The OnePlus 7 Pro has a triple camera array that has been highly praised, even earning a 111 rating from DxOMark. It features a 48MP main sensor, a 16MP 13mm ultrawide angle lens, and a claimed “8MP 78mm 3x telephoto lens.” This last one is advertised by OnePlus as “3x optical zoom.”
Smartphone companies should have learned long ago never to lie to their consumers, because the truth always comes out. In actuality, it seems that the telephoto sensor is actually 13MP, not 8MP, and has an effective zoom of 2.2x. The rest of that is just a digital crop, cutting the image down to 8MP. This was found out because the portrait mode uses the telephoto lens, and the image produced in portrait mode is wider angle and higher resolution than zoom shots.
Now, to some it may not seem like a big deal. Sure you’re not getting a 13MP image, but it’s effectively 3x zoom right? Not quite, because the digital zoom used here fundamentally differs from real optical zoom. Zoom isn’t a crop, it doesn’t just narrow the field of view. It completely changes the perspective of the image. The longer the focal length, the flatter the image becomes.
This is why you can tell a photo came from a phone no matter how good the quality is. The wide angle camera on phones has a very short focal length, making everything rounded and the edges distorted. Straight lines are no longer straight as they stretch across the image. The longer the focal length, the more this flattens out. The utility of a 3x optical zoom lens isn’t just for closer shots, but a different (and arguably superior) perspective.
Ignoring all of that, it’s still false advertising. OnePlus claims it’s 3x optical, but in reality is 2.2x plus a crop. The company put out this statement on the subject:
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.
This likely won’t affect most customers as they may never tell the difference. The camera performance of the device is still great. However, it’s disappointing to see OnePlus in the middle of another self-inflicted controversy.