Wednesday, May 22, 2024
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OnePlus 12 vs. OnePlus 12R camera test: The Hasselblad difference

Flowy Emerald OnePlus 12 (left) and a Genshin Impact Edition OnePlus 12R.
Christine Romero-Chan / Digital Trends

OnePlus has had a very solid start to 2024 with the release of the OnePlus 12 and the OnePlus 12R. While both phones look very similar, one is a flagship, while the other is a more budget-friendly option with slightly lesser specs.

Though both devices’ cameras appear similar at first glance, they’re actually quite different. In addition to different specs, only the OnePlus 12 has Hasselblad branding, meaning that it has better color calibration, white balance and exposure, and more. In short, photos you take with the OnePlus 12’s Hasselblad camera are probably going to look better.

But is it enough of a difference to make the $799 OnePlus 12 worth it over the $499 OnePlus 12R? That’s what we’re here to find out.

OnePlus 12 vs. OnePlus 12R: camera specs

Flowy Emerald OnePlus 12 (left) and a Genshin Impact Edition OnePlus 12R.
Christine Romero-Chan / Digital Trends

Before we dive into the photos, let’s take a look at the hardware first.

The OnePlus 12 has an impressive triple-lens camera system on the rear: a 50-megapixel main lens, a 64MP periscope telephoto camera with 3x optical zoom, and a 48MP ultrawide camera. For the selfie shooter, it has a 32MP lens.

With the OnePlus 12R, there’s a 50MP main shooter, an 8MP ultrawide camera, and a 2MP macro lens on the rear. The selfie camera is only 16MP, which is better than other phones in this price range, but not quite up there with the OnePlus 12.

OnePlus 12 vs. OnePlus 12R: main camera

Both the OnePlus 12 and OnePlus 12R have a 50MP main camera, but again, only the OnePlus 12 has Hasselblad color tuning. So, let’s see if that really makes a difference in photos.

We’ll start off with one of my favorite views at Disney California Adventure Park: the waterfront at Pixar Pier. Both photos are sharp and detailed when you zoom in. But the OnePlus 12R version appears a tad warmer in tone, and the sky seems a little washed-out when compared to the OnePlus 12 image. The red tubes on the Incredicoaster also have more orange undertones, making it appear brighter. The Pixar Pier logo is also a bit lighter than it should be in the 12R image, though one could argue that it looks better in some ways.

There are pros and cons to both images, but I prefer the OnePlus 12’s for the more vibrant and realistic colors that don’t appear washed-out.

Here’s a look at the incredible Millennium Falcon at Batuu sugar sculpture that’s in Disney’s Grand Californian Hotel as part of the Season of the Force celebrations. While the images seem similar, it looks like the OnePlus 12R had some issues with focusing on the rock formations behind the Falcon, as some of them appear soft in detail and blurry.

The OnePlus 12 version looks a lot sharper overall, as you can make out the finer textures and details in the Falcon and the rocks. The blues and purples also appear way more vibrant with the OnePlus 12, which may be due to the Hasselblad color tuning.

This is another one of my favorite views at Disneyland: the water for the Finding Nemo submarine voyage. Both images look good at first glance, but the OnePlus 12 goes further with texture and overall detail, which is evident with the rocks and waterfall in the back, as well as the rock that Hank the octopus is sitting on top of. The yellow submarines and the color of the structure in the background also look a bit washed-out in the OnePlus 12R image.

There was a car show being held near me, though it was almost over by the time I arrived. I still snapped this quick photo of a Porsche (forgive me, I’m not a car person, so I don’t know the model). The Hasselblad color tuning on the OnePlus 12 worked out well for this shot, as the silver shows up better, and there’s more contrast and details in the photo. To me, the OnePlus 12R version just looks a bit dull and lifeless.

Winner: OnePlus 12

OnePlus 12 vs. OnePlus 12R: ultrawide camera

There’s a very stark difference between the OnePlus 12’s 48MP ultrawide camera and the OnePlus 12R’s 8MP ultrawide lens, at least on paper. Does that translate to real-world use? Yes, yes, it does.

I snapped a quick ultrawide shot of the rose garden at the local park near my house, which I typically do for these camera comparisons. It’s very evident how much better the OnePlus 12’s 48MP ultrawide camera is compared to the measly 8MP shooter on the OnePlus 12R.

The OnePlus 12R version just lacks detail when you take a close look at it; nothing is particularly sharp. On the other hand, the OnePlus 12 has everything in focus, and you can make out all the finer details and textures even in the distance. The colors are also true to life and vibrant. There’s no contest here.

Winner: OnePlus 12

OnePlus 12 vs. OnePlus 12R: close-ups

I thought about naming this section “telephoto camera,” but then I remembered — the OnePlus 12R does not have a telephoto lens at all. It wouldn’t be quite fair to compare the OnePlus 12’s 64MP periscope telephoto lens with 3x optical zoom to, well, nothing. Instead, here, we’ll take a look at both phones’ zoom capabilities and close-up shots.

Let’s start with a zoomed-in shot of some palm trees in the neighborhood. Since the OnePlus 12R does not have a telephoto lens, it relies on digital zoom. I used 3x zoom here to match the 3x optical zoom of the OnePlus 12.

The OnePlus 12R has muddied and soft details and almost resembles a watercolor painting — not a good look. But the OnePlus 12’s 3x optical zoom is sharp and clear and does a good job of getting the details and texture right. The colors also appear washed-out in the OnePlus 12R version, while the OnePlus 12 is accurate and captures the glow of the setting sun.

I love spring because of all the blooming flowers, though some days have still been quite cloudy and rainy here in Southern California. This is a vibrant orange flower that I came across on a walk. Both images appear good on the surface, but the OnePlus 12 edges out the 12R by having more focus on the flower’s pistil, which is a bit blurry in the 12R photo. Textures on the petals also appear much better on the OnePlus 12 image, and the Hasselblad color tuning is on point.

This close-up of some pink flowers looks almost identical between both phones. The OnePlus 12R did a better job with this one than on the orange flower, as the center pistils are just as sharp as in the OnePlus 12 version. Background bokeh levels are pretty much the same, and the only difference I can really make out is that the green leaves in the OnePlus 12 version are slightly more vibrant, but that’s about it.

Winner: OnePlus 12

OnePlus 12 vs. OnePlus 12R: lowlight

There was a time when you could not depend on a smartphone to take decent pictures in lowlight situations, but that has absolutely changed in 2024. Most flagship phones are capable of taking some pretty good lowlight photos thanks to dedicated night modes, and even budget-friendly phones typically have this feature through software now. But of course, the hardware still makes all the difference.

I snapped this shot of the night sky from my backdoor, and both phones went into Night mode for about one second for this scene. The OnePlus 12R makes the sky look artificially like it was daytime or at least twilight/sunset, but it was taken at 8:30 p.m. when the sun was gone for at least an hour. And when you take a look at the trees, they appear a bit muddled and lack detail.

The OnePlus 12, on the other hand, did a better job of handling this scene than its lower-priced sibling. The night sky is darker, which is more indicative of the time it was taken, and it doesn’t look fake or artificial. The details in the trees are also much sharper and clearer — this is especially evident in the tree branches and the palm tree leaves. Thanks to the darker sky, it is easier to see the stars due to the higher contrast.

I snapped a photo of our Siberian Husky, Wolf, who was sitting patiently as I was snapping photos of the sky. I did struggle a bit more with the OnePlus 12R on this, as the slightest bit of movement from my husky would result in a blurry image — the OnePlus 12 would also get blurry, but to a slightly lesser degree.

This was the best image I could get out of multiple attempts. The OnePlus 12 did a much better job here, as you can easily see the detail and texture with the fur, whereas the OnePlus 12R appears softer and blurrier. Contrast is higher on the OnePlus 12 as well, which shows off the black and white colors of the husky better. The OnePlus 12R image also just looks a bit washed-out overall, especially in terms of the wall and cement texture.

Winner: OnePlus 12

OnePlus 12 vs. OnePlus 12R: selfies and portraits

Ever since phones started to include Portrait mode, it’s been one of my favorite ways to take photos with my smartphones. Of course, you can get better portraits with a dedicated camera, but I think most phones have done a pretty good job, all things considered.

Please note that since the OnePlus 12R does not have the same zoom capabilities as the OnePlus 12, I’m only comparing the Portrait mode images at 1x. The OnePlus 12R does have 2x and 3x zoom for Portraits, but I did not use those for samples as it wouldn’t be a fair comparison.

Let’s start with this portrait photo I took of my husband. Both images are good, but the OnePlus 12 slightly edges out the 12R in terms of edge detection. You can see some jagged bits in his hair where it seems like the software couldn’t differentiate between the edge of the hair with the leaves and the cloudy sky behind him. The 12R also struggled with detecting his right hand, as it looks like it just blended in with the ground at the park. The OnePlus 12 didn’t seem to have these issues with edge detection as much, though there is a tiny bit on his right ear that seems a bit off.

However, the OnePlus 12R did seem to be more accurate for his skin tone, but the colors of the jacket and jeans are more vibrant and accurate with the OnePlus 12. I’m not a fan of how the OnePlus 12 seemed to make him appear darker with red undertones.

Here’s a portrait of me in the park. Again, the OnePlus 12 does a better job with edge detection, as there’s a bit of a weird, jagged bit on the left side of my hair in the OnePlus 12R image. I also prefer the overall tone of the OnePlus 12 version, which feels a bit on the cooler side, while the 12R is warmer. Colors, especially skin tone, are better reflected in the OnePlus 12 image as well.

Lastly, here’s a portrait of my daughter posing for the cameras. I much prefer the OnePlus 12 image here, as the colors are much more accurate and true to life. The OnePlus 12R appears very washed-out in comparison. Again, edge detection is better with the OnePlus 12.

As far as selfies go, this is one I snapped quickly with both phones. As you can see, the OnePlus 12R image appears very washed-out, making me look paler than I really am. The OnePlus 12 image is much better, with more vibrant and accurate colors, including skin tone. It just looks better overall.

Winner: OnePlus 12

Hasselblad does, in fact, matter

Genshin Impact Edition OnePlus 12R (left) and Flowy Emerald OnePlus 12.
Christine Romero-Chan / Digital Trends

Though the OnePlus 12R doesn’t take bad photos, there is clearly a significant difference between it and the OnePlus 12’s Hasselblad color calibration. And it’s not just the Hasselblad partnership, either — the OnePlus 12 has better overall camera hardware, too.

As you can see from these camera samples, the OnePlus 12 is vastly superior to its more affordable sibling. The larger megapixel count does matter as it helps retain all of the finer details and textures in your photos. And the Hasselblad color tuning results in more accurate and precise colors. With the OnePlus 12R, when you take a closer look at the images, things don’t appear as sharp as they could be, and in many of my samples, colors look washed-out and need editing.

Of course, the OnePlus 12R is still a great value phone. But if you want the absolute best camera possible without breaking the bank, I think the OnePlus 12 is worth the extra cash in the end.

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