OnePlus 9 leak reveals killer camera upgrades to fight Samsung Galaxy S21

The first renders of the OnePlus 9 Pro
(Image credit: OnLeaks)

The OnePlus 9 is expected to come with a suite of camera upgrades, and a new leak suggests they could be rather powerful, at least on the software side.

XDA Developers has dug into the code for OxygenOS Open Beta on the OnePlus 7T and 7 phones, revealing references to "Tilt-shift," "Focus Peaking" and moon-based photography modes. As these new camera features don’t work on the aforementioned OnePlus phones, they could be in OxygenOS awaiting the OnePlus 9’s arrival. 

Recent rumors have the OnePlus 9 tipped to sport a rear camera array comprising a 50MP main lens, a 20MP wide-angle lens and a 12MP telephoto camera. These seem like solid smartphone camera specs, but there’s nothing hardware-wise to set pulses racing. 

However, going by the beta code, it would appear the OnePlus could be doing more of the software side. 

OnePlus 9 Tilt-shift mode

For example, the Tilt-shift mode will apparently allow for a form of sensor tilting that can make things like a cityscape look like detailed miniature models. While the iPhone 12 Pro Max allows its camera sensor to move, the idea of a tilting sensor in a smartphone seems like a big step up. So there’s a good chance the OnePlus 9 will achieve the titling effect with some software manipulation. 

OnePlus 9 Tilt-shift mode

(Image credit: XDA Developers)

OnePlus 9 moon modes

Speaking of which, multiple “Moon” modes are referenced in the beta code, including Soft Moon, Pop Moon, Snapseed, and monochrome photography options. According to XDA, these are likely filters to enhance night mode photography.

To a certain extent, these modes would confirm other leaks that the OnePlus 9 won’t feature a periscope camera for enhanced telephoto photography. Rather than boost zoom photography at a hardware level, OnePlus could use software to improve photos that literally shot for the moon.

We’ve seen the Samsung Galaxy S21 take a similar approach. The S21’s cameras are essentially the same as the Galaxy S20’s, but the new Zoom lock feature allows for steadier shots all the way out to 30x. The Google Pixel 5 has also demonstrated how a lot can be done with just two rear cameras and smart software.

OnePlus 9 Hyperlapse photography

Other new OnePlus 9 camera modes will apparently include Hyperlapse photography, which is expected to be a boosted version of time-lapse shooting with the ability to better capture motion in a scene over time.

In addition, a Starburst feature is expected to better capture light rays coming off a light source, rather than reduce them to a simple light dot. Again, it looks like these effects will be achieved through computational photography rather than hardware upgrades.

OnePlus 9 Focus Peak mode

The first renders of the OnePlus 9 Pro

(Image credit: OnLeaks)

One of the last features mentioned in the beta code is a “Focus Peak” mode. This is something that DSLR cameras provide, whereby the areas of a scene with the most contrast and thus most in focus are highlighted in a bright color. The idea is that professional photographers and videographers can more readily see what’s in focus without relying on their eyes alone.

Given how smartphones are already very good at working out focus points, such a feature might seem superfluous. However, it could be a new feature added to the ‘Pro’ camera mode on the next OnePlus phone. Or it could simply be another filter to add some high contrast lines to a photo, better highlighting the subject; this is all speculation on our part though.

What to expect from the OnePlus 9

Digging into the APK code of Android skin betas often reveal what to expect from upcoming smartphones. But some beta code can contain redundant features that won’t see real use. So we need to take all the above with a pinch of salt. 

But it’s a fairly safe bet that the OnePlus 9 will have upgraded camera software and new camera modes. That’s something OnePlus has done with nearly every generation of new phone.  

As for the OnePlus 9 as a whole, we’re expecting it to come with the new Qualcomm Snapdragon 888 chip and evolution on the OnePlus 8T’s design. We’d like to see wireless charging make an appearance. And more competitive pricing would be welcome, as recent OnePlus phones have been getting more expensive, with the company creating phones that are more flagships than the keenly-priced ‘flagship-killers’ of yore. 

We’re expecting the OnePlus 9 to be revealed this spring, around March or April. So we’ve not got long to wait to see whether the next OnePlus phone can challenge the Galaxy S21, Google Pixel 5 and iPhone 12. 

Roland Moore-Colyer

Roland Moore-Colyer a Managing Editor at Tom’s Guide with a focus on news, features and opinion articles. He often writes about gaming, phones, laptops and other bits of hardware; he’s also got an interest in cars. When not at his desk Roland can be found wandering around London, often with a look of curiosity on his face.