There’s a rumor going around that the new OnePlus 8 camera can see through objects in a sort of x-ray effect. It can’t — that’s not what it does — but it does provide some slight visibility through a handful of otherwise-solid objects, thanks to what appears to be a built-in camera defect.
Whether or not you consider this a feature, therefore, may depend a great deal on what kind of problems it causes for your other images (if any). To see the feature in action, activate the “Photochrom” filter and point the camera at the right kind of object. Here’s an Apple TV, as one example:
One of the best examples 🤯#OnePlus8Pro Color Filter Camera can see through some plastic pic.twitter.com/UkaxdyV6yP
— Ben Geskin (@BenGeskin) May 13, 2020
Here’s what’s happening here. Cameras are typically designed to capture light in the same wavelengths that humans can see. There’s no reason they have to be, and there are wavelengths of light that cameras are capable of capturing but simply don’t, because doing so would introduce visual artifacts into the spectrum bands that humans can see. In this case, OnePlus’ camera is picking up infrared light that our eyes can’t normally see. The combination of a slightly opaque (in visible light) surface and the OnePlus 8’s slightly infrared-friendly camera can combine to create output we wouldn’t normally get. The result? An x-ray (or “x-ray” camera).
Your brain is capable of seeing colors you don’t normally process if handed the input to do so. Some years ago, we wrote about the case of a man who had the lenses of his eye replaced with artificial ones. As sometimes happens in these cases, the new artificial lenses allowed him to see deeper into the ultraviolet than is typical for humans. Tests with precise spectrographic measuring equipment confirmed it. When handed deeper UV light than we typically see, your brain is capable of mapping it to visual output, to some modest extent.
Back to the OnePlus 8. In this case, the camera that’s doing the sensing is a low-quality sensor that doesn’t take very good photos. AndroidCentral has dismissed the privacy risk for this reason, given that the “Photochrom” mode apparently degrades image quality further. The overall privacy risk is small, the company claims, though we can understand why folks might be leery given how easily footage finds its way online these days. This also is a problem OnePlus really should have caught in-factory.
It’s an interesting way to see inside some otherwise opaque hardware, but those who want a serious look at such things may be better off just hunting down a screwdriver. Cameras that can see in the infrared are cool, but the usefulness of this model is rather lacking.
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