Over the course of the last 6 months or so, it’s clear that OPPO has a new mantra when it comes to smartphone’s cameras. The camera evolution is rather obvious, but it tells us more than just a simple “transformation”.

We’ve seen the OPPO F1s being the first to helm OPPO’s new camera-focused mantra, starting with selfies. That was their first step to a series of camera improvements made towards OPPO’s lineup of smartphones.

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The OPPO F1s has a f/2.0 lens for its selfie camera.

Their second effort in making smartphone cameras better is on the recently-announced OPPO R9s. We’ve reviewed the R9s here, and then delved further into its rear-facing camera in this showcase. We even compared it to the Samsung Galaxy A7 (2017)’s camera here. Needless to say, there were quite a lot of misunderstood points regarding the OPPO R9s, and cameras in general.

Now, I know many people will just take a smartphone these days, launch the camera app and start taking pictures. That works – but you won’t get the most value out of what you’re paying for. This applies to all smartphones in the market today, by the way.

A little technical introduction

Cameras are made out of a few parts. There are 3 main components that we focus on today – the lens quality, aperture, the sensor itself.

Similar to what DSLRs have, we take a look at the glass quality used as the lens. Better lens means better picture quality, and by better quality, I mean that the lens does not hinder the image quality. Imagine a piece of glass that has a foggy look right out of the factory. I wouldn’t want that as my camera’s lens!

Then there’s the aperture.  It’s rather straight forward here and generally described as the size of the hole that lets light enter. Having a much smaller aperture number means a larger amount of light can enter through the lens and into the sensor, resulting in better low-light image quality.

OPPO R9s

To determine what’s a good aperture size, then have a look at how aperture numbers are displayed in the first place. Following the correct format on how aperture size is written is f/X.X, where the X.X is the aperture number. Keep in mind that the numbers are inverted, that means aperture f/1.9 has a larger hole than f/2.8.

OPPO & Camera Evolution - Current Progress & What's Next 2
A simple illustration of aperture and its numbering by PixeLarge.

While a smaller aperture number means larger hole to let more light in, it introduces a side effect. That side effect affects the depth of field, and thus you can create more intensely-blurred bokeh images with a lens that has smaller aperture number. OPPO R9s has an aperture of f/1.7, which is actually very suitable for bokeh purposes.

OPPO & Camera Evolution - Current Progress & What's Next 3
Effects of aperture size shown by PetaPixel.

Then comes the sensor. It’s  simple. A better sensor gives better image quality, less noise, and better overall image. There’s another part to the sensor called the ISP, or image signal processor, which ultimately dictates the speed of images taken.

In terms of camera evolution, this can only get better over time.

OPPO’s current technological advancement

It’s quite obvious to a technical guy like me that OPPO is doing something out of the ordinary. Instead of going towards to more conventional route of stuffing sensors to help improve the camera performance, OPPO went ahead and make changes to how the sensor and its autofocusing algorithm works.

OPPO R9s

Introducing their specially-designed Sony IMX398 sensor with a special feature called Dual-PDAF. PDAF by itself means phase-detection autofocus. As light travels in a waveform, mathematical calculations can be done to find that sweet focus point. Dual-PDAF takes a step further by combining a self-checking system. I presume it to be superimposing two light waves with different phases and make the necessary adjustments to align then properly. From what I’ve tested, it does make a difference compared to the usual single-PDAF systems.

I’m surprised that someone can actually think of such a method to improve PDAF’s performance rather than adding more sensors onto the phone itself. This is camera evolution but in a very different way.

You can have a look at the images we’ve taken with the OPPO R9s right here.

On a side note, OPPO’s inclusion of the Ultra HD feature is a really fun mode to play around. It’s not a new feature – we know, as we’ve seen this feature first on the ASUS ZenFone 2. However, this is a very scarce feature that’s not found in many smartphones.

What about the future?

As of now, OPPO is heading in a direction of its own and it’s something special. Remember that “5x Dual-Camera Zoom” that OPPO announced during MWC2017? That’s actually quite an innovative feature. Let me tell you why.

MWC2017 OPPO 5x Dual-Camera Zoom

In truth, OPPO’s idea isn’t 100% original. However, they took ideas from other manufacturers and made improvements to the camera module. The first piece of the puzzle is the dual-lens system. It is made out of two different lenses – one wide-angle lens and the other is a telephoto lens. This gives you the best of both worlds, right? Actually, more than that.

The second piece of this puzzle comes from its periscope-like zoom lens a la the ASUS ZenFone Zoom that we’ve reviewed here. The periscope lens can have a 3x lossless optical zoom and then coupled with another 2x lossless digital zoom. I’m not sure how digital zoom can be lossless, but if what OPPO tells us is true, then I’ll be in awe for sure.

MWC2017 OPPO 5x Dual-Camera Zoom

What’s not mentioned much in this 5x Dual-Camera Zoom system is the OIS technology. OPPO claims that the mechanisms can compensate and adjust its angle in increments of 0.0025°! This is a very clear sign that OPPO’s camera evolution is heading towards a not-so-conventional route while coping for two completely different uses of a smartphone camera into one module.

Like I’ve said before, OPPO is not the first to create these features, but they’re the first one ever to cramp everything into a single camera module with a 5.7mm thinness. While the 5x Dual-Camera Zoom system is still not available in any purchasable OPPO smartphone yet, the future is certainly clear for OPPO.


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