Interview with Ms. Hsiaohua Cheng, Head of Imaging at OnePlus

It has now become a commonplace where smartphone brands are looking to push newer boundaries in imaging and the camera experience that they offer with their smartphones today. OnePlus and Hasselblad collaborated for the 9 series launched in 2021. Although the collaboration didn’t seem to offer much in the beginning, it is now starting to show its potential. Bhavya Desai spoke to Ms. Hsiaohua Cheng, Head of Imaging at OnePlus on their collab and what can the users expect for the future.

When the collaboration with Hasselblad happened (for the 9 and 9 Pro), initially users seemed disappointed. Was it always the idea to build those features in the future updates?

Creating a better camera experience has been a central tenet of OnePlus’ strategy in 2021 and will remain a key focus in the near future. Earlier this year, we inked a strategic partnership with Hasselblad to further improve the OnePlus camera experience over the next three years. Additionally, we also committed an investment of USD $150 million to develop better mobile imaging to build out our mobile imaging capabilities in our ongoing pursuit of delivering the best smartphone camera experience for our users.

Involving meticulous software calibration and multiple hours spent working with the Hasselblad team, the OnePlus 9 Series today, represents OnePlus’ biggest leap forward in terms of camera development and bring to users natural colour calibration, high dynamic range, and keen detail. With the OnePlus 9 Series, we are committed to delivering immediate benefit for OnePlus users, while continuously collaborating over the next three years to further improve the user experience and product quality for the long-term.

The XPan Mode changed the usage of the 9 and 9 Pro and we’ve started seeing the potential of this collaboration now. What else can we expect from this in the future?

Using XPan Mode on the OnePlus 9 and 9 Pro, users can see the world around them through a unique lens, and we are very excited about how this format is being utilised by our users and photographers around the world. Our partnership will continue to evolve our camera capabilities as we look at providing users with innovative ways of capturing images and storytelling.

Does it limit or make it difficult to offer features in cameras when the hardware is sourced and needs integration with your OS? Thoughts?

As elevating the camera experience is one of OnePlus’ core focus areas, we continue to invest towards camera development and enhancing the image quality. This year, we have established a full-fledged Camera Image Quality Lab at the OnePlus India R&D Centre. This camera IQ lab works on India specific camera requirements for OnePlus devices as well as contributes to the camera image quality tuning requirements for global regions including testing efforts for NA and EU markets. Going forward, we will continue to improve our camera performance through investments and strategic partnerships and push the boundaries of mobile imaging.

What is the overall vision of this collaboration with Hasselblad?

At OnePlus, we have always prioritised a premium user experience over everything else. We began this year through a concerted effort to significantly improve the smartphone camera experience for our users, with the expertise of a truly legendary partner in Hasselblad. Today, the Hasselblad Camera for Mobile, on both the OnePlus 9 and 9 Pro, represents OnePlus’ biggest leap forward ever in camera quality. Hasselblad’s pursuit of imaging quality and deep aesthetic expertise will be fully integrated into this system, continuing their legacy in imaging in OnePlus phones. The partnership will roll out in numerous phases as we look at resetting the standards for a best-in-class mobile imaging experience.

What does OnePlus aspire to offer to its users with its cameras in the future?

In the coming years, the partnership will continuously develop, starting with software improvements including colour tuning and sensor calibration and extend to other areas in the future. Through close R&D collaboration, OnePlus and Hasselblad will continue to work on developing camera systems for future OnePlus smartphones that are significantly improved.

You have worked on a project which is shot using a 9 Pro in a feature film format. Can you tell us more about that?

While shooting long format content on smartphones is relatively new in the Indian film industry, it is slowly gaining interest, feasibility and being adopted by more and more individuals in the industry. In shooting long format content using the OnePlus 9 Pro, the filmmakers in fact, found that they could incorporate unique perspectives, high dynamic range and create a lot of contrast and authenticity when shooting in a variety of settings, including low-light environments. These features allowed us to bring a fast-paced storyline to life with thrilling sequences for a one-of-a-kind feature film.

Our entire team has been thrilled to attempt this unique project of shooting an entire feature film on the OnePlus 9 Pro guided by his extensive experience. Filming on the OnePlus 9 Pro helped us bring to life the cinematic detail required to capture the essence of the storyline and emotions of the characters. This film truly demonstrates the capabilities of the OnePlus 9 Pro’s cameras, and we hope this serves as an inspiration for our community to embark on their own creative endeavours with their OnePlus devices.

Do projects like these have the anticipated impact. Thoughts?

OnePlus has consistently been recognised as a brand that brings cutting-edge technology and creates unique experiences for its community. As part of our ‘Shot on OnePlus’ efforts, we had earlier created the ‘United by Hope’ documentary to showcase the daily experiences of people from different backgrounds during the pandemic. Following the success of the SOOP documentary, we decided to take this a step further and explore the possibility of making a full-length feature film.

Since we began working on the project, I had envisioned how the final movie would turn out. After we got the footage, I was extremely pleased with how the shots turned out. The OnePlus 9 Pro’s cameras did a great job at producing stunning pictures, especially in low light settings. I believe the cameras were able to rightly capture the essence of the story. In addition to being versatile and user-friendly, OnePlus’ cameras are robust and user-friendly, making it easy even for people with little to no photography and videography experience to capture images and videos without a lot of hassle. As the first Indian “Shot on OnePlus” film, this allowed us to experiment with mobile camera technology and bring to life a wonderful storyline. We have received good feedback on this project and we sincerely hope that it will inspire our user community to follow their creative passions.

What were the features that were used the most while shooting this film?

The OnePlus 9 Pro camera made for a seamless shooting experience by providing hyper-realistic 8k 30 fps, superior HDR video recording, in-built image stabilization, and support for capturing 4K at 120 frames per second. With faster focus speeds and in-built image stabilization, the OnePlus 9 Pro also helped deliver cleaner daytime and nighttime imagery while also providing reduced motion blur with higher dynamic range in shooting videos.

The camera set-up also came with advanced Nightscape Video 2.0, which allowed us to capture bright and detailed videos, even in very dim environments. Coupled with DOL-HDR and the sequences captured with the ultra-wide camera, the camera allowed us to bring every frame to life with captivating contrasts and exciting sequences.