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OnePlus 9 vs Galaxy S21, iPhone S21 camera comparison


Ever since its inception, OnePlus has probably experienced the most profound paradigm shift: what started as a company that aimed to disrupt our concepts of how much a contemporary flagship should cost has these days become a part of the cabal that runs the premium-priced flagship game. That’s especially true for the OnePlus 9 Pro, which is a boundary-pushing device that ticks all the boxes, but we shouldn’t forget that a slightly more affordable OnePlus was also announced alongside the OnePlus 9 Pro, and that’s none other than the OnePlus 9. With a lower price tag and a couple of corners cut in comparison with the flagship device, the OnePlus 9 is still an appealing choice that has to make its way through the iPhone/Galaxy crowd.
As the more affordable new OnePlus device, the OnePlus 9 will not necessarily clash with the more expensive Galaxy S21 and iPhone 12 Pro, but this doesn’t mean we shouldn’t see if the new “flagship tickler” can hold its own against the Galaxy S21 and iPhone 12 Pro. The results might surprise you, but we’d get to that later.

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Scene 1

Our first scene showcases some pretty interesting and notable differences between the three devices. The OnePlus 9 image immediately catches my eye with its punchy colors that simply make the flower pop. At the same time, the iPhone 12 Pro image is definitely much closer to reality. The Galaxy S21 feels like the perfect middle ground between the vivid appeal of the OnePlus 9 and the realism of the iPhone.

In our second scene, the main differences between the three cameras are the colors. We can observe those super-realistic colors in the OnePlus 9 picture, whereas the Galaxy and the iPhone have gone for more punchiness. Samsung’s latest trooper is the one to come up with the most vivid picture that has a somewhat unrealistic sky, while the iPhone offers a nice balance between realism and punchy colors.

Scene 3

Greenery is the name of the game for the OnePlus, with green dominating the color spectrum here. The Galaxy S21 has gone for a unrealistic sky that seems too blue to me, one that 12-year old me would have been raving about. Again, I’d probably pick the iPhone picture out of the three as it’s consistent with what we’ve already seen: balance between realism and vividness. 

Scene 4

When the light goes scarce, the roles are somewhat reversed: the iPhone has produced the most vivid and punchy photo, which I certainly like the best, whereas the OnePlus 9 has come up with a more realistic picture. The Galaxy S21 is a bit on the colder side, but hey, that could be just your thing! All three phones used their respective long exposure modes in this scene, and the results are commendable: there’s more than enough detail and sharpness here, and all areas of the scene are exposed well.

Scene 5

This next scene reveals another role reversal: the iPhone 12 Pro bets on realism and muted colors, the Galaxy S21 came up with the most “shareable” image, and the OnePlus which strikes a balanced middle ground between the rest.

Scene 6

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: portraits are an iPhone’s specialty, and this scene proves that without the shadow of a doubt. The Galaxy S21 has done a great job as well, but the saturated and predominantly pinkish colors out the phone in the second spot. The OnePlus 9 is sadly not good enough when it comes to portraits: the picture is just too soft and lacks any real definition in the face. The iPhone wins this round.

Scene 7

When it comes to selfies, I’m satisfied with all three phones. There isn’t that much of a difference in the color reproduction, while the details and definition are pretty good in all three selfies.

Scene 8

Portrait selfies are generally hard as the phone has to rely on a single camera and algorithms to judge what should be in focus and what should be blurred with that sweet artificial bokeh. What comes off as a pleasant surprise is that all three phones have done an excellent job at separating my ill-shaped head from the complex background. Great!

Conclusion

Despite its affordable price tag, the $729 OnePlus 9 can definitely holds its own against the more expensive Galaxy S21 and iPhone 12 Pro. Surely, there are differences in the color reproduction in some scenarios, but generally speaking, a OnePlus 9 will do a good job against its famed adversaries.

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