This year, OnePlus has worked on including the best cameras yet on its flagship. Enter the OnePlus 5 (review) with dual cameras.

In one of our previous comparisons we had throned the Samsung Galaxy S8+ (review) as the smartphone with the best camera out there. Therefore, we thought it made absolute sense to compare the OnePlus 5’s cameras to the ones on the Samsung Galaxy S8+. And, we also decided to add the Google Pixel (review) in the ring to make it a three-way you can’t ignore!

Related read: OnePlus 5 vs Apple iPhone 7 Plus: the epic dual camera battle

While this is definitely a comparison of three different cameras, it can easily serve as our conclusive camera review of the OnePlus 5 especially when you look at our other comparison – where we compare the OnePlus 5’s dual cameras against the iPhone 7 Plus’ – in conjunction.

OnePlus 5 vs Samsung Galaxy S8 vs Google Pixel camera comparison

So, which phone comes out on top? Well, let’s find out.

Note: After some intense introspection, and deliberation within the team, we realised the parameters of rating smartphone cameras can vary from publication to publication. Furthermore, a lot of the observations are subjective. Therefore, we’ve decided to do away with the scoring system entirely. However, we will provide an individual verdict for each smartphone in the end. And, we will also talk about our favourite pick of the lot. 

Specs

The OnePlus 5 has a 16MP primary camera that uses a Sony IMX 398 sensor with a pixel size of 1.12 μm. Attached to this sensor is a lens with an f/1.7 aperture. There’s also that secondary telephoto camera. Don’t get fooled by the higher 20MP resolution of the second camera, the sensor is a comparatively inferior Sony IMX 350 with a pixel size of 1 μm, which is obviously smaller pixels on sensor than the primary camera. Additionally, the attached lens can only open up to a maximum aperture of f/2.6. On the front, you have a 16MP shooter with an IMX 371 sensor with a pixel size of 1 μm.

The Google Pixel uses a 12.3MP Sony IMX378 camera sensor, which has a much higher pixel size of 1.55 μm. It is attached to a f/2.0 lens. The Pixel also has an 8MP front camera with a 1/3.2-inch sensor and 1.4 µm pixels. This camera is attached to a lens with an aperture of f/2.4.

The Samsung Galaxy S8+ has a 12MP Sony IMX333 or ISOCELL S5K2L2 sensor, depending on the region. Our review unit has the ISOCELL S5K2L2 sensor. Attached to this sensor is a f/1.7 aperture lens. On the front is an 8MP camera with a sensor size of 1/3.6-inch and a pixel size of 1.22 μm.

So, does it matter that the OnePlus 5’s camera offers more megapixels or if the Google Pixel offers a much higher pixel size? Not necessarily. These specs are here so that you get a gist of what you are getting for you money, and what is different. We are not going to compare specs or assign any amount of weightage to our final verdicts.

Note: the images are in the order of Google Pixel (left), OnePlus 5 (centre), Samsung Galaxy S8 (right)

Daylight (wide)

We took two samples to test the landscape image shooting capabilities of these phones. We also decided to use the autofocus on all the three cameras to decide the perfect focus point.

In the first image, we shot a tree against the backdrop of the blue building. The Pixel’s camera achieved the most accurate overall colour temperature across all the samples. The OnePlus 5 has a much warmer colour temperature, in comparison. As is the case with most Samsung flagships, you get punchier, more saturated colours, and over-sharpening by the truckloads, when you shoot with the Galaxy S8+. That said, you also gets details across the image by the truckloads. On the other hand, the OnePlus 5 falls behind slightly in reproducing details in certain areas. For example, take a closer look at the lower part of the tree trunk and the patch of grass behind it in full resolution. You will notice that the leaves blend into each other like some green sludge.

Google Pixel - daylight (wide) shot 1 OnePlus 5 - daylight (wide) shot 1 Samsung Galaxy S8 - daylight (wide) shot 1

Google Pixel (left), OnePlus 5 (centre), and Samsung Galaxy S8 (right)

The second sample is where the Pixel struggles to maintain details across the image, whereas the other two cameras do a decent job. This shot is ideal to check for any barrel (lens) distortion around the edges and as most smartphone cameras go, the problem is equally bad across all the samples.

Google Pixel - daylight (wide) shot 2 OnePlus 5 - daylight (wide) shot 2 Samsung Galaxy S8 - daylight (wide) shot 2

Google Pixel (left), OnePlus 5 (centre), and Samsung Galaxy S8 (right)

If we had to pick one smartphone camera to shoot good landscape shots, it would have to be the Samsung Galaxy S8+.

Daylight (close-up)

Google Pixel - Daylight (closeup) shot OnePlus 5 - Daylight (closeup) shot Samsung Galaxy S8 - Daylight (closeup) shot

Google Pixel (left), OnePlus 5 (centre), and Samsung Galaxy S8 (right)

In our close up shot sample, we were stunned by the final output. The OnePlus 5 offers the best colours, the best exposure, and the highest amount of details and clarity, among all our test shots. Check the photo at 100 percent crop and notice the areas around the pipe, which is where we touched to focus. You will notice that the OnePlus 5’s rear camera offers more details compared to the other samples. In all honesty, the IMX398 sensor is no slouch and when it is coupled with more megapixels, you can see a perceptible difference in quality. Good job, OnePlus.

Daylight (macro)

Google Pixel - Daylight (macro) shot OnePlus 5 - Daylight (macro) shot Samsung Galaxy S8 - Daylight (macro) shot

Google Pixel (left), OnePlus 5 (centre), and Samsung Galaxy S8 (right)

This was a slightly tricky shot primarily because that tiny flower was swaying in the wind. However – thanks to the fact that all the three cameras can focus quickly – they managed to lock on focus fairly easily. If we had to pick a definite winner for the fastest shot – it has to be the Samsung Galaxy S8+. As for the overall image quality, the Galaxy S8+ produces a better image with an enhanced depth-of-field and pleasing – if not entirely accurate – colours.

Daylight (HDR)

Google Pixel - Daylight (HDR) shot OnePlus 5 - Daylight (HDR) shot Samsung Galaxy S8 - Daylight (HDR) shot

Google Pixel (left), OnePlus 5 (centre), and Samsung Galaxy S8 (right)

HDR is Pixel’s forte and it doesn’t disappoint. The Pixel’s HDR shot offers a better contrast overall and the exposure handling is good too. You can clearly see the distinction between areas in light and the areas under shadow. In comparison, the Galaxy S8+ only boosts the highlights and the overall image looks brighter. The OnePlus 5’s HDR shot doesn’t do much to improve the non-HDR shot because by default the dynamic range is pretty decent. And by the way, the Pixel is still the fastest to shoot an HDR image thanks to some really well-optimised hardware and software.

Low-light

Google Pixel - Low-light shot OnePlus 5 - Low-light shot Samsung Galaxy S8 - Low-light shot

Google Pixel (left), OnePlus 5 (centre), and Samsung Galaxy S8 (right)

Here’s where things start going on a bit of a downward spiral for the OnePlus 5. The 16MP primary camera with its smaller 1.12 μm pixel size is not equipped to compete directly with the comparatively larger sensors on the Galaxy S8+ and the Pixel. The Galaxy S8+’s shot offers a better dynamic range and more details with a wonderful control over multiple exposures. It can control flair and yet bring details out in the dark areas without struggling too much. The Pixel continues to capture impressive low light shots too but it suffers from graininess. The OnePlus 5’s shot is not entirely bad but it lacks the details that the other two exhibit.

Low-light with flash

Google Pixel - Low-light shot with flash OnePlus 5 - Low-light shot with flash Samsung Galaxy S8 - Low-light shot with flash

Google Pixel (left), OnePlus 5 (centre), and Samsung Galaxy S8 (right)

Once again the Samsung Galaxy S8+’s flash system does a really good job of evenly lighting the flower pot and it maintains the even lighting across the image. Even the colours look more pleasing to the eye with an adequate amount of details on offer. On the flip side, you can clearly see that the Pixel’s flash module struggles to throw adequate light but thankfully you can still find a lot of details. Finally, the OnePlus 5’s flash module is a little too eager and overexposes the subject making it look washed out.

Daylight (selfie)

Google Pixel - Daylight (selfie) sample OnePlus 5 - Daylight (selfie) sample Samsung Galaxy S8 - Daylight (selfie) sample

Google Pixel (left), OnePlus 5 (centre), and Samsung Galaxy S8 (right)

The OnePlus 5’s 16MP front camera comes into its own in this scenario. It literally decimates the competition. We won’t do the talking here and let the pictures do the talking instead.

Low-light (selfie)

Google Pixel - Low-light (selfie) sample OnePlus 5 - Low-light (selfie) sample Samsung Galaxy S8 - Low-light (selfie) sample

Google Pixel (left), OnePlus 5 (centre), and Samsung Galaxy S8 (right)

These selfies were taken in extreme low light conditions and once again the OnePlus 5 sort of comes out on top. However, we’d advice against shooting selfies in such low light. You have a selfie flash on all the three phones, so use that instead.

Low-light (selfie flash)

Google Pixel - Low-light (selfie flash) sample OnePlus 5 - Low-light (selfie flash) sample Samsung Galaxy S8 - Low-light (selfie flash) sample

Google Pixel (left), OnePlus 5 (centre), and Samsung Galaxy S8 (right)

Which brings us to the selfie flash (essentially a fancy term for your smartphone cranking up the display’s brightness to its maximum nits instead of actually using a flash module) comparison of the phones. We don’t really want to sound like a broken record but once again the OnePlus 5’s selfie looks pretty impressive. All this selfie-imaging prowess really makes us wonder if OnePlus has learned a thing or two from its sister companies – OPPO and Vivo.

Daylight video (4K)

Videos shot by smartphones have become so mainstream that Facebook has gone ahead and integrated Snapchat-like ‘stories’ feature in all its apps – Messenger, Instagram, and WhatsApp. And if you want to use your smartphone to shoot crisp 4K videos, which is also optically stabilised (OIS), the Samsung Galaxy S8+ is going to be your best bet as far as Android phones are concerned.

The colours are vibrant and the exposure is pretty good too. Moreover, what we particularly like about the Galaxy S8+ is that the phone also shoots some really good stereo audio with good noise reduction. The Pixel’s 4K video looks crisp and sharp too, and the software-based Electronic Image Stabilisation (EIS) is pretty good too, but it is clearly not as good as hardware stabilisation.

The OnePlus 5 has a bit of a problem in the video shooting arena. Firstly, it doesn’t come with OIS, and the EIS doesn’t kick in when you are shooting 4K videos. Therefore, if you are planning on shooting 4K videos with the OnePlus 5, please ensure that your hands are as stable as a tripod. Oh wait… that’s not humanly possible. For jitter-free video, you will have to resort to shooting 1080p video, and sacrifice on details. As for the actual quality of the 4K footage, it wasn’t too bad but we did notice that quite a few portions of the video were underexposed, little more so than videos shot by the Google Pixel and the Samsung Galaxy S8+.

Daylight video (slow motion)

All the three cameras can shoot 240fps video at a maximum resolution of 1,280 x 720 pixels. Yup, you don’t get any of the Sony Xperia XZ Premium’s 960fps goodness.

In our testing, we noticed that the Samsung Galaxy S8+’s footage had very little jitter and was the better-looking one of the lot. The footage was also evenly exposed. The Pixel’s footage was far too underexposed for our liking and the OnePlus 5’s video exhibited a colder temperature than we’d have ideally liked.

Other important features

You must be wondering, we’ve actually gone this far without mentioning the performance of the dual cameras. Well, here you go… the OnePlus 5 actually has two cameras on the rear and it can do two things: capture “true” 2x lossless zoom and better portraits with a great bokeh effect. For more details on how that works and how it actually performs head over to our dual camera comparison with the Apple iPhone 7 Plus.

While the Galaxy S8+ and the Google Pixel don’t have dual cameras, these phones offer some neat tricks too. For example, the Samsung Galaxy S8+ uses the power of its hardware – Exynos 8895 or the Snapdragon 835 – for some stacked shooting. Essentially, the software now takes multiple photos in the background (we don’t know how many exactly) and stitches them together for better, crisper details. This is why most of the Galaxy S8’s shots are loaded with details. Similarly, Pixel’s camera engineers have worked really hard to utilise the power of the processor to actually shoot slightly enhanced HDR shots by default using the HDR+ mode.

Verdict

This is what we’ve gleaned from testing the cameras in the three phones.

Samsung Galaxy S8+

The Galaxy S8+’s only flaw is that it tends to over-sharpen images and boost colours in daylight. Otherwise, the rear camera produces the sharpest images and every time you fire up the camera it takes a good looking shot. Furthermore, you also get the best low-light shots with the Galaxy S8+. Also, thanks to the presence of OIS you get some incredibly smooth 4K video. Samsung just aces the photography game each year with its flagship smartphone, and 2017 is no different.

Google Pixel

The Pixel, when it launched, wowed us with its low light performance thanks to its HDR+ mode being on by default. However, the Galaxy S8+ tops every other smartphone out there – including the Pixel – when we look at only the low light imaging capabilities. Don’t mistake us, the Pixel is still one of the best cameras out there but is it the absolute best? Maybe, not.

OnePlus 5

While the rear cameras on the OnePlus 5 aren’t entirely flagship class, in certain situations they managed to stun us with accurate colour reproduction and superb quality. The cameras are definitely better than other OnePlus phones from the past but that was a given anyway, wasn’t it?

The Achilles heel of the camera is definitely low light; it is not entirely bad but there are phones that capture way better shots in inadequate lighting conditions. Additionally, the lack of EIS when shooting 4K videos is also a bit of a letdown. However, there is a fact that no one can refute – the OnePlus 5 possibly has the best selfie camera on a flagship smartphone that is currently available. Also, let’s not forget that it has dual cameras on the rear, which – for whatever it is worth – gives the OnePlus 5 a slight edge over the rest.

All in all, we like what OnePlus has done with the cameras on the OnePlus 5. For its asking price, the cameras are definitely a notch above other smartphones in the same price range. To top it all off, the OnePlus 5 can also produce surprisingly better details and colours in some situations, when compared directly with the Samsung Galaxy S8+ and the Google Pixel. Now, that’s saying a lot! 

So go ahead, let us know what you think about this camera comparison? Which is your favourite flagship Android phone for shooting stills?