OnePlus Partners with Hasselblad to Improve its Smartphone Cameras

Posted on March 8, 2021 by Paul Thurrott in Mobile, Android with 20 Comments

OnePlus announced today that it has entered into a long-term partnership with Hasselblad to significantly improve its smartphone camera experience. We’ll see the first results from this partnership in the upcoming OnePlus 9 series of handsets.

“OnePlus has always prioritized a premium user experience over everything else,” OnePlus founder and CEO Peter Lau says. “Beginning in 2021, we are making a concerted effort to significantly improve the smartphone camera experience for our users, with the expertise of a truly legendary partner in Hasselblad. With OnePlus’ top-of-the-line hardware and computational photography and Hasselblad’s rich aesthetic knowledge in traditional photography, I am confident that the OnePlus 9 Series will be a major leap forward in our ability to deliver a premium, flagship camera.”

We don’t know a lot about the OnePlus 9 series yet, but the firm says it’s set to launch globally on March 23 and that it will feature a revamped camera system that OnePlus calls the Hasselblad Camera for Mobile. That camera system will feature a custom Sony IMX789 sensor for the main camera sensor that is up to 64-times more colorful than before. It will also offer improved HDR video recording, as well as support for capturing 4K video at 120 FPS and 8K video at 30 FPS.

OnePlus appears to be serious about improving the quality of its smartphone camera systems. The company is investing $150 million over the next three years to “further build out its mobile imaging capabilities in its ongoing pursuit of delivering the best smartphone camera experience for its users.” And OnePlus and Hasselblad will work together to deliver “vastly improved camera systems” on future OnePlus smartphones, starting with the OnePlus 9.

The first step, it says, is to improve color tuning and sensor calibration. The Hasselblad Camera for Mobile will feature Natural Color Calibration with Hasselblad, with the goal of bringing more perceptually accurate and natural-looking colors to photos taken with OnePlus flagship cameras. It will also include a new Hasselblad Pro Mode, with a new user interface that’s based on Hasselblad’s image processing software, that will help the cameras deliver an authentic Hasselblad look and feel. Professional photographers will be able to fine-tune their photos, with the ability to adjust ISO, focus, exposure times, white balance, and more, and access a 12-bit RAW format for even richer color and higher dynamic range.

Beyond that, OnePlus plans to deliver premium, cutting-edge camera technology over the next three years, including a panoramic camera with a 140-degree field of view, T-lens technology for faster focus with the front-facing camera, and a freeform lens, which arrives first in the OnePlus 9 series, for eliminating edge distortion in ultra-wide photos.

I am delighted by this news. Based on years of experience, OnePlus builds the very best smartphones in the world, but their Achilles Heel has long been their unreliable camera performance. If OnePlus can get this right, I would switch to OnePlus immediately and never look back.

OnePlus will launch the OnePlus 9 series via a live-streamed event at 10:00 am ET on March 23.

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Comments (20)

20 responses to “OnePlus Partners with Hasselblad to Improve its Smartphone Cameras”

  1. sherlockholmes

    Hasselblad? That sounds like an vampire dynasty from the far east :-P

    • mattbg

      In reply to SherlockHolmes:

      Just be glad it's not Hasselhoff :)

    • erson

      In reply to SherlockHolmes:

      Hasselblad was the cameras used by the apollo program on the moon. And the company is from Gothenburg, Sweden. Hasselblad is not an uncommon surname here in Sweden, though no connection to a far east vampire dynasty to the best of my knowledge. ?

      • markld

        In reply to erson:

        You are correct about Hasselblad being used by the Apollo missions, they really are premium cameras!

        In my few years as a professional commercial photographer I would have done almost anything to own one, they were one of the best cameras out there. But I did fine with a Mamiya 645.

        Hasselblad, when I first heard it mentioned 50 years ago, I wasn't used to it. I could have easily thought about it's connection to a far east vampire dynasty.

  2. rmlounsbury

    From what I understand OnePlus' problem with cameras isn't the hardware rather the software. Their post-processing can't touch what Samsung, Google, and Apple are doing. So, if Hasselblad can fix their software which seems to be the bigger sticking point this might finally address their photography problem.

    • Paul Thurrott

      This is my understanding as well. That said, they've made some curious camera lens choices too.
  3. doon

    Spot on. I'm on a Pixel 4 XL and reason #1 is the camera. If they fix that, there's a OnePlus in my future.

  4. John Craig

    Just headed over to the Hasselblad website. I have to admit, I'm not much of a photographer and had never heard of them.

    Very impressive gear. Wildly expensive though. £2000 - £25000 for the camera, and £££ Thousands more for the lenses and accessories. Clearly not marketed toward the masses.

    I wonder how much this partnership will push up the price of a OnePlus?

  5. eric_rasmussen

    The top-notch camera quality is what keeps me on Pixel devices. If OnePlus can deliver a competing camera system and a crapware-free experience, I'd consider switching.

  6. bhatech

    They also suck in keeping their phones updated with latest monthly security updates unlike Google and Samsung flagships. Will be interesting to see what they do with camera but they seriously need to improve their update story (especially security updates).

    • peterh_oz

      In reply to bhatech:

      Which is why I stick with Nokia (on Android). Completely crapware free, and guaranteed monthly updates (in the same month as Android releases them) for 3 years.

  7. jmountjoy

    I have three words that mean I’m reserving judgment here. Hasselblad Moto Mod. When they strapped a huge chunk of peripheral to a mediocre camera phone with the promise of a top end photographic experience, the results were underwhelming. Hopefully they can do better this time around. But I’m not holding my breath.

  8. rosyna

    Hasselblad is now just a name licensing company. Much like Zeiss.

    • peterc

      In reply to rosyna:

      I think £43,000 for the highest resolution medium format camera might say otherwise? theres others you can choose from too, they still sell big money medium format cameras to pro use photographers.

      They have something to offer the smartphone world.... computational photography software.

      The Hasselblad partnership will transform OnePlus in time much like Leica did for Huawei.

      • rosyna

        In reply to peterc:

        Yeah, these super expensive cameras are expensive for the name. They use Fuji sensors and glass. Hasselblad is trash on compute anything. You can get a cheaper, better Fujifilm GFX camera with the same hardware.

        Since 2016,DJI is the current owner of the Hasselblad name and licenses it.

  9. MikeCerm

    I can say with a fairly high degree of certainty that this is a marketing/branding gimmick and nothing more. Hasselblad might know how to make cameras, but at the scale of the average smart phone lens (tiny lens on a small sensor), none of their expertise is even relevant. As Google Pixel phones have shown, off-the-rack camera modules are good enough, and the real differentiator is whether you have the software chops to pull a good image from a tiny sensor and process it in a way that looks good to users. Hasselblad has no experience doing this kind of thing.

    OnePlus should just abandon this foolish endeavor and admit that they're never going to have the best camera. They should go back to their old business model: selling the best sub-$500 phone that money can buy. For the same price as a current iPhone or Galaxy S-series phone, they need to be the best at everything. For $499, buyers might be able to overlook some small deficiency in the camera deparment, and excuse the fact that they're never going to catch up with Samsung in terms of features.

    For $600-900 like their last few phones have been, they need to be the best at everything, and they're not and they never will be. They're never going to have the cachet that iPhone has. They're never going to match Samsung feature-for-feature. They're ever going to match Google's "smart" simplicity (really, the Pixel 4a is untouchable at $350). They should just refocus on being a "flagship killer" at $500, rather than a flagship-priced also-ran.

  10. t-b.c

    I understand that photography is important to a lot of people, but I would challenge the notion that it is important to the majority of people. (Admittedly, if I had kids I might think differently but there are a lot of single people out there.) Anyway, my point is that photography on cell phones should be completely re-thought. Make the camera modular and upgradable. That way those who care about the camera can pay for a better camera, and those that don't can get the same phone for less.

  11. peterc

    Yup, I’m looking forward to this. I’m going to trade up my OP7T for one of the 9 series, either the pro or the std 9, just depends on what the pro model offers in terms of camera possibilities. All I need now is android apps on windows and id be sorted on mobile and desktop and could retire my iOS devices for good. Might happen... you never know ?

  12. red.radar

    I find it interesting that all phones can use the same sony imaging platform. However the software is the key differentiator that can produce dramatically different results.

    I suppose its a complex math problem.

  13. mikegalos

    A reminder that Motorola partnered with Hasselblad a few years ago for one of their magnetically attached add-on modules for their Z series phones. While that physical add-in provided not just Hasselblad software but dedicated camera hardware complete with an actual zoom lens that replaced the built-in camera it still produced mediocre at best results.