Review Price £549.99
HTC One - Ultrapixel Camera
HTC has never been shy of doing things differently and with its latest phone, the HTC One, it has really set the cat among the pigeons. Eschewing the ever growing screen sizes of alternatives, HTC has stuck with the 4.7in screen size of last year’s HTC One X. But that’s the least of it, what’s really surprising is that HTC has actually downgraded the camera from 8MP to a mere 4MP – a far cry from the 13MP of the Xperia Z for instance.
So what is HTC up to? Well, we got hands on to find out.
HTC One - Camera
Kicking off with the most headline grabbing feature of this phone, its new camera marks a potential watershed moment for mobile phone cameras. Instead of simply cramming in more pixels, HTC has followed the logic applied to high-end ‘proper’ cameras and used a sensor with fewer but larger pixels. The result is that there’s a greater chance of any given pixel detecting some light, which in turn improves low-light image quality – all the better for snapshots in the pub.
In particular it has pixels that are 2.0µm (microns) across which compares to 1.1µm for most phone camera sensors. When considered in terms of area that’s 4.0µm2 compared to 1.21µm2. To put this further into perspective, the impressive Fujifilm X10 compact camera has 2.2µm pixels while the class leading Nokia Lumia 920 has 1.4µm pixels.
It’s not all about pixel size, though, as HTC has ‘done a Nokia’ and given the camera optical image stabilisation. This is where the lens and sensor are mounted on a couple of tiny motors that move the camera to compensate (at up to 2000Hz) for small movements caused by your hand shaking. The result is the camera can keep its shutter open for longer – to let more light in – without the picture becoming blurry.
It’s a technique the Nokia Lumia 920 proved can work very well, boosting the low light abilities of that camera far beyond anything seen before on a phone. One downside of the Nokia 920 was that it constantly tried to use the stabilisation, making the camera take a long-exposure shot when you didn’t necessarily want it to, resulting in blurry shots due to the subject of your photo moving. So far we’ve seen less evidence of this on the HTC One though.
The third string to the HTC One camera’s bow is that its lens is f/2.0. This is the same as the Nokia Lumia 920 but notably ‘faster’ than the iPhone 5 (f/2.4) and Samsung Galaxy S3 (f/2.6), again meaning that, all else being equal, the One will be able to pick up more light, making for better low-light image quality.
Testing all this fancy tech, its advantages are immediately obvious with dimly-lit scenes shown much brighter and with far less grainy image noise than most competitors. That said, it’s still clear that this is ‘just’ a phone with it still struggling to really pull out every little detail in dark scenes. We’ll of course be giving this a thorough test when we do our full review.
HTC is also touting its dedicated Image Signal Processor chip which allows the HTC One to record High Dynamic Range (HDR), 1080p video at up to 60fps. It will also automatically remove ghosting from HDR images and allows for recording full-resolution stills while recording video, which brings us to the last key feature of the HTC One’s camera: Zoe.
Zoe is the name for HTC’s new video/image format that rather coincidentally is very similar to Vine, the newly launched 6 second video app by the same folk that made Twitter. To record a Zoe you simply select the mode from the slider and tap the button, whereupon it will start recording video and taking stills every few fractions of a second. It also pre-records video before you hit go, giving you a few seconds buffer to ensure you don’t miss the moment.
Once recorded the phone then automatically ‘remixes’ the footage into a video photos music edit. If you’re not happy with the result you can simply tap ‘remix’ to be presented with another version, or you can choose from up to 6 themes.
It’s an intriguing idea and one that, frankly, we need a little more time with before judging but it’s certainly nice to see something genuinely different.
So that’s enough about the camera, now let’s see what else the HTC One can do.
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