Reddit user ImKuya discovered that there were differences when switching from portrait mode to the 3x telephoto zoom camera. The user found that portrait mode shots were zoomed out (2.2x) and at 13MP, while the 3x zoom option was indeed showing 3x zoom and at 8MP.
We can confirm this by overlaying the different camera files over one another (see below).
It’s clear that there’s a reduction in the megapixel count and the 3x zoom picture is clearly a crop. However, note that it’s not perfectly aligned and sized, suggesting that there’s a little more than simple cropping going on here. More on that in a minute.
The OnePlus 7 Pro telephoto camera is a 13MP sensor (SK53M5). But OnePlus advertises the telephoto camera as offering 8MP 3x optical zoom. In other words, it looks like OnePlus was using the sensor’s native 2.2x zoom factor for portraits but cropping the sensor for 3x zoom (therefore reducing resolution in the process).
In a statement to Android Central, the company steered clear of calling it “3x optical zoom,” saying it achieves 3x zoom with “no digital zoom or loss of detail.”
The OnePlus 7 Pro has 3x zoom with no digital zoom or loss of detail. 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.
Note that OnePlus doesn’t claim optical zoom in the statement, but rather “lossless 8 megapixels images.” The difference is subtle, but important. That’s despite the fact that the official OnePlus 7 Pro specs page clearly mentions optical 3x zoom.
How is OnePlus achieving lossless zoom?
So what’s going on here? According to Digital Camera World, OnePlus appears to be using a “composite of image data” from the 48MP sensor and the optical zoom lens to create its digital shots. We tested this out by looking at three pictures shot from a tripod at 2.2x, 3x, and using the portrait (bokeh) mode. The images below are all 100% crops.
Clearly, the optical zoom camera used in portrait mode produces much more detail than the main camera’s 2.2x digital zoom used in the standard photo mode. Which does make you wonder why the optical lens isn’t used at 2.2x in photo mode too. Regardless, the 3x photo mode zoom clearly preserves most of the detail from the optical camera but appears to use the main camera to improve the color balance and noise. This doesn’t appear to be as complicated as Huawei’s Hybrid Zoom, but there are definitive signs of a composite processing approach.
The results are clearly pretty good, but it’s debatable whether OnePlus should be advertising the phone with 3x optical zoom or a 3x telephoto camera. Huawei generally avoids this for its phones, promoting the native zoom factor (3x or 5x) and using “hybrid zoom” branding otherwise.
It’s not the first time the firm was caught for misleading marketing, as the OnePlus 5 was advertised as having a 2x telephoto zoom camera. It later emerged that it had a 1.6x telephoto camera, using digital zoom and multi-frame capture to achieve the 2x factor. We’ve contacted OnePlus to clarify its zoom capabilities and will update the article accordingly.
In the end, the subtle distinction between optical and lossless zoom technologies doesn’t matter that much for the average consumer. Just like benchmark scores really. What does matter is the negative perception debacles like this create.