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Saturday, April 17, 2021

OnePlus 9 Pro Hasselblad Camera: Worth the Hype?

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OnePlus has just launched the OnePlus 9 series and while the phones come with decidedly flagship specs on paper, what’s really interesting about them (at least to me) is the new Hasselblad-branded camera system. So what is this all about and what does it mean for the camera quality on the OnePlus 9 Pro? We’ll discuss that in this article, so read on.

What is Hasselblad

Before we take a look at the camera performance of the OnePlus 9 Pro and what Hasselblad brings to the table, let’s first find out what Hasselblad is all about.

Simply put, Hasselblad is a premium camera manufacturer that makes some of the best medium format cameras out there. The company has a stellar history of high-end and high-performance cameras including devices that were used by NASA for its Mercury, Gemini, and Apollo missions. In fact, the iconic photo of the Apollo 11 moon landing was shot by Neil Armstrong on a Hasselblad camera as well.

However, as good as these cameras are, they are also ridiculously expensive. A cursory look through the Hasselblad website reveals that their cameras are priced starting around $5000 and go all the way up to $32000… without a lens.

OnePlus’ Hasselblad Cameras

Naturally, OnePlus couldn’t have used Hasselblad’s lenses or sensors because that would have caused the price of the OnePlus 9 and 9 Pro to go up by a considerable margin. However, what OnePlus did here, was in fact partner with Hasselblad to tune its color science for the smartphones.

That means, OnePlus is claiming that photos from the OnePlus 9 and 9 Pro will have natural colors, excellent skin tones, and just overall brilliant photos. After all, getting the colors right on a camera is a big deal. What’s more, OnePlus 9 Pro has a new Hasselblad Pro Mode, which lets you shoot pictures in 12-bit RAW to give you even more fine-tuned control over the image when you’re editing your pictures.

Camera Samples

To test things out, I took a bunch of photos with the OnePlus 9 Pro, the iPhone 12 Pro, and the Galaxy S21 Plus. I took pictures of people as well as some typical landscape shots, as well as low light images to see how the OnePlus 9 Pro’s pictures compare with other flagship smartphones.

Testing Skin Tone

First up, here are some pictures of George, Rupesh, and yours truly that were taken with all these smartphones. Looking at these pictures, it’s clear that the photos from the OnePlus 9 Pro are usually doing much better as far as the colors go. The skin tones seem considerably better here from the OnePlus 9 Pro, and overall the phone is definitely capturing really nice shots.

Landscapes

I also tested out some landscape shots without any people in them. You know, photos of trees, buildings and what not. Here too, the OnePlus 9 Pro usually captures more natural looking colors. To be honest, in some cases, I do like the iPhone photo better, just objectively speaking. However, the OnePlus 9 Pro is also capturing more details in the shot. That’s probably more due to the IMX789 sensor here than the Hasselblad color science, but it’s something noteworthy for sure.

Portrait Mode

Just to round things off, we also took a couple of portrait mode shots and it seems that the OnePlus 9 Pro really drops the ball in these situations. Contrary to my expectations, portrait mode photos from the OnePlus 9 Pro seem to not be on par with the iPhone’s photos or the ones from the S21 Plus. It just looks like the OnePlus 9 Pro is making the skin tones lighter than they are, which isn’t what I was expecting at all. Even the bokeh in most cases is better in photos from the iPhone 12 Pro and the Galaxy S21 Plus.

Low Light

Moving on, I also tested out some low light shots from these phones, and things really got out of hand here. Take a look at these pictures. To be completely honest, the OnePlus 9 Pro actually got the colors the best out of the three. However, there are no details in the picture from the OnePlus 9 Pro when compared to the iPhone 12 Pro and the Galaxy S21 Plus.

This wasn’t even a one-off thing. In this next picture as well, the OnePlus 9 Pro is just not doing a good enough job of capturing details in low light, even though the colors seem to be pretty accurate.

I’m not entirely certain why the camera on the OnePlus 9 Pro drops so much beneath the standards in low light photos, but it’s definitely a problem. After all, as a flagship smartphone you won’t be mistaken to expect good low light performance from this smartphone. Performance that’s at least at par with the Galaxy S21 Plus and the iPhone 12 Pro. But that’s not the case here at all.

OnePlus 9 Pro Hasselblad Camera: Is It Worth It?

So is the Hasselblad camera on the OnePlus 9 and the OnePlus 9 Pro worth all the hype? And does it bring enough of an improvement to the OnePlus 9 series cameras to make it worthwhile? Well, the answer is both yes and no. The OnePlus 9 Pro does capture photos with excellent colors in regular day time images. However, the phone does lag behind when it comes to low light photos and portrait mode shots.

Still, it’s clear that the Hasselblad partnership is helping OnePlus catch-up, and in some cases actually perform better than pack-leading phones like the iPhone 12 Pro and the Galaxy S21 Plus, both of which have excellent camera setups.

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