One of the features we were most looking forward in the DROID was the 5-megapixel autofocus camera. After having middling experiences with previous Android smartphone cameras, we were very hopeful that the DROID would buck the disappointing trend. But even using Android 2.0's updated camera interface to push out 5-megapixel pictures, the results were, well, a mixed bag.

We decided to let you guys compare a few shots we took with the Motorola DROID and Sprint HTC Hero to show you the differences in performance. Since both pack 5-megapixel cameras, it's a fairly even playing field. The results are interesting, to say the least. The camera on the DROID performs pretty well in good conditions--outside, under perfect weather and perfect lighting conditions it can actually deliver some awesome shots. However, the story is completely different when taken indoors, it seems like the DROID simply manages light poorly and focuses on the wrong image leaving indoor shots looking hazy and blurry. Funnily enough, the Sprint HTC Hero is the exact opposite. Read on for more!

Check out Android Central's Motorola DROID camera test after the jump!

Before we get started, it's important to note that independent of picture quality, the DROID is much more fun and easy to use as a camera. The rectangular shape of the DROID plays into this as does having a perfectly placed dedicated camera button, a substantial flash, and an updated camera interface. The Sprint HTC Hero lacks all of those features and is significantly much more sluggish in taking pictures when compared to the DROID. Now on to the pictures!

 
outside shot taken with Motorola DROID

outside shot taken with Sprint HTC Hero

Let's start positive. The DROID does a really good job with this outside shot. There's an absolutely natural feel to it, the green of the leaves have depth to them and the browns are pronounced--overall, the colors are very natural and there's no haze to the picture. The picture looks great. In comparison, the HTC Hero's picture looks washed out--the greens are muddled and the brown is weakened. The picture looks like there is a hazy layer on top of it and the temperature is unnaturally cool. It's definitely a less accurate representation of the actual palm tree.

outside shot taken with Motorola DROID

outside shot taken with Sprint HTC Hero

Again, the DROID's camera wins out with this picture. In broad daylight, the DROID handles colors very well. We were really impressed with how this image turned out--the yellow flowers are bright, the purple is complex, and the statue is well represented (you can see the statue, the water, and the base of the statue as different pieces). The Sprint HTC Hero again struggles--the yellow flowers aren't captured correctly, the purple lacks depth, and the statue is devoid of detail. The blue tint of the Hero's photo severely dampens the realism and overall the photo is just muddled. 

indoor shot taken with Motorola DROID

indoor shot taken with Motorola DROID

The DROID's picture turns out a wee bit better here than it does when displayed at full resolution but still, the picture just looks off. This was taken inside a well-lit supermarket and the DROID's picture seems overexposed. The wood is unnatural, the signs are faded, and all the colors are underrepresented. It's almost as if the DROID forgets how to be a camera when taken indoors. On the other hand, the Sprint HTC Hero performs admirably. The wood takes on a natural feel, the colors are accurate, and there's so much more depth to the Hero's picture compared to the DROID's. It's amazing how well the Hero performs indoors when compared to its flawed outdoor pictures.

indoor picture taken with Motorola DROID

 indoor picture taken with Sprint HTC Hero

Yikes. The DROID really struggles with this indoor shot. Nearly everything about the picture is just wrong--the color is off, the picture lacks depth, it never focuses on anything, and there's a hazy layer to boot. It looks completely like a mobile phone picture and that's a terrible thing to be for such a high end device. The Sprint HTC Hero does a better job--the focus is tighter, there's more depth to the picture, and the colors are a little more accurate. Not a perfect picture by any means, but certainly a livable outcome from 'just a smartphone'.

night shot taken with Motorola DROID

We don't have a comparison shot for you to compare with (sorry!) but this picture is an outdoors, nighttime shot that actually looks pretty good. At full resolution the picture is obviously noisy but coming from a smartphone it's impressive nonetheless. The flash on the DROID obviously helped the picture dramatically (we found that the best scenario to use Flash was in a wide open space) and we're glad that Flash was packed into the DROID or this picture never would have been possible. After a slew of bad photos, the DROID earns back a little bit of its respect with this one.

Final Thoughts

Overall, the Camera Test proved that there's still a lot to be desired in Android phone cameras. It's interesting to us that considering how well the DROID performed outdoors and how poor the Sprint HTC Hero did, it was the complete opposite when taken indoors. If we can only combine the outdoor performance of the DROID with the indoor performance of the Hero, we'd have a camera to get excited about.

We don't know who to lay the blame on, Google for poor software or Motorola for poor hardware, but clearly the 5-megapixel camera on the DROID is capable of pushing out some great shots. It's the poor handling of light indoors and the nearly nonexistent autofocusing that gets the DROID's camera in trouble. If it's a software issue, we're hoping a firmware fix can work wonders but we're not hopeful. So if the DROID's camera never gets addressed, remember: outdoors, perfect weather and perfect lighting is your strength. Stick to it.

How has your experience been with the DROID's camera? Your thoughts on these pictures?