iPhone 5, HTC One

iMore compares HTC's Ultrapixel camera to the iPhone's 8MP rear shooter

Outside of the Android world, one of the HTC One's biggest competitors is Apple's iPhone 5, a device which has earned praise for its 8-megapixel camera and advanced optics. As such, our sister site iMore.com decided to put both cameras through their paces in a side-by-side comparison.

As you'll know if you've been following the phone's launch, the HTC One sports a 4-megapixel 'Ultrapixel' camera, with larger (2 micron) pixels on the sensor itself and f/2.0 aperture, not to mention optical image stabilization. On the iPhone 5, Apple takes a more traditional approach, with a large-ish 8-megapixel sensor, supported by a fancy sapphire crystal lens and f/2.4 aperture. So the iPhone wins on megapixels alone, but the HTC One would seem better equipped for low-light photography.

Here's what iMore's Ally Kazmucha had to say after putting both phones' cameras to the test in a variety of conditions --

Both cameras produced stellar images, yet excelled in different areas. The iPhone 5 does much better when it comes to handling color depth, tone, and saturation. The HTC One leaves the iPhone in the (noisy, noisy) dust when it comes to capturing low light, relatively stationary images.

Apple has been focusing on the iPhone camera for years now, and it's really paid off when it comes to everyday photography. Competitors like HTC, however, are really nailing areas like low light. Hopefully Apple follows their lead, and the lead of Nokia, and starts adding features like optical image stabilization (OIS) and f/2.0 apertures or wider.

For the full article, complete with a few dozen comparison shots, check out the full article over on iMore.

More: iPhone 5 versus HTC One: Camera shootout

There are 54 comments

geoff5093 says:

Ultrapixels are just larger pixels because of a lower resolution...

PodMonkeys says:

It's the size of the Sensor's "pixels" not the images pixels.

By having less "pixels" on a similar sized sensor as a high "pixel" sensor, you end up with larger individual light capture points. It's like the film equivalent of having a wider aperture to capture more light.


rd_nest says:

Absolutely. The easiest explanation of 'Ultra-pixel'.

Here's an interesting fact - Nokia N95 in 2007 had bigger pixel sizes than HTC One's Ultra-pixels.

LesserCure says:

Not all, but in most shots, HTC One's colors seemed more realistic to me.

pappy53 says:

To me, the iPhone colors are much more realistic.

xlDeMoNiClx says:

It'll vary from person to person.

still1 says:

look at the second picture in the article of a mac/keyboard/iphone. look at mac metalic image it looks yellowish. tell me is that how mac looks in real?? HTC One show a realistic image of the mac. now look at third image? yellowish-iphone, normal HTC One

deadlock4400 says:

@Alex Dobie

Thanks for the awesome post.

Of course, HTC ONE is a razor-edge cutting product from HTC company. high end and very power smartphone indeed. One of the best features of this HTC ONE is it's ultra pixel camera and it's also the first awesome technology which is invented by HTC.

Thanks in Advance

ritt02 says:

While I like what HTC is doing with their camera, the only thing they "invented" was their marketing term "ultra pixel". Maybe they're the first to care about actual pixel size on a smartphone camera but it's not some new tech that they pioneered. It's just taking a page from a real camera's book and using a better pixel-size-to-sensor-size ratio.

mwara244 says:

Correct, its a marketing ploy, the same as retina display. its still a 4 MP camera, just with better camera software and hopefully a better sensor.

Channan says:

It's not really an invention. They just made bigger pixels but had to use less of them to fit them in a small sensor. P&S and DSLRs have even bigger pixels.

icebike says:

No, you miss a great deal in assuming it's just larger pixels.

Because those larger pixels are made up of many many smaller pixels, "averaged" together. (averaged is in quotes here, because it's not really a simple average).

A big pixel might miss important detail or edges, but by combining multiple pixels to form each final single pixel they can do at image capture time what you would have to do while reducing a higher resolution image for display.

Its a complex reduction that can take into account low light, image complexity, fine details etc, way better than if they just went ahead and actually made bigger pixels.

This is the first I've heard that the HTC One uses pixel binning. What's the actual resolution then?

Alex Dobie says:

Pretty sure it doesn't. Before release it was (incorrectly) rumored to use pixel binning, or whatever Nokia uses on the 808 Pureview. One pixel is one pixel.

icebike says:

You may be right, I think I have my phones mixed up....

coronaboy10 says:

That capture more light.

dwd3885 says:

i think it's safe toe say the phones take comparable pictures in all situations, except low light, where the One outperforms.

Rigelian says:

The HTC One does blow away the iPhone in low light. It also seems to have a larger depth of field in some shots. Take a look at the red flower photo and the photo with the water streaming down. As for saturation, the iPhone photos tend to pop more if a bit unnaturally. On that one I think it's about viewer preference.

etnpnys says:

With the exception of my comment over on iMore's site, I don't know why I'm surprised to find that everybody over there thinks that the washed out, brownish photos on the left are all better. Seriously. They're perpetuating a stereotype.

The iPhone takes photos using "Auto Enhance" automatically engaged on every picture, that's why their photos come out more vibrant and vivid. They are not true color reproductions of the scene, however, not like the HTC One which gives you the option to Auto Enhance after the fact. Only iDiots need the features turned on for them, as they would never locate that option after the fact. Thank God I'm not one of them.

However, using ad hominem attacks such as iDiots adds little credibility to your opinion.

dc9super80 says:

You must feel so enlightened. Your life must have so much reason because of this..

Yeah, thank god you are the type of person who judges people based on what they buy. Why not just take the next step and hate people based on other superficial reasons?

svinyard says:

I think the iPhone has traditionally done a decent job post processing their photos automatically into stylistically pleasing photos. I have enjoyed it in the past and have traditionally found HTC photos to be cold enough to a fault. iPhone still took better outdoor photos by a fair margin. Getting the blue pants, nice yellows and clear picture. I thought the One was definitely dull for some reason.

Now, the problem here is the HTC should be KILLING these guys and not just competing. I just don't get it. Android has so many phones and all we can do is compete (and still loose in areas)? Frustrating. I want to see some new innovation in the Android Camera hardware/software that REALLY pushes the envelope.

Who is to say it's not? I particularly like photo sphere. :)

svinyard says:

Software is only a small portion. I would say the majority of Android users will see it as a rarely used Gimmick for now though. End of the day, Hardware is where its at and we aren't seeing anything in that regard. Nothing drastically significant if the iPhone's rehashed stuff is still listed near the top.

Whyzor says:

In the high end digital camera sensor technologies, higher megapixels does win out eventually because in good lighting, they have better detail. In low-lighting, software removes noise and because of the higher pixels to start out with, even after noise-reduction blurring, the resulting image has higher detail than an original low-res image.

Unless the sensor is unable to capture enough light to make a usable picture, which is often the case.

tim242 says:

Anybody that thinks the One's camera is better than the iPhone or S4 is full of shit.

Not everyone's perception is the same as yours.

It is a classic case of taking one step forward (improved low light) but two steps back (everything else compromised). While I do not agree with the approach of the comment you replied to I do agree with the point made. HTC deserves credit for their direction but low light aside it delivers poor results compared to rival devices. It looks like it has been rushed out a device too soon due to HTC's financial problems.

I don't think real world experience bears this out. The HTC One does a fine job all around, is particularly fine at for internet posting (where else is anyone going to see the photos anyway) and is stellar in low light.

If you want to take 100% corner crops taken in ample light and pixel peep the result against a 13mp sensor, they will obviously not match the resolution, but they will look fine at 1200x800 or so and the speed and low light capabilities will result in more good shots.

Nev says:

Don't sugarcoat it, man...tell 'em how you really feel!

LegacyEvoAce says:


pappy53 says:

I think that the iPhone 5 camera has no equal, except for the one Lumia. And the iPhone camera will be better when iOS 7 releases.

ScottColbert says:

you might want to work on your thinking then, you don't do it well.

Wildo6882 says:

So because he feels that the iPhone 5's camera is the best on the market (aside from the Lumia, as he said), he's dumb? Pretty sure you're the one with the issues with thinking as that's one of the more ridiculous things I've heard around here.

I LOVE Android but I'm not so blind to see that there are much better cameras on phones out there than the One. I'm on Verizon and if they had the One I'd pick it up in a second, so I'm not bashing it. But the iPhone takes possibly the best all around photos for a phone. They're not the best in every situation, but they're at least close enough that I feel that it's the best overall.

hodan says:

Anyone that isn't you is a Loser!

ctt1wbw says:

Can we next compare a brand new DSLR camera with one that's been on the market for over a year?

richard451 says:

While I agree that Apple is lazy with hardware refreshes, the software has had numerous updates over the year. I don't think any DSLR can make that claim.

It's a review of the cameras of the flagship phones from two manufacturers.

Based on what I have seen, the HTC One can take better pics than the iPhone. However, it takes more work. I think the iPhone has better metering which give you more consistent results. The HTC is very sensitive to where you focus/meter. If you focus on a lighter area than average in the picture, your shot will be dark. If you focus on a darker area, you shot will be over exposed. This is a bit of a problem, as sometimes you don't have an option of choosing the ideal spot.

However, once a proper exposure is achieved with the One, it is far superior. iPhone does overly boost color saturation and contrast. Many people see this as better, but for those that are more serious in photography see this as a weakness. A neutral exposure is better as it takes to adjustments better.

Additionally,the HTC One is far superior in low light and has some nifty software tools that the iPhone lacks.

So, hopefully HTC can improve on the exposure metering (as well as dynamic range) with updates.

In the end though, they are only phone cameras so it is best not to be too concerned as the results will never match most point and shoots.

svinyard says:

Good post. I felt that HTC went half ass on the software automatic settings. Hell could they not simply pull up a side-by-side of the lumina or iPhone and tweak it until it was much better???

Anyways, thankfully software can be updated. Lets hope they can pull it off with a nice update.

Mobius360 says:

I don't think anyone is arguing that the iPhone, Samsung GS4, Sony ZL and plenty of other phones probably take a bit better photos in sunny outdoor / ideal lighting conditions, but almost none of them can complete in low light with the HTC One or Nokia. I'm for one glad to see some focus in the low light areas. You can bet the big players will be putting more focus on this by next generation.

I'd like to see them push photosphere onto more phones as well and figure out how to share them easier. I hate seeing all the new Android phones not taking advantage of this feature.

Ant34 says:

The S4 can compete in low light if you set it on night mode but I think most reviewers like to test the cameras on their automatic setting. If the S4 is not on night mode the pictures look like crap.

Only if you have hands like a tripod.

Eclectech says:

It was a great article. I looked at all of the pictures. The HTC One stood up very well, showing more natural color and fine detail in most pictures. The iPhone took better panorama pictures and provided brighter color in a couple pictures. Overall, I think Ultra Pixels will not be written off as just some fancy name for a 4MP shooter. Those pixels are pretty cool.

bhulman says:

I'm not entirely sure the example photos were taken using the best settings. I'm often impressed by photos taken by friends on their iPhones. I've had the HTC one for almost 2 months now having upgraded from the Desire HD (which has an 8MP sensor), the photos from the One are amazing, and getting a little familiarity with the settings helps improve these several fold. Personally I think HTC has done a brilliant job with the camera on the One. Sadly it seems there are a lot of opinions shared in the comments here based on pure bias rather than sound observation and experimentation.

Ant34 says:

Most of these camera tests are done with the phone's automatic setting with no other input from the user. I think its done this way because it's hard to know which setting will produce the best picture for any given shot. On automatic settings the iPhone [arguably] has the best all around camera.

valentino88 says:

If I actually cared that much about the image of a shot I wouldn't use any phones. I would grab my SLRs. Color is fine and great but its more than that to capture a shot that you want. Its the width of the aperture, the speed of the lens and full control of the grain, the wide angles and the super macros. People have become so obsessed with no grain that when you do want that grain in your shot its almost impossible to replicate because everything on the phone is geared towards sharp. Well I like to intentionally blur a shot or add grain without the artificial look from software graining. So I don't really care all that much about the camera on a phone. It just needs to be adequate.

stvo says:

Image Quality Battle 101: Full size images are the only way to compare shots

Cubfan says:

No body mentions the real reason the iPhone has the edge. Photographers can see it. The Android lenses are too wide, which distorts objects in the foreground. People have ugly deformed faces with big noses.

They need to fix this and soon.

Beemik says:

i found this review. seems decent and mentions enough. http://pockettec.blogspot.ca/2013/05/the-new-htc-one.html

Htc one gives more natural colors.

BrianBaker says:

All in all you have to admit one thing.. For a 4MP shooter it hangs in their pretty well with the 8MP and 13MP variants on other devices.. I think the One is better for over all any shot you need to take you'll get a descent photo. But when it comes down to knowing what you want to shoot and understanding you're environment and setting up properly the One doesn't stand a chance.. I like to call of the One camera a jack of all trades but a master of none. Best way I can describe it.