OnePlus 5 vs. Samsung Galaxy S8 camera comparison: Playing catch-up

OnePlus 5 and Galaxy S8
OnePlus 5 and Galaxy S8

OnePlus has consistently nailed the core experience of a high-end smartphone, over-achieving its price in so many ways. But one area where it felt more native to its price point was the camera — but the OnePlus 5 is designed to change that. Even though it is notably less expensive than the flagship competition, the OnePlus 5 will constantly be compared to the top-end phones available today. It's when you start to compare cameras, especially, that the battle gets tough: the past two years have seen fantastic improvements in smartphone cameras at the high end.

Millions of people are familiar with how the Galaxy S8 takes photos, and it's well-regarded as having a consistently good camera in a variety of ways. If the OnePlus 5 can beat — or even just match — the likes of the Galaxy S8, it's going to be in great shape to pick up sales as people look for the best value in a smartphone that includes a great camera. This is how the two compared in our testing.

Daylight photos

OnePlus 5 (left) / Galaxy S8 (right) — click to view larger

When viewing these photos at typical size embedded in a webpage, it isn't easy to pick out differences. That's a good sign for OnePlus, as it shows the OnePlus 5 can put out nice-looking photos what are generally indiscernible from a leading smartphone at a glance.

You have to zoom in pretty tightly to see differences in these photos.

Once you zoom in and start to nitpick a little bit, you can see where the Galaxy S8 does things a bit better. The GS8's photos easily have sharper edges and finer detail when you start to closely inspect them. In most cases, it doesn't really come across in the end product viewed at a typical size (especially when just viewed on a phone) — but sometimes you just get a sense of the GS8's photos being crisper than the OnePlus 5's.

You'll notice from the photos above that the Galaxy S8 still tends to take warmer photos, and although the OnePlus 5's color balance seems better it doesn't have quite the brightness and saturation that the Galaxy S8 does. That's a bit more of a personal preference ... but in general, the average smartphone buyer enjoys the look of those punchy, extra-contrast shots the Galaxy S8 tends to take.

Low light photos

OnePlus 5 (left) / Galaxy S8 (right) — click to view larger

Switching to low-light photos, you can more easily see differences in the output of these cameras at a typical size before even zooming in. The Galaxy S8 on average takes sharper, clearer photos when the lights get dim. When you start to inspect the photos more closely, you'll see the OnePlus 5 has a considerable amount of grain to low-light photos that the Galaxy S8 manages to avoid through a combination of a lower ISO and better overall processing.

The Galaxy S8 is still better in low light, but the gap is narrowing.

Of course you'll notice once again the Galaxy S8's photos are warmer than the OnePlus 5's, but in many low-light scenes that warm color is a bit more accurate to the scene. In some cases it felt like the OnePlus 5 was again too cool in its color temperature adjustment. Having a warmer color temperature is a fine trade off in this case, considering how much sharper the fine details in dark scenes are in most photos compared to the OnePlus 5.

Though it doesn't quite match the Galaxy S8, I'm rather impressed by the OnePlus 5's ability to take solid photos in bad lighting conditions considering its small 1.12-micron pixels and lack of OIS — but if you look at the photos with a critical eye you do notice some of its shortcomings. In some very dark scenes it took multiple shots to get an acceptable one, as it's easier to reach a point where the ISO has to go too high and the shutter speed just can't go any lower without OIS. Considering the fact that the OnePlus 5 isn't that far off from the pace here, it's conceivable that improvements could be made with some software updates. Let's hope it gets tweaked in the future.

Bottom line

OnePlus 5 and Galaxy S8

The OnePlus 5 takes an admirable swing at reaching a leading camera like the Galaxy S8's, but ultimately doesn't quite get there. Daylight shots are just about neck-and-neck, with the tie-breakers being your personal preference on how the Galaxy S8 tends to over-warm and over-saturate photos and where the OnePlus 5 ends up being a little softer and dimmer. The real separator is low light shots, where the GS8 on average takes a clearer, better-balanced photo — the OnePlus 5 does admirably, but doesn't have the processing (or the hardware, frankly) to perfectly match it.

The Galaxy S8 has a better camera, but the OnePlus 5 is close and has a few extra features, too.

Aside from the main cameras compared here, let's also remember that the OnePlus 5 packs a complete secondary camera that offers a longer focal length for interesting shots and a Portrait Mode that gives you unique background blurring in certain photos. Whether or not those additions bring the entire OnePlus 5 camera experience up to the level of the Galaxy S8 for you is a good question to ask when comparing the two.

The fact that this is a relatively close competition should be taken as a good thing from the perspective of OnePlus, as the OnePlus 5 is over $200 less than the Galaxy S8. It's completely reasonable to see the OnePlus 5's camera capabilities — to say nothing of all its other great qualities — and say it's darn well close enough to the Galaxy S8 that the extra $200+ isn't worth the small improvement.

Andrew was an Executive Editor, U.S. at Android Central between 2012 and 2020.

59 Comments
  • There are no photos visible in the android app
  • A bug we're aware of and working on trying to fix. Our apologies.
  • Good deal, thanks!
  • They work in my s8
  • If they need models then this is a S7 edge where it doesn't work.
  • Works on Pixel
  • Working on the G6.
  • Honestly, I don't get why sites like The Verge are criticizing the camera. Worse than the S8 yes, but still v good.
  • Competition is tight, but they still have to call what's better than another.
  • I wouldn't even use the word "worse". Seriously, these tech sites are getting really nitpicking; you show these photos to the average user such as my dad and he'll say they all look great. As long as the camera takes decent pics, I'm fine. However, I rarely take pics so the camera isn't a big deal to me. I believe the reason why the OnePlus 5's camera is being criticized so much is because OnePlus touted it so heavily, claiming it to be the best on the market. That unfortunately puts a bullseye on them because if it isn't, that welcomes criticism. But, people acts as if software updates don't exist. With time, the camera will get better.
  • Well, when you look at the OnePlus 2 and OnePlus X, software updates actually don't exist.
    Some critical bugs (like the camera on the OPX) still haven't been fixed, and they will never receive Nougat... I wouldn't really rely on OP when it comes to software updates...
  • I know what you mean, but I think it's at least partly Oneplus' own fault. They're the ones that called attention to the camera... They made a big deal about how great it is, and it turns out it isn't, it's just a pretty good camera, nothing that special. Emily Ratakowski is the one I really feel bad for... She seemed so invested. And I'm sure she doesn't really use an iPhone.
  • It was probably because it was so heavily touted as a headline feature (it's even on the box) but ended up being underwhelming. It's not that it was bad. It's just really underwhelming in comparison to what was hyped about.
  • Exactly. Downplay in the marketing then wow in the execution. So few companies do it. There's a saving here, I don't know if you have it "all mouth and no trousers". Luckily I don't really care about the camera, I'm that specwhore they were so dismissive of lol.
  • I'd personally rather have OnePlus focus on the experience than just "megapickelz!" and "DAT RAM!", but that's just me. And that's how OnePlus rolls, so they probably won't be changing anytime soon.
  • They've pretty much had the user experience bang on for a while, though... Not a great deal to be done. I do like pickles.
  • Well, not that sort of UX. The other part. And meh. I'm not a big pickle person.
  • Probably due to the extreme low light (and no flash) pictures that aren't shown here.
  • I will just say that when it is Soooo difficult to spot Big differences at first sight between the two photos, then both are equal...Sooo Oneplus 5 is better value for money and you save $$$...and no I dont have to zoom to spot the best camera.
  • How much revenue does "The Verge" or any of it's related sites gets from Samsung? I have the 8+ and both seem to be good shooters and if one is looking side by side and up sizing or using a loop or some digital equivalent, differences are moot.
  • Zero? I mean they get clicks and therefore advertising revenue for one of the most popular devices, but the major blogs do not receive any revenue from the OEM's in exchange for reviews, coverage, etc.
  • I guess my eyes are getting bad. Not much of a difference. All modern smartphone cameras will get the job done is the bottom line.
  • That's true, the gap between the top 10 cameras is incredibly small.
  • Absolutely correct. Everybody seems to feel they are a professional photographer taking pics for national geographic these days.
  • That's pretty much how I feel, just need a decent camera on my phone, which most offer. If I needed a really good top flight camera I'd use... Ya know... a camera.
  • Pretty much. It's hard to take a truly bad photo with one. That is, unless you're shaking it vigorously. xD
  • In low light, OIS does provide benefit only for static scene. Any movement in frame, kids, dog, your friends, birds, you name it and you get blurry shot. Better to enhance shooting capabilities without OIS. I like Google Pixel and OP 5 way, it is more flexible and useful.
  • Please make another comparison, or at least include in this one pictures of moving objects! It would be also nice to see for other camera focused mobile phones how they deal with moving objects in low light, if they lock focus fast and correctly, how blurry will be resulting photo. Compared to OP5 and S8 :)
  • THIS. All of these sites only compare stills, which only re-iterates that all mobile cameras these days are very similar.
  • Including moving prictures would make a better camparison indeed. Since family photo's are hardly always of people doing the mannequin challenge. I'm keen to see these additions to this article!
  • Once again, don't let the hype cloud reality. The OP5 camera is a solid shooter, but it isn't going to be clearer or whatever. It's just pretty solid. I still think they should've gone with a sensor with a lower native resolution for larger pixels, but that's just me.
  • The S8 trounces OP5 in clarity, and I personally prefer the S8's warmer temperature. But is the difference worth an extra $200? Not to me.
  • Compare apples to apples, purchase direct from manufacturer to direct from manufacture. The Samsung is less expensive. In fact if you look at the 1+5 on Amazon (Only US distributor other than 1+5) their is NO price difference. There are lots of other features like Larger screen, with Much higher resolution, Water resistance, SDXC memory, etc that makes the Samsung S8 a MUCH better Value. Samsung is selling the S8 direct on the web for $625 less at least $200 trade in,
    I also believe that the S8 photos are clearly much sharper, with better contrast than the 1+5. The 1+5 are good but do no compare easily. The Video image stabilization is an other photo advantage of the S8 that you overlooked.
  • I think the OP5 has a good enough camera. I have both the S7, and S8, and to me, there is not much of a difference. Accept the S7 has more modes to play with. The one plus 5 can keep up pretty good, considering its not an over priced flagship! I think it has a lot to do with the situation of the shot your taking, and personal preference. I wouldn't worry about the OP5s picture quality, the photos looked as good as the S8 in most cases. I think Samsung could have done a better job on the 8, a duel camera system should have been used for the S8. It is not a bad camera still, but this is how they string you along. Most all the flagship and even the high end midrange phones are packing great cameras. Thats good for everyone.
  • Not sure about the US but here in Europe we had already quite a few deals where the unlocked S8 was available for about 530€. Just 30€ more than the OnePlus 5
  • I think the S8 has the better camera especially with respect to detail. But I don't like the punched up sharpness and contrast. I think the OP5 does better at creating photos that preserve dynamic range and will allow me to make better pics in touch up later although I'd have to have RAWs to compare. The S8 just seems to work too hard to create artificial pop to satisfy the average person while also providing us with a nice camera. I feel that for phone viewing, the differences are negligible, but if I have time to work on the pic and improve the final product myself for more careful viewing the OP5 might be better. I'm torn between the S8's detail and the OP5's more natural white balance and potentially better dynamic range. But I would need RAW files to verify these conjectures as they're just guesses at this point.
  • Can you please do a U11/OP5 comparison?
  • I see OP5 copies the Apple yellow hue in their photos as well. Not my taste at all.
  • Bottom line is the S8 does with one camera what the Oneplus 5 still can't achieve with two cameras...everyone's missing that small detail. Oneplus 5 has a higher megapixel count on 2 cameras and the S8 still edges it with lesser megapixels on ONE camera. If the camera wasn't what the advertisements pushed at the front of the campaign (along with what was found to be altered benchmarks) then maybe they get brownie points for TRYING to pull it off.
  • Not a fair comparison. Try taking photos with the s8 at 2x "digital" zoom then compare it to the Oneplus 5's secondary camera. The only time both cameras are used is in the portrait mode.
  • I'm sorry but what's wrong with the OP5 camera? Those shots look great. Other than the heavy processing that Samsung uses shot for shot they're extremely close. Then again i'm the guy who thinks all / most cellphone cameras are equal.
  • It's just nerds complaining
  • Yeah, and not one of them can take a good pic if their life depended on it. My buds with iphones and the GS8 and GS7 all praise my OP3 pics. Heck, they did the same thing when I have my MotoXP too.
  • Well, tbh, I am the type of guy who tends to view photos on a large calibrated display. You won't notice the difference when they're uploaded to social media services due to the lossy compression they employ. But I've seen the photos quite closely from multiple sources and I can't help but feel let down considering how hyped this camera was. Is it a good camera? Yes. But as good as it was hyped to me? Sorry, but I don't think it is. It's just a solid shooter that won't disappoint most casual shooters. And while that's fine, the hype made it less so.
  • You can't please everyone. Both of these cameras are top notch. If you think otherwise you are wrong. Samsung is indeed slightly better, but they did a great job for under 500. Well done OP
  • Camera shutter speed? Which is faster? Can One plus 5 take speedy photos in lowlight?
  • I'm actually pretty impressed.
  • Hi guys, can you not please link to the full-size images? At these resolutions it's hard to draw any conclusions
  • Doesn't work in Chrome, but does work with edge, haven't other browsers.
  • I noticed in the launch event they didn't mention DxOMark which they had been talking about before
  • The big differences are in real lowlight photos at night no in the afternoon even before sunset. And in movement recording video, try to take video running with the OP 5... when the OIS make a big difference. As posted before by others, you can find the S8 for 530 euros and the dual sim for 550 euros. Few more euros giving you waterproof with warranty to take photos in the swimming pool for example, OIS, expandable storage, heart rate monitor, iris scanner, 5.8 " Super Amoled HDR 10 1440 x 2960 px and up to 618 nits in auto mode, only 435 in OP 5. More compact even with bigger display, modern design and good in durability test too. All that cheaper than the OP 5 8Gb or 30-50 more than the Op 6Gb. And if you even want more, there are in the horizont, in few months newer models incoming like Nokia 9, Note 8, Mix 2, Z3 Ultra, Axon 8... in a wide range of prices that can bring more with the SD 836 and new things.
  • In USA (possibly other countries) Samsung have a trade-in offer on their website wherein you can trade-in any used smartphone for a credit, and purchase either a new unlocked S8 for $425 or the S8+ for $525. (This offer apparently started the same day the OP5 was released. ]
  • I appreciate how tech has come along, the convenience of a camera in your phone is great! And improves - but until they start shooting full movies TV shows documentaries weddings etc. Like it's so not that serious - the convenience matches the value - if I'm serious about photography I'm going to buy a device whose sole intent IS photography - your phone is a communication device FIRST so keep that in mind when you complain
  • I think for $200 extra, S8 worth it, better camera, design, water proof, screen, microSD, etc...
  • How to transpose Left/Right to Top/down ?
  • Bottom Line: Samsung is still ripping you off.
  • Please in detail explain your comment "...ripping you off".
  • I don't like both of the phones, as they offer no improvement over the Mate 9, but i would take S8 over OnePlus 5 any day, it has much much more features and with latest discounts, it's a better value than the average OnePlus 5, i would take One3T over the 5 if it is cheaper.
  • I feel like the mate 9 is better at stills than both of these. But I lean towards the op5 shots on most of these comparisons. They don't look all plastic and like someone slapped Instagram filters all over them.