This OnePlus 8 Pro Camera Update Changes EVERYTHING!

I was wrong about the OnePlus 8 Pro… I really was. To be completely transparent, OnePlus did send these devices a few weeks before launch, and as I was playing around with them I wasn’t really impressed with the camera performance. I felt that it was running a beta version of the software or something just didn’t add up, especially for a $900 USD smartphone. The photos I took simply looked abnormal.

As you can see, it didn’t process my skin tones accurately. The dynamic range was really, really bad and it lacked contrast. However, it did manage to capture true-to-life colours. Now OnePlus did roll out a software update one week before launch, and they asked us to review these phones with that update installed. However, unfortunately, on my sample I didn’t notice a huge difference in the camera performance, it still wasn’t that great at all. In fact, if you caught my OnePlus 8 and 8 Pro hands-on article I compared those phones to the 7 Pro and the 7T and the results were really weird.

Fast forward a couple of days post-launch and I get a notification on the 8 Pro of a new update that supposedly improves system stability and fix a few bugs here and there. However, under ‘Camera Updates’ it said that it was going to improve the camera shooting experience and stability. I installed it right away, woke up the next morning, realized that it was a beautiful day outside and I decided to just go out for a walk. Now mind you I am still under quarantine, and I live in an area where there’s not a lot of people, so the streets are empty and there’s not a lot of interesting things to shoot. Nevertheless, when I came back home and started reviewing the photos I shot on the 8 Pro I was shocked. I couldn’t believe the results coming out of this smartphone. It literally made the cameras on the 8 Pro go from mediocre to one of the best that I’ve ever tested.

As you can see, the dynamic range is excellent. There is also a great amount of detail in every image that I took, and that’s thanks to that new Sony IMX689 sensor. I’m really surprised at how OnePlus managed to deliver true-to-life colours with great white balance. The 48MP sensor of ultra-wide angle camera really surprised me as well. They basically took the main sensor from the 7 Pro, jammed it into the 8 Pro, and gave it a wider field of view and the results just look amazing. You be the judge here and let me know what you think about these photos. The telephoto lens also produced amazing results. While telephoto might not be one of those features that a lot of people use, I find it useful, especially as a photographer. I like playing around with different focal lengths, and having an ultra-wide, wide, and telephoto options helps me experiment with different compositions. Getting the perfect shot just satisfies my inner soul, if that makes any sense. Another great discovery is that I didn’t notice any colour shifts between the three sensors.

Now one of the drawbacks of implementing a larger sensor into a smartphone is the plane of focus (PoF) is so thin. It is difficult to get everything in focus, which Marques Brownlee has talked about this issue in one of his videos. By default the main camera on the OnePlus 8 Pro is a 48MP sensor with an aperture of F1.7. That is a wide open aperture for a really large sensor. As a result, when you are shooting closer subjects the center is perfectly sharp, but as soon as you examine the rest of the image you will start to see it blurred out. Nothing is really in focus and if you really think about it is essentially portrait mode, but in a more natural way without any software enhancements.

Speaking of portrait mode, it’s still not good. I think Google and Apple are the only players getting that right. I wouldn’t even touch that option on the 8 Pro. The selfie camera has improved as well, there is good detail, accurate colours, as well as good contrast. Low-light performance is surprisingly really good too. That new Sony sensor doesn’t give up on detail and the dynamic range is still intact, which is awesome. I even tried Nightscape Mode and the results were very much comparable to my Pixel 4.

Moving on to video quality, I honestly can’t complain. For a $900 USD smartphone this level of quality meets my expectations. It shoots 4K at up to 60FPS and you can use the ultra-wide angle lens to shoot video as well. HDR kicks in nicely to expose the highlights. My shots were all done handheld and they looked like they were on a gimbal thanks to the effective use of EIS and OIS on the sensors.

In the end, the results really do speak for themselves. It is just too bad that OnePlus wasn’t able to finalize the camera software before launch, because that would have made it a little bit easier. Nevertheless, I’m finally glad that they were able to address some of the issues that I had with 8 Pro when it launched, which was just this past week. And that is all I have to say. It’s just fascinating to see what a software update can do to a smartphone camera, it can either break it or make it even better. On that note, thank you so much for reading.

By the way, I am aware that Apple just announced the $399 iPhone SE2 smartphone. It is awesome to see them getting into the mid-range smartphone market.