The OnePlus 9 Pro marks a landmark partnership between the Chinese smartphone brand and Hasselblad. The (at times) off-the-wall super-premium camera maker with an almost cult-like following might seem like an odd choice for budget-beating OnePlus to team up with, but at the same time, given OnePlus’s at times zealous online community, they have devoted fanbases in common.
Generally speaking, camera partnerships between phone and camera makers have been successful, resulting in devices like the Nokia 808 Pureview (with Zeiss) and the Huawei P and Mate series (with Leica). That said, Nokia’s recent smartphones have missed the mark despite Zeiss co-branding. Even if the camera’s terrible, though, the phone’s specs look stellar across the board.
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The OnePlus 9 Pro has power, a massive battery that charges quickly, loads of storage, and a great screen on-paper. So if the Hasselblad powered imaging experience can deliver, the OnePlus 9 Pro could well be one of the best camera phones of 2021.
Design and screen
A super-predictable size, the OnePlus 9 Pro sports a 6.7-inch screen, making it about the same height as the iPhone 12 Pro Max and OnePlus 8 Pro. It appears to feature the same display as OPPO’s Find X3 Pro, though its body is a touch chunkier at 8.7mm thick.
Available in three colors, Morning Mist, Pine Green, and Stellar Black, you have a choice of high-gloss or matte, and with a 2.2mm aluminum frame, matched with Gorilla Glass and IP68 water and dust resistant, it’s sleek and hardy.
Admittedly, the OnePlus 9 Pro’s look feels safe: curved back, camera bump, curved front (though less so than the OnePlus 8 Pro), and buffed metal frame. But when the finish is premium and ‘safe’ is executed well, we’re not complaining.
The screen is also fantastic. It’s large and expansive at 6.7 inches and sharp, serving up a 525PPI pixel density, with 1440 x 3215 resolution. This instantly betters the displays of the Samsung Galaxy S21 and S21 Plus on-paper. With a 120Hz refresh rate that’s adaptive, climbing high and dipping down to around 1Hz, it flows smoothly when scrolling and slows down to deliver power efficiency when showcasing static images.
With LTPO OLED technology, the OnePlus 9 Pro’s display looks punchy and deep when watching content. 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.
With phones like the OnePlus 9 Pro, OPPO Find X3 Pro and Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra combining QHD+ resolution with Samsung-made OLED tech, they sit at the top of the Android pile. The fact the OnePlus 9 Pro is the most affordable of the three makes it incredibly appealing.
OnePlus 9 Pro: cameras
The OnePlus 9 Pro’s main camera module features a 48MP Sony IMX 789 with a 1/1.43-inch sensor size, 1.12-micron pixels, a seven-element lens, OIS, an f/1.8 aperture and a wide 23mm focal length equivalent.
The phone’s 50MP ultra-wide camera appears to be the same as found on the OPPO Find X3 Pro. It’s powered by a Sony IMX 766, 1/1.56-inch sensor, another seven-element lens, including a freeform lens to minimize distortion, and is matched with an f/2.2 aperture, 14mm lens.
Bettering the S21 Plus when it comes to optical zoom, the OnePlus 9 Pro gets you closer to subjects with an 8MP telephoto camera with 1-micron pixels, an f/2.4 aperture and a roughly 70mm focal length (making a 3.3 times zoom system).
Selfies are made possible thanks to a 16MP front camera, featuring a Sony IMX471 sensor with a fixed focus, f/2.4 lens, and video is captured at up to 8K 30fps, or 4K 120fps.
The phone’s camera specs read well; amongst the best out of any camera on the market, but the camera’s most Hasselblad addition, other than the logo below its wide lens and image processing, is the interface, which has seen a few small overhauls.
The first of these Hasselblad-ditions is the pro mode, which has been partially redrawn to feature Hasselblad styling and focus-peaking, and ditching of the rotary wheel interaction in favor of a simple slider. Pro mode still supports shutter speeds of up to 30 seconds, though the maximum ISO has been doubled, climbing up to 6400. There’s only one thing that frustrated us when it came to the OnePlus 9 Pro’s pro mode, versus other phones like the Find X3 Pro: it doesn’t support manual or RAW capture on the ultra-wide camera.
The 9-series also gets Tilt-shift, a new mode which is a more finessed version of the Instagram effect, emulating shallow depth of field, for an almost miniature effect.
OnePlus 9 Pro: camera performance
We weren’t sure it would happen, but something about the OnePlus 9 Pro’s main camera is sensational. Whether it’s the difference Hasselblad’s tuning makes to the final image we see, or whether it’s the new sensor, photos taken on it the phone look special when viewed on the OnePlus 9 Pro display — beautifully optimized.
When it comes to detail, the camera on the 9 Pro captures a less shallow depth of field than that of the IMX689-packing OnePlus 8 Pro and OPPO Find X2 from 2020 do, suggesting this specific difference comes down to Sony’s new sensor. While depth of field might be less dramatic this year, the feature makes photos taken on the OnePlus 9 Pro in close-range much more usable. It still applies plenty of depth to macro mode photos, and the portrait effect worked well across well lit and indoor scenes.
Photo color and saturation in particular are optimized beautifully for the phone’s display, which is slightly warm. Images exported can appear a bit cool, but still look pleasing and not over-processed. There’s a healthy amount of contrast added to photos, but until you crop right in to about 150 percent, the processing isn’t overly noticeable, making for an enjoyably balanced, reliable image in automatic mode.
Low-light shooting is helped by the phone’s automatic mode firing up a long exposure when it detects a dim scene. Switching to Night mode does add a little bit of extra brightness, which could come in handy for exceptionally dark environments, but as with the Huawei P40 Pro and Mate 40, for the most part, the OnePlus 9 Pro did all the thinking for us until we switched to Pro mode.
The phone’s ultrawide camera is one of the best we’ve ever used, sporting autofocus, delivering ample detail and doubling up as a handy macro camera. Meanwhile, the 8MP telephoto camera is useful in bright scenes, but lets the side down in dimly lit environments.
Video is captured at up to 4K resolution at 120fps, and we were delighted to see that even at that astoundingly high resolution and framerate, image stabilization still kicked into gear. Video from the OnePlus 9 Pro even looks decent in mediocre lighting, helped along by a Nightscape Video feature, which isn’t something of a game-changer if you’re happy shooting at 1080p.
OnePlus 9 Pro: additional features
Powered by a Qualcomm Snapdragon 888 paired with 8GB or 12GB RAM, it goes without saying, the OnePlus 9 Pro flies. It benchmarks better than most gaming phones, and the 120Hz screen makes it feel incredibly smooth and nippy.
Running Android 11 with Oxygen OS over the top, OnePlus’s UI is generally slick, and delivers a reliably stable user interface experience, with support for plenty of apps via the Google Play Store.
The OnePlus 9-series’ storage capacity isn't expandable, but you do get a minimum of 128GB storage, with the higher capacity version climbing up to 256GB; ample for most.
Fantastically fast 65W wired charging, and class-leading 50W wireless charging, power up the phone in around half an hour plugged in, and under an hour when placed on a compatible OnePlus Warp Charge 50 charger.
OnePlus 9 Pro: Verdict
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. The colour science applied to its photo processing is incredibly pleasing, and images taken on it look at times, mesmerizing on the phone’s display.
What makes the OnePlus 9 Pro so very good is the fact it’s anything but a one-trick pony, and appears to be missing an Achilles’ heel, combining an impressive screen, premium design, great battery life, fast charging and a stable interface.
In turn, despite costing a bit more than the OnePlus 8 Pro did on launch, the OnePlus 9 Pro, complete with its Hasselblad tuned camera is still a doddle to recommend for anyone who wants a fantastic camera phone, and a full-package smartphone at an iPhone 12 Pro and Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra beating price.
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