The OnePlus 9 Pro has a quad-camera system on the back, consisting of a wide, ultra-wide, telephoto, and monochrome camera.
The main wide camera has a new Sony IMX789 sensor with a 48-megapixel resolution and 23mm equivalent f1.8 7P lens with OIS. It has dual native ISO, supports 12-bit RAW output, and Sony's DOL-HDR technique. The ultra-wide camera uses a new Sony IMX766 sensor with a 50-megapixel resolution and 14mm equivalent f2.2 7P freeform lens.
The telephoto camera has an 8-megapixel sensor with an f2.4 aperture with a 3.3x magnification factor over the main lens and OIS. Unlike previous models, the telephoto camera is not used for portrait mode images but just for zoomed images and videos. Finally, the monochrome camera has a 2-megapixel resolution and only exists to assist the main camera in producing monochrome images.
With the OnePlus 9 Pro, the company has partnered with Swedish-camera manufacturer Hasselblad for a three-year period. Hasselblad is said to have contributed to the color calibration on the OnePlus 9 series as well as the redesigned camera interface.
Let's start with that interface first. The OnePlus 9 Pro comes with a new camera app, which features some notable changes and improvements over the app found on previous-generation models. The most striking change is the use of a new camera shutter button, with OnePlus opting for the distinctive orange color as seen on the shutter buttons on Hasselblad cameras. The shutter sound has also been changed to match Hasselblad cameras.
To see the bulk of the changes in the camera app, we need to switch over to the Pro mode. Here, we find the updated UI for the adjustment dials for parameters such as ISO, white balance, shutter speed, exposure compensation, and focus. Instead of the rotating wheel in the previous app, the OnePlus 9 Pro has a straightforward horizontal bar that can be swiped up and down. This is much easier to adjust than the rotating wheel of before and the auto mode switch is always visible rather than being at some arbitrary point on the wheel that you have to spin to.
Unfortunately, that's pretty much the extent of the improvements in the camera UI. There are still some issues, which we would have liked OnePlus to have fixed by now. Manually adjusting the exposure in Auto mode is still a nightmare, with a tiny slider that's hard to adjust and an even tinier icon to lock it. The zoom control dial is still annoyingly finicky and getting an exact figure dialed in is a test of patience. This would have been a good time to replace with a vertical slider like for the settings in Pro mode, but that hasn't happened.
The UI also doesn't rotate when held in landscape. Trying to quickly open the settings menu while in landscape mode is a laughably bad experience, as the screen stays resolutely in portrait mode, even if you have auto-rotate enabled, forcing you to turn the phone around. The settings icon is also quite small and difficult to press.
OnePlus has also added a new transition animation when switching between the three lenses instead of just switching the viewfinder instantly like on previous models. This is easily the jankiest transition we have seen on any smartphone and switching from ultra-wide to telephoto almost looks like stop-motion animation.
The camera app also has a bug in OxygenOS 22.214.171.124, where enabling 60fps or 120fps mode would cause the viewfinder to often be stuck in 30fps mode. The actual recorded video is in the correct frame rate but the viewfinder isn't.
Lastly, the Pro mode still doesn't allow you to access any other camera. This means you are strictly limited to the main wide camera on the back if you want full control or the ability to shoot in RAW. There's also no Pro mode available for video or an option to record in 24fps.
Let's start with the daylight image quality of the main camera. The results here are good but also underwhelming when you consider the focus on the camera and the Hasselblad partnership with this year's models.
Starting with the detail, the OnePlus 9 Pro offers very little meaningful improvement over its predecessors. The level of detail is good but also typical of 12-megapixel sensors and lags behind the higher resolution sensors on some of the competing devices. Fine detail is still somewhat fuzzy at times and textures tend to get smeared on surfaces with low-frequency detail.
The level of detail is also a bit lower than what we saw on the OnePlus 8 Pro. It's possible the culprit for that is the switch to a slightly wider focal length, which now fits more in the frame at the same resolution, thus making everything in the frame just a little bit fuzzier. OnePlus has dialed up the sharpening on the OnePlus 9 Pro to compensate for this but sharpening cannot add missing detail and only ends up adding haloing artifacts.
Here's how the OnePlus 9 Pro fares in our usual test scenes.
The full 48-megapixel resolution mode also doesn't help much in this regard. You don't actually get any additional detail and resizing the images back down to 12-megapixel reveals that they are nearly identical to the standard 12-megapixel images, minus some of the noise and aggressive sharpening.
And here are the regular scenes captured in the full-res 48MP mode.
Speaking of noise, the default 12-megapixel images were often surprisingly noisy even when shooting in broad daylight at the lowest ISO. The noise won't be visible when looking at the images on your phone's screen but would become noticeable if you start editing the images or if crop into it. In comparison, the OnePlus 8 Pro images had surprisingly low noise, despite having similar or even greater detail. The higher sharpening on the OnePlus 9 Pro also doesn't do it any favors as the noise in the images also tends to get accentuated by it.
The color performance is also a mixed bag. We had high hopes in this area, especially since OnePlus promised more natural color reproduction, but the OnePlus 9 Pro images aren't exactly natural. Daylight images can often have deeply saturated skies and bold green foliage, which is much more vibrant than in the actual scene. The white balance has a tendency to be on the cooler side while shooting in sunny conditions. Reds will occasionally shift towards magenta, especially in indoor lighting. The contrast also tends to be jacked up significantly at times, often to the detriment of the image.
Compared to its predecessor, the OnePlus 9 Pro occasionally performed worse. The OnePlus 8 Pro often had a more correct white balance and more balanced, less contrasty images.
Dynamic range is average. While the OnePlus 8 Pro had a tendency to overexpose, the OnePlus 9 Pro tends to underexpose, which can cause images to have less detail in the shadows. OnePlus' UltraShot HDR can still have that fake, aggressive tone-mapped HDR look to it at times, especially when shooting indoors, and the images from auto mode don't look as natural as those from Apple or Google smartphones.
The actual sensor on the OnePlus 9 Pro is leagues ahead of its predecessor. The IMX789 handily outperforms the IMX689 in dynamic range and low light performance. Trying to compare RAW images captured on both phones, the files on the OnePlus 9 Pro can be pushed much further in post and shadows remain clean even after +3 exposure whereas the OnePlus 8 Pro images start falling apart when pushed similarly. The level of detail in the RAW files is also impressive.
It's clear then that the issue lies with OnePlus - and now Hasselblad's - tuning of the default JPEGs. If you don't mind getting your hands dirty, you can get so much more value out of this camera by shooting in RAW and processing the images yourself as the actual hardware in here is absolutely top-notch. Even the JPEG files from the Pro mode are generally superior to Auto mode, as they have less sharpening, noise, and more natural contrast.
The new ultra-wide camera on the OnePlus 9 Pro is impressive, as far as ultra-wide cameras go. The color performance is similar to the main camera but despite the incredibly wide perspective, the level of detail from the 12.5-megapixel images is really quite good.
But the main attraction here is the new freeform lens. On most other smartphones, the ultra-wide image needs to be corrected in software to remove the distortion around the edges. This is usually enabled through the camera settings and the reason this is optional is because enabling it crops the image, which reduces some of the wide perspective. This is how it's done on the OnePlus 8 Pro as well. On the OnePlus 9 Pro, there is no such option in the camera settings because the freeform lens corrects the perspective before the image even hits the sensor.
We also took the ultra-wide for a spin around the usual locations.
This results in images that are wider than on the previous generation model without any distortion. It's actually pretty cool and straight lines even around the edges of the frame continue to be straight without bending.
The 3.3x telephoto performs reasonably well in good lighting. It has a good amount of detail and the default reach without further digital zoom is often sufficient for most use cases. The color performance can occasionally be hit or miss, there is some fringing seen on some shots, and the focusing performance isn't as confident or fast as on the main camera. Also, the camera will just switch to the main lens if it feels like the subject you're trying to capture with the telephoto lens is too close, which isn't ideal as 3.3x digital zoom on the main lens doesn't look that great.
And again, out for 3.3x zoom action around the office.
The macro camera duties on the OnePlus 9 Pro are smartly handled by the ultra-wide camera as with the previous two generation Pro models. Admittedly, the closest focusing distance of the ultra-wide lens isn't as low as some of the dedicated macro cameras on other models but that's fine as the sheer difference in image quality and level of detail that you get from this camera compared to those 2 and 5-megapixel macro cameras is staggering.
The camera has an option to switch into the macro mode if it detects you are too close to the subject. It usually kicks in when the subject gets within six inches of the camera. Occasionally, it's better to shoot in the macro mode even if you're not too close to the camera, as the large sensor and wide aperture on the main lens can cause images shot close to the lens to appear soft and blurry around the edges.
Before we move on to the night mode, we need to talk about the monochrome camera. Like the OnePlus 8T, the OnePlus 9 Pro has a 2-megapixel monochrome camera. As mentioned before, this camera doesn't capture any images by itself but rather 'assists' the main camera in taking monochrome images.
By now we are quite used to hearing a lot of silly excuses from manufacturers for having that magical fourth lens on the back of their phones to complete their marketing campaigns but this one currently takes the cake. The main camera doesn't need a second lens to assist it in capturing monochrome images. The camera can very easily do it in software, as it already does for the other two monochrome filters in the camera app. OnePlus's rationale for having this fourth sensor is laughable and the images shot have nothing special or even identifiably different about them. They just look black and white.
Lowlight is where the OnePlus 9 Pro camera comes into its own and starts firing on all cylinders. The two new cameras provide some of the best low-light performance on the market. And that's before you even turn on the night mode.
Starting with the main camera, you get a good amount of detail and fairly impressive color performance when shooting in standard mode, despite the fairly high ISO values. The excellent new sensor allows the camera to get cleaner images even at higher ISO values. Unless the conditions are severely dark, you can get by in most situations by never having to enable the Nightscape mode.
Once enabled, Nightscape improves the image quality even further. The images have better exposure, dynamic range, and color. It also cleans up the noise fairly well. Focusing performance is also quite decent in Nightscape mode, except when the subject is too dark and further away than what the laser AF can reach. However, OnePlus Nightscape images can still look over processed and overexposed at times, occasionally making the scene look like it was shot at a totally different time of day. Sometimes, this isn't desirable so you may want to dial in the exposure manually.
The ultra-wide camera also has impressive low light performance compared to what we have become used to seeing on these lenses. Enabling Nightscape improves them considerably and makes them even more impressive.
Once you're done with the real world samples, head over to our Photo compare tool to see how the OnePlus 9 Pro stacks up against the competition.
The OnePlus 9 Pro can shoot portrait images using only the primary lens. By default it applies a 2x digital zoom as it provides less distortion (necessary for human subjects) and also better subject isolation but you can also switch to the full field of view if you want to fit more into the frame at the cost of some stretching of your subject.
The OnePlus 9 Pro does an okay job here. You don't get a choice in the strength of the blur effect so while it can look quite impressive at times, other times it has the effect of isolating your subject more aggressively than required, creating a cutout effect. The AI algorithm responsible for separating the subject from the background does a decent job but can get tripped by some hairstyles, glasses, and small gaps between elbows and body.
The OnePlus 9 Pro has a 16-megapixel f2.4 fixed-focus camera. This is the same Sony IMX471 that has been the staple of OnePlus phones going back all the way to the OnePlus 7 Pro.
It's clear why OnePlus continues to rely on this sensor, as it provides a good level of detail, decent color performance, and adequate dynamic range for portrait images captured in daylight.
Where it falls behind is in low-light performance as there's no Nightscape for the front camera. The camera also lacks autofocus and the video resolution is limited to just 1080p60. Also, while the field of view is adequate for one person, it will feel more restrictive compared to some of the wider cameras on the market, including OnePlus's own Nord that comes with a separate ultra-wide front camera and even 4K recording.
The front camera is capable of shooting in portrait mode. Once again, the lack of control over the background blur makes this hit or miss affair, especially when the subject separation goofs up. We hope OnePlus starts offering these basic features in its camera app as most of its competitors have been doing for several years now.
The OnePlus 9 Pro is capable of recording video in 1080p, 2160p (4K), and 4320p (8K). The main wide camera can shoot 1080p video in 30 and 60fps, 4K video in 30, 60, and 120fps, and 8K video in 30fps. The ultra-wide camera can shoot 1080p video in 30 and 60fps, 4K video in 30 and 60fps, and 8K video in 30fps. The telephoto camera can only shoot 1080p video in 30fps. Any other time the telephoto option is made available, such as in 1080p 60fps or 4K 30 and 60fps modes, it is done digitally on the main lens.
Video in all resolutions and frame rates is shot by default in H.264 but you can optionally switch to H.265 to save some storage space without sacrificing image quality.
EIS is available in 30 and 60fps modes but not for the 120fps mode. As usual, the EIS has a massive crop in modes where it's available but there's no way to disable it.
Additionally, there are also two slow-motion modes: 1080p 240fps and 720p 480fps, which save slowed-down footage. The Super Stable mode uses the ultra-wide camera and then crops into a perspective similar to the main wide camera and then uses that to heavily stabilize the footage. The Nightscape mode enables night mode for video on the main camera. Lastly, the Portrait mode works similar to the feature available for images, isolating the subject from the background using an artificial blur. Super Stable, Nightscape, and Portrait mode all save videos in 1080p only.
The OnePlus 9 Pro does not support recording video in HDR. By HDR, we don't mean tone-mapped SDR video but proper 10-bit HDR PQ video in either HDR10 or any of the other standards. As mentioned previously, there is also no pro mode for video so there's no real control over the image other than adjusting the resolution and frame rate.
Starting with the 4320p 8K video from the main camera, the image quality is unimpressive. We are talking about a 33-megapixel image here and the level of detail doesn't come anywhere close to that figure. The bitrate of a measly 150Mbps (H.264) is to blame here as is the general structure of these Quad Bayer sensors. This isn't to say there isn't any meaningful improvement over the 4K version but it's not what one would expect from a quadrupling of resolution.
The 8K video shot from the ultra-wide camera is, simply put, not real 8K. The video is most likely upscaled from a lower resolution image, and has blurry details and what looks like horizontal interlacing artifacts all over the image. This actually makes the 8K video from the ultra-wide camera look worse than even the 4K version.
Moving over to 4K, both the 30fps and 60fps videos from the main and ultra-wide cameras show good detail, dynamic range, and overall image quality. The stabilization works well most of the time but can struggle a bit when you're trying to pan and it keeps trying to stabilize the movement.
Unfortunately, the stabilization comes at a significant crop to the final image, nearly 1.5x of the full width of the sensor. This effectively turns the main camera into a telephoto lens and makes subject framing difficult at close distances.
If you want to shoot without any electronic stabilization, then the 4K 120fps mode is for you. This mode offers the widest field of view on the main lens, wider than even photo mode as even that has some crop for stabilization. The downside of this is obvious; the 120fps mode is unusable without a tripod or gimbal and the high frame rate makes the footage especially twitchy even in the most stable hands.
Of course, the point of the 120fps mode is not to consume it in its native frame rate (which, by the way, you can't do on the phone even though it has a 120Hz display as OnePlus locks the frame rate to 60Hz in video mode) but rather to slow it down in post-production. You can slow it down 4x and get a nice 30fps clip or go a step further and do a 5x slow down for a more cinematic 24fps video. The jerkiness isn't as obvious at these lower frame rates when slowed down although you should still ideally shoot with a tripod or a gimbal.
The great thing about this mode is that OnePlus saves the full 120fps file instead of slowing it down for you. This gives the user the flexibility of dealing with the file however they want in post-production rather than be limited to whatever the phone is offering. Or if you want, you can just watch them in 120fps, provided you have a high refresh rate monitor or TV.
Regarding the samples posted above, we should note that the colors in these manually slowed down videos look different from the original clip. The reason for this is that OnePlus saves its videos in BT.601, which isn't supported by DaVinci Resolve that we used for slowing down these clips, so the color got altered in the transition to the more standard BT.709 color space.
The OnePlus 9 Pro also supports Nightscape and Portrait mode videos. The results from these modes are underwhelming and neither is particularly good or useful.
Here's a glimpse of how the OnePlus 9 Pro compares to rivals in our Video compare tool. Head over there for the complete picture.
The OnePlus 9 Pro camera performance turned out to be a bit anticlimactic considering the expectations set by the Hasselblad branding. We expected a significant departure and improvement over previous OnePlus smartphones in terms of color science and overall image processing. Instead, we got mostly lateral changes compared to the OnePlus 8 Pro and in some cases, even a few regressions.
Granted, the OnePlus 8 Pro camera was already very good but we had hoped Hasselblad would have something more valuable to add than just sharpness and contrast but in many scenes, that's exactly what it feels like. In other cases, the images seem a bit worse than before, with more noise, crushed shadows, less detail in some areas, and oversharpening artifacts.
The new Camera app is also nothing to write home about. There are some notable UI changes but this is still largely the same OnePlus Camera app. There's so much OnePlus could have improved upon here but the orange button seems to have taken priority.
The front camera hasn't even changed in hardware. OnePlus is still shipping the same camera as it was on the OnePlus 7 Pro, which now lags far behind the competition.
All of this isn't to say, there aren't any improvements to be found on the OnePlus 9 Pro. The low light performance is excellent and one of the best we have seen. The new ultra-wide camera takes some great-looking images. The video recording quality is good and we particularly enjoyed playing around with the new 4K 120fps files.
It's worth asserting that the OnePlus 9 Pro has good camera performance overall. However, it's still behind the competition in this regard and no amount of marketing will change that.