Dubbed a “selfie-expert,” the OPPO F1s proved its worth as a handy laptop and camera replacement, on the job and covering the bustling opening of the 2016 Philippine International Motor Show last month.

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Day one of the 2016 Philippine International Motor Show (PIMS), original 29mp photo taken with steady-hand pan on OPPO F1s in panorama mode

Convergence in smartphones happened because of key components being leveraged for wider utility, and after end-users accepted these as useful substitutes for bigger, dedicated gear. When sharper, colored screens came online, that’s when vendors got to thinking, “what if we add a camera, the parts are small enough compared to the whole package, and we now have the same screen, even better than the ones on point and shoot digicams.” And it’s the consequences of convergence that vendors are now capitalizing on to establish distinctions between otherwise identical smartphone slabs.

c-oppo-f1sThe camera phone brought the selfie phenomenon, and some vendors went with it full tilt early on. OPPO of China is now the number two brand in the country, likely precipitated by Samsung’s Note 7 crisis, but also intentional after they launched their mainstreamed selfie-centric F1 series last February. Departing from the gimmicky take of their N3 swivelling camera phone, the F1 simply puts top tier auto-focusing cameras both in the rear and in front. Both cameras have large sensors, big fast apertures and sharp auto-focus, and can be put through radical post-shoot filters for pro-looking, airbrushed portraiture.

The latest model in the series, the F1s, bumps up against mid-range parameters with some premium specs that put it unabashedly in the new selfie mainstream. Good as the rear camera is with its fast phase-detect auto-focus (PDAF), big open f/2.2 aperture and exceptionally large 1/3” sensor delivering 13mp photos, the front camera is even better with its 16mp output. Overtly a typical slate phone, that inverted asymmetry in camera specs is the only sign that the OPPO F1s is selfie-centered gear.

A sealed brick, there’s no rear panel to remove to get to the slots. The battery is fixed and your SD card and sim modules fit onto a small slideout tray you can pop out with a pin key that comes with the kit. The phone’s heft is proof of a rigid metal frame for the slim case, weighing it down nicely in a confident grip shaped by OPPO’s trademark chamfering. The front of the slab is reassuringly dense with the smooth mineral feel of 2.5D Corning Gorilla Glass 4.

e-img20160811203905Their Color OS 3.0 fork of Android 5.1 is layered on top of an octa-core 1.5 GHz Cortex-A53 CPU and Mali-T860MP2 GPU controlled by a Mediatek MT6750 chipset, the processing package working off a roomy 3GB of fast accessing LPDDR3 memory backstopped by 32GB of fixed storage that’s of course expandable by micro SD. The tech package seems well integrated, no hangs or unexplained slowdowns, and although the 3075mAh Li-Po battery is short of having exceptional capacity, it does get you through a heavy work day.

The cameras on this puppy beg pushing, not just for self-portraits but also for full-blown photo work, and particularly because of its solid build and tech package. It’s simply too handy to trade for a camera when coverage starts happening, its smartphone connected utility stands ready to close the loop on getting the photos published in a full story.

For print work, raw resolution on both cameras fall short of the 19mp needed for a magazine’s full, two-page spread, but all F1 series phones (the F1, F1 Plus and the F1s) have Ultra HD as well as panorama modes to render images up to as much as 51mp. Ultra HD does a rapid series of either three or six shots for a single scene. These shot sets are then processed to interpolate more detail into the scene, delivering either 23 or 51mp images, respectively. It won’t conjure up the same sharpness as on a large sensor DSLR, but the enhanced details are there with fuzziness in the edges that doesn’t add to what happens with ink on paper in print reproduction.

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Detail on a photo of the Lexus LC 500 h on exhibit at 2016 PIMS, original 51mp image taken with OPPO F1s in Ultra HD mode

img20160914163919Auto-focus / auto-exposure (AF/AE) metering points are easily selected with on-screen taps, the reticle staying on the selected point to conveniently confirm things. Chosen properly, those AF/AE points always yield sharp, accurately colored and well saturated images. And because the FIs doesn’t prevent shutter clicks at any point, there’s this lag window you can exploit after focus sharpens and before exposure is adjusted.

img20160916141254Stay alert and quick on the draw, you can simulate having manual override of settings while getting realtime, what-you-see-is-what-you-get feedback from the sharp 1080p screen. Tap first on the a mid-grey item in your sight picture to adjust the metering, then tap on your actual focus point and click it before the metering also adjusts to the new target.

f-img20160914150733If you’re dealing with a moving subject, there’s AF/AE lock to work with. Press long on a metering point to lock up settings (the screen showing the reticle labeled “AF/AE lock”), you can pre-set focus and meter at a point where you want your subject to be sharp on a dynamic panning shot. Lock on a dark spot and it slows down shutter speed enough to get that 1/15th of a second or slower that you’ll need for motion blur.

If you want to push things even more, there’s a set of controls in expert mode for manual focusing, ISO selection, long exposures starting at one second, and even the pro’s grail feature of raw image capture.

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The Lexus LC 500 h on a rotating turnstile at PIMS 2016, with post shoot auto-levels adjustment on an original image taken with the OPPO F1s in expert mode, ISO set to 100, manually focused with onscreen slider, and set to slow 1 second exposure

Proof of OPPO smarts in many ways, the F1s is as sharp as they come in its mid-range segment. Introduced last August at an SRP of PhP12,999, the entire first-delivery allotment was sold out within days of a splashy launch that flooded social media with images of celebrity influencers hamming it up for new normal selfies.

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