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OnePlus 8T vs Pixel 5: which has the better camera?

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The OnePlus 8T and Pixel 5 are two of the newest contenders in the Android flagship market. Mobile photographers looking for a new phone might be considering these two phones, as they’re similarly priced at $750 and $700, respectively. They’re also both phones that appeal to users that like a minimal Android experience, and they both have ultrawide and wide lenses, but lack a proper telephoto one.

Google is coming into this race with the lead, often praised for of best smartphone camera. But OnePlus has been making substantial improvements throughout the years to cement its status as a flagship player, and in terms of raw specs, it has a clear advantage.

The Pixel 5 uses similar, if not identical sensors to the ones in the Pixel 4, this time switching the telephoto lens for an ultrawide. The 12MP, 1/2.55″ primary camera pales in comparison to the 48MP, 1/2″ inch camera in the OnePlus 8T. The latter is both sharper and can capture much more light. But of course, Google’s advantage is in its computational photography — software is essentially the entire reason to own a Pixel device.

I spent a couple of days shooting with both phones and found the cameras were quite competitive with each other.

This isn’t meant to be a scientific comparison, and I’ve only had the phones for a few days, so take my impressions with a grain of salt. Still, these photos should hopefully provide some perspective on which shooter is right for you.

Some notes: I am mostly using the phones in auto mode with the primary camera, unless otherwise specified. I might occasionally adjust the exposure of the images too, as this is what I do when I’m normally taking photos,  and I wanted to use the phones as I would in real life.

#1 – Primary camera

OnePlus 8T:

Pixel 5:

We start with a pretty high-contrast scene for the primary camera, which both phones handle with aplomb. Both phones show a similar detail resolution, exposure, and dynamic range. I prefer the slightly warmer colors and deeper blue sky on the Pixel 5’s image, but the OnePlus 8T is a little punchier.

Those are common trends we’ll see in these images, at least in the daytime.

#2 – Same scene, but in ultrawide

OnePlus 8T:

Pixel 5:

Again, very similar performance, and it could go either way. Pixel peepers may notice the OnePlus appears to be appling heavier noise correction to the dark regions, but it’s unlikely to be a big deal for casual image-viewing.

#3 – 2x zoom

Neither phone has an proper telephoto lens, so here’s how the phones compare when using digital zoom at the default 2x level.

OnePlus 8T:

Pixel 5:

Again, both phones appear quite similar, showing they’re fine doing a light amount of zoom, although the OnePlus appears just a little sharper, as one might expect from the higher native megapixel count. However, Google appears to have done a better job on white balance and exposure.

#4 – Direct sunlight, high contrast, ultra-wide

OnePlus 8T:

Pixel 5:

This is a challenging scene that really shows how far mobile photography has come. A few years ago, either the sky would’ve been completely blown out, or the shadows would be crushed in trying to retain some highlight detail.

Both phones handle the scene excellently, although once again the Pixel has slightly warmer, while the OnePlus image is less washed out. OnePlus takes this one, for me.

That said, it’s also worth noting the Pixel has a trick up its sleeve. The phone has sliders for both exposure and shadows during shooting, altering image processing at the source. It gives you a lot of creative freedom on the fly.

While the following image is washed out, it shows how much shadow detail you can recover on the Pixel 5:

#5 – Portrait mode, dog

This is my dog, Ozzie. She does not like to sit still for posing, so framing isn’t exactly identical.

OnePlus 8T:

Pixel 5:

If you enjoy shooting in portrait mode, in my experience, the Pixel 5 is by far the better option. What’s not shown above how many successful shots I got with the Pixel 5 compared to the OnePlus. It took me several tries to get one useable shot with the latter, while the Pixel 5 nailed it every time.

It’s a shame, because OnePlus has a dedicated depth camera just for these purposes. However, whether photographing humans or animals, it is deathly slow to kick in, and you have to wait for the ‘depth effect’ sign to light up before you take the shot, or else the feature won’t kick in.

It also has a greater tendency towards a blurry foreground, and the images seem to be lower quality than when shooting in normal mode overall:

No such trouble with the Pixel 5, it worked virtually every time every time:

#6 – Portrait mode, selfie camera

OnePlus 8T:

I don’t know what my face is doing here.

Pixel 5:

The OnePlus 8T slightly over-exposed this scene image with intense backlighting, while the Pixel 5 slightly under-exposed it. The latter does a better job of selecting around my hair, although it commits the classic error of not blurring out a segment of the image.

Here again, I appreciate the Pixel’s independent highlight and shadow controls. But new to the Pixel 5 is the Portrait Light effect, which uses AI to change the lighting in a portrait photo. As if showing off, Google doesn’t even require it to be a photo actually taken on the Pixel 5.

Here’s an old picture of me without a mask for the full effect. It’s bonkers:

 #7 – Indoors,  backlighting, Captain America

OnePlus 8T:

Pixel 5:

While the phones tend to expose things similarly, in difficult lighting situations, the Pixel 5 seemed to gravitate towards protecting more highlights, while the OnePlus 5T seemed more concerned with proper lighting on the subject. On balance, I think OnePlus takes this one.

#8 – Max Zoom

Here are some tower thingies:

Say you want to see the top of the right tower. Neither phone has a proper telephoto camera, so which does a better job of digital zoom?

OnePlus 8T:

Pixel 5:

Neither phone can compare with a good telephoto lens, but despite its far lower resolution, the Pixel 5 appears to resolve more detail at its maximum zoom setting. Even though the OnePlus appears to zoom closer at first glance, closer inspection shows less detail on the bricks and aliasing along edges.

#9 Macro

The OnePlus 8T has a dedicated macro camera, so how much closer can it actually get to your subject?

OnePlus 8T:

Pixel 5:

No contest on this one. If you’re into pointing your phone at tiny things, OnePlus takes the W.

#10 – Low Light, standard camera

OnePlus 8T:

Pixel 5:

By default, Google wins this one easily, because it activates Night Sight automatically. However, OnePlus says an update will arrive to activate its Nightscape mode automatically as well. Here’s the OnePlus again, this time with Nightscape:

Google still wins this one, though things get closer. We also see some of the daylight trends reverse at night. At night, the Pixel 5 tends to be a little cooler, while OnePlus 8T is warmer. Likewise, Google tends to be a little brighter, and OnePlus a little darker.

From here on out, I’ll be using Nightscape on the OnePlus 8T, as it’s more representative of what users will use in the long term.

#11 – Low light, primary camera

OnePlus 8T:

Pixel 5:

Google’s Night Sight tends to be brighter and more vibrant in general. It makes for prettier photos, and Google has little trouble keeping up with the OnePlus’ larger sensor. I think Google’s rendering is more pleasing, but you can argue OnePlus’ approach is more true to life.

#12 – Low light, ultrawide

OnePlus 8T:

Pixel 5:

OnePlus exposed this scene better, and the colors were more true to life. The Pixel image is a also a little blurrier when zooming in.

#13 – Low light, primary camera

OnePlus 8T:

Pixel 5:

Both cameras did a great job here, though you can see again the OnePlus trends warmer at night — and probably a little more true to life in this photo.

#13 – High contrast, moving leaves ultrawide

OnePlus:

Pixel 5:

A tricky lighting situation that I think the Pixel handled a little better. It also freezed the moving leaves better as well.

#14 – High contrast, primary

Pixel 5:

I prefer the warmer colors on the Pixel, but OnePlus wins overall for the punchier details in the leaves and slightly better dynamic range.

Extras

Here are some more photos for you to feast your eyes on.

OnePlus 8T:

And the Pixel 5:

The shooting experience

The main thing I noticed shooting with these two cameras is that they are more similar than different. I was impressed with both devices for different reasons: the Pixel 5 for how well its relatively small sensor manages to keep up, and the OnePlus 8T for how far it’s come from a few years ago.

The OnePlus 8T captures images with excellent dynamic range, solid color rendering, and punchy-but-tasteful contrast. Its images are also slightly sharper and less noisy than the Pixels on the whole, and OnePlus’ Nightscape mode is basically just as good as Google’s Night Mode, if a little less consistent.

I think photographers will be happy with either camera, but my personal inclination is towards the Pixel.

It felt a little more responsive in use, despite the slower processor, and I prefer the Pixel’s slightly warmer daytime rendering. Then there are the unique Pixel features, like the shadow exposure slider and portrait relighting, which are two of my favorite features in a smartphone camera, and which have a major effect on how the images I end up sharing will look. In portrait mode, the Pixel also has an easy win.

But it’s also worth noting I’m biased — I’ve been using a Pixel as my primary phone since the original. Even though the company has barely improved its camera hardware since then, I’m drawn to its rendering and unique features.

Which camera do you think won?

For more gear, gadget, and hardware news and reviews, follow Plugged on Twitter and Flipboard.

Published October 15, 2020 — 19:33 UTC

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T-Mobile expands into live internet TV with new TVision streaming service

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After years of anticipation, T-Mobile is finally getting into the live TV business with the launch of a new internet-based streaming service called TVision, launching on November 1st.

To be clear: TVision isn’t using the fiber-optic-based IPTV technology that it acquired alongside Layer3 back in 2017. It’s a traditional over-the-top streaming service that simply streams live television over the internet, just like YouTube TV, Hulu’s live TV service, Fubo TV, Sling TV, or (in perhaps the closest analogy) AT&T TV. But what sets TVision apart is its pricing, which aims to offer lower costs and more flexibility than its competitors.

To that end, TVision is broken up into a few different products. There’s the $40-per-month TVision Live, which offers the most traditional cable TV line. It’s focused largely on providing news and sports, including channels like ABC, NBC, and Fox (although notably, not CBS), news networks like CNBC, CNN, ABC News, and Fox News, along with sports-focused channels like FS1, FS2, ESPN, and NBC Sports. Additionally, TVision Live includes general cable fare like the Disney Channel, Cartoon Network, SyFy, TBS, TNT, USA, and Bravo.

There are also two additional tiers of TVision Live: the $50 Live TV Plus, which adds additional sports channels (including the Big Ten Network, ESPNU, NFL Network, and regional NBC sports channels), and the $60 Live Zone, which adds a few additional channels but whose main draw is NFL RedZone.

All three TVision Live plans also include a cloud-based DVR, which stores up to 100 hours of recordings (and, unlike some streaming services, those recordings are direct from the live TV feed — not on-demand content). TVision Live supports up to three concurrent streams, which means that you’ll be able to share an account with family members, too.

But TVision Live is just a part of TVision. There’s also TVision Vibe — which, at $10 per month for over 30 live channels from AMC, Discovery, and Viacom — might be the most interesting part of T-Mobile’s TV strategy. Channels here include AMC, BBC America, BET, Food Network, HGTV, the Hallmark Channel, MTV, TLC, Comedy Central, and Discovery.

There are a few more limitations here: TVision Vibe only supports up to two concurrent streams, and DVR access costs an extra $5 per month on top of the initial $10 subscription. But if you’re interested in the channels it offers, it’s among the cheapest live TV packages around.

Lastly, there’s TVision Channels, which offers standalone subscriptions to Starz ($8.99 per month), Showtime ($10.99 per month), and Epix ($5.99 per month).

T-Mobile’s TVision services can also be combined. For example, you can subscribe to both TVision Live for a basic set of channels and then add TVision Vibe on top for those additional entertainment-focused channels — just like regular cable.

Those prices certainly impressive, but other TV services, like Fubo or YouTube TV, have offered similarly low prices at their launches, too, only to raise prices considerably as content licensing costs have gone up. It’s not clear yet whether TVision’s various services will manage to avoid a similar fate in the future, despite T-Mobile’s usual rhetoric about offering a different sort of service than its competitors.

TVision will be available on a variety of platforms, including iOS, Android, Apple TV, Android TV, Amazon Fire, and Google TV. (Notably absent on that list is Roku, which won’t be available, at least at launch, or any way to watch on a computer.) T-Mobile is also offering the $50 TVision Hub, a 4K Android TV dongle that’s been customized to offer a more integrated TVision experience.

To start, TVision will be available just to T-Mobile postpaid wireless customers starting on November 1st. Sprint customers will get access later in November, with the service opening up to all customers sometime in 2021.

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Facebook India’s controversial policy chief has resigned

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India’s ET Now is reporting that Ankhi Das, the Facebook policy chief for India, has resigned her position after months of escalating pressure from activists. Das told ET she was leaving the company to pursue public service.

Facebook India has struggled to respond to the growing threat of hate speech against Muslims, often preceding horrific acts of mob violence. Facebook had been slow to take action against many of the Hindu nationalist groups responsible for the violence, leading to concerns that the company was repeating the mistakes that preceded similar violence in Myanmar and Sri Lanka.

In September, a coalition of human rights groups sent an open letter calling for Das’ resignation in response to the growing threat of violence. “Facebook should not be complicit in more offline violence, much less another genocide, but the pattern of inaction displayed by the company is reckless to the point of complicity,” the letter read. “[We] write to urge you to take decisive action to address Facebook India’s bias and failure to address dangerous content in India.” The groups also called for Facebook’s internal review of the issue to be conducted out of the company’s California offices, rather than in India where Das might have more influence.

Das also courted criticism in her personal behavior, aligning herself with the ruling BJP party and openly confronting critics. In August, she filed a criminal complaint against a string of critics, alleging that their posts constituted criminal intimidation. The complaint was extreme enough to draw criticism from the international Committee to Protect Journalists, which saw the charges as a potential threat to the free press.

In a farewell note to employees, obtained by TechCrunch, Das praised Facebook and its founder. “Thank you, Mark for creating something beautiful for the world,” Das wrote. “I hope I have served you and the company well.”

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iPhone 12 vs. 12 Pro: The Vergecast discussion

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Every Tuesday this month, Vergecast co-host Dieter Bohn will host a series of discussions diving deep into tech review season, each focusing on a specific product.

This week, Dieter brings back Vergecast co-host Nilay Patel and Joanna Stern, a senior personal technology columnist at The Wall Street Journal, to discuss their reviews of Apple’s iPhone 12 and iPhone 12 Pro.

The reviews for the latest iteration of Apple’s flagship phone have been out for about a week now. Dieter reviewed the iPhone 12, Nilay reviewed the iPhone 12 Pro, and Joanna reviewed them both side by side.

Dieter walks through what features Joanna and Nilay focused on in their reviews — Joanna’s 5G at a football stadium, Nilay’s Dolby Vision videos — and how significant the upgrades are for this year’s devices.

The crew also gets into the effectiveness of MagSafe, the future of ports on the iPhone, and whether it’s worth waiting to see the iPhone 12 mini and the iPhone 12 Pro Max, both of which come out next month.

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