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I can’t believe how our OnePlus 11 vs. iPhone 14 Pro camera test turned out

It’s a well-known fact in 2023 that the iPhone 14 Pro has an excellent camera system. Whether you’re taking carefully crafting portraits or just casually snapping photos without much thought, the iPhone 14 Pro is capable of churning out incredible results. But now that the OnePlus 11 is here, is there a new camera challenger to consider?

At first glance, you may not think that the $699 OnePlus 11 is much competition for the $999 iPhone 14 Pro. And while there are areas where the iPhone 14 Pro has a definite advantage, the OnePlus 11 holds its own a lot better than you might anticipate. For a closer look at the surprising results, here’s our full OnePlus 11 versus iPhone 14 Pro camera comparison.

OnePlus 11 vs. iPhone 14 Pro: camera specs

The OnePlus 11 and iPhone 14 Pro lying next to each other on a table.
Joe Maring/Digital Trends

Before getting to the photos, we’ll start with the specs. The main camera on the OnePlus 11 is a 50MP sensor with an f/1.8 aperture and OIS (optical image stabilization). It’s joined by a 48MP ultrawide camera with a 115-degree field of view, plus a 32MP “portrait tele lens” capable of 2x optical zoom. The selfie camera is a 16MP fixed-focus sensor.

What about the iPhone 14 Pro? Its main camera is a 48MP sensor with an f/1.78 aperture. You also get a 12MP ultrawide camera with a 120-degree field of view, in addition to a 12MP telephoto camera with 3x optical zoom. The selfie camera is a 12MP sensor with autofocus capabilities.

OnePlus 11 vs. iPhone 14 Pro: main camera

We’ll kick things off by comparing the main camera, starting with the photo above of the building set against a gray, overcast afternoon in southwest Michigan. Both photos look great at first glance, though there are some clear differences the closer you look. The iPhone photo is cooler and more similar to how the scene really looked. The OnePlus 11 cranks up the saturation levels with greener grass and a brighter yellow for the traffic lines — and even amps up the colors of the building in the background. It’s not particularly accurate, but it’s not overkill, either — and it results in an image that pops more.

We see something very similar with the photo of my dog, Damon. Look at how different the color of his fur is between the two photos. Damon’s fur appears much warmer in the OnePlus 11’s shot, while his fur is a more muted tan in the iPhone 14 Pro image. The OnePlus 11 also increases the green color of the grass, while the iPhone 14 Pro keeps it looking duller — the way it appeared to my eye when taking the photos. But it’s not just the colors that stand out this time. The OnePlus 11 keeps the grass behind Damon sharp and in focus. Comparatively, the iPhone 14 Pro’s sensor gives it a nice, natural blur.

Another great example of these differing colors is present in the picture of the mossy tree. Look at the OnePlus 11 image, and you get a very warm photo with an almost yellowish hue for the moss. Move your eyes to the iPhone 14 Pro photo, however, and it’s a different story. The shot is much cooler and — again — is more representative of what the tree actually looked like. That said, the OnePlus 11 does a better job of handling the overcast sky. While the iPhone 14 Pro blows it out, the OnePlus 11 manages to nicely balance the stark sky with the tree branches in front of it.

Interestingly, it’s a different story with the next picture of the early morning sunrise. As we saw in our Pixel 7 Pro versus iPhone 14 Pro camera comparison, the iPhone 14 Pro isn’t afraid to boost contrast levels and keep dark shadows in place. You see this on full display with the darker trees and buildings in the background, along with the bluer sky and much more intense sunrise in the right corner. The OnePlus 11 tries to eliminate these shadows to make the trees and buildings more visible, but in doing so, greatly reduces the drama of the scene.

I had originally called the iPhone 14 Pro the winner of this round, but after looking through the photos over and over again, I’m calling it a tie. Both phones get so much right on a technical level. The camera apps are easy to use, they capture photos quickly, and it’s difficult to take a truly bad photo with either one. It all comes down to your personal preference for color science. The iPhone 14 Pro’s photos are more accurate and lifelike, but this sometimes results in a less eye-catching photograph. The colors in OnePlus 11 pictures aren’t 1:1 accurate of what a scene really looked like, but there’s no denying that the device is capable of producing very pleasing images.

Winner: Tie

OnePlus 11 vs. iPhone 14 Pro: ultrawide camera

Moving to the ultrawide camera, we can draw many of the same comparisons that we did with the main camera. Even looking at the pond on (another) overcast Michigan afternoon, there are very different colors between the OnePlus 11 and iPhone 14 Pro. Look at the ground in the bottom-right corner and how much more saturated it is in the OnePlus 11 picture. Accurate? Not really, but it does add a touch of color to an otherwise drab scene. I prefer how the iPhone 14 Pro handles the sky, though, as it better shows the various layers of the clouds, compared to the flatter appearance they take on in the OnePlus 11 shot.

Heading downtown and peering through the alley, there are highs and lows for both phones. I continue to appreciate the iPhone 14 Pro’s more lifelike colors, but the sky between the overheard lights is pretty clearly overexposed. The OnePlus 11’s image doesn’t have this problem. And when you zoom in a lot, the iPhone 14 Pro appears to have oversharpened parts of the picture — including some of the detail in the brick and the text on the sign.

I’m giving this round to the OnePlus 11. The iPhone 14 Pro’s ultrawide camera doesn’t always do a good job with bright/overcast skies, and it’s not uncommon for the sharpening to go a touch overboard. The OnePlus 11’s ultrawide camera handles these things better, and while the colors can be unnaturally warm — and the sensor isn’t quite as wide as the one on the iPhone — it is very capable and reliable.

Winner: OnePlus 11

OnePlus 11 vs. iPhone 14 Pro: telephoto camera

The telephoto camera is a much different story. The iPhone 14 Pro’s 3x telephoto camera certainly isn’t the longest zoom length we’ve ever seen, but compared to the measly 2x telephoto camera on the OnePlus 11, it’s much, much better. You see this first with the picture of the glass building. The images were taken with the 2x zoom option on both phones. The OnePlus 11 uses its telephoto camera for 2x shots, while the iPhone 14 Pro uses a cropped view of its main camera. Zoom in just a little bit, and it doesn’t take long to see how much sharper and more detailed the iPhone 14 Pro’s picture is. Not to mention, the OnePlus 11 gives the building a bizarre, green hue.

This conclusion also holds true when comparing 3x images from both phones. The iPhone 14 Pro uses its dedicated telephoto camera for 3x shots, while the OnePlus 11 simply does a digital zoom beyond its 2x optical limitation. This results in the building being significantly sharper in the iPhone 14 Pro photo. In the OnePlus 11’s shot, it’s softer and noisier by a considerable margin.

The third shot of the neon sign is another example of a 2x picture from the phones. The OnePlus 11 keeps making scenes warmer than they should be, and in a photo like this, it reduces the contrast of the bright, red lights against the faded white sign. It makes everything look faded in the OnePlus 11 image, while the sign stands out much better in the iPhone 14 Pro photo.

Winner: iPhone 14 Pro

OnePlus 11 vs. iPhone 14 Pro: portrait mode

Although the OnePlus 11’s telephoto camera isn’t great for taking photos of faraway subjects, it’s a lot stronger when used for portrait shots. We’ll begin the portrait section with a photo of me on a nature trail. As we’ve seen throughout this article, the iPhone 14 Pro delivers more natural and lifelike colors. The OnePlus 11 makes my coat appear much bluer and gives the red in my hat an extra pop. Both phones do a good job with the portrait effect here, but there are a handful of minor imperfections in the iPhone 14 Pro’s image that I just don’t see in the picture from the OnePlus 11. It’s not a significant difference, but the OnePlus 11 handles its blur ever-so-slightly better than the iPhone 14 Pro.

We see this again with the portrait photo of my partner having a drink at a local bar. The iPhone 14 Pro blurred a lot of their shirt in addition to the background behind them, plus it makes their face appear super soft and lacking any detail. The OnePlus 11 retains the lost detail of their shirt, delivers a pleasing blur effect, and shows substantially more detail in their face. Both phones struggle with the hair, but it’s clear that the OnePlus 11 delivers a better-looking photo.

How about a portrait photo of a non-human subject? I enlisted the help of Mr. Frog for this next picture, and the results are interesting. The iPhone 14 Pro holds its own a lot better than in the previous two shots, keeping the frog in focus while also producing a nice blur effect. The OnePlus 11 does the same, making this particular example a draw.

The portrait round goes to the OnePlus 11. Apple’s portrait mode has needed an upgrade for a while, and although you can get really good portrait shots with the iPhone 14 Pro, the OnePlus 11 handily bests it.

Winner: OnePlus 11

OnePlus 11 vs. iPhone 14 Pro: night mode

We’ve seen how the OnePlus 11 and iPhone 14 Pro fare during the daytime. But what happens to the phones when you turn the lights down? The first picture was taken at 9:30 p.m. during an overcast evening (surprise, surprise for the Midwest in January). With absolutely no sunlight to assist with the shot, the OnePlus 11 and iPhone 14 Pro deliver similar results. You obviously lose a lot of detail compared to the daytime photos, but considering the total lack of sunlight here, I think both phones do a solid job.

In the second night mode example, we’re heading indoors to a dimly lit bar. This time, there are clear differences between the two phones. The OnePlus 11 keeps the scene a bit darker with more contrast, while the iPhone 14 Pro decides to brighten the scene significantly. The added brightness makes the iPhone photo jump out at you first, but upon closer inspection, I prefer how OnePlus handled the scene.

Surprisingly, it’s the OnePlus 11 that more accurately captured the color of my drink and the brightness of the bar. It also handles the spiced apples much better; the iPhone 14 Pro over-sharpens them and makes them appear rather unappetizing. There’s also much more detail in the glass and spear in the OnePlus 11’s shot, while the iPhone 14 Pro makes them look soft and blurry.

Looking at these examples, and how the other lowlight photo of my partner above, I have to give the OnePlus 11 the win. The iPhone 14 Pro is by no means a bad performer with lowlight photography, but time and time again, I find myself preferring night mode shots from the OnePlus 11.

Winner: OnePlus 11

OnePlus 11 vs. iPhone 14 Pro: macro mode

Both the OnePlus 11 and iPhone 14 Pro have a macro mode you can use to take detailed, super-up-close pictures. Both phones achieve this using their respective ultrawide cameras, rather than a dedicated macro camera. Starting with the macro photo of the snow on the picnic table, the OnePlus 11 and iPhone 14 Pro take very different approaches. I actually prefer the colors in the OnePlus 11 image, while the iPhone 14 Pro gives the snow a distinct blue appearance. However, the iPhone 14 Pro photo is significantly sharper, providing a more impressive look at the individual snowflakes.

The iPhone 14 Pro gets the edge again with the macro photo of my beanie. The OnePlus picture isn’t bad, but the iPhone delivers more contrast and sharper details — making it the better image of the two.

As you can probably tell, the iPhone 14 Pro wins this round. I’m happy that OnePlus has moved away from cheap 2MP macro cameras (like the OnePlus 10T had), but this is an area where the iPhone remains king.

Winner: iPhone 14 Pro

OnePus 11 vs. iPhone 14 Pro: selfie camera

Selfies may not be your thing, but they’re important to some people! And if you’re an avid selfie taker, there are some things about the OnePlus 11 and iPhone 14 Pro you should take note of. I took this selfie outdoors in portrait mode, and the OnePlus 11 really souped up the saturation of my red beanie here. It also makes my coat much bluer, warms the background, and gives my face a warmer, more saturated hue that I (unfortunately) don’t have. The iPhone 14 Pro selfie is more accurate across the board — from the beanie to the coat, background, and my skin.

Another big advantage of the iPhone 14 Pro’s selfie camera? It has autofocus, allowing you to change the focus of your shot to make sure everything’s in focus the way it should be. The OnePlus 11’s selfie camera is a fixed-focus lens. In other words, it has one set focus distance you can’t change. It’s how most selfie cameras are, but it’s much less versatile compared to the iPhone 14 Pro. As such, it’s the iPhone that wins this round.

Winner: iPhone 14 Pro

The OnePlus 11 camera is a game-changer

Someone holding the OnePlus 11 and iPhone 14 Pro side-by-side.
Joe Maring/Digital Trends

So, where does that leave us? The OnePlus 11 won three rounds, the iPhone 14 Pro won three rounds, and there was one tie. Going into this camera comparison, that’s not at all how I expected things to go.

For years and years, camera performance has been a weak link on OnePlus smartphones — never quite matching competitors from Apple, Samsung, and others. But as this direct camera battle against the iPhone 14 Pro clearly shows, OnePlus has made huge strides toward changing that, and the OnePlus 11 has the best camera on a OnePlus phone yet.

The iPhone 14 Pro is still the go-to phone camera if you value accurate and lifelike colors above all else. OnePlus 11 photos have a distinct style to them, and while I initially found it off-putting, I’ve come around to really appreciating what the OnePlus 11 camera is capable of. Pair that with a great ultrawide camera and excellent portrait photos, and the OnePlus 11 is a phone camera I’m happy to rely on. Apple still has OnePlus handily beaten with telephoto performance, macro mode, and its selfie camera, but the fact that those were the only categories it outright won is a huge testament to how far OnePlus has come.

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Joe Maring
Section Editor, Mobile
Joe Maring is the Section Editor for Digital Trends' Mobile team, leading the site's coverage for all things smartphones…
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