Pixel Fold vs. OnePlus Open: A Very Expensive Camera Phone Comparison
Google and OnePlus overcome the space limitations in their foldable phones in order to improve the cameras. We find out which one takes better photos.
Patrick HollandManaging Editor
Patrick Holland has been a phone reviewer for CNET since 2016. He is a former theater director who occasionally makes short films. Patrick has an eye for photography and a passion for everything mobile. He is a colorful raconteur who will guide you through the ever-changing, fast-paced world of phones, especially the iPhone and iOS. He used to co-host CNET's I'm So Obsessed podcast and interviewed guests like Jeff Goldblum, Alfre Woodard, Stephen Merchant, Sam Jay, Edgar Wright and Roy Wood Jr.
Patrick's play The Cowboy is included in the Best American Short Plays 2011-12 anthology. He co-wrote and starred in the short film Baden Krunk that won the Best Wisconsin Short Film award at the Milwaukee Short Film Festival.
The Google Pixel Fold costs $1,800 and folds open from a phone into a mini-tablet. The $1,700 OnePlus Open does the exact same thing. Both phones represent the cutting edge in terms of phone technology hence those give-you-a-nose-bleed high prices.
Then there are the cameras. Neither foldable has the absolute best camera on a smartphone because there's no room for them. In order to fold in half and not be cumbersome when closed, the phones are made extremely thin, meaning there's even less room for camera sensors and lenses than in a regular non-folding phone. So while you're paying nearly $2,000 for a phone, you get a camera that's closer in quality to one on a $700 phone.
Or at least that's been the case with foldables until 2023. The Fold and Open show how much closer foldable cameras are to cameras on premium flat phones.
Both Google and OnePlus found ways to overcome their space limitations and pack their foldable wonders with decent cameras. So how do the cameras compare to each other? Well, I took a bunch of photos with the Pixel Fold and OnePlus Open around San Francisco to find out.
Watch this: Camera Test: Google Pixel Fold vs. OnePlus Open
Pixel Fold vs. OnePlus Open camera hardware
The Pixel Fold has a camera bar that sticks out of the back. It affords the space for bigger camera hardware, which helps improve image quality. The Fold's bar houses a main wide-angle camera, an ultrawide and a 5x telephoto. When I pitted the Pixel Fold's cameras against Samsung's Galaxy Z Fold 4, I preferred Google's photos at every turn.
OnePlus takes Google's camera bar concept and goes to the extreme. The OnePlus Open's circular camera bump feels like someone cut a hockey puck in half and glued it to the back of the phone. It sticks out a lot, even more than the Pixel Fold's camera bar, giving the Open even more room for image sensors and lenses.
Like the Pixel, the Open has a main camera, and ultrawide and a telephoto. But it opts for a 3x optical zoom and is the same telephoto camera used in the upcoming OnePlus 12. Also for this comparison, I solely focused on taking photos with the rear cameras.
Pixel Fold and OnePlus Open camera specs
Phone and camera
Pixel Fold main
Pixel Fold ultrawide
Pixel Fold telephoto
OnePlus Open main
OnePlus Open ultrawide
OnePlus Open main
Some of my favorite Fold and Open photos
Pixel Fold vs. OnePlus Open photo comparisons
As you can see above, both phones are capable of decent photos. But let's do a few direct comparisons, starting with a cappuccino from Four Barrel Coffee in San Francisco. Both photos below look good. If I had to nitpick, the Pixel Fold's snap has good exposure and the highlights aren't overly bright. And the contrast makes the details in the foam pop.
The OnePlus' photo is exposed brighter but has good detail. The image isn't as oversharpened as the Pixel's photo, but notice the difference between the cappuccino foam and the wood table. Despite having the same f/1.7 aperture, the Pixel Fold's main camera keeps more of the background in focus.
Below are a couple more photos of a recent happy hour outing with my fellow CNETers. Neither of these photos was taken with night mode, and neither is great. I prefer the Pixel's photo. The exposure is good and people's skin tones look better.
Both of the photos were taken with a long shutter speed to let in more light, and both have some motion blur from people shifting or moving. The OnePlus photo is darker, but the highlights like the chandeliers in the background aren't blown out to white.
Now let's shift to medium lighting and a feline. I used each phone's telephoto camera to snap the pics below of Peebles the cat. As you can see, he was thrilled. The Pixel's image was taken with 5x optical zoom, whereas the OnePlus photo was taken at 6x digital zoom (so not exactly a fair comparison). But the OnePlus image looks better to me. It nailed the white balance and captured the detail in Pebbles' fur better. By comparison, the Pixel photo looks flat.
Below are a couple more photos taken with the telephoto camera on each phone. This comparison is less about the image quality (both are good, but the Pixel Fold has better dynamic range) and more about focal length. The 5x optical zoom on the Pixel is a great telephoto length as is the 3x optical zoom on the OnePlus Open. What's nice about the OnePlus is that the telephoto camera has a 64-megapixel sensor. So if I take a photo at 6x magnification, I'm still using 32-megapixels even though I'm cropped in. All that to say, I think the OnePlus Open's tele is more versatile because of it.
That said, the Pixel's main camera has a 48-megapixel resolution and can take a 3x digital zoom with it and still get a decent 12-megapixel photo.
Lastly, take a look below at some night mode images from each phone. I took these of a colorful laser that was aimed over San Francisco during last month's APEC conference. The OnePlus' photo is OK but looks dark, and the details are soft. The Pixel's photo is brighter, has a wider dynamic range and sharper details. These were taken with the main camera.
The Hasselblad X-Pan strikes back
Before I share my final thoughts, I want to give a shout out to one of my favorite features on either phone: the OnePlus Open's X-Pan mode. It's named after a famous analog camera called the Hasselblad X-Pan (also branded as the Fujifilm TX-1), which could take photos with 35mm film that were 65mm wide. Basically, a wide photo that's twice the width of a regular photo.
The OnePlus Open can take a digital X-Pan photo combining a couple of images into one. It's ridiculous and there's not a great way to show these off except for the front cover screen, but I adore this feature. And while the field of view takes some getting used to, I am able to get some truly cinematic photos.
Pixel Fold cameras vs. OnePlus Open final thoughts
At the end of the day, the Pixel Fold and OnePlus Open push the bounds of foldable phone photography. I still give the Pixel the edge because the results of Google's computational magic fits my vibe better. But I am also a big fan of the OnePlus Open. It takes great photos that have a soft almost camera film-like aesthetic.
Both phones are first generation but show how far camera quality has improved on foldables over the last four years. You're still going to get better image quality out of the cameras on Google's non-foldable Pixel 8 Pro and the OnePlus 11. But after testing both the Fold and Open, I'm excited what a second-gen version will be like.
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