I compared the OnePlus Open vs Pixel Fold vs Galaxy Z Fold 5 in a low-light camera shootout — here's the winner

OnePlus Open, Galaxy Z Fold 5 and Pixel Fold cameras shown on a table
(Image credit: Future)

I’ve been reviewing OnePlus phones for years now, and while they’ve consistently undercut the competition in price, they’ve often trailed them in the camera department. Low light in particular has been the biggest Achilles' heel for the series. With the OnePlus Open, however, it could be a turning point, thanks in part to its upgraded Hasselblad-backed triple camera system.

In my OnePlus Open review, I was really impressed by how well its main 48MP camera performs against its more direct rivals — the Google Pixel Fold and Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 5 — proving to me it’s the best foldable phone around when you consider the bigger picture. I was even more impressed by the performance of the Open's 64MP telephoto camera with 3x optical zoom, in how it nearly matched the Pixel Fold’s 5x telephoto zoom camera in detail and clarity.

Yet, the true test for the OnePlus Open in earning a place in Tom’s Guide’s best camera phone list  will be in how it performs under extreme low light conditions. I captured several snapshots between all three foldable phones in this three way low-light camera shootout to uncover if OnePlus genuinely improves this aspect of the Open's cameras.

Festive pumpkins

I like how the OnePlus Open handles this shot of these festive pumpkins outside, with the only source of light coming from a nearby porch light. Even though the shot’s a little more underexposed compared to the Pixel Fold, I like how it’s clearer and slightly more saturated in tone. 

However, the Galaxy Z Fold 5 easily produces the best composition with the amount of detail it’s able to capture in the fine details around the pedestal and how it’s slightly brighter.

Winner: Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 5

Candle in the dark

In this high-contrast scene with the candle lit up and surrounded by a festive fall foliage decor, I think the OnePlus Open again delivers a convincing shot. I like how the yellow glow of the candle is prominent, easily standing out more than what the other two phones produce. 

But it’s the Pixel Fold that wins this shot by a small margin because of the sharper details I can make out in the pine cone directly next to the candle.

Winner: Pixel Fold

Cozy looking pine cone

Initially, I think it’s a close three-way tie with this shot of a pine cone candle indoors framed by a little ambient light coming from a lamp in an adjacent room. Upon closer inspection, though, I’m inclined to say that the Galaxy Z Fold 5 draws out more detail — especially when I dial into the  patterns of the cone. The Pixel Fold comes close, but the Z Fold 5 has better dynamic range and clarity.

Winner: Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 5

Lit-up neighborhood street

The OnePlus Open again delivers a nice shot of this lit-up neighborhood street, but it still trails what the Pixel Fold and Galaxy Z Fold 5 capture. Most notably, details in the highlights are lost more with the Open’s image — which is noticeable with the porch lights at the home in the far distance. 

I do like how the Z Fold 5 does a better job of handling all this, but the Pixel Fold has the most realistic colors out of the three.

Winner: Tie, Pixel Fold and Galaxy Z Fold 5

The silhouette of tree

This high-contrast scene with the brightly lit home in the middle and a shadowed tree in the foreground is a tough comparison because all three have their strengths and weaknesses. Starting with the OnePlus Open, I like how it retains details in the highlights, but its weather dynamic range performance doesn’t compensate for the shadows, resulting in the foreground being completely dark.

In comparison, the Galaxy Z Fold 5 is the best exposed shot, drawing out the leaves around the tree. But I can see how the highlights are blown out where the light source is coming from on the right side. Meanwhile, the Pixel Fold casts this odd pinkish color tone throughout the shot.

Winner: Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 5

Selfie in the dark

Switching over to the respective front-facing cameras on each phone — by which I mean the ones on the outer screens of each device — I wouldn’t really recommend using any in extreme low-light situations. Even though all three phones attempted to light up my face using their faux-flashes (essentially parts of the outer screen lighting up), they all produced smudgy results.

The OnePlus Open struggles again in this area because it’s the most underexposed image of the three — almost to the point that the entire shot looks dark. That’s not much of a problem for the Pixel Fold and Galaxy Z Fold 5, which are better exposed, but I’m inclined to say that Samsung’s foldable has the better results. That’s mainly because it’s not as noisy in the shadows.

Winner: Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 5

Good ol' backyard tree in pitch black

And finally, there’s my ultimate test with the tree in my backyard. It’s the photo I capture consistently with all of my phone reviews because it gives me an idea of a camera phone’s low light performance in pitch black darkness. I also captured this shot using respective night modes on all three foldables — something that requires complete stillness for several seconds.

I will say that the OnePlus Open rivals the Pixel Fold’s Night Sight mode, which is impressive because Google’s dedicated night mode has been renowned for its performance. I like the Open’s shot better because the Pixel Fold casts this strange reddish hue to the entire shot. 

However, the Galaxy Z Fold 5 is the superior of the three with its bright image, which draws out details in the shadows that I can’t see with the other two phones.

Winner: Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 5

Low-light video performance

For some strange reason, the exposure is better with the OnePlus Open when using its camera to capture video. I think the Open's 4K 30 fps video capture performance is pretty good, given the added complications of shooting video in low light.  

I find it stranger that the Pixel Fold comes out the worst with its almost pitch black capture and muddy details. The Fold 5 has the best looking footage in this particular contest.

Winner: Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 5

OnePlus Open vs. Pixel Fold vs. Galaxy Z Fold 5: low-light photography verdict

OnePlus Open held in the hand.

(Image credit: Future)

It’s an easy win for the Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 5 in this low light camera shootout. In each and every situation, Samsung's Fold frequently produces the brightest image with sharp details. I think it’s a little too aggressive with its over-sharpening at times, but it definitely captures a lot more detail.

OnePlus has come far in the camera department, but there’s still a lot that can be done to bridge the gap in its low light camera performance. I’m not saying it’s a total wash for the phone, since it can still achieve good results by leveraging its manual controls and other shooting modes.

Take for example the astrophotography shot in the gallery above I captured with the OnePlus Open using its dedicated night mode to capture the stars in the night sky. Even with a slower shutter speed, I like how the stars remain clear and don’t streak. In other low light photos I took by the beachside, the main camera can certainly handle high-contrast scenes very well at night. 

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John Velasco
Senior Channel Editor for Phones

John’s a senior editor covering phones for Tom’s Guide. He’s no stranger in this area having covered mobile phones and gadgets since 2008 when he started his career. On top of his editor duties, he’s a seasoned videographer being in front and behind the camera producing YouTube videos. Previously, he held editor roles with PhoneArena, Android Authority, Digital Trends, and SPY. Outside of tech, he enjoys producing mini documentaries and fun social clips for small businesses, enjoying the beach life at the Jersey Shore, and recently becoming a first time homeowner.

  • awr156
    Are we really still calling them "camera phones"? Do they even make phones without cameras anymore?
  • astrokrab
    awr156 said:
    Are we really still calling them "camera phones"? Do they even make phones without cameras anymore?
    What do you propose we call them instead?