Mystery of the OnePlus 7 Pro 3x optical zoom

By Swapnil Mathur | Updated 25 May 2019
Mystery of the OnePlus 7 Pro 3x optical zoom
  • Looking at the EXIF data of the images from the OnePlus 7 Pro, we discovered something odd about the 3x optical zoom lens

The OnePlus 7 Pro has been receiving rave reviews across the board, and everyone in our test labs has nothing but great things to say about the phone. However, while using the OnePlus 7 Pro as a photography device, we noticed something off. We noticed that the 3x optical lens was shooting at a slightly lower focal length that the advertised 3x optical zoom. Thinking that this just might be a user error, we dug deeper and here’s what we found.

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What’s Wrong with this Picture

OnePlus offers a triple camera setup. According to the EXIF data of the images shot from all three lenses, we note that the focal lengths on offer are 13mm, 27mm and 74mm (35mm equivalent). When dividing the focal length of the telephoto lens with the regular wide angle lens, we get a factor of 2.7x, instead of 3x. Huawei Mate 20 Pro, for example, shoots at 27mm for the regular wide angle lens and the telephoto lens reports a focal length of 81mm, a perfect 3x factor.

Shot on the OnePlus 7 Pro telephoto lens, with focal length of 74mm, according to EXIF

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Shot on the OnePlus 7 Pro telephoto lens, with focal length of 74mm, according to EXIF

Shot on the OnePlus 7 Pro telephoto lens, with focal length of 13mm, according to EXIF

Shot on the OnePlus 7 Pro telephoto lens, with focal length of 13mm, according to EXIF

Shot on the OnePlus 7 Pro telephoto lens, with focal length of 27mm, according to EXIF

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Shot on the OnePlus 7 Pro telephoto lens, with focal length of 27mm, according to EXIF

Additionally, looking at the sensor specifications using a third-party hardware identification app, we see that the sensors being used are the 48MP Sony IMX586, a 16-megapixel Sony IMX481, 16-megapixel IMX471, and a 13-megapixel Samsung s5k3m5. The app does not report any 8-megapixel sensor here. This leads us to believe that OnePlus may be using a 13 megapixel sensor in conjunction with a 2.7x lens, in order to yield an 8MP image which appears to have a 3x optical zoom.

You can see multiple image samples to verify the EXIF information in our Flickr Gallery.

Why is this a problem

The difference between 2.7x and 3x zoom is barely noticeable. In fact, we wouldn’t have even noticed the difference had we not looked at the EXIF data. While you are free to make what you will about this discrepancy, we looked at EXIF data from other flagship smartphones like the Huawei P30 Pro, Samsung Galaxy S10 Plus and the Huawei Mate 20 Pro. Their focal lengths as reported by the EXIF data are in the chart below.

Focal lengths of various flagships smartphones according to their respective EXIF

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Focal lengths of various flagships smartphones according to their respective EXIF

We see that the telephoto lens matches the optical zoom factor every manufacturer has claimed, save for OnePlus. Up until now, OnePlus has been advertising the zoom on the OnePlus 7 Pro as “3x Optical Zoom,” as seen on the company’s website and in the reviewer’s guide that was shared with us. In fact, the company has emphasised on the advertising of the “3x optical zoom” and even lists it in the specification page for the OnePlus 7 Pro.

OnePlus states the OnePlus 7 Pro has 3x Optical Zoom on their website

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OnePlus 7 Pro specification page also claims 3x optical zoom

OnePlus had done something similar two years ago with the OnePlus 5, which initially was touted to as having 2x optical zoom, but later, Carl Pei clarified that it was lossless zoom and that’s what the company was claiming.

Where do we go from here

We reached out to Szymon Kopec, Product Lead, OnePlus India, who shared the following statement with Digit over email “The OnePlus 7 Pro has 3x zoom with no digital zoom or loss of detail. The telephoto camera serves two main purposes: 3x zoom and portrait mode photography. It will switch the field of view depending on the camera mode. With 3x zoom, the telephoto camera delivers the advertised lossless 8 megapixels images. Portrait mode utilizes all 13 megapixels from the sensor in the telephoto camera. Telephoto Lens with 3X optical zoom – The 78 mm telephoto lens gets you close to the action without losing image clarity, bringing distant objects 3 times closer. Portrait mode is tuned to deliver depth and character in every picture, with lens featuring an f/2.4 aperture and 1 μm pixel size, stabilized by OIS. Additionally, the wide angle is a 117-degree lens.”

The statement lacks any mention of optical zoom, and the focal length of the telephoto lens mentioned by OnePlus does not match the focal length being reported to us by Adobe Bridge. We have asked OnePlus India to further clarify this discrepancy and will update the post with their response. 

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Swapnil Mathur
Digit's resident camera nerd, (un)official product photographer and the Reviews Editor
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