Android Central

We've seen the comparisons between the HTC One and the Galaxy S4, and we've read the reviews for both, also.  Surely, that's all that we need to know, right?  Questions still remain, like how the camera of the One stacks up in real world use.  That's exactly the question that Android Central Forums member Bobbman asked:

Hello all. ... Strongly considering the HTC One. Camera quality is really important to me. I have heard some mixed opinions about the camera. Was hopping you could help me based on the following criteria:

  • How do photos look on large computer screen. Do not care about cropping or zooming in. Just want them to look good on large screen.
  • The low light photos are they really good on a consistent basis? I looked at the photo thread and it seems a bit hit or miss.
  • Does the video capture record sound well? Also have seen mixed opinions about this.
  • Do photos print well on to a standard 4x6 print? Again not worried about cropping.

Thanks for any input!!!

It's a lengthy conversation already, but the past couple of days have focused on how to get the best pictures out of the One.  Some of these tips will apply to just about any device, though. Head past the break for some highlights.

SCjRqrQCnBQ19QoYCtdl had this to say:

The camera has an f/2.0 lens, Optical Image Stabilization, and much larger pixels than competing phones. This means it has low light abilities that other phones can not match.

In good light, other phones with more megapixels can produce more detail when viewed at very large sizes, but the One photos are very good at screen resolution and would be fine for a 4x6 print or larger.

For me, I am very happy with the camera for the low light ability as well as the features (zoe/highlights). The camera is very important to me in selecting this phone, and after 1 month, I am glad that I made this choice over the S4 based on the camera.

Things I don't like about the One camera include 16:9 format, and less than expected dynamic range (easy to blow highlights to pure white).

Hoping HTC improves the dynamic range through software as the larger pixels should provide better dynamic range.

madlaw1071 follows it a few posts down with this:

There are many things to like about the One's camera:

  1. It's remarkably FAST. It opens quick and snaps shots faster than any camera phone I've seen.
  2. The interface is simple and intuitive
  3. Low-light performance is impressive BUT this can be misleading. Whereas the One will take better low light pictures on average than it's competitors, the small amount of mega pixels necessitate that phones like the iPhone 5 and S4 are capable of better low light pictures with the proper settings tweaks.

It really depends on how you plan on using your camera. For outdoor shots, the S4 has it all over the One and every review bears this out. If you will only look at photos on your phone or tablet, then the lack of MP on the One wont be a handicap to you. However, if you will view pics on your PC or TV or make prints, then the lack of MP will lead to a lack of detail in the pics and forget about zooming and cropping pics on the One, the pics will be terrible.

I have both the One and the S4 and if the 2 cameras could be combined it would be perfect. To me, the S4 camera is better overall but again, your usage may vary. 

It would be difficult to have this discussion without comparison between the Galaxy S4 and HTC One.  There's also some technical talk about pixel size and how that relates to quality.  It's really good conversation.  If you have any photography knowledge at all, please, feel free to jump in offer your expert advice.  You'll also find plenty of sample images from the One.

Visit the thread here and join the discussion


Reader comments

How good is the camera on the HTC One?


For the love of god, THIS. You can pick up a compact camera for under $200 that would blow away ANY cellphone camera, it wouldn't be that big to carry around, and transferring photos for sharing takes about 3 seconds with a USB OTG cable plugged in to your phone. Every cellphone camera claims to be "the best camera you will own" and every time, they have some nice demo shots, but in all around real performance it is a total meh. If you snap casual photos to put on facebook, your smartphone will probably work just fine. If you ever utter the words "my smartphone camera quality is important to me" please STFU and get a real camera.

Why would I want to carry another device. The idea that your cell phone is shaping up to be a great camera option is welcomed. There are phones that take fantastic pictures, so yes it is a factor I consider when I buy. My last vacations photos were all taken by my phone (hesitantly, but in the name of experimenting I wanted to try). It worked out well though, got some great shots..

Phones take fantastic pictures, compared to older phones... There is nothing wrong with wanting a good camera in your smartphone, but if picture quality is of ANY concern you will buck up and find the room for another 3"x5" device. There is just no comparing the quality of even a humble P&S against any smartphone camera. If the shots from your phone work for you, then great, but its disingenuous to act like it actually replaces a dedicated camera.

I can't wait till 10 years from now when smartphones come with a 24 megapixel camera and a 10x optical zoom and we're still complaining about smartphone cameras.

LOL. Seriously. My GSIII takes better pics than my old Sony point and shoot from 10 years. I compared NYC International Car show pics from then (Sony) and now (GSIII). The cars weren't the only thing looking old. haha.

OK, joebob.

I have a dslr, a bunch of lenses and flashes for when I am going to take pictures and want maximum quality and flexibilty and don't mind the bulk, weight, and space required.

I have a Sony RX100 for when I know I want good pictures, but for when a pocketable camera is more appropriate.

Now I have, with the HTC One, a capable camera that except when I am in the shower is within arms reach 100% of the time.

Your comment is just off base.

I don't think that there are many cheap compact cameras that handle low light well. The 2.0 lens is way better than most any cheap compact so the One might do better in some situations. Optical image stabilization would put it solidly on top.

Speaking as someone who already has an SLR for whenever I'm specifically looking to take great pictures, having a camera on my phone that takes great pics is still invaluable, and of much more worth to me than buying any sort of additional point and shoot. I carry my phone in my pocket EVERYWHERE, and realistically would not be able to do the same with a point and shoot. Having a good cameraphone ensures that I can take great pics at times when I wouldn't otherwise anticipate needing to do so, specifically times when I'm not carrying anything else with me.

Finally, from a social media perspective, it's much more handy to have a smartphone with the ability to take great pics and THEN upload them to Facebook, Instagram, etc. whenever I'd like.

The best camera I have is the one I have on me whenever I need to take a shot. As any photographer will tell you, the best moments are impossible to predict, but always worth capturing.

There's nothing wrong with wanting to be able to take quality shots with the device I have with me most often, even if that means I have to sacrifice the best quality on occasion.

The 16:9 format is a killer for me. I'd like to know that even if I took the picture in portrait I still got some the detail. The 16:9 thins it out too much. I'm fairly used to turning my phone landscape, but I can't always do that. Even then I don't like the 16:9 on landscape that much. It's too much information. Is there a way to do a different setting rather than the 16:9 with this phone?

The camera "Crop" settings have the options of "Wide", "Regular" and "Square" with "Wide" being the default.

The problem is you lose even more pixels that way. If you turn a 16:9 shot into a 4x6" print (3:2 aspect ratio) you have to throw away about 15% of the image. Your camera just turned from 4MP to 3.5MP.

Yep. You are just giving up flexibility later by having it crop the actual shot. There's no way to reconfigure the pixels to get the 4 megapixels in the tighter area.

Thanks for getting what I meant. I originally was gonna type "deal killer" but I never put in the word "deal"

What I don't understand is fact that the lens is circular, which means a 4:3 would be MUCH better for cramming as many pixels into the area as possible. With a 16:9 sensor, you're just wasting space in there. They could have had a 5MP 4:3 sensor or a 16:9 4MP sensor. For some reason they chose 16:9 even though they knew they'd get knocked for having only 4MP.

When the lens is a circle shape instead of oval that doesn't tell you anything about the sensor. All it tells you is that the sensor is covered by a circular shaped piece of glass.

Also, home theater people have used special lenses to turn their 16:9 projectors into cinema aspect ratios of 2.35:1

All of that aside, the reason they probably went 16:9 is because it's pairing it to 95% of the screens out there, most importantly the one attached to the camera. The second they change the sensor to 4:3 everyone else in the world is going to start whining that the pictures don't even fit the screen properly...etc

I understand that the sensor is what's causing the 16:9 resolution. What I'm saying is that the lens is circular and would therefore would be better optimized for a squarish sensor. The more rectangular the sensor, the smaller is has to be and less light it can absorb through the window of the circular lens.

And yes, people would complain. Hell they could just default it to cropped 16:9 at the 4MP native resolution of the phone, but also allow people to switch it to the 5MP 4:3 resolution if they wanted. That would be better than what they did.

I don't always have my camera handy when my kids do something cute. It's nice to have a great camera in my phone for things like that.

The photos are nice if you shoot just what you want, but the combination of the wide angle and few pixels to work with have left me disappointed often when I can't crop something as much as I'm accustomed to on my iPhone without it looking terrible. That said, the combination of Zoe and Google Plus Photo Enhancements has been a lot of fun.

I thought this was settled a long time ago, the S4 takes better photos because of it's removable battery and SD card slot. ;-)

Did you actually use one of those amazingly useful hand gestures to write this amazing comment?

I don't think that's an option, but I bet at least 10 million buyers of the S4 within the first month of availability wished that it was. But there's always the S5, right?

for the love of god, dont look at the one's pics on a computer monitor bigger than 15 inches, they will look terrible. low light shots have more light and less grain than the iphone 5's, but generally come out too soft. video capture is good during daylight, but the frame rate during dark shots is too low in favour of more light, resulting in jerky video.

dont buy the one's camera if you plan on watching photos, videos on anything other than the phone itself or facebook.

im still keeping my one, but definitely not for the camera.

edit: ok, flat out dont take any landscape shots. macros are good on the one. if you keep that in mind, you will love the camera.

One of the dislikes of the member poster in the article is 16x9 setting. That shouldn't be a dislike considering you can switch from normal ratio to square to wide. That should be a Like considering the S4 doesn't have this. Do some of these people even realize features can be turned on or off? How do you dislike an added feature that isn't mandatory?

The camera is optimized for 16x9 so changing to 3:2 or 4:3 reduces the number of pixels even more. You're basically cropping the photo, something all cameras can do.

But the S4 (and the S1/S2/S3) DO have a 16x9 setting... And not many people prefer extra wide aspect ratios when they make prints; if you wanted to turn the shot into a 4x6" print you are starting with 3.5MP which will result in obvious pixellation, even on a dinky home printer. 4MP is really the low limit before you will see grossness, 8MP is preferred. So, if you ever plan to make prints, 16:9 aspect ratio is certainly a "dislike".

"the One photos are very good at screen resolution and would be fine for a 4x6 print or larger." is certainly coming from someone who has NOT tried it.

Actually, I have been shooting the one in 4:3 mode. It has plenty of resolution for printing 4x6 without concern. It also produces images larger than can be displayed on my 1920x1080 22 inch monitor so they have to be compressed if you want to see them in full screen. People need to get over their mega pixel fixation.

Weather you think the HTC One camera is better than the S4 or any of the other leading brands it's simply amazing how well it performs compared to them with less than a third the megapixals. That tells you HTC has done their homework and not just up the count.

I like a nice camera but at this point no high end phone has a poor camera and if one is better than the other ? It is usually only marginally better.

I guess this was the concern when HTC came out with this camera. People are truly brainwashed by the megapixel race. 4mp is plenty. My 22 inch monitor can only display 1920x1080. The one takes shots at 2688x1520. That means to view full screen on my monitor it must be compressed further. Even viewing at 100%, which only shows part of the picture on my monitor, the picture is clear, unpixelated, and has very litte noise.

More megapixels are not only unnecessary in most instances, they are detrimental to low light performance, file size and responsiveness of the the camera.

Keep believing you need more megapixels. I will keep enjoying the HTC One's camera.

My son couldn't care less about a megapixel. He just wants to know why hus HTC One photos keep coming out blurry and grainy when it rarely happened on his S3. He's always out and about with his friends and they take tons of photos mostly outdoors.
I told him that his device was meant to take good photos in low light, as in indoors or outside at night, not out in the sunshine at the beach, hanging out in a friend's backyard or hiking, places you'll always find him and his friends.
He loves his HTC One for the look (he gets to show it off to his teenage peers) and the speakers. But he finds that he can't reconcile with the grainy, blurry photos.
So we're gonna go back to the S3 so that he can proudly post his hundreds of photos on Facebook.

That doesn't square with my experience. If it is true, he got a malfunctioning camera and should take it in for exchange. There is absolutely no reason it should produce blurry pictures unless the phone is not focusing properly. Is he tapping the screen to focus? The shutter speed on the one will be much, much faster than on the s3 so motion blur or camera movement will be less of an issue with the one. Grainy pictures also doesn't square with my experience. My advice is touch to focus and if that doesn't work, exchange.

My wife's HTC one takes way better photos than my s3 you may have a faulty phone or it may have dirt or oil on the lenses.

K, if y'all think it's ok, I won't be talking bad about it's camera. Can we still don't like the phone much on the basis of the button scheme?

@Kevin O'Quinn

Thanks for the post.

this year the high end smartphone's camera quality should be the good quaities of both S4 & HTC ONE.

Thanks in Advance

There is absolutely nothing wrong with wanting your cell phone camera to be a good camera. In fact, that's one of the first things I look at. I'm a painter, and I do have a nice Nikon D5100 to take reference photos with for future paintings.... I also do photography as a hobby... However, carrying around that camera is somewhat difficult sometimes, and I see no need to buy a smaller camera if my phone can take wonderful photos when I need it to. People who say that individuals like me should "stfu and get a real camera" should be the ones doing the shutting up. Everyone has different needs when it comes to their phones, and wanting a good cell phone camera is a legitimate need for some people. I've actually used some of my cell phone pics as references for paintings...

Does nobody else notice the pink hue in the center area of the picture? Notice the clouds turn pinkish in the center top vs side top. It's a defect on a lot of older smartphone cameras, and it still appears in the latest HTC One, what a disgrace.

Yeah the pink hue it sucks.....i wonder if all phones have it or is it in some? Can we exchange for this or will htc repair it?

When I go out at night with friends I like to carry only my photo not a phone and camera together. For this the HTC One is great for it's low light image quality. I have a digital SLR camera for those times I go out during the day; hiking, the zoo, etc.... NO phone will ever compare to an SLR camera and someone who likes photography and quality will never mind carry the extra bulk :)