OnePlus smartphones have traditionally been decent performers when it comes to the camera so I expected it to do better over the ZenFone 5Z, given Asus’s past with cameras (which was not too great).
To my surprise it did better and since I could not afford to take a deep dive with the camera in my review of the flagship smartphone. Its high-time we came to a conclusion as to which low cost flagship shoots better pictures and better video as well.
But first, let’s dive into the specifications.
The OnePlus 6 offers a 16 MP + 20 MP camera setup with both cameras featuring a f/1.7 aperture. The front-facing camera also offers a 16 MP unit but a f/2.0 aperture. The 16 MP camera get OIS and the camera setup gets a PDAF system for autofocus.
On the Asus ZenFone 5Z things a tad bit different. You get a 12 MP + 8 MP sensor setup with a f/1.8 aperture on the 12 MP camera and a f/2.0 aperture on the on the 8 MP camera. The 12 MP camera set OIS and the system use PDAF for autofocus.
One detail to note here is that the Asus ZenFone 5Z received a software update after launch which significantly improved it jittery video problem. So this comparison is based on the latest software available on both smartphones.
And now for the good stuff.
Both the OnePlus 6 and the ZenFone 5Z were quick to focus in most daylight conditions and both were a bit slow in low light or extremely dim lighting conditions. Both still managed to lock focus a second later.
The OnePlus however did have some problems with focussing at closer objects in portrait scenes. Hold up your hand against a landscape shot and despite tapping to focus (about 4 times), the OnePlus simply refuses to budge. This was not a problem on the ZenFone 5Z which was comfortable clicking subjects up close.
Shooting portrait photos during the dull Mumbai monsoons, forced the OnePlus to pump up the saturation levels by quite a bit. Still then, they were not abnormally high so the photos ended up looking livelier than over saturated. But there was a strong yellow tone to the photos which some may not prefer.
The ZenFone managed to produce more realistic and natural colours, but the photos did not look all that appealing in comparison to the OnePlus 6. As mentioned in my review, Asus loses some points for the lacking dynamic range, but thankfully its HDR mode comes to the rescue. OnePlus pulled off HDR beautifully in comparison to the so the photos often looked well exposed.
Asus definitely clicks the sharper photos out of the two smartphones, so if you are looking for details and better overall sharpness, then the ZenFone 5Z pulls them off a lot better, both outdoors and indoors under artificial lighting.
Moving to Portrait mode (or the Depth effect), both the ZenFone and the OnePlus were on par with each other when it came to edge detection. Again, the ZenFone produced sharper looking pictures, while the OnePlus blurred out all the textures like it was programmed to do it. Still, the OnePlus managed to produce better-looking photos, which looked warmer while Asus chose the cooler tones.
In dim lighting conditions, both smartphones were nowhere close to the stuff we have seen on flagship devices like the Samsung Galaxy S9+ and the Huawei P20 Pro. But if you haven’t used either of these premium flagships you won’t be disappointed.
The OnePlus 6 manages to pull off slightly better results with more details, but it’s not a big leap over the ZenFone 5Z.
The wide-angle factor
Unlike the OnePlus 6, the Asus ZenFone 5Z packs in a 120-degree wide angle lens on the 8 MP camera. While I appreciate that Asus managed to make the secondary camera useful, the results are just passable and will work well only when shared on social media. Don’t even try shooting using the wide-angle lens in low light.
In my review of the ZenFone 5Z, I mentioned how the videos shot on the smartphone looked jittery thanks to the unsure autofocus that kept on jumping back and forth or rather could not transition smoothly from frame to frame. (You can check out the Flickr Gallery below for samples).
Post the software update, things turned out to be a lot smoother. But the Asus ZenFone 5Z still cannot match the smooth video output of the OnePlus 6. Again the video seemed a bit dull overall so I’m pretty sure it still needs some work.
If you love warmer photos which smoothen out all the details, then OnePlus 6 is a better choice for you.
If you love the details, then the Asus ZenFone 5Z is a better choice.
While Asus does deliver better details in its photos, it’s the OnePlus that’s the winner here, that delivers better photos and great video recording experience.