Zoe camera

Sense 6 brings changes to HTC's animated photos and highlight reels, and new artistic effects from the M8's second camera

Zoes — HTC's little animated video/photo shots — and video highlights — a 30-second compilation reel from a particular event — were two of the main photographic features of last year's HTC One (M7). For its 2014 flagship, HTC has revisited both features as part of the Sense 6 UI. You can still shoot burst shots (up to 20, in fact) and video at the same time, though Zoes are a little more flexible on the HTC One M8. It's also easier to customize your video highlights with only the images you choose. And these can also include 3D, defocused and artistic effects from regular photos captured using the phone's dual-camera setup.

We've got more on these three key features of the new HTC One's imaging setup after the break!

Zoe Camera on the HTC One (M8)

Zoe camera is its own shooting mode in Sense 6.

The tiny "Zoe" toggle from Sense 5 is gone, and Zoes now live in their own section of the camera app. To get to this new camera mode, hit the icon with the four circles and select the "Zoe camera" option from the menu. From here you'll get a very basic camera interface with a single shutter key, and there are a few ways you can shoot Zoe photos:

  • Tap the icon to take a single photo.
  • Hold it for a few seconds to take a burst shot and simultaneous video.
  • Hold it until you see the "Locked" message, then release and it'll continue recording video until you tap the shutter key again.

If you hold the shutter for long enough to take a video, you'll also get up to 20 frames of stills, including a few from before you actually pressed the shutter. (The Zoe camera is always buffering shots in the background.) By comparison, taking a single photo does exactly that, with no extra frames recorded.

Selecting Zoe shots

Once you've taken a Zoe image, you can view it in the Gallery app alongside all your other photos. Tap the distinctive "multiple photos" icon in the bottom left corner to view all the stills captured along with your video — from there, you can save and export these like any other photo. (But remember that you can't use any of the "Duo Camera" effects like Ufocus and Foregrounder with Zoe images, as depth information isn't recorded in these shots.)

Duo camera effects

The Duo camera lets you add artistic, bokeh and 3D effects to photos — but there are some limitations.

The HTC One M8's Duo camera setup uses the standard 4-megapixel "Ultrapixel" sensor in tandem with a smaller depth-sensing camera to capture distance information along with standard photos. Basically, this means it knows how far away the stuff in your pictures is. And it lets the phone add intelligent defocusing and artistic effects because it knows what's closer and what's further away. You can find these in Edit>Effects within the Gallery app.

Duo effects

Effects like Ufocus work best in shots with a clear foreground and background.

The feature has a few limitations, though — it won't work with specific shooting modes (e.g. macro, HDR or night modes), and it'll also fail if the shot is too dark, or the subject is too close. In these instances you'll get an error message when you try to enable Duo effects. You also can't refocus a blurry shot once it's taken, like you can with some other manufacturer's refocus features.

HTC's Duo effects work best in shots with a very distinct background and foreground — portraits, for example — and there are a few to choose from.

  • Ufocus lets you tap on the subject you want to focus on, and defocus the background or foreground around it with a bokeh effect.
  • Foregrounder does the same, except with different effects — sketched, zoom blur, cartoon or colorize.
  • "Seasons" lets you add floating 3D leaves, petals, dandelion seeds or snow to a Duo shot, and save as a photo or video.
  • Dimension Plus brings a 3D effect to your shot using the depth info from the second camera.
  • Copy & Paste lets you tag a person from one photo and virtually bring them into a second.

On top of that you can add stickers such as hats, glasses and crazy hair to your shots, and touch up faces to remove blemishes. And there's an array of filters you can apply to your photos, along with the usual options for cropping, rotating and framing shots.

And of course all this stuff can be included in video highlight reels.

Video highlights in HTC Sense 6

Video highlights, the quick 30-second montages of Zoes, photos and videos, are back in Sense 6 — and it's now easier to control exactly what's in your highlights and customize them to your liking. A checkbox by each image lets you easily select and deselect items to be included, and you can choose from 12 themes, each with unique music and filters. It's possible to set highlights to your own music too — Sense will use "dynamic beat mapping" to set your photos to the beat of the music.

Video highlight editing

And you can get to more advanced options — for example, restoring the items in chronological order — by tapping the menu button by the video highlight preview. What's more, in Sense 6 it's possible to widen the scope of your highlights by creating videos based on one location over time, rather than individual events in your timeline.

Here's a quick look at all twelve video highlight themes from Sense 6 on the HTC One (M8) —

Zoe in the cloud

Zoe app

At launch, the one missing piece of the HTC One photo equation is the standalone Zoe app, also called "Zoe in the cloud." This app will let you share your Zoes and video highlights with friends so you can collaborate on video highlights and remix each others' stuff. Right now it's unavailable, though — a stub app preloaded on the M8 points to a summer release.

Which means that's it for now. But for more on the new HTC One's camera features, be sure to check out our extensive review of the phone.

More: HTC One M8 review