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OnePlus Nord 2 takes gorgeous pictures. Here's what they look like

CNET logo CNET 8/27/2021 Andrew Hoyle
a laptop computer sitting on top of a wooden table: Andrew Hoyle/CNET © Provided by CNET Andrew Hoyle/CNET

The OnePlus Nord 2 starts at only £399 but packs in 5G, solid performance and, dare I say it, a pretty neat design. But I'm a photographer so all I really care about is how well it can take photos. Luckily then, I've taken the phone on a jaunt around Scotland to see how well its dual rear camera can shoot. 

Overall I've been impressed with the phone's camera. It can take bright, clear shots with its main lens with accurate colors. There's no zoom lens, but a 2x crop zoom function is available which is comfortably usable for out-and-about snaps. It's not competing with flagships like the iPhone 12 Pro Max or Galaxy S21 Ultra but it's a solid camera overall that takes great shots for the price.

a laptop computer sitting on top of a wooden table © Andrew Hoyle/CNET

Read more: The best camera phone for 2021

The Nord 2 is available now in the UK and wider Europe but there are no plans for it to get a wider launch into the US or Australia. £399 converts to approximately $560 or AU$760.

All photos here are taken with default settings in the standard camera mode, unless otherwise stated. 

a person standing on a lush green field: OnePlus Nord 2, standard lens. Andrew Hoyle/CNET © Provided by CNET OnePlus Nord 2, standard lens. Andrew Hoyle/CNET

Starting with this shot of some kind of odd building in this lovely wheat field. There's tons of detail in the full-resolution shot, with crisp edges on the fine grasses in the foreground. Colors look true to life too, which is great as I've found some of OnePlus's phones to have some issues achieving a correct white balance. 

a close up of a hillside next to a body of water: OnePlus Nord 2, standard camera. Andrew Hoyle/CNET © Provided by CNET OnePlus Nord 2, standard camera. Andrew Hoyle/CNET

It's much the same in this shot overlooking the ruins of Findlater Castle. There's lots of detail to be seen in the brickwork and the colors are spot on. There's also a decent exposure balance, with the shadowy rocks to the left of the image being clearly visible, without any overexposing on the brighter side on the right. 

a close up of a hillside next to a body of water: OnePlus Nord 2, standard lens. Andrew Hoyle/CNET © Provided by CNET OnePlus Nord 2, standard lens. Andrew Hoyle/CNET

Similarly, the phone has captured an excellent exposure here, despite there being an overly bright sky. Again, there's lots of detail to be seen in the shadowy rocks on the left, with no overexposing on the brighter grass in the foreground. 

a group of people on a beach: OnePlus Nord 2, standard lens. Andrew Hoyle/CNET © Provided by CNET OnePlus Nord 2, standard lens. Andrew Hoyle/CNET

Moving North to the dramatic Rattray Head lighthouse, the weather is more subdued, resulting in a lower-contrast scene. The Nord 2 captures it well, with soft tones and an accurate white balance. 

a group of people standing on top of a sandy beach: OnePlus Nord 2, wide lens. Andrew Hoyle/CNET © Provided by CNET OnePlus Nord 2, wide lens. Andrew Hoyle/CNET

Switching to the wide lens, there's little shift in the white balance, which is good, but there's a noticeable drop in quality, particularly toward the edges of the frame. The wide lens does only shoot in 8-megapixel mode, so this is to be expected, but it's worth keeping in mind if you want to capture a pin-sharp sweeping vista.

a group of people on a beach near a body of water: OnePlus Nord 2, 2x zoom. Andrew Hoyle/CNET © Provided by CNET OnePlus Nord 2, 2x zoom. Andrew Hoyle/CNET

While there's no optical zoom lens, as you'll find on phones like the iPhone 12 Pro Max or Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra, there is an option when shooting to zoom to 2x. It achieves the zoom by digitally cropping into the image, so there is a reduction in quality. Looking at the full image on your phone it doesn't look too bad and would likely be fine for an Instagram or Facebook post. Zoom in though and it's clear that a lot of the fine details are very mushy. 

a clock tower in the middle of a body of water: OnePlus Nord 2, 5x zoom. Andrew Hoyle/CNET © Provided by CNET OnePlus Nord 2, 5x zoom. Andrew Hoyle/CNET

Unsurprisingly, those details are even more mushy when you use the 5x zoom option, which crops into the image even further. You may well find it suitable for getting a quick snap, but the low quality means images taken at this zoom level aren't likely to make your living room gallery wall. 

a sunset over a body of water: OnePlus Nord 2, night mode. Andrew Hoyle/CNET © Provided by CNET OnePlus Nord 2, night mode. Andrew Hoyle/CNET

The Nord 2 has a night mode, which does a solid job of capturing a bright, clear image even when there's very little light in the scene. I took this shot handheld but it's impressively sharp and has captured a lot of details in the shadowy areas. Like most night-time images from phones, the fine details are a bit soft when you zoom right in, but it's perfectly crisp when you look at the image as a whole. 

a long bridge over some water: OnePlus Nord 2, standard lens. Andrew Hoyle/CNET © Provided by CNET OnePlus Nord 2, standard lens. Andrew Hoyle/CNET

Beautiful colors in this sunset shot, taken in Edinburgh.

a bridge over a body of water: OnePlus Nord 2, 2x zoom. Andrew Hoyle/CNET © Provided by CNET OnePlus Nord 2, 2x zoom. Andrew Hoyle/CNET

Despite using the 2x crop zoom, there's still sharp details in this sunset shot, with a great handle on exposure, keeping that bright sky under control while still capturing lots of information in the shadows. 


Video: OnePlus unveils the Nord 2 5G (CNET)

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