Antonio Villas-Boas/Business InsiderI’m a big fan of the OnePlus 5T.
It offers incredible performance, unbelievable value, an understated modern design, and now I truly know that it takes great photos after comparing its camera with the best camera on any smartphone, the Pixel 2 XL.
It’s true that the Pixel 2 XL takes slightly better shots than the OnePlus 5T, but the 5T isn’t far behind, which is an amazing feat when you consider its $500 price tag.
You may notice that I compared it to the $850 Pixel 2 XL rather than the regular $650 Pixel 2, but both phones have exactly the same camera, and the XL model is more comparable in size to the OnePlus 5T.
Check out the photos I took with the OnePlus 5T and the Pixel 2 XL to see for yourself:
Kicking off with BI’s signature test shot, both phone cameras are comparable in quality here.
In this sunlit shot with a mix of buildings and blue sky, I’d be happy with either camera’s photos. Keep in mind that the Pixel 2 has exactly the same camera as the Pixel 2 XL.
From this shot, you can already tell some of the defining characteristics of both cameras. The OnePlus 5T tends to highlight brighter parts of the shot a little more than the Pixel 2 XL, which makes for greater contrast with darker areas. It also adds a slight yellow-ish tint to colors, providing the kind of warmth typically found in iPhone camera photos.
The Pixel 2 XL does better with extremes of light and dark.
The OnePlus 5T’s greater contrast between light and dark areas doesn’t work so well here, even with HDR turned on, which is meant to brighten up darker areas when there are extremely bright spots in the shot. In this case, there’s too much contrast between light and dark areas of the shot on the OnePlus 5T shot.
The Pixel 2 XL’s shot is more evenly lit, which is a sign that its HDR is better than the OnePlus 5T’s. The building and details in the shade are bright enough that you can clearly see them. Plus, the Pixel 2 XL captures sky detail towards the end of the street where the OnePlus 5T mostly overblew the shot, voiding that specific area of detail.
This photo shows that the OnePlus 5T takes great shots — but the Pixel 2 XL is just as good.
Adding some color and nature into the mix, you can see that both phone cameras can deliver similarly great results.
The OnePlus 5T saturates colors a little more, but it’s not a huge difference. Otherwise, both photos look pretty similar, which is certainly a plus for the OnePlus 5T that costs $350 less than the Pixel 2 XL.
But it’s a dramatically different story when it comes to indoor lighting.
Once you go indoors, color and detail on both phones are very different. At first glance, I thought the OnePlus 5T offered a better shot with more saturated colors. But after a closer look, it’s clear that the Pixel 2 XL captures far finer details, which is especially noticeable with the pomegranates on the left.
The colors may not be quite as nice on the Pixel 2 XL’s shot as they are on the OnePlus 5T’s, but they’re more natural.
In the dark, the OnePlus 5T does surprisingly well, but not quite as well as the Pixel 2 XL.
The OnePlus 5T’s secondary 20-megapixel camera lens is dedicated to improving the quality of photos taken in low-light, and it’s a marked improvement over previous OnePlus phones. But the Pixel 2 XL still takes a better low-light shot, even with its single camera lens.
There isn’t a stark difference in this dimly lit scene, but there is a difference nonetheless. The OnePlus 5T has a little bit more of that grainy effect, which shows it was struggling more in the dark than the Pixel 2 XL. The Pixel 2 XL’s shot is also brighter overall, which reveals more detail on the fruit.
When it comes to zooming, the OnePlus 5T wins hands down.
OnePlus ditched the dedicated zoom lens that it used in the OnePlus 5, but it still zooms a lot better than the Pixel 2 XL. The photos above speak for themselves. There’s far more detail in the OnePlus 5T’s shot than the Pixel 2 XL’s when both phones were zoomed in as far as they could go.
I’d be happy with both of these portrait shots, but they’re both very different.
The OnePlus 5T takes brighter portrait mode shots that brightens up details like my dark jacket. Meanwhile, the Pixel 2 XL takes a portrait photo with more contrast and more detail as a result. At the same time, more detail isn’t something you always want on a portrait, as it could reveal facial features you might not want to reveal. The Pixel 2 XL is also more true to color accuracy, as my jacket’s color is better represented in the Pixel 2 XL’s photo.
Also note that portrait mode on both phones works with multiple subjects. And if you couldn’t see the yellow-tint I mentioned earlier, you can clearly see it on my cat’s white fur when you compare both photos.
Selfie-wise, the Pixel 2 XL takes a technically better photo, but the OnePlus 5T’s selfie is more flattering.
The Pixel 2 XL’s 8-megapixel front-facing selfie camera could be a little too good, at least when it comes to selfies, as it delivers lots of details and contrast that might not to so flattering.
The OnePlus 5T’s 16-megapixel front-facing selfie camera should be sharper considering it has twice the number of megapixels, but details are softer and don’t need a retouching mode, even though it features one.
The Pixel 2 XL has a “Face Retouching” mode that makes selfies look a lot better, and it can take selfies with portrait mode, too.
Antonio Villas-Boas/Business Insider
The selfie above was taken with the Pixel 2 XL’s front-facing camera with both portrait mode and the retouching tool turned on. The OnePlus 5T doesn’t have that feature for the front-facing camera.
Overall, the OnePlus 5T’s camera is impressive, even if it’s not quite as good overall as the Pixel 2 XL’s.
Antonio Villas-Boas/Business Insidier
Comparing these photos taken with the OnePlus 5T and the Pixel 2 XL, my argument that the OnePlus 5T is the Android smartphone to buy is stronger than ever.
The OnePlus 5T is $350 cheaper than the Pixel 2 XL, and it clearly offers an excellent camera. It’s not quite as good as the Pixel 2 XL’s camera, but you’d really have to ask yourself whether it’s worth an extra $350.
I’ve been using the Pixel 2 XL review unit from Google exclusively for the last few weeks, and I love it. With that said, if I were to buy a new smartphone myself, I’d absolutely go for the OnePlus 5T for its incredible value and uncompromising set of features, especially after such a positive experience with its camera.