OnePlus 9 phones coming on March 23, and Hasselblad cameras are the focus

OnePlus 9 Hasselblad
(Image credit: OnePlus)

OnePlus has finally announced its long-rumored flagship OnePlus 9 series of phones to rival the Samsung Galaxy S21 range as the top phones of 2021. What’s more, we have a OnePlus 9 launch date: March 23 with a launch event streaming from OnePlus’ website.

The OnePlus 9 series, rumored to be the OnePlus 9, 9 Pro and 9 Lite, have one big ace up their sleeve: famed camera company Hasselblad has cooperated with OnePlus to help revamp the new phones’ camera systems, according to a press release. 

The phonemaker didn’t confirm anything major about the upcoming handsets beyond camera details (they’ll use a Sony IMX789 sensor, for instance), though they’re rumored to pack top-tier specs like a Snapdragon 888 chipset.

Hasselblad has an incredible reputation, which OnePlus’ promotional material is leaning on, featuring reproductions of famous photos taken using Hasselblad cameras – like Earthrise, a shot taken of our planet during the Apollo 11 Moon landing. While a OnePlus 9 probably won’t make it to our nearest celestial neighbor for a photo op, the phonemaker is sending a clear signal with the partnership that it’s finally addressing one of the biggest criticisms of OnePlus phones: weak cameras.

Borrowing some Hasselblad cred

Whether this partnership will result in better photography won’t be clear until we get our hands on the OnePlus 9 range’s cameras. Plenty of phone brands have partnered with notable camera companies over the years, but some of those matchups have been more publicity stunt than productive synthesis that truly raises the camera phone bar, as Mr. Mobile’s Michael Fisher explains in a new video.

At least we know this isn’t a one-and-done partnership: OnePlus and Hasselblad are working together for the next three years on the phonemaker’s handsets, with the OnePlus 9 series as the first to come out. 

OnePlus has also shed light on the extent of the partnership, claiming Hasselblad will work with them to improve multiple parts of the camera system: first the software, refining color tuning and sensor calibration to “bring more perceptually accurate and natural-looking colors to photos taken with OnePlus flagship cameras,” according to a press release. 

There’s also a Hasselblad Pro Mode in the phone’s camera that will have a new user interface based on the camera company’s own image processing software for better control to fine-tune photos. 

OnePlus has other ambitions to improve its cameras over a three-year period, including opening four more R&D labs, developing a 140-degree field-of-view camera (current ultra-wide angle lenses manage around 120 degrees), faster selfie camera focus, and a ‘freeform lens’ debuting in the OnePlus 9 that reduces edge distortion in ultra-wide photos. 

Another part of the teaser also claims the whole series of these handsets will be 5G ready, so that may mean the upcoming OnePlus 9 Lite will be one of the cheapest 5G phones.

When will we hear about the OnePlus 9 family? March 23 is the big day for the launch event, and it's set to start at 7am PT / 10am EST / 3pm GMT (or March 24 at 1am for those in AEDT).

David Lumb

David is now a mobile reporter at Cnet. Formerly Mobile Editor, US for TechRadar, he covered phones, tablets, and wearables. He still thinks the iPhone 4 is the best-looking smartphone ever made. He's most interested in technology, gaming and culture – and where they overlap and change our lives. His current beat explores how our on-the-go existence is affected by new gadgets, carrier coverage expansions, and corporate strategy shifts.