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OnePlus 5T first impressions review

by on Nov.28, 2017, under Reviews


The brand new OnePlus 5T is the Chinese manufacturer’s latest flagship model. Like its predecessors, offers high-end specifications, materials and design at a price point that is noticeably lower than the more established competition.

The 5T is in most respects pretty much identical to its predecessor, the OnePlus 5. However, there are two important changes: the AMOLED display now comes with an 18:9 aspect ratio, covering the entire front of the device, and the dual-camera has done away with the tele-module and replaced it with a secondary sensor that has been optimized for low light performance.

The camera switches to this sensor when light levels drop below 10 Lux and merges four pixels into one for improved image quality. Despite the lack of a tele lens, OnePlus says the new dual-camera setup offers a similar zoom performance to the OnePlus.

We’ve had the OnePlus 5T in our hands for a few days now and used its camera in a wide range of light conditions. Here are our first impressions.

Key specifications:

  • Dual-camera
  • Main camera: Sony IMX 398 1/2.8″ 16MP sensor, F1.7,
  • Secondary camera: Sony IMX 376K 1/2.78″ 20MP sensor, F1.7
  • 27.22mm equivalent focal length
  • Dual-LED flash
  • 4K video at 30 fps
  • 720p slow-motion at 120 fps
  • Manual mode and Raw capture
  • 16MP / F2.0 front camera
  • 6″ 1080p AMOLED display, 18:9 aspect ratio
  • Qualcomm Snapdragon 835 chipset
  • 64/128GB storage, 6/8GB RAM
  • 3,300 mAh battery

Image quality

In bright light the 5T captures images with pleasant colors. Auto HDR kicks in for high-contrast scenes, ensuring decent dynamic range and good highlight detail. Lens sharpness is good across the frame but if you zoom in to a 100% view, low-contrast detail, such as distant foliage or other fine textures, can look a little mushy. There’s also more luminance noise in the sky than we would like at base ISO.

ISO 125, 1/490 sec

When shooting against the light the 5T occasionally captures slightly too dark exposures to protect the highlights, but despite some shadow noise the shot below looks quite pleasant. Occasionally low-contrast detail in the shadows can be very mushy, though.

ISO 250, 1/1525 sec

The 5T camera deals much better with higher-contrast scenes, even when overall light levels are lower. The shot below was captured at ISO 640 indoors and shows very good edge definition. There is some luminance noise but it is very finely grained and not too intrusive. Overall detail is still good, despite shooting in low light.

ISO 640, 1/50 sec

Noise reduction and smearing of fine detail are more noticeable in this ISO 1000 shot but overall detail is still good considering the light conditions. However, skin tones on the subject are a little warm and just a touch underexposed. It appears the camera was aiming to protect highlights in the brighter background. Overall, the 5T does pretty well in this scene, though.

ISO 1000, 1/33 sec

Detail becomes noticeably softer in night shots, as the one below, but exposure is very good and noise well controlled. The OnePlus 5T tends to do a good job in static night scenes.

ISO 3200, 1/17 sec

The camera app doesn’t tell you when it switches to the more low-light efficient secondary sensor with its ‘Intelligent Pixel Technology’. But a look at the EXIF data reveals that images taken in very low light have a 20MP resolution, as opposed to the 16MP of the main camera. This also indicates that, if there is some pixel-binning going on, the images are then upscaled to full sensor resolution again.

Looking at the two samples below, the mode is capable of achieving good exposure and color in low light situations. However, level of detail is very low and images have an almost pixelated appearance when viewed at a 100% magnification.

We have also noticed that two images taken in quick succession can look quite different in terms of both exposure and detail rendition. If you click through to the full-size versions of the samples below you’ll see that the image on the left is pretty grainy, while the one on the right has an almost water-color like smeared look. The levels of detail are equally low on both images, though.

ISO 2000, 1/20 sec ISO 5000, 1/17 sec

Zoom

OnePlus says that, despite the omission of a dedicated tele camera, the 5T’s 2x zoom produces similar image quality to the OnePlus 5. Looking at the sample scene below, this is true. Viewed at a 100% magnification the 2x zoom image shows noticeably lower levels of detail than the standard image, but the tele-lens on the OnePlus 5 did not produce much better results. Zoom images are not ideal for display at larger sizes but look nice at typical social media or web use resolution.

ISO 250, 1/553 sec
ISO 160, 1/504 sec

The same is true for zoom images captured in low light. The 2x zoom image below was taken in a dimly lit club. Fine detail is not great but the shot is perfectly usable at web size and the zoom function allowed me to get the framing I wanted, even when shooting from the back of the crowd.

ISO 1600, 1/20 sec

Bokeh

OnePlus says the 5T’s bokeh mode has been improved over the version used by its predecessor and our initial tests confirm that. There are still some minor artifacts around foreground subjects but overall subject separation from the background is pretty good, even in lower light and with human subjects.

In addition, the amount blur applied to the background is not too strong, resulting in a fairly natural bokeh rendition.

ISO 320, 1/464 sec, Depth mode

Video

We also shot a few videos with the OnePlus 5T and the results are pretty good, with decent detail, nice color and good exposure. Stabilization is pretty good when hand-holding the camera, but things get a little shaky while panning, as you can see in the clip below.

The video mode delivers decent image quality in this artificially lit indoor shot. Video stabilization keeps things nice and steady during handheld recording.

You can also record video using the 2x zoom settings. The results in the low light clip below aren’t quite broadcast quality but definitely usable, with good stabilization.

Conclusion

With its new 18:9 display and powerful processing components the OnePlus 5T is a great smartphone in general use. However, there’s a lot to like about its camera as well. Images show good exposure and color across all light levels, the bokeh mode captures images that look more natural than on many competitors and the zoom function produces usable results, even in very low light.

Like on the 5T’s predecessor, pixel level image quality is a bit of a weakness, though. The Auto HDR function produces some ghosting artifacts and mushy textures, and we also found more luminance noise in base ISO images than we’d like to see.

Low light image quality is decent but not up with the very best, and with the current software version OnePlus’ ‘Intelligent Pixel Technology’ doesn’t really offer any noticeable low light benefits over a fine-tuned conventional camera.

That said, OnePlus is known as a manufacturer that is frequently pushing software updates and improving the performance of its products. If the engineers are able to fine-tune image processing and video stabilization a touch more, the OnePlus could easily jump up a few spots in the smartphone image quality rankings.

Sample Gallery

There are 10 images in our OnePlus 5T samples gallery. Please do not reproduce any of these images on a website or any newsletter / magazine without prior permission (see our copyright page). We make the originals available for private users to download to their own machines for personal examination or printing (in conjunction with this review), we do so in good faith, please don’t abuse it.

Unless otherwise noted images taken with no particular settings at full resolution.

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You can also still have a look at our OnePlus 5 review gallery from June.

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The Digital Photography Book, Part 2 by Kelby, Scott

by on Nov.27, 2017, under Tips and tricks



The Digital Photography Book, Part 2 by Kelby, Scott

Price : 3.73

Ends on : 1 week

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Watch Drew Geraci's latest time-lapse masterpiece, shot with Sony a7R III

by on Nov.27, 2017, under Reviews


Drew Geraci is a master of time-lapse photography. His work has taken him all over the world, and his client list contains some of the biggest names in sports and entertainment. Even if you don’t know his name, if you’ve ever watched ‘House of Cards’ on Netflix, you’ve seen his work.

Drew has been using a Sony a7R III for some time, and prior to its official launch last month he spent some time in New Zealand, to see what the new camera could do. We caught up with him recently to ask about his inspirations, workflow, and tips for successful time-lapse photography.


What first got you interested in time-lapses?

The real reason I became interested in time-lapse photography wasn’t because of anything ultra profound or mind-blowing. It was because someone I looked up to (as a pro-photographer) looked at my early time-lapse work and told me that it was, bluntly, garbage.

Since that day I’ve channeled that negative energy into something positive, which has lead me down an incredibly successful career path which I’ve very thankful for.

Why would/should you shoot a scene using timelapse techniques rather than a conventional single exposure?

Timelapse tells a story that a single frame or even series of video frames can’t. The passage of time is something that you can’t really ‘see’ normally, and this is why timelapse photography is so useful – it showcases short or long passages of time which can show the grandness of an event or place in a unique way. Timelapses always seem to dazzle and amaze audiences.

How is the process of planning a timelapse shoot different to a conventional landscape shooting session?

Planning a time-lapse shoot can be quite difficult depending on where and when you want to film. You have to think of all of the elements of motion that will be in your scene and how light will effect the scene over time. There are so many random variables that most photographers/videographers don’t have to worry about, but for time-lapse it’s different.

You really have to be aware of your scene, to an even higher degree than normal. You need to make sure there you account for things that could destroy your shot like birds, people, or lights. You have to work all of this out before you start shooting.

What’s the single most important factor to consider when making timelapse movies?

For me personally, it’s about creating something that’s going to wow your audience and keep them entertained for the few seconds or minutes that you get their attention. I want to shoot scenes that are unique, vibrant, and invoke some type of emotion to really draw the viewer in.

Music is key as well. Selecting the wrong music can be fatal. As a case in point, there’s an M83 song that has been used so many times now on timelapse videos that it’s getting ridiculous. I always try to find something original to use instead of mainstream music.

What does your workflow look like when planning and shooting a time-lapse movie?

The workflow is chaos. It usually consists of a shot list, scouting notes and it’s all subject to change when I get to the location. I make sure (most of the time) to do a 2-3 day scout visit to each location before the actual shooting occurs. This gives me a better idea of what to expect when I shoot it for real. I look at the lighting, the atmosphere, and all of the elements of motion, because I want my shots to be as dynamic as possible.

What was your big break?

For me, my big break was the title sequence of Netflix’s House of Cards. I had lunch with David Fincher to discuss a new project and it turned out to the the intro to his new show. Completing that sequence was a fun and grueling 6 months of shooting but the end result is something that 100’s of millions of people have viewed – which is quite humbling.

I’ve had some other big name clients before this, like the NFL and Apple, but shooting the intro to House of Cards pushed things over the top. It’s fun being known as the guy who shot the intro to a now iconic (and infamous ) show but I want to continue pushing boundaries and exploring new techniques to keep things fresh.

How do you control the camera trigger when you’re shooting?

My personal preference is a manual, external intervalometer because it provides the fastest method for setup and shooting. Internal intervalometers are great, but they can be limited and awkward to use – especially if you have to adjust the interval or number of shots. I use the JJC micro-USB – it’s cheap, and it’s reliable.

Can you give us 3 top tips for photographers planning on getting into timelapse shooting?

  1. Turn off anything automatic on your camera (Auto WB, ISO, Aperture, Shutter… even stabilization – turn it off!)
  2. If you’re not using a manual aperture lens, make sure to “lens twist” or detach your lens from the body, just enough so the connectors that send data aren’t touching. This will ensure that the aperture blades don’t change position from exposure to exposure and it will reduce the amount of flicker in your footage substantially.
  3. Always shoot Raw!



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