OnePlus has announced it’s working on an update for its OnePlus 8 Pro smartphone that will disable the 5MP near-infrared camera that was able to see through certain materials, including some clothing, when used with a ‘Photochrom’ mode in the native camera app.
The Color Filter camera onboard the 8 Pro has been known since the smartphone’s announcement back in April. However, not much was shared about the particular camera module at the time. It wasn’t until 8 Pro units started hitting the front doors of reviewers when it became clear what the 5MP near-infrared camera could see.
Last week in particular, a number of high-profile reviewers and pundits shared examples of just how much the Color Filter camera onboard the 8 Pro could reveal. Most notably, the below video, shared by YouTube channel Unbox Therapy, showed that beyond being able to see through the plastic IR shields built into numerous electronics, it could also see, at least to some degree, underneath certain clothing when stretched unusually thin.
Unsurprisingly, the see-through capability of the 8 Pro brought up privacy concerns, not unlike those that led to Sony recalling more than 700,000 ‘HandyCam’ camcorders back in 1998 when it was revealed the ‘Nightshot’ mode on its TRV 615 XR camcorders was revealing more than the general public was comfortable with.
Today @OnePlus decided to temporarily disable the ‘Color Filter’ camera functionality through software update in the coming week.
In order to eliminate the impact on users privacy under possible extreme circumstances and eliminate everyone’s concerns.https://t.co/uk3gn9iXvU
— Ben Geskin (@BenGeskin) May 19, 2020
OnePlus heard the response loud and clear and in an effort to get ahead of any further controversy, OnePlus announced, via Weibo, that it is temporarily disabling the Color Filter camera via a software update within the next week. In the post, OnePlus writes (machine-translated, edited with brackets for clarity):
‘When planning the [color] filter lens of OnePlus 8 Pro, we hope[d] to use this lens to perceive the characteristics of infrared light to provide users with a unique texture photography style effect. But recently, based on user feedback, we have found that under very specific environmental conditions, the filter lens may have a slight perspective effect on special materials at very close distances […] 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.’
OnePlus doesn’t elaborate on how temporary this solution is or what the long-term fix will be, but it’s a start. It’s also unknown whether this will be a forced update or something optional users can opt out of to keep the near-infrared capabilities.
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