OnePlus 9's ultrawide camera could put iPhone 12 to shame — here’s the proof

OnePlus 9 Pro rear seen in official video
(Image credit: OnePlus)

The upcoming OnePlus 9 is hoping to make its mark as a camera phone — the phone maker's announced partnership with photography specialist Hasselblad tells us that much. And the new phone is gettin improved hardware to back up those ambitions.

OnePlus has confirmed via Twitter that the OnePlus 9 series will feature a new ultrawide sensor, one that packs in an impressive 50-megapixels. 

For this year's phone, OnePlus is aiming to make its camera the main selling feature, spending more than $15 million to have a custom Sony IMX789 sensor developed. 

Now we're learning that the OnePlus 9 will use the IMX766 sensor for the ultrawide camera. Along with a freeform lens, this camera will aim to reduce distortion from 20% to 1%, OnePlus says

A freeform lens uses two prisms, side-by-side, and bends the light by 90-degrees before coming into contact with the sensor. The image then gets stitched together, much like a panorama shot, to give a distortion-less 140-degree field of view.

OnePlus founder and CEO Pete Lau posted comparison shots on Twitter

According to Lau, the left image was "taken by a 60Hz slow-af charging iPhone." The picture on the right was taken by the OnePlus 9 Pro. As you can see, the building on the left has a fisheye-like curvature and roundness, while the one on the right shows a structure with straight lines.

It should be noted that Twitter compresses images, so the pictures above are likely not representative of the final product. One Twitter user pointed out that the iPhone image, even with its distortion, looked more clear than what Lau was able to capture on his OnePlus phone. Again though, Twitter's image compression means the social media site isn't the best venue for judging overall photo quality.

What's interesting is that this ultrawide camera will not be exclusive to the Pro model. Lau went out of his way to hashtag OnePlus9Series, meaning it will likely come to the standard 9, 9 Pro and 9E. 

Along with the new ultrawide camera, the OnePlus 9 is looking to be a powerhouse of a photography phone. It will be able to take 16:11 aspect ratio photos, capture 12-bit RAW images with 6.87 billion colors, support 8K video, and 4K video at 120fps. The standard OnePlus 9 will feature a 2MP macro lens while the 9 Pro will also include an 8MP telephoto lens, according to rumors about the phones.

The phones are also expected to feature a 120Hz screen, either 8GB or 12GB of RAM, 128GB or 256GB of storage, and a 4,500 mAh battery. The standard model should stick with an FHD display, while the Pro model will be upgraded to QHD.

The OnePlus 9 launch event is set to take place on Tuesday, March 23 at 10:00 a.m. ET/7 a.m. PT.

Imad Khan

Imad is currently Senior Google and Internet Culture reporter for CNET, but until recently was News Editor at Tom's Guide. Hailing from Texas, Imad started his journalism career in 2013 and has amassed bylines with the New York Times, the Washington Post, ESPN, Wired and Men's Health Magazine, among others. Outside of work, you can find him sitting blankly in front of a Word document trying desperately to write the first pages of a new book.