HTC One Camera Review

The shiny new HTC One approaches photography in a different way to most of its competitors. For a start, it’s got a measly 4 megapixels. I say measly, because the latest and greatest smart phone cameras out there boast at least 8 megapixels. Heck, my two year old Samsung Galaxy S2 packs 8mp. And there are a few out there now with 13mp sensors. However, the HTC One pixels are up to twice the size of Samsung, Sony and Apple pixels. HTC call their pixels ‘Ultapixels’. A gimmicky name if ever I saw one.

So does the lack of megapixels matter? Yes, of course. And no, absolutely not. Let me explain. It’s simple really. The more megapixels, the more resolution, the more detail you get. The fewer megapixels, the less detail. So if you guessed you probably won’t want to be using the digital zoom too much on the HTC, you’d be right. The closer you look at the detail, the worse the HTC images will look. This is a clear negative point.

So if the low megapixel count does matter, why would I also suggest it doesn’t? You know, I owned a 3mp Nikon camera back in the day. It was cutting bleeding edge in its day. And the photos I took with it still look pretty good today, on my laptop monitor. On my phone they look sharp as anything. It’s not all about the megapixel count. There’s more at play. And the fact is, I don’t print out my snaps on A4 or A3 paper. I look at them on my phone, on my tablet or on my 17″ laptop monitor. The lower resolution is much less of an issue.

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The big pixels on the HTC One do mean that the HTC One performs well in low light. The fast f2.0 lens also helps hugely. So whilst digital zoom is a big minus point for the camera, its performance in dim conditions makes up for it. And this, to be honest, is one of the reasons I bought the HTC One. It’s a more rounded camera. I don’t use mobile phones as my primary camera. If I’m going out somewhere special, I pack a proper camera. What I want from my mobile phone is a camera that I will have with me all the time, ready to go into action at a moments notice. And I want it to do a reasonable job in any circumstance.

So what’s the camera like to use? It’s very slick, quick and intuitive. The three dots at the top brings out the settings menu, which is beautifully laid out to make selecting the right options for your next shop a breeze. There’s a couple of icons, camera and video, to select….well, the camera or the video. There’s a button to the left of them to choose some filters.  There’s a button on the right to open up the gallery, from which you can edit your images and apply more filters or frames. Incidentally, the filters you can select before taking the image are not available after you’ve taken the photo.

Filters are always fun. Different phones come with different filters, and some phones come with a ton more than the HTC. But this is one area I’m not going to get hung up on. Firstly, you really only want so many options available in the camera. Or it just gets confusing. The HTC filters are great, and that’s all you need to know. Want more? Download Camera 360, Flickr and Pixlmatic. Ta da. Millions of filters to waste your life away with.

More importantly, the camera shoots quickly. Really quickly. Press the button, and it’s taken and stored in the gallery in a micro second. You can just keep shooting. With the Zoe feature, you can literally keep shooting – it’ll take a multitude of shots over a three second period so you can choose the best one. Meh. Every camera has a pointless gimmick that the marketing department will flog to death. Zoe is that gimmick with the HTC. Sure, sure if you can be bothered you can get creative with it etc. But I’ll wager that 99% of users will touch that gimmick just the once and move on.

And I’ll move on from filters. Are there any other features I liked in the HTC One. Yup. The Panorama Sweep worked very nicely. I put it to the test with the Clifton Suspension Bridge in Bristol, and it did a sterling job. Generally, exposure and colour reproduction worked well too. The macro setting did a darned job job as well, as you can see from the photo above. The HDR setting helped out at times when I shot in contrasty conditions. I also love the wide 28mm starting point – you can get a lot more in the photo without having to keep stepping backwards. The camera did what it said it would do on the tin.

So my verdict. Am I happy with the results I have gotten so far? Very. Have I made the right decision with the HTC One when it comes to photography? For me, yes. You know, there’s not a lot between the likes of the Samsung Galaxy S4, the Sony Xperia Z and the HTC One. But the latter does do things very differently, as I mentioned in the first sentence of this post. So that there are times the S4 will outperform it are to be expected.

But then the HTC will win in other situations. How do you use your mobile phone camera? Where and when do you shoot? Which camera is best will depend on how you use it. I’ll say this much – it’s a massive step forward from the 8mp camera mounted on my Galaxy S2. It should be, there’s two years worth of tech development between them. The difference is that I would now be happy to post mobile shots on my Flickr account. That wasn’t the case with the Galaxy S2. With the S2, as good as it was at the time, it was always obvious that it was a cell phone cam.

Really obvious. Filters were a necessity, to salvage the image, not a luxury to have fun with like they are with the HTC. A fair few of my initial HTC shots look great on my laptop. They don’t scream cheap mobile cam at all. I’d happily use them on Flickr. Want to see a few on my first shots? Check out the set I took in Bristol and another set in Christchurch on Google+.

 

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