It feels important to explain the history of OnePlus XPan mode. As you probably know, OnePlus has done a deal with famed camera manufacturer Hasselblad. Known for its medium format cameras, Hasselblad also did another deal in the late '90s with Fuji to create the XPan camera. It would shoot on 35mm film, rather than the much larger medium format.
The XPan differed from traditional 35mm cameras though, because it was able to shoot panoramas in a 24x65mm ratio. This was loved by some photographers because it has a look not dissimilar to that of a cinema ratio movie. This gave the Xpan cameras a remarkably wide view of the world, and opened up a lot of creative opportunities.
Now, OnePlus has launched the XPan mode on the OnePlus 9 and 9 Pro. Included in the camera app it’s a simple option to switch to this Hasselblad mode and make use of similarly wide panoramas. OnePlus allows two focal lengths, one 30mm and one 45mm and there are two film looks, one colour and one black and white to give you lots of creative control. OnePlus has pushed an over-the-air update to the handsets recently that will enable the feature, so if you own one and your phone is up-to-date you should be able to try it out.
The OnePlus 9 Pro also features in our Best Phones guide, so we consider it to be one of the best devices you can carry with you daily.
And that’s exactly what we did. Dispatching our man to the streets of Bath to snap up some ultrawide shots. While these don’t match the emotion of photos on film, they do have charms of their own. In black and white there’s a lot of detail and decent contrast giving a pleasing look to the shots. Colour shots look good too, with a framing that is ideal for landscapes. More can fit in, and there’s not so much lost to sky which makes photos in cities feel a lot more involving.
In general, it’s an interesting addition to the OnePlus 9 and 9 Pro. The problem with it is that a lot of people just won’t know it’s there, or the significance of it. We’re all pretty used to panoramic photos these days, and while the XPan shots are lovely in their own way, they probably won’t call out to people unless they’re very keen photographers. The UI for the OnePlus XPan is interesting, it feels like an experience, with a sort of mock effect where the image develops in front of you. This takes time, and perhaps doesn’t really make it likely people will reach for the mode in a hurry.
That said, if you like taking a photograph and want something that’s a bit more interesting than the usual camera phone snaps, it could be a mode worth investigating. In its original brochure for the XPan, Hasselblad showed off some really cool portrait style shots that use the mode. This is clearly a neat little feature for anyone who’s got some creative juices flowing and wants to shoot in-camera, rather than messing around with photo software later.
Given that it’s free, it feels quite encouraging. The OnePlus and Hasselblad tie-in felt a lot like a slightly futile naming opportunity when it was announced. A lot of money changed hands, and OnePlus got to stick a logo on its phones with a long photographic heritage. But if features like this keep appearing, it could make for one of the better camera experiences on a phone and we’d absolutely love to see more of it.