We’ve come a long way from dodgy smartphone cameras that take grainy photos that even the nostalgia-loving crowd wouldn’t find usable. It’s relatively easy to take shareable smartphone photos these days in decent conditions (with good lighting). But what if we put those smartphone cameras to the test? That’s something I wanted to try when I took the OnePlus 11 with me on a recent adventure.
You could say it’s a bit of a run-and-gun shoot because I was on a walking tour. A Quiapo Heritage Walk, to be exact. I wanted to see how it would fare with a casual smartphone user like me in what can be considered normal situations. The tour is run by Renacimiento Manila, a cultural organization working to bring about the “Cultural Rebirth” of the nation’s capital. I wanted to learn about my country’s past while seeing if there were images and videos from this tour that I can easily share online.
Let’s talk about my thoughts on the OnePlus 11’s performance during this fun, educational morning in May.
OnePlus 11’s camera specs
With the OnePlus 11 positioned as a flagship smartphone, it gets a respectable set of sensors on it that includes:
- a 50-megapixel Sony IMX890 main camera with an f/1.8 lens and support for optical image stabilization;
- a 48-megapixel IMX581 ultra-wide camera with a 115-degree field-of-view, 1/2″ sensor size, and close focusing macro capabilities;
- a 32-megapixel IMX709 portrait camera with a 2x optical zoom and RGBW sensor;
- and a 16-megapixel selfie camera.
And OnePlus has again partnered with Hasselblad to improve the output you get from these cameras. The partnership’s focus is on its color science. They aim to enhance the colors you see in the photos you take. And that’s one of the things I enjoyed the most with this phone’s camera.
Portrait mode and that Serenity filter
One area I see Hasselblad’s influence shine is in my favorite mode on this phone. The OnePlus 11’s Portrait mode works to mimic the bokeh effect on two Hasselblad lenses: XCD 30mm wide-angle and the XCD 65mm standard. The former can capture both the subject and surroundings with that delicious bokeh effect. While the latter tries to get you that natural half-body portrait.
It defaults to 2x when you open this mode. And it has the Hasselblad Master filter Serenity enabled. This was created by Hasselblad Ambassador Yin Chao, a renowned fashion photographer in China. This filter is meant for portrait shots. Thus, its availability in this mode. (It does still work with the main Photo/Auto mode.)
This default configuration feels like the most natural one to be in. And I’ve loved this dreamy, old-world effect it leaves on portraits.
Although, you’ll need to move around when shooting in this mode to get the shot you want because you can’t zoom in beyond 2x. Leave that relatively close distance, and the portraits can turn out dicey. But I do still like the weirdness of these. Movement isn’t its friend, though. You’ll get some blurring around some edges if you’re not careful.
If this kind of old-world feel isn’t something you want, you can try other filters or forego them.
I like the look of it, so I keep it on. And I discovered it worked for more than just portraits of people. You can already see that in the photo of the figurine above. While you can use the Serenity filter in the Photo mode, the bokeh effect in Portrait adds this cinematic feel to certain photos. I find myself tapping on the camera app’s Portrait mode most of the time I used the OnePlus 11.
It was fun to play around with while going through the tour, giving objects at Bahay Nakpil-Bautista and our other historic stops the look I wanted to capture. It’s not perfect, especially since it’s been customized for portraits. Some edges you don’t want to be blurred could come out blurry. But it challenges my creativity differently.
Auto all the way
I’m not really the type to go into the Pro mode on smartphone cameras, so I’ve been heavily reliant on the default Photo mode on the OnePlus 11. And if you’re going on walking tours like that one I went to, it makes sense that you’ll rely on the more automatic mode.
But if you’re curious about the other photo modes on the OnePlus 11, there’s Night, Pano/Panorama, Long Exposure, Tilt-Shift, XPan (which I’ll talk a bit about later), and the aforementioned Portrait mode. For videos, there’s also Movie (the Pro mode for videos), default Video, Slo-Mo, and Time-Lapse. I regret not taking Hyperlapse videos, which you can do in Time Lapse. But I was also worried I was going to get sideswiped by cars.
I like how relatively similar the colors look on the display and what I see in real life. In great lighting, you get sharp, detailed photos from the OnePlus 11. It struggles a bit when it’s too bright because sometimes the highlights get blown out. This smartphone’s camera is prone to overexposing, so try to play around with exposure before shooting. (LiTT Tip: Tap on the subject you want to focus on and pull that sun icon that appears up or down.)
But if you want to play around more with colors, the Hasselblad Master filters are available in this mode. The Serenity filter is joined by Radiance and Emerald filters here. The former leans more on the warmer side, while the latter is more blue. You can check out how it looks with these photos taken at the Ocampo Pagoda Mansion.
During the tour, I leaned heavily on the Radiance and Serenity filters because they brightened the images I was taking. While it’s possible to adjust exposure when using these filters, I wished there was a way to adjust the filter’s intensity. But then, I guess that’ll affect the look Hasselblad wanted to portray with the pictures. These Master filters aren’t available for videos, in case you were wondering.
With the point-and-shoot approach I took during the walk, I didn’t really lean on the Hi-res mode offered on the OnePlus 11. But if you’re the type who wants to retain details in your photos even as you crop in, this mode will come in handy. And the OnePlus 11 supports this high-resolution mode for all three cameras. If you switch to the ultra-wide sensor, you take 48-megapixel shots. With the main, it’s at 50-megapixel, while with the portrait camera, it’s at 32-megapixel. All the filters, including the Hasselblad Master ones, are available in this mode. However, you can’t zoom in when taking these shots. It’s also not available with the selfie camera.
These photos weren’t taken during the walk, but I just wanted to show some Hi-Res samples.
Zoom in, zoom out with OnePlus 11
OnePlus sacrificed a telephoto lens to put in the capable portrait camera on the OnePlus 11. So, if you zoom in a lot with your smartphone’s camera, this is something you need to know. This phone only supports up to 2x optical zoom, so you’ll rely heavily on digital zoom. That gets up to 20x, though. And when I used it during the tour, it produced pretty serviceable shots. Like this closeup of the San Sebastian Church, the only all-steel church in East Asia.
But I’m not too fond of how it handles ultra-wide shots. The edges are heavily distorted, especially to closer objects. You will need to practice or take safety shots with this camera.
Speaking of the ultrawide lens, you can use it to take macro shots. But like with most smartphones, I prefer using the 2x zoom with the primary sensor for higher-quality shots. It’s also how I capture the little details, which was one of the main points of the tour. Many spots we visited during the walk showed old houses in various states of decay, but those close-ups gave us a clue of how opulent and detailed the architecture of the past was.
Renacimiento Manila and its partners have been doing these walks and tours to raise awareness for the state of the different historic sites in the city. In the case of the Quiapo Heritage Walk, they are helping push and raise awareness for the Quiapo Heritage Zone Act to be acted on. Once enacted into law, it’ll allow the heritage zone to receive funding from the Department of Tourism, Commission for Culture and the Arts, Department of Public Works and Highways, and other cultural agencies. This can help with the preservation and restoration of these historical landmarks.
XPan without the expensive gear
Another Hasselblad touch I had fun playing around with is this niche photo mode called XPan, a nod to the 35mm panoramic camera Fujifilm and Hasselblad made in the ’90s. You can shoot these exceptionally-wide shots in color. And I found the settings we were in especially fun to shoot in (especially at Bahay Nakpil-Bautista). Is it a necessary feature? No. But it is another way the OnePlus 11 pushes me to get creative.
Shoot and go
It is easy to create point-and-shoot videos on the OnePlus 11, too. You can record in these resolutions: 720p at 30 frames per second and 60fps, 1080p at 30fps and 60 fps, 4K at 30fps and 60 fps, and 8K 24fps. I mostly used 4K resolution and opted out of 8K, simply for the file size. I found the camera’s behavior to be similar to videos, where it can overexpose in bright areas. But I like how steady the videos can get handheld, even without the Ultra Steady modes enabled.
That Ultra Steady mode records in 1080p. It works for both the ultrawide and main cameras. But you can’t zoom in when you’re in these modes. If you want to change the depth of field when recording videos, that records at 1080p 30fps. You can also record ultrawide videos in 4K, but it doesn’t support 60fps mode. Zoom capabilities are up to 10x for up to 4K. You can’t zoom in 8K.
Audio pickup was pretty decent on this phone. And I didn’t even need to enable the “Smart” record feature. That feature can record stereo sound when taking videos in landscape. I could hear what the guides were saying even when we were by the road. Of course, a mic could make things better. But it’s usable. The audio from the clip below was shot from the OnePlus 11.
As mentioned, OnePlus also didn’t port its Hasselblad filters into video modes. But that’s understandable, given those were made for photos. You can use other built-in filters if you want. OnePlus also brings its retouch feature for people on this phone, but it’s not something I tend to use either.
If you want more control over settings, the OnePlus 11 has a Movie mode that gives you that. It has Log support, so you can get more control in post-production. Another video mode available on this phone is its Dual-View Video, which lets you record on the front and rear cameras at the same time.
OnePlus 11: Final thoughts
OnePlus 11’s cameras won’t top the charts for best camera. But it’s closer than it was in the past. I’m here more for the fun and creativity it offers. And that fun hinges on that Hasselblad tuning for me. It gives your photos a certain vibe that I love shooting with. So, if you are more keen on getting creative photos, here’s one smartphone for that purpose. On top of that, it’s possibly one of the more powerful devices you can get on the market without crossing that USD 800 mark.
The OnePlus 11 retails for USD 699 / PHP 45,990 for the 8GB RAM + 128GB storage option and USD 799 / PHP 49,990 for the 16GB + 256GB variant.
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