Hands-On, MWC 2019, Smartphone

Testing Oppo’s New 10x Lossless Zoom Camera – Is It Any Good?

MWC 2019 hasn’t opened its doors just yet, but as usual, a number of brands are unveiling their latest products and technologies ahead of time. Oppo, for one, just revealed its new triple camera system. The highlight feature? Its ability to do 10x lossless zoom.

I managed to try out a prototype device equipped with the new camera system, and it’s quite an impressive feature. The camera performance still has some ways to go, of course, but it’s definitely an interesting technology.

Oppo’s new camera system has three distinct sensors: a primary 48MP shooter, an ultra-wide angle sensor, and a telephoto camera. Yes, it’s quite similar to Samsung’s Galaxy S10 camera configuration. However, unlike Samsung’s implementation, Oppo’s camera system can do 10x lossless zoom.

Normally, a camera with this level of zoom will be much thicker, but Oppo’s new camera system uses a periscope-style prism, which enables the camera to do 10x lossless zoom without making the phone too thick. In fact, the prototype device equipped with the new camera system looks and feels like any other modern smartphone; there’s no extra thickness or weight here.

Granted, the device is covered up with a casing, so it’s not entirely clear if there is any noticeable camera bump.

Off the bat, it’s clear the prototype device is installed with a very bare bone camera app. The only thing I could tweak was the level of zoom, and I have to adjust the zoom level manually with a slider. It would’ve been much more convenient if I could just tap on a button to get different zoom levels, but hey, it’s a prototype device.

At 1x zoom, the ultra wide-angle sensor is used, and as you zoom in further, the camera system switches to the other two sensors. At around 2x zoom, I’m positive the camera changes to the primary 48MP sensor – there’s a clear shift in image quality at that level of zoom.

Once I get to around 8x zoom, the image quality shifts yet again, and I suspect the telephoto sensor is used at that level of zoom. An Oppo representative then told me the prototype phone can do lossless zoom at up to 10x, and going any further is merely digital zoom, which maxes out at 20x.

Nonetheless, here are some sample shots I managed to capture with Oppo’s new triple camera system.

Quite impressive, isn’t it? Sure, the image quality isn’t the best, but this is taken with a prototype device. Besides that, the 10x lossless zoom feature is the main talking point here, and in this regard, Oppo is delivering on its promise.

Also, let me shift your attention to the ultra wide-angle shot above. See, most phones with very wide-angle sensors tend to have noticeable distortions, producing a fisheye-like effect. But just look at the wide-angle image taken with Oppo’s new camera system – it handles distortion very well, to the point where it’s barely noticeable.

Aside from that, Oppo’s triple camera system comes with dual optical image stabilisation too: one is equipped on the primary 48MP sensor, while the other is available on the telephoto shooter. This, in turn, makes it easier to get blur-free images, even when I was shooting at 10x zoom.

So what’s the takeaway here? Well, Oppo is onto something really good. At its current state, the company’s 10x lossless zoom camera system could still use some work, but it’s a work in progress, and it is very promising. Currently, no other phone maker can offer this kind of zooming capability – not yet, anyway.

But ultimately, whether or not Oppo’s new triple camera system will be a success depends on how well it is implemented in a consumer-ready smartphone. How soon will this happen? Oppo mentioned it will release such a device in the second quarter of 2019, so we can expect it to happen as early as April.

You may question the practicality of having 10x lossless zoom on a smartphone – heck, even I do – but it does give Oppo an edge over its competition in smartphone photography. In the highly competitive smartphone market, phone makers need all the edge they can get.