OnePlus is making much of the OnePlus 5’s camera capabilities, but the marketed 2x zoom isn’t as impressive as we first thought.
When the OnePlus 5 was announced, the new dual-camera module was lauded as being one of the best in the business. One of the key features of the new camera design was the introduction of a telephoto zoom lens, which allowed for a new 2x zoom feature.
However, OnePlus has since clarified that this isn’t actually optical zoom, as you’d expect from a telephoto lens. Instead, it’s only 1.6x optical zoom, with the remaining 0.4x “realised through SmartCapture multi frame technology”.
Here’s the relevant tweet chain from OnePlus co-founder Carl Pei:
So what does this mean? Well, optical zoom is a physical action within the camera, whereby you get a true and lossless zoom. The alternative is a digital zoom, which is effectively enlarging the image using software to give the impression of a zoom. So 0.4x of the OnePlus 5’s claimed 2x lossless zoom is actually just a simple software trick, rather than the real optical zoom that’s so prized by photographers.
It’s a shame – and will come as a surprise to many – because it seems confusing to advertise 2x zoom with a dedicated 2x jump in the camera app, only to really be offering 1.6x zoom.
For comparison, Apple’s iPhone 7 Plus also offers 2x zoom, but it’s an entirely optical system that utilises the telephoto lens included in the dual-camera module.
Still, most reviewers seem generally impressed with the OnePlus 5’s camera performance, and given the phone’s lowly starting price of £449, it’s arguably much better value for money than the pricey iPhone 7 Plus.
It’s also important to note that the OnePlus 5 isn’t actually marketed as having 2x optical zoom, but rather 2x lossless zoom. There are several ways to achieve so-called “lossless” zooming, the most common of which is to take an image so large that a small zoom only results in a negligible loss of quality. However, despite widespread usage of the term “lossless” in regards to digital zoom in the photography industry, it’s not technically possible to offer true lossless zoom using software alone.
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