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HTC One M8: UltraPixel Camera Image Quality

Andrew Williams

By Andrew Williams

Updated:

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HTC One M8

Summary

Our Score:

9

HTC One M8 Camera: Image Quality and Performance

The HTC One M8 main image camera is very similar to that of last year’s HTC One. They share the same UltraPixel sensor, but the M8 uses the image processor hardware of the Snapdragon 801 – and at present the two have different software (although the HTC One is to get an upgrade to Sense 6 later this year).

The idea of the UltraPixel sensor is that while it's lower-res than the competition, it uses larger sensor pixels for better low-light performance. Its sensor pixels are two microns across, where, for example, the Galaxy S5's are 1.1 microns.

Shooting performance is great. Focusing is extremely fast, and shot-to-shot speeds are excellent. You can shoot multiple ‘normal’ photos in a second, without even using a burst mode. Things get a lot slower when you use the Night mode in very low light conditions, but otherwise it’s about as fast as an iPhone 5S. HTC claims 0.3-second focusing speeds, which is the same claim Samsung makes of the Galaxy S5 – and that phone has a phase detection focus layer, missing from the HTC One M8.

The only thing that really slows you down here is how awkward it can be to switch between shooting modes.

Moving to image quality. Here’s how the HTC One M8 compares to last year’s top phone in our classic detail test.

HTC One M8 shots 6HTC One M8 shots 7

As you can see, the 4-megapixel sensor provides a similar level of detail to first HTC One. No surprise there. However, looking at the fine details, the new phone is clearly a bit better at rendering the finer bits.

The thin lines on the front building are more faithful, where they’re oddly expanded in parts on the old model. Part of this may be down to the significantly different lighting conditions, although the new image signal processor of the One M8 should – in theory – improve performance a bit.

Still, we see the same limited detail capture, and some of the old image problems are back. There are two serious ones. The first is exposure metering – the HTC One M8 is all over the place.

It will often hugely overexpose the sky – especially if it’s cloudy. The phone seems to take a far more direct approach to exposure judgement than most other phones. To explain – with an iPhone 5S, if you tap on an object the phone will focus on it and judge its metering based on the brightness of that particular area, relative to the rest of the scene. The HTC One M8 will focus on the object too easily enough, but appears to base its metering solely on that spot, rather than taking the rest of the image properly into account.

High light contrast areas are also absolutely riddled with purple fringing/chroma noise. We saw this a fair bit in the HTC One, but it seems to have gotten worse if anything. If the limited resolution alone wasn’t enough to put you off blowing these images up, this chromatic aberration should push you over the edge. Here are a couple of images to demonstrate:

HTC One M8 shots 2

HTC One M8 shots 3

This purple fringing is the sort of thing we might expect to see towards the edge of a fairly poor ‘normal’ camera lens. But here it affects pictures throughout the shot.

Also note that the colours are rather de-saturated in these images, and that contrast is pretty poor. Reds in particularly suffer very badly. The result is pretty glum-looking images when there’s anything approaching a strong light source in, or just out of, shot.

HDR photography

One way to solve issues with light sources is to use HDR, which combines multiple shots with different exposure levels. As already noted in the camera app section, the HTC One M8 rather sidelines its HDR mode, and it doesn’t seem to be something HTC has put a lot of work into.

It’s decent, but not as effective as the super-smart HDR modes seen in the latest Samsung phones and the Nexus 5.

HDR

Low-light photography

It’s not often you see a camera that has more issues shooting in daylight than dusk/night, but that’s roughly what the HTC One M8 camera is. At night, colour saturation is better – relative to what we expect from a mobile phone. There’s some further loss of detail, but it’s much less than you’d experience from a higher-resolution, smaller pixel pitch phone.

This approach to the camera also helps indoors photography. The HTC One M8’s shots will be a little less noisy than some of the higher-resolution competition. However, phones like the Sony Xperia Z2 sidestep the sensor pixel size issue by offering a super-processed mode that wipes out virtually all noise from its super-low-light shots.

HTC One M8 shots 9

HTC One M8 shots 11

Are UltraPixels any good?

Here’s where we hit a tricky issue. The HTC One M8 camera can produce good shots. But it never really rides that high in the way HTC sells it as doing. In daylight, you’ll get more reliable, ready-to-go results with an iPhone. And in good lighting, we expect the Galaxy S5 to wipe the floor with the HTC One M8 in terms of detail capture.

Our issue is that while the premise of UltraPixels is sound – larger sensor pixels are better – the way HTC sells them is well off the mark.

Here’s how HTC sees things, comparing sensor pixel sizes:HTC One M8 shots 4

This is closer to the truth:

HTC One M8 shots 5

We should clarify that the largest block here is of an ‘out of date’ camera that is often derided in photo circles for having a sensor too small to provide pictures that can compete in its class. If we included your average DSLR, the HTC One M8 sensor pixel graphic would look tiny.

This isn’t an ‘emperor has no clothes’ case. But those robes aren’t quite as resplendent as the brochure may suggest, folks.

Macro

Some of the most satisfying pictures we took with the HTC One M8 were macro ones. The good f/2.0 lens is capable of focusing at about 10cm distance, which is about standard for a good mobile phone.

Other than being able to render a good amount of close-up detail, it was the manual focusing mode that came to the fore here. Like so many mobiles, the HTC One M8’s autofocus system will often fail to lock onto small, close-up targets – even in macro mode. The manual focus mode guarantees a nice, close focus. And the phone’s screen is easily sharp and bright enough to let you identify focus by eye (focus peaking would be nice, but we’re yet to see that in a mobile).

Macro-style demo #1:

HTC One M8 shots 12

A 1:1 pixel crop from the above photo:

HTC One M8 shots 15

Macro-style demo #2

HTC One M8 shots 13

A 1:1 pixel crop from the above photo:HTC One M8 shots 14

Filters and Post-Editing

We’ve already looked at the Foregrounder and Ufocus post-shooting effects, but there’a a lot more on offer too. The filters section offers a bunch of Insagram-style presets, and you can also make your own. It’s pretty comprehensive too, with the following customisable settings:

  • White balance
  • Levels
  • Contrast
  • Exposure
  • Brightness
  • Saturation
  • Sharpness
  • Grain
  • Vignette
When the issues with many of the phone’s daylight photos can be fixed with a few seconds’ fiddle with these knobs, it seems a shame that the phone’s own image processing engine isn’t able to do the job itself. You can save your own filter presets – which comes in handy when fixing the common, basic contrast and saturation issues – but it’s hardly ideal.

Here's a demo of what you can do when adding UFocus and filters to a basic portrait:

Step 1: raw image

step 1

Step 2: UFocus applied

Step 2

Step 3: Filters applied

Step 3

Front-facing camera

In an unusual twist, the front camera of the HTC One M8 is higher-resolution than its rear one. It has a 5-megapixel sensor. Of course, it’s of the ‘normal’ type, without the UltraPixel style of the main sensor.

Selfies and such are much higher-quality than the 1-2-megapixel shots you get from other front cameras. There’s more noise than the rear camera shots, but they’re still great. It’s selfie-tastic etc.

Here are a few more main camera shots for good measure. Scroll down for the link to the next page, where we deal with battery life.

HTC One M8 shots 1

HTC One M8 shots

HTC One M8 shots 8

KS

March 29, 2014, 7:30 am

where did you get the price of £459.99 from? I would like to know so I can go and buy one from there.

AsianMoviePulse

March 29, 2014, 2:55 pm

Excellent review - great detail regarding the camera.

Jay

March 30, 2014, 7:25 am

Pay as you on three £459.99

TheConciseStatement

March 30, 2014, 4:39 pm

The Ars Techinca review was much sniffier.

M Mouse

April 11, 2014, 8:32 am

Hmmm, wonder why so few dual-SIM models are released here? OK, know mostly people buy top models within a network phone + airtime contract, but lots of lower cost dual-SIM mobiles are produced and sold in other markets. Any idea if networks push manufacturers to _not_ supply to the UK market?

Mahesh Mehta

May 8, 2014, 9:13 am

I would go for this mobile whatsoever. Because i haven't used HTC till now....because of Samsung Galaxy Note and Note 2 :) which i bought from Quikr

Atif

May 23, 2014, 9:21 pm

honestly speaking,from a consumer point of view i guess it does a pretty good job.phone camera is used for quick captures selfies group photos of friends and to post stuff on instagram and facebook.and for that it performs perfectly fine.as far as the looks are concerned,it wins by a clear clear mile till now nothing beats the premium feel and look of m8.if some one wants extra pixels they should get a dslr or digital camera.

Sohpia Bright

May 29, 2014, 10:03 am

I don't agree with all that say that the camera is not that great, the camera is quite good, no matter what you say. But seriously..no one buys a mobile only because it has a good camera. For normal to semi-professional photographers the camera on the M8 is seriously more than enough. My brother is a professional photographer..and he finds the camera of the HTC One M8 quite okay.

As for all the Indians who are unable to find the device online, come on and wake up. The device is available for the best discount on FlipKart. Plus I found an amazing discount link which further gives you priority shipping. Here's the link to FlipKart, with the discount applied -

bit DOT ly SLASH BuyHTCOneM8

Cheers!

PS: DOT stands for . and SLASH stands for / Other words are case sensitive, so please copy them.

Joe ciH

June 4, 2014, 12:01 am

Heads Up! Motorcycle Enthusiast
Serious Damage to Rear camera from excessive vibration! There is an existing problem with mounting the M8 on motorcycles for use as gps or other. Don't do it...

https://plus.google.com/u/0...
https://community.verizonwi...

kinghill

July 22, 2014, 6:10 pm

The speakers are simply far better than those on every other device. The audio on calls is O.K. not great. The display is very visible in direct sunlight.

Sachin

August 6, 2014, 2:39 pm

I bought HTC ONE M8 a few weeks back. I didn't notice

it before but now I have tested and am sure about the

issue. After receiving 6-8 calls the ringtone volume

decreases to less than 50 %. The same issue is

exhibited in the safe mode as well. Steps to

replicate:

1. Make sure your phone has the highest level set for

volume for ringtone.

2. Start receiving calls , do not adjust the volume

rocker or any other settings in the phone.

3. After a few call ( usually 6-8 in my case ) the

volume of the ringtone will be barely audible.

If you increase it again ... it remains ok for 6-8

calls and then again changes back.

I checked online, forums/e commerce sites (amazon ...

flipkart) and there are many more who have faced this

issue.

Faisal Karmali

September 15, 2014, 3:45 pm

I'm shocked how badly scratched my camera lens has gotten and without the crisp clariy to start with, the pictures have become alot more grainy.

With one of the highlights of the camera being low light photography it is pretty much useless now with all of the scratches. Hate to admit it, but Apple's gorilla glass is much better.

Sumkindofnobody

September 17, 2014, 4:47 pm

If it didn't have to most HORRIBLE, GODAWFUL camera of ANY phone I have literally EVER used including the cheap Nokia then I'd give it better ratings. This pathetic excuse for a camera NEVER focuses, has no true function and even the camcorder (which sucks even worse as if THAT could be possible) is so bad that 9 out of TEN videos are so out of focus that you can't even see what's being shot. This PHONE needs to be shot. Your stuck with the lame feed, and I seriously freaking HATE THIS PHONE! I HAD a great phone but broke the screen on a stone tiled floor and Verizon forced this piece of crap on me. No wonder IT SUCKS!!!!! I hate this phone and I HATE MYSELF for paying the extra hundred for a PATHETIC upgrade. My god, if all you do is text then its a great phone, but dont think you will ever get that great pic or quick video lol. I can't wait until I can burn this piece of shit.

Lillie

September 23, 2014, 7:14 am

this dude is tripping this phone is great all around and for the camera problem someone said about it being cloudy and grainy that happen to me all u have to do is use ur nail to scratch at it. it wont scratch ur camera and it gets that stuff off of it.

Armando Georgian

October 5, 2014, 12:45 pm

what the hell?! i can't believe what "smartphone" i want to buy :-o,
thanks a lot for your opinion and i'm really sorry for you :( i will buy
the galaxy s5 now.

Bayside

October 10, 2014, 1:32 am

Apply toothpaste then some nail polish remover with a q-tip, alternate for 10 mins and it will get rid of the stupid coating they put on

Guest

November 21, 2014, 6:39 pm

The iPhone is still better and will always be, lel.

JustNiz

December 2, 2014, 10:16 pm

lel? Apparently at least its spell checker isn't.

DR E XXXXX

December 3, 2014, 2:00 am

When the Iphone can capture images raw then talk smack. But for now; zip it because even with only 4.1 Mp the iphone is no threat to the 16 bit uncompressed captures produced by the M8.

https://www.flickr.com/phot...

IKMAL

March 5, 2015, 8:30 am

I have use htc M7 for 1 and half year, when I compare the BoomSound speaker with vivo xshot single speaker surprisingly vivo sound more clearly and loud, another is htc boom sound speaker sound distorted even playing the htc boot sound during boot up. IMHO vivo sound fantastic for hi-fi due to the use of cirrus chip. I believe the BoomSpeaker with M7 should identical to M8

Tony homiah

March 8, 2015, 7:06 pm

Need help am using HTC one m8 when I start making a call the screen is always dim till the end.

IKMAL

March 12, 2015, 12:14 am

I using vivo xshot but the problem seems similar to me the screen dim even I put away from my ears so it is hard to end-up the call unless I push the wake/lock button....are that android bugs or a software

IKMAL

March 12, 2015, 12:32 am

Finally found a solution for this problem....now u can use power button to end the call...

http://androidforums.com/th...

Eric

October 14, 2015, 11:02 pm

Now to get the latest HTC Mobiles kindly visit

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