We’ve seen phone companies join forces with established camera lens manufacturers for years – Sony and Nokia with Zeiss, Huawei with Leica. But now Chinese phone brand OnePlus has collaborated with no less than Hasselblad to add some kudos to the camera set-up in the new OnePlus 9 Pro. It’s a pairing that could well have just been marketing hyperbole, but our in-depth review of the OnePlus 9 Pro proves quite the opposite: this is one hell of a camera phone. The likes of Samsung and Apple should be very, very worried.
• Read our full OnePlus 9 Pro review
So what makes the OnePlus 9 Pro so special? Firstly, Hasselblad’s color science expertise has been applied to the phone’s image quality, and it shows. Images snapped on the OnePlus 9 can look nothing short of mesmerizing when viewed on the phone’s awesome 6.7-inch display (more on this later). Color saturation and contrast are spot-on, and while image processing is inevitably applied, it’s not overzealous. Low light photography is just as satisfying, helped in part by the phone’s automatic mode firing up a long exposure when it detects a dim scene.
It’s not just the gorgeous Hasselblad image processing that makes the OnePlus 9 Pro such an accomplished shooter – the hardware is equally impressive. When it comes to image quality, larger sensors are simply better – the extra space means larger photosites (pixels), and the bigger the pixel, the more light it can suck in when you hit the shutter button, making for brighter, crisper images with less grain.
Consequently, the primary camera module features a 48MP Sony IMX 789 sensor with a huge (for a phone) 1/1.43-inch size, 1.12-micron pixels, a seven-element lens, OIS, an f/1.8 aperture and a wide 23mm focal length equivalent – quite the spec list.
What’s more, the 14mm-equivalent ultrawide camera isn’t just a lame marketing ploy to make up the camera numbers (as is so often the case with camera phones). It too is based around a large sensor – a Sony IMX 766, 1/1.56-inch chip – fronted by another seven-element lens, including a freeform lens to minimize distortion. It’s one of the best ultrawide cameras we’ve ever used, sporting autofocus, delivering ample detail and doubling up as a handy macro camera.
The third rear-facing camera is an 8MP telephoto snapper with large 1-micron pixels, an f/2.4 aperture and a roughly 70mm focal length, equating to a respectable 3.3x zoom. Not the most remarkable reach we’ve seen, as phones like the Huawei P40 Pro Plus can manage the equivalent of 10x optical zoom. However, at 10x zoom the P40 Pro Plus' image quality noticeably suffers, whereas you can fully exploit the full zoom range of the OnePlus 9 Pro without seeing a significant drop in detail.
And it’s not just the cameras that make the OnePlus 9 Pro so special. The 6.7-inch OLED screen sports a colossal 1440 x 3215 resolution, equating to a sky-high 525PPI pixel density. It’s matched with HDR10+ credentials, up to 1300-nit peak brightness, and a host of color modes within the UI, so you can warm things to protect your eyes from blue light, boost screen saturation or dial it back for a natural look.
Then there’s the blazing-fast Qualcomm Snapdragon 888 SoC that means the OnePlus 9 Pro benchmarks better than most gaming phones, while the 120Hz screen makes it feel incredibly smooth and nippy. Add to this a large 4500mAh battery paired with 65W wired charging and class-leading 50W wireless charging and you’ve got one of – if not, the - most complete flagship camera phones of the moment.
And best of all, it’s priced like a OnePlus phone – that is to say, very competitively. Sure, gone are the days when OnePlus phones were ‘cheap’, but with the 9 Pro starting at £829 (approximately $1,150), it comfortably undercuts the iPhone 12 Pro Max or Galaxy S21 Plus.
We don’t know whether it’s down to Hasselblad, OnePlus or both, but the OnePlus 9 Pro is the OnePlus we’ve been waiting for. It still undercuts flagships from the big brands, but its camera steps up to the plate and hits a home run!