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OnePlus 7 Pro camera update: Improves HDR, color contrast and more

The last major update to the OnePlus 7 Pro's camera improves one of the key complaints against the phone.

oneplus-7-pro-16

The OnePlus 7 Pro.

Angela Lang/CNET

The OnePlus 7 Pro's high-end specs and great value earned itself CNET's Editors Choice. Now, roughly a month later after its May launch, OnePlus released a limited-edition Almond variant and rolled out an update for the phone's triple-rear camera. The update, listed as 9.5.7GM21AA, improves clarity and noise reduction. Most of all, the camera cranks up colors and saturation levels, especially with the wide-angle camera.

OnePlus' complete list of camera improvements in the latest update.

Screenshot by Lynn La/CNET

At times this can make images look surreal and less true-to-life, so I hope OnePlus doesn't lean too much in this direction as updates continue. (Samsung Galaxy phones, for example, used to do this but has scaled back in recent years.) Having said that, people tend to prefer high-contrast and more saturated colors over photos that depict 100% color accuracy, as other outlets and even OnePlus found in blind tests.

Thankfully, the update doesn't punch up colors to a point that it goes overboard. Though other improvements are slight in some situations, photos taken with the OnePlus 7 Pro still look sharp and vibrant overall. To see the changes for yourself, check out the photos below (pictures taken before the update are on the left, and after the update are on the right). 

In addition to its cameras, the OnePlus 7 Pro has a smooth 90Hz display, a novel pop-up selfie camera and fast processing speeds. Its $669 (£649, or about AU$815) starting price (6GB of RAM/128GB) is about $80 less than its closest Samsung Galaxy S10E and iPhone XR rivals, which boast comparable hardware. For more information, read CNET's OnePlus 7 Pro review and OnePlus 7 review.

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More accurate white balance  

Lynn La/CNET
Lynn La/CNET
Lynn La/CNET

The update cites "improved white balance consistency of triple camera" and "overall contrast." With the three photos above, whites looked bluer and colder before the update, whereas after the update whites were more true-to-life and warmer at times. Especially with the first two photos you can see the white is notably more yellow, but that's because the actual light in the office was warm. In the third photo, colors looked nearly identical so the changes aren't always so apparent.

HDR looks pretty much the same

Lynn La/CNET
Lynn La/CNET

The camera's HDR effect was also apparently tweaked. The update fixed "an issue of noise in some HDR scenes," however I didn't notice much of a difference between images in two scenes where HDR was turned on.

Colors pop with the wide-angle lens

Lynn La/CNET
Lynn La/CNET
Lynn La/CNET

Where I did notice the biggest change, however, is how the wide-angle camera treated colors. After the update, colors were punchier and had more pop. You can see this most obviously in the green grass and the blues of the water, sky and bicycles. Even in the third image, the brown wood in the stairs looked a bit washed out before the update.

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Slightly improved clarity with telephoto

Lynn La/CNET
Lynn La/CNET
Lynn La/CNET

OnePlus reports that it improved the clarity of the telephoto lens. I did notice some more details and crisper outlines when using the telephoto camera, but the change is slight. What is more apparent, again, is the boost in colors. In the last image, when I zoomed 10x, you can see that the orange and black in the text and banner is more saturated.

Punchier portrait photos

Lynn La/CNET

Colors in portrait pictures once again look livelier and pop out more with the update. You can see here that after the update, skin tone is warmer and doesn't look washed out. Reds and pinks (in the CNET sign and in the hair) are also brightened up. The blurred bokeh effect remains the same.

Nightscape and low light's slight improvement

Lynn La/CNET
Lynn La/CNET

Though I can discern some barely there differences between these two pictures (for example, the white balance in the painting in the second picture), I didn't notice any huge changes to the Nightscape images taken after the update. Clarity and color didn't outright improve from what I can see with the naked eye, but I was still impressed by how much light and detail the OnePlus 7 Pro captured.