OnePlus One: There Can Only Be One

 
OnePlus One 64GB Sandstone Black

OnePlus One 64GB Sandstone Black

Since its launch, the OnePlus One has become the most raved about phone in the market. Aditya Nair finds out why.

Given that I was pretty confident that the Xiaomi Mi3 would be my favourite phone of the year, the OnePlus One came as a welcome surprise. Mostly because Xiaomi has quickly grown to become the world’s third largest selling phone manufacturer and the hipster in me likes exclusivity.

Additionally, unlike Xiaomi, the OnePlus can’t be accused of blatantly ripping off the iPhone’s UI. What the OnePlus One is extremely similar to, however, is the Oppo Find 7a. Both, in terms of looks and hardware specifications.

A Plethora of Features
Like the Find 7a, this phone has a 5.5-inch Full HD IPS LCD screen that renders vibrant colours and beautifully contrasty images. However, I do dislike shooting with phones of the phablet and wanna-be-a-phablet variety. In my opinion, a 4.7 to 5-inch screen is ideal for smartphones and I wish that was the case with the One.

Other similar features include a 13MP rear camera, f/2 lens, 1/3.06-inch sensor, 4k video recording and the ability to shoot RAW. However, it lacks the 50MP interpolation mode of the Oppo Fine 7a.

The phone also shoots Full HD video at 60fps and HD video up to 120fps and the ability to change video, including H.264 and MPEG-4 and audio codecs.

The phone captures a good amount of detail in the JPEGs that is easily recoverable when you need it. Photograph/Aditya Nair

The phone captures a good amount of detail in the JPEGs that is easily recoverable when you need it. Photograph/Aditya Nair

You can change shooting modes by flicking the screen, in the native app. You can also restrict how many modes change, thus keeping only your favourites.

The six lens module used by the OnePlus’ camera is pretty effective at controlling flare and fringing. Then there is the flash. The OnePlus One uses a dual LED flash because of which I no longer fear cellphone flash photography. But, as a rule, I think that cameraphone manufacturers should stop making phones with a single LED flash. Dual or nothing! That said, there is room for improvement, especially, when you consider what the iPhone flash is capable of.

Shooting Experience
Unlike, the Mi3, the OnePlus doesn’t give you full control over shutterspeed within the native camera app. Through the Slow shutterspeed option you can, however, control the range between 1/2sec and 8sec. While the ISO is limited to 1600, I found them to be usable. The image quality is pretty great when viewing RAWs.

However, since most apps still don’t process RAWs yet, the in-phone JPEG quality still remains important. Comparing the DNGs to the in-camera JPEGs leaves a lot to be desired. The images are heavily processed for noise reduction and overexposed by at least one stop, in average contrast situations, suggesting that the JPEG engine is not up to speed.

That said, this is the first RAW capable Android that I have tested. It remains to be seen if others show such disparity between RAW and JPEG files. I should also point out that the in-camera JPEGs are quite good when compared to most other Androids.

The camera app lacks Exposure Compensation, which is troublesome given the camera’s tendency to overexpose images. Photograph/Aditya Nair

The camera app lacks Exposure Compensation, which is troublesome given the camera’s tendency to overexpose images. Photograph/Aditya Nair

Its Achilles’ Heel
The autofocus system was sluggish in daylight and slow at night. Additionally, the camera stops to refocus before every shot even if the subject is in focus.

The native camera app doesn’t allow you to switch off the synthesised shutter sound, which is always annoying.

The Burst Mode lets you shoot up to 20 images, but not while shooting RAW. Additionally, the number of shots can only be controlled through the settings menu, before you shoot. Photograph/Aditya Nair

The Burst Mode lets you shoot up to 20 images, but not while shooting RAW. Additionally, the number of shots can only be controlled through the settings menu, before you shoot. Photograph/Aditya Nair

The Verdict
While the hardware on the phone comes close to many of higher end cameraphones today, that can’t be said of the camera. This prevents me from calling this Rs. 21,999 phone, the best phone today. However, it comes excitingly close.

AT A GLANCE
SPECIFICATIONS 13MP, f/2, 64GB inbuilt memory, 3GB RAM, Quadcore 2.5GHz processor, Corning Gorilla Glass 3, Dual LED flash, CyanogenMod 11S, Rs. 21,999
WHAT WE LIKE Excellent hardware at a reasonable price
WHAT WE DISLIKE  Autofocus lag, Needs more exposure control
WHY BUY IT Great specs, sleek design and a fantastic video/stills combo at an unbeatable price

FINAL RATINGS 84%
CAMERA  Timelapse, can change shooting modes by flicking the screen  21/25 
IMAGE QUALITY  RAW, Good image quality, acceptable in low light  26/30
VIDEO QUALITY 4k video, Full HD at 60fps, 720p at 120fps  14/15
HANDLING  Textured back cover makes it almost impossible to drop  12/15
SPEED & RESPONSIVENESS No shutterlag, slow AF that needs to refocus  11/15
Tags: Android, cyanogen, iphone, OnePlus One, Oppo Find 7a, phablet, Smartphone