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This article was published on March 8, 2021


Here’s what Hasselblad is doing to improve OnePlus’ next phone cameras

Here’s what Hasselblad is doing to improve OnePlus’ next phone cameras


Ivan Mehta
Story by

Ivan Mehta

Ivan covers Big Tech, India, policy, AI, security, platforms, and apps for TNW. That's one heck of a mixed bag. He likes to say "Bleh." Ivan covers Big Tech, India, policy, AI, security, platforms, and apps for TNW. That's one heck of a mixed bag. He likes to say "Bleh."

While OnePlus phones are a great option for folks to get class-leading performance and screens for under $700, they haven’t been the best at photography.

The company wants to change that with its new flagship model, and has partnered with the Swedish camera company Hasselblad. The firm is known for its high-end photography gear, including medium-format camera systems and lenses.

In a 2019 interview with TNW, OnePlus’ product manager, Zack Zhang, said that the company’s camera system is not where it aspires to beSince then, the Chinese manufacturer has improved its camera quality, but its results are still inconsistent.

OnePlus 8T hed 2
Credit: Abhimanyu Ghoshal / TNW
OnePlus 8T camera module

That’s where Hasselblad comes in. With the announcement of the partnership, the company has already spilled the beans on what can you expect from the upcoming OnePlus 9 Pro’s camera:

  • A panoramic camera with a 140-degree field of view. That sounds exciting for any landscape photography enthusiast.
  • A freeform lens to reduce distortion. These are asymmetrical lenses with an uneven and complex surface. Plus, it makes the phone a tad lighter. Huawei has previously used this kind of lens in its Mate 40 Pro device.
  • T-lens technology for faster focus in front-facing cameras. Now, we don’t know many details about what that means, so we’ll have to wait till the phone comes out to understand what this tech does.

These are mainly hardware changes and features. What about software?

  • OnePlus will introduce support for capturing 12-bit RAW files image files for more dynamic range. Apple’s ProRAW format also stores data in 12-bit by default. It’s worth noting that many Android-based photo editing apps don’t yet support even 10-bit images, so they’ll need to be retooled before you can tweak your new 12-bit files.
  • The next set of OnePlus phones will also have a Hasselblad Pro Mode with a new UI and controls for ISO, exposure, and white balance. OnePlus says that this mode will set you up for editing with the most natural-looking colors.
  • Speaking of natural colors, both companies have also developed a new calibration standard called Natural Color Calibration with Hasselblad. OnePlus has had ‘natural-looking photos’ in its marketing speak for a while, so we’ll need to see what’s actually changing here. 

The phone maker said that it’s making a $150 million strategic investment for a partnership that will last for three years. With Hasselblad’s help, OnePlus will establish four major research centers across the world, including two imaging labs based in the United States and Japan.

All of this sounds great, but other companies such as Samsung, Google, and Apple have had a leg up in imaging research for years now. So, I’m not expecting direct competition from the get-go. However, I am expecting OnePlus’ next cameras to become more versatile, and deliver better quality than their predecessors.

We can’t wait to get our hands on the company’s upcoming review units and put them through their paces. OnePlus is launching its new set of phones on March 23, and you can tune into Plugged for all the coverage.

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