Real World Camera Comparison, Performance in Well Lit Scenes

I took a bunch of photos with the HTC One alongside a number of other cameras in either a bracket or some other form of mount, and I think they tell an interesting story. If you click on the buttons the thumbnail will change, and the image link will also change for viewing the full res original image. I’d recommend opening the full res images in new tabs and then switching back and forth at 1:1 zoom. The phones I had with me for most of these were the HTC One (obviously), iPhone 5, Lumia 920, HTC Butterfly, and LG Optimus G Pro. I took many many photos with each camera at each location and selected the best ones.

What sticks out at me is how much the subtleties of the HTC One match the HTC Butterfly, it’s obvious how much of the regional tastes of their camera tuners makes its way into the images. Both have a bit too much sharpening for my tastes, and virtually all the smartphones lose a lot of detail to noise reduction but still manage to have surprisingly noisy sky texture. I still can’t shake the impression that HTC has some JPEG artifacts which accentuate the noise in these relatively homogenous regions as well. Apple seems to reflect the kind of tuning I would find myself wanting the most – minimal noise reduction in-camera, encode the noise out, and don’t risk losing any detail. HTC and LG seem to go for more aggressive noise reduction which occasionally leaves that oil painting look, and Nokia surprisingly is somewhere in-between.

HTC One: 1/9600s, ISO 100

In the first Sentinel Peak image, the Lumia 920 is oddly soft at the bottom, the HTC One has a bit of softness at bottom right. Because of the way that OIS works in both these cameras there’s that chance that the extreme field angles will have some softness if the camera is shifted during capture while OIS is compensating.

HTC One: 1/3800s, ISO 109

In the second Sentinel Peak image with the saguaro cactus, it’s interesting to pay attention to the detail in the foliage of the palo verde tree. The Optimus G and Butterfly turn most of the tree into a blurry homogenous mess, the Lumia 920 has a bit of an oil painting look as well, and the HTC One does pretty well given its lower resolution, though still looks a bit too sharpened for me.

In this next shot I exposed for the shadowed Virgin Mary figurine using tap to focus / capture on all the cameras. I find that the One excels in situations like this which are a challenge because of very bright and very dark regions next to each other. There’s no HDR used here.

HTC One: 1/320s, ISO 100

What sticks out about the HTC One to me is what I get from looking EXIF, which is why I pulled that data out for each image in its comparison. Because there’s no way to manually set exposure on any smartphone right now (because nobody is willing to treat smartphone users like adults, apparently), I wind up using auto mode and looking back at what each camera selected in each setting. In the daytime images, what sticks out is that the exposure time is incredibly short, or fast. The result is that the One is incredible at stopping motion outdoors, and this seems to have been HTC’s big priority with tuning the One, rather than pushing noise down even further by going perhaps to ISO 50 like we see the iPhone and LG Optimus G Pro do, if the ST CMOS in the One even supports it.

Still Camera Analysis The Real Test: Low Light Performance of the HTC One
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  • gnx - Thursday, April 18, 2013 - link

    Just one point on why there isn't enough analysis of UI. This is Anandtech, a site built on review of hardware, which began with reviews of motherboards. Software and UI is really not the main focus of Anandtech. Hardware and Build, whether as in the external aluminum case, or in the internal SoC, are the main (and strong) suits of Anandtech and their reviews. Reply
  • praftman - Wednesday, April 24, 2013 - link

    I would direct you to the reviews of Surface or iPad Mini or any number of similar UI/Hardware products. That detail is at least approached in those reviews. I'd agree hardware is the comfort zone here...but it certainly isn't the only element reliably addressed. Until this review. Reply
  • jllcmu04@hotmail.com - Sunday, April 14, 2013 - link

    This was an awesome review. I look forward to the S4 review and then a comparison to the HTC One. Great article!! Reply
  • nerdstalker - Sunday, April 14, 2013 - link

    Black one is aluminum. Some say it is anodized, some say it is painted. Any case, it smears and scuffs for sure.

    http://cdn-static.cnet.co.uk/i/product_media/40002...

    http://dl.xda-developers.com/attachdl/6a36212254dc...
    Reply
  • SlimShady1398 - Monday, April 15, 2013 - link

    OMG you live near Tucson! :D Reply
  • repoman27 - Monday, April 15, 2013 - link

    I'm with superflex on this one. I have an iPhone 3G that has been in constant daily use for over 4.5 years now on the original battery. A decent quality lithium-polymer battery can manage 800 charge/discharge cycles while retaining 80% of its original capacity, which would be 2.2 years even if you discharged it fully once a day.

    If your battery won't hold a charge anymore, you replace it. If you're squeamish about doing so because you bought a sealed $800 smartphone with no user-serviceable parts, then either pay for extended warranty coverage or just take it to someone who knows how it's done.
    Reply
  • Capricorn1 - Tuesday, April 16, 2013 - link

    Thanks for a fantastic review on the HTC One. I'm not sure I have a reasonable idea of how much work really went into this, but I'm guessing it was even more than I think, which is a lot. I probably learned as much about how to compare phones as I learned about the HTC One itself. Reply
  • hp79 - Wednesday, April 17, 2013 - link

    I already pre-ordered this HTC One, but today I went to the store to check it out. I must say I am kind of disappointed in the build quality. The seams where the screen and the aluminum meets were not even on the four corners. I hope mine is completely flush.

    This is one of the reason I returned Surface, not exact problem but similar. The screen on Surface was wobbly on the bottom center edge where the Windows soft key is. I don't think many people noticed or care though and I'm just being an ass on quality aspect.
    Reply
  • Notmyusualid - Tuesday, April 23, 2013 - link

    Well I did this the other way around...

    I went to the store first, checked the build quality, and THEN bought one. Seemed lovely to me.

    ...Despite how much I wanted removable battery and microSD slot.

    Oh well...
    Reply
  • robinkings - Wednesday, April 17, 2013 - link

    Great review. I have this phone and I am quite pleased with it. Can someone tell me if the glass covering the camera on the back scratch resistant gorilla glass please? Can't seem to find this information anywhere and it looks like the glass covering the rear camera already has a few tiny blemishes even with careful use. Thanks in advance Reply

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