OnePlus Finds Itself in Another Camera Zoom Kerfuffle (Updated)

Posted on May 24, 2019 by Paul Thurrott in Android with 15 Comments

Update: OnePlus has responded to this with some additional information, so I’ve edited this article as needed. –Paul

OnePlus has been accused of overstating the zoom capabilities of the camera in its OnePlus 7 Pro. The claim: The 3x optical zoom is really just 2.2x zoom.

“New to the OnePlus 7 Pro is a telephoto lens with 3x optical zoom and OIS [optical image stabilization],” the firm claimed onstage during its OnePlus 7 Pro announcement. The claim is repeated on the OnePlus 7 Pro website, which notes that “with 3x optical zoom, you’re always ready to shoot high-quality, detailed images even at a distance.” The device’s specifications page repeats this attribute, noting that the “optical zoom” is “3x.”

There’s just one problem, a photography expert on Reddit claims: The optical zoom is not 3x. It’s 2.2x. (I learned about this from Android Police.)

His explanation is highly technical. But he says that the OnePlus 7 Pro basically takes a 13 MP telephoto image, crops it to 8 MP, and uses a software-based method to smooth the resulting image. This is still superior to digital zoom, which often results in a pixelated or blurry image. But it’s not true 3x, he says.

OnePlus says this is incorrect.

“The OnePlus 7 Pro has 3x zoom with no digital zoom or loss of detail,” a OnePlus statement notes in response to the Reddit revelation. “The telephoto camera serves two main purposes: 3x zoom and portrait mode photography. It will switch the field of view depending on the camera mode. With 3x zoom, the telephoto camera delivers the advertised lossless 8 megapixels images. Portrait mode utilizes all 13 megapixels from the sensor in the telephoto camera.”

Since I first published this article, OnePlus told me that the 3x optical zoom claim is accurate and that it advertised and designed the sensor to shoot 3x zoom shots at 8 MP, below the resolution of the 13 MP telephoto lens, which results in no loss of detail and contains no digital zoom.

And another photography expert has come out in defense of the OnePlus 7 Pro.

“OnePlus is using a 13 MP camera sensor, but only using the center 8 MP of that sensor, to pair with the focal length of the lens, to create the field of view advertised,” Juan Carlos Bagnell writes on his Some Gadget Guy blog. “They are delivering EXACTLY what they promised. This is functionally no different than if they had used a smaller 8 MP sensor with the same lens. Restricting the sensor surface area creates a narrower field of view. This is all true optical performance … It’s clumsy, but it’s not deceitful. There’s no controversy here.”

Well. We’ve really come full circle on this one.

So, I will just note, as before, that I’m still not done testing the OnePlus 7 Pro and its camera. In my limited experience so far, the 3x zoom has not particularly clear or crisp. But I will keep testing this and my opinion can still change.

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