I used YouTubers' favorite camera phone and wasn't impressed 1

If you’ve been watching tech sites on YouTube recently or following tech pundits on Twitter, you’ve likely seen some raving about the Oppo Find X6 Pro — a smartphone several people claim to have the best camera ever. That’s a seriously bold statement, as well as a bit of a tease. Despite Oppo releasing its top-range Find series internationally before, the Find X6 Pro seems like it’s staying in China. It certainly sounds like we’re really missing out.

Luckily, I’ve actually got one right here and have taken hundreds of photos with it over the past few weeks to see if the influencers are correct — and whether this really is the best camera around at the moment.

It hasn’t been my main phone

The back of the Oppo Find X6 Pro.
Andy Boxall/Pro Well Tech

Before I get too deep into the camera, it’s worth saying a few things about the Oppo Find X6 Pro as a phone first. I haven’t used it as my main phone with my primary SIM, which I do for every review. Why? Firstly, I’m not fully reviewing it, and secondly, it’s not suitable for it. This is a phone made for the Chinese market, where it costs around $890 U.S., and although it has Android 13 and ColorOS 13, the Google Play Store is not installed.

Getting around this is a lengthy and fairly irritating process, and even when you’re done, the phone still doesn’t always operate as you expect. Also, ColorOS may have improved on Oppo phones released in the U.K. recently, but the China version isn’t as streamlined. There are a lot of apps already installed that are irrelevant to global users, and all want to send you notifications. Plus, there’s plenty of basic housekeeping you need to do over time — changing default apps and configuring the battery management, for example — and some menus will suddenly switch to Chinese language just when you think you’re getting somewhere.

The Oppo Find X6 Pro face up on a table, showing the screen.
Andy Boxall/Pro Well Tech

I’d rather not deal with the operational issues and changes that are caused by crowbarring the Play Store onto the Find X6 Pro, but others may be fine with it. It’s also the nature of the beast, and if you decide to import, then you’re likely ready to accept it’s a bit of a pain.

Moving on, the Find X6 Pro’s looks are similarly divisive. Some seem to love it, but I think it’s a horrific monstrosity. The giant, all-dominating camera module is a mess of shapes and lines that I’m told by some YouTube videos is supposedly shaped to look like a regular camera, but in reality, it does nothing but upset the balance and get covered in fingerprints because it’s always in the way.

What’s inside the camera module?

The Oppo Find X6 Pro's camera module.
Andy Boxall/Pro Well Tech

Hidden inside that camera module is the 1-inch Sony IMX989 50-megapixel camera that has impressed on the Xiaomi 13 Pro, Xiaomi 12S Ultra, and the Vivo X90 Pro already. Oppo says it’s one of three “main” cameras here — along with the 50MP telephoto and 50MP wide-angle camera — and they apparently all work seamlessly together to supposedly provide consistent, high-quality photos regardless of which one you use. Oppo has used this marketing tactic before on phones like the excellent Find X3 Pro.

The telephoto camera provides a 3x optical zoom, but the app also has a 2x and a 6x zoom option, which are cropped, digitally enhanced modes. Oppo’s pushing consistency here too, and there’s supposed to be no obviously noticeable difference between these digital modes and the optical mode. Oppo has leveraged its Hasselblad partnership, but not as greatly as OnePlus has with the OnePlus 11, as apparently, the camera firm’s software tweaks are only part of the pro mode. Finally, Oppo’s own MariSilicon X NPU chip handles a lot of the image processing.

A person holding the Oppo Find X6 Pro, showing the back of the phone.
Andy Boxall/Pro Well Tech

The majority of the gushing around the Find X6 Pro has been about the camera, and as the Sony IMX989 has had a great start in other phones, I was very keen to try the Find X6 Pro for myself. Oppo has delivered a fully consistent camera experience in the past, living up to the marketing, and legions of YouTubers, influencers, and Twitter-based pundits have all called the Find X6 Pro an absolute winner. So, is it?

Using the Find X6 Pro’s main camera

The Oppo Find X6 Pro’s camera is very good. But it’s not perfect, and I really do question any statement calling it the very best smartphone camera out there today. Let me give you a few examples where other phones seem to do an equally good, or sometimes better, job.

The photos above are simple close-ups of a tulip, one taken with the Oppo Find X6 Pro and the other with the Poco F5 Pro, which costs less than half the price of the Oppo and absolutely is not the “best smartphone camera in the world.” Yet I think it has taken a better, more shareable, more detailed photo than the Find X6 Pro.

It’s perhaps a little unfair because the IMX989 itself isn’t great at close-ups, so let’s look at some other examples. Some may think about the Google Pixel 7 Pro when pondering what the best camera phone in the world is, so how does it compare with the Find X6 Pro? This photo of a church was taken on a beautifully sunny day in great conditions. The Find X6 Pro’s photo is undoubtedly brighter, but the grass was not that color, and the sky is rather washed out compared to the Pixel 7 Pro’s photo, which has more natural colors and textures. It’s also sharper when you look closely.

Here’s another fairly simple photo of a slice of cake and a coffee cup. A slight difference in angle may alter the results a little, but there’s absolutely no question the Huawei P60 Pro’s photo is the better of the two. It has better focus, a more convincing bokeh (although this was not taken with portrait mode), sharper detail, and lovely colors. I’d share it over the Find X6 Pro photo and would probably look to the P60 Pro rather than the Find X6 Pro the next time I went out to take photos.

The thing is, these are all photos that you just “take” with little thought or time for composition or examination of light sources, and I expect the vast majority of cameras to produce great images most of the time in normal conditions. I’m not convinced the Oppo Find X6 Pro has nailed each photo better than any other phone here, and I think that’s clear from the examples. If it’s the best camera available right now, I really expect simple shots to eclipse the competition.

How other camera modes compare

How about cameras other than the IMX989, where Oppo and Hasselblad’s software comes into play more? The wide-angle camera does take similar-looking photos to the main camera, with vibrant colors and a good level of detail. But do you prefer the other wide-angle photo in the comparison above? The green tones are more natural, and the blue sky is less dazzling, plus the exposure means the trees in the background are better realized as well. It was taken by the Google Pixel 7a, which costs $500. Perhaps it’s not quite as shareable, but I think a lot of people will prefer the style.

How about using the zoom camera? The Apple iPhone 14 Pro has a 3x optical zoom, so it should be a good comparison for the Find X6 Pro. The photos of the car were taken from the same distance away using the 3x setting in each camera app. Neither is particularly great, with the iPhone 14 Pro introducing a lot of noise, but getting the white balance exactly right. Comparatively, the Find X6 Pro smooths everything out in its brighter shot and messes up the white balance at the same time.

At 6x zoom, which isn’t fully optical, the Find X6 Pro takes photos that are of similar quality to the Pixel 7 Pro’s camera at 5x, showing that Oppo’s software and MariSilicon X chip work together well. However, it’s no better than the Pixel 7 Pro photo, and just because it’s mostly digital and not optical doesn’t mean it should be celebrated — because the shot still isn’t great. This says more about the Pixel 7 Pro’s 5x mode than it does about the Find X6 Pro though.

Finally, let’s look at a lowlight photo. This is an easy challenge for the Find X6 Pro, as it’s taking on the Pixel 7a, which does not have a 1-inch sensor to pull in tons of light. The Find X6 Pro’s photo certainly has more detail when you look closely, and the streetlight’s glow shows how much light is being let in, but there’s also noticeable noise, poor edge enhancement, and more artifacts. It’s a good photo, and putting it against the Pixel 7a is pretty unfair, but the Google phone still manages to hold its own against the “best camera ever.”

So, it’s not very good?

I wanted to be impressed by the Oppo Find X6 Pro, not only because of the hype from others, but also because Oppo can make really excellent cameras. The Oppo Find N2 is a particular standout, with wonderful tones and color. But when comparing the Find X6 Pro’s results with other current phone cameras, it has been solid, but not breathtaking. It’s also worth noting that none of the photos above were taken specifically to compare with the Find X6 Pro; it’s just a coincidence I have them, as I’ve been carrying the X6 Pro around with other devices for a while.

However, I’m not giving up here and saying everyone is wrong about the Find X6 Pro. I want to show its photos in isolation to demonstrate that at the right time, with the right subject — and when you really take your time — the Find X6 Pro’s camera can come alive. The gallery above demonstrates the consistency of images Oppo promises with its “three main cameras.” It’s not bad at all and absolutely better than many, but there’s still evidence of the usual differences in exposure and color balance when you put them side by side.

I’ve spent quite a lot of time experimenting with the Find X6 Pro, and really like using the 3x zoom, which adds wonderful natural bokeh to photos. I enjoy taking photos of cars, and it works exceptionally well in these circumstances, even in low light. The macro mode is a little too keen to cut in, but when it does, the effects can also be startling (but I found it preferable to take it off automatic until I specifically wanted to use it). There’s also no doubt the main and wide-angle cameras take highly shareable, colorful photos.

Trust me — you aren’t missing out

A person holding the Oppo Find X6 Pro, showing the back of the phone.
Andy Boxall/Pro Well Tech

There’s genuinely a lot to like about the Oppo Find X6 Pro — whether that’s in the flagship-spec hardware or the cutting-edge main camera — but you do have to get past the hefty shape and ugly design, and the fact that the software takes lots of work to be even slightly manageable. I also haven’t been as creatively inspired by the camera as I was with the Xiaomi 13 Pro, which uses the same sensor and is officially sold outside China.

This is what frustrates me about calling the Oppo Find X6 Pro the “best” at anything. It’s not the best at software, and it’s not the best in design or ergonomics. And as our comparison photos prove, there are other cameras that are better or at least as generally capable. Restrict it to cameras with the IMX989 1-inch sensor, and the Xiaomi 13 Pro does everything just as well, or in the case of the camera, sometimes even a little better. And Leica definitely works with its chosen brand more closely and effectively than Hasselblad does with Oppo.

What I’m not doing is calling the Oppo Find X6 Pro a bad phone or saying its camera takes poor photos. It’s obviously a very capable phone, and the camera uses trendsetting tech to great effect. However, to call it the best camera phone you can get, or some variation of that statement — and for anyone to think we’re being unfairly overlooked by its China-only availability — is a bit of a stretch.

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