The spate of updates OnePlus 7 Pro users have been getting since the launch of the new phone a few weeks back is because of their strict testing process, the company has revealed. Zake Zhang, the Image product manager at OnePlus Image and R&D Lab in Taipei said OnePlus products have a is a “very strict period of testing” with an “inner testing team” after which the software is open for beta and then for users. “The new updates were based on user and media feedback. The team worked on the camera further and then rolled out the update,” he told visiting journalists, adding why this was also why it takes longer to push out updates.
The OnePlus 7 Pro came with some significant changes to the camera. This was the first OnePlus phone with a triple camera — a main sensor, a telephoto sensor and an ultra-wide sensor for taking wider shots — and came with a 48MP Sony IMX 586 sensor.
But the camera performance on the OnePlus 7 Pro has been a work in progress if one goes by the number of updates the company has pushed out since launch, many of which focus on the camera. In fact, the latest OxygenOS 9.5.9 update brings fixes for auto-focus issues and improves the quality of the 48MP JPG in Pro mode to the camera. But OnePlus is aware of the feedback it has got surrounding the camera and is looking to fine-tune its offering even more.
But the company has a clear philosophy when it comes to camera and imaging, co-founder Carl Pei said. “We need to make people confident when it comes to taking photos on the OnePlus. Our data shows the vast majority of users only use the auto mode for convenience. Users need to have the confidence that the picture will be of high-quality, there’s no need to fiddle with settings,” he explained at the lab in Taipei.
Carl Pei said while the OnePlus 7 Pro has latest camera hardware with the 48MP sensor, telephoto, and ultra-wide lenses, they have to add the right software to maximise its hardware potential. “The idea is to keep the photos natural, and very close to what your eyes see. In the end, when it comes to aesthetics there is some element of subjectivity and its impossible to suit everyone’s preferences.”
At the lab here, OnePlus carries out subjective and objective tests to finetune its camera software and improve image quality. From dedicated mannequin tests for Portrait mode to specialised tests that recreate different reflective lighting conditions and skin tones, the list of objective tests is quite exhaustive. However, the subjective tests are a lot more time consuming.
“We are building our own subjective test. We actually have multiple locations around the world where this is test is taking place. There’s Shenzhen in China, Taiwan, India, and Germany, where we are building the test. Different locations mean different lighting conditions, different latitude, and we are looking at over 100 different kinds of scenes,” explained Zake Zhang. As part of the subjective tests, the company’s test engineers go out and take photos at a specific time with specific light conditions. “We then analyse it and this does take up a lot of time and method,” he adds.
The imaging team does plan to bring features like Nightscape and Portrait mode to its other lenses, but they still don’t have a timeline for the same. They are meanwhile working on improving shutter lag in the auto mode. On complaints of oversaturation, OnePlus explains that different requests come from different regions. “People in Europe, North America prefer more natural colours. Whereas in China, the demand is for brighter colours in photos,” explains Zhang, adding how they had to balance requests from different regions.
While video support and Portrait mode for ultra-wide camera can be expected this year, the team is also working to bring the RAW format to 48MP mode. However, the company did not comment on whether it would let users switch between lenses in the Pro mode. Asked about the poor performance of the ultrawide lens in some low-light scenarios, the team said this was a hardware limitation and they couldn’t do much about it at the moment.
Disclaimer: The author is in Taipei at the invite of OnePlus India.