OnePlus 8 Pro | Does it really have X-ray vision?

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It was recently pointed out by Ben Geskin on Twitter that the OnePlus 8 Pro’s color filter camera module had the ability to see through some plastics, like TV remotes, game controllers, etc. 

In this article, We’ll discuss how it happens and if it applies to more than just these plastics.

But first, if you’re unfamiliar with the OnePlus 8 Pro, click here for its full review.

To start with, let’s understand how the OnePlus 8 Pro’s color filter sensor actually works. The color filter sensor is basically just a sensor that detects infrared (IR) light instead of the normal visible light range. This gives photographers a different perspective on the objects we see around us. 

But IR light doesn’t behave the same way as normal visible light. Instead, due to its low frequency and long wavelength, IR light can pass through substances that most visible light can’t, such as thin plastics, dense dust clouds, or even fog. This is why IR cameras are used in surveillance, firefighting, and even search-and-rescue operations. 

IR sensors are also used in astronomy to locate objects in the universe that could not be seen in visible light by optical telescopes due to obstacles like dense dust or gas clouds, which aren’t opaque to IR. 

It was recently pointed out by Ben Geskin on Twitter that the OnePlus 8 Pro’s color filter camera module had the ability to see through some plastics, like TV remotes, game controllers, etc.
Image Source: NASA

Here’s a picture of a man with his hands in a thin black plastic bag. The picture on the right was taken with an IR camera, and you can see his hands quite clearly behind the plastic. That’s because the thin plastic is translucent to IR light even though it’s opaque to visible light. The man’s glasses appear black because glass is opaque to IR.

image 1
Source: Spitzer, CalTech

The IR sensor on the OnePlus 8 Pro works the same way. OnePlus’s color filter lens is a 5MP one, with an f/2.4 aperture. Here’s a sample of what images look like through the color filter lens of the OnePlus 8 Pro:

image 2
Image Source: OnePlus Photochrom Forum

Since IR light can easily pass through some materials which are opaque to visible light, the color filter lens can act like an X-ray in some instances. It can even see through dark clothing, though very faintly. Here’s an example of how effectively the OnePlus 8 Pro can see through clothing:  

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Image source: AndroidPIT

Now, this presented OnePlus with a dilemma: can they really sell a product capable of infringing on people’s privacy like this?

A similar situation took place in 1998, where a camcorder released by Sony had a Night Vision mode employing a more powerful lens with IR rays used to see in the absence of visible light. This camera was capable of seeing through dark clothing like swimsuits. Once Sony realized what they had done, the units were recalled, and the situation was rectified. 

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Image Source: Fossbytes

OnePlus is known for quick and timely action, and it was great to hear that OnePlus responded within days of this feature’s discovery. Here’s what they posted on Weibo:

“All the time, OnePlus has put user privacy in the most important position. In order to eliminate the impact on user privacy under possible extreme circumstances and eliminate everyone ’s concerns, we decided to temporarily disable the filter function through software upgrades. Push within one week.”

– OnePlus

OnePlus decided to temporarily disable this feature in China until they can make adjustments to ensure that the color filter lens cannot be used to invade others privacy, as they still believe that the color filter still has many interesting applications that shouldn’t be withheld from consumers.

Do you agree with the actions OnePlus took? Should they ban this feature outside China as well? Let us know in the comments! 

By – Ashish Kulkarni