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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  • EnzoFX - Saturday, April 06, 2013 - link

    I pity plastic. Samsung of all companies can't spend the cash on something better built? As for the faster hardware, I have no doubt you wouldn't notice the difference in your usage. Reply
  • s44 - Saturday, April 06, 2013 - link

    Drop 'em both, see which breaks faster. Reply
  • therealjoshhamilton - Saturday, April 06, 2013 - link

    It appears plastic breaks faster.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=J4zQKeAEqsQ

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DuwD7pdxxyo

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6M5q5TRuAsY
    Reply
  • darwinosx - Sunday, April 07, 2013 - link

    Plastic. Reply
  • dkr88 - Sunday, April 07, 2013 - link

    I'm torn. I've dropped my sgs3 several times on concrete and the wounds are barely noticeable. I suspect the One would not fare so well... Reply
  • augustofretes - Sunday, April 07, 2013 - link

    How is it inferior hardware? You may believe a removable battery means "better hardware" but putting a plastic door at the back of a phone is not an impressive feat (nor a relevant feature for the vast majority of users), Micro SD is another feature that requires no major effort to include an is not something the general public cares about.

    The screen, as usual, will be better in the One, the camera is better, the build quality is superior, the speakers are better, the screen size is more comfortable (and so is the shape of the phone), what exactly is better hardware-wise from Samsung?
    Reply
  • poofyhairguy - Monday, April 08, 2013 - link

    The Qualcomm SGS4s will have a higher-clocked CPU (1.9GHz compared to 1.7GHz on the One) and a higher-clocked GPU.

    And many people would much prefer an AMOLED screen to a LCD one.
    Reply
  • augustofretes - Tuesday, April 09, 2013 - link

    People may prefer AMOLED (I don't know exactly who except fanboys, regular customers I'm sure don't know what AMOLED is) but is objectively inferior.

    The CPU and the GPU will be clocked a tad faster, but I don't think that's "superior hardware" is the same processor, just clocked higher.
    Reply
  • darwinosx - Tuesday, April 30, 2013 - link

    But now we know the S 4 lags all over and has a little worse battery life than the one. Reply
  • sAiyAnstAr - Wednesday, May 01, 2013 - link

    It's the same CPU just over-clocked faster. So in that respect, there is no difference in the CPU hardware... Reply

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