting - it starts at 1s and increments at full stops to a maximum of 16s. Manual focus adjustment is present as well.
The Portrait mode offers a regular (2x telephoto-like) view, or you can opt for the outzoomed option from the dedicated virtual key.
The regular samples turned out very good with lots of detail, excellent contrast, and lively colors. The dynamic range is about average. There is little oversharpening here and there, but that's hardly noticeable unlike the somewhat noisy skies.
The 2x pictures are far worse than the 1.6x we got from the R11. They were cropped and then digitally upscaled to 16MP and you can tell right away.
Low light is where the second camera comes into play. It automatically starts in low-light conditions. With its intelligent technology it merges 4 pixels into one aiming to cancel out noise - in our book this leaves a 5MP image. However, what we get is a 16MP so it must be upsampled. This sounds like just what the OnePlus 5T is doing, though on the R11s you will always get a 16MP image, whereas the 5T sometimes spits a 20MP one.
It doesn't look like the two (16+20MP) cameras work together by merging their images to get a better end result, as each one is on its own. You can check out the soft low-light shots from below.
Just like on the 5T, we may not completely understand the process and we wouldn't have cared what was going on under the hood if the resulting photos were awesome, but that's not the case. The noticeable benefits of the second camera seem to be diminishing fast.
Even the long exposure shots can't match the R11's.
And as for the 2x mode in low-light mode, well, let's just say it doesn't get any better than what we've seen so far.
The 180-degree panoramic images are flagship-worthy. They are about 2,500px tall and can continue for up to 25MP. There is plenty of detail, excellent colors and contrast, and good sharpness.
Portraits are pretty good, both wide or telephoto-like. Subject separation works well, there aren't abrupt transitions from sharp to blurred, the bokeh is nice, and overall - those are among the better portraits we've seen. Yay, the second camera finally came in handy!
The 20MP selfie cam looks more promising than the 20MP rear one. 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. There isn't enough detail, but the colors and contrast are great. And given the high resolution, those pictures would look perfect once downsampled to any other size.
The R11s may lack a secondary selfie sensor for the bokeh shots, but it still does great in detecting and separating the person from the background. Sure, you can notice the processing tries to mask the borders with some forced blur, but this actually improves the effect instead of hurting it. The R11 did a great job with the portrait selfies and the R11s is continuing the good work.
Finally, you can head over to our Photo compare tool to see how the Oppo R11s handles the controlled environment of our studio. We've pre-selected the Oppo R11 and OnePlus 5T, but you can replace those with any other two phones you feel like.
The Oppo R11s records videos in 4K and 1080p at 30fps. There is no digital stabilization available on any resolution.
The standard 2160p/30fps mode is encoded at about 42Mbps, on par with the flagship crop. Audio is recorded in stereo at 96Kbps - far from impressive.
The 4K videos are a bit softer than we prefer, but with enough detail and great contrast. The frame rate is steady, and we liked the color rendition. The excellent dynamic range is among the things worth mentioning, too.
The 1080p videos came out even softer than the 4K clips despite the 20Mbps high bitrate usually suggests the opposite. The resolved detail is mediocre, but the dynamic range and contrast are the same.
Finally, for some extra pixel peeping head over to our Video compare tool, where you can examine the Oppo R11s output against any phone we've tested before. We've pre-selected the Oppo R11 and the OnePlus 5T, but you can of course pick your own set.