Camera Architecture

This go around, HTC put a 13 megapixel camera into the One mini 2. This in a vacuum wouldn’t be anything out of the ordinary, but in the context of the past year it’s well worth examining. After all, HTC kept the same ST VD6869 sensor across the One (M7) and One mini, and also continued to use a similar 4 megapixel camera in the form of the OV4688. Especially in light of all the rhetoric that HTC has pushed in favor of larger pixel sizes in marketing literature, it’s worth examining the camera of the One mini 2 closely.

HTC One Cameras
  HTC One mini 2 HTC One (M8)
Front Camera 5.0MP 5.0MP
Front Camera - Sensor S5K5E2
(1.12µm, 1/5")
S5K5E2
(1.12µm, 1/5")
Front Camera - Focal Length 2.79mm 1.83mm
Front Camera - Max Aperture F/2.8 F/2.0
Rear Camera - Sensor OV13850
(1.12 µm, 1/3.06")
OV4688
(2.0 µm, 1/3")
Rear Camera - Focal Length 3.82mm (28mm eff) 3.82mm (28mm eff)
Rear Camera - Max Aperture F/2.2 F/2.0
Secondary Rear Camera - Sensor - OV2722
(1.4µm, 1/5.8")

As can be seen in the table above, the same front facing camera sensor is shared by both the One mini 2 and One (M8), which is a Samsung sensor with 1.12 micron pixel size although the optical stack changes to reduce aperture size and increase focal length. The rear sensor on the One mini 2 is still an OmniVision design win, but the sensor model is the OV13850 as opposed OV4688 on the One (M8) and later production runs of the One (M7). While the sensor size is the same, as is the optics’ focal length, the differences end there as the One mini 2 has a smaller aperture at F/2.2, which is a quarter stop smaller, which means that light collection goes down as well. The lack of the second depth sensing camera also means that all of the Duocam effects such as UFocus are gone as well, which means that the One mini 2’s editing features are equivalent to the One (M7)’s.

Outside of hardware, the change in ISP is far-reaching in its effects. Zoe, Pan 360, and Dual Capture are all gone, which suggests that the ISP in the MSM8x26 series cannot support dual encode features the way that the ISP in the MSM8x74 series can. Video encoding is also severely limited as the One mini 2 only supports a maximum of 720p60 or 1080p30. This is clearly not a limitation of the camera sensor as casual examination of the OV13850’s data sheet shows that it can record data from the entire sensor at 30fps. This means that the encode blocks don’t support the necessary bandwidth for such features. It's also interesting to see that HTC has capped the maximum shutter speed in the camera to two seconds rather than four seconds in the One (M8).

In addition to these issues, the shooting experience is noticeably worse. Preview resolution and frame rate are worse than the One (M8), and it seems that autofocus speed drops as well. Shot to shot latency and burst shot capture rate both are much slower, and I suspect that this is either the product of worse random read and write speeds on the NAND or a bottleneck at the ISP. Overall then, this means that comparing the performance of the One (M8) and One mini 2 in camera will be difficult as they can be confounding factors upon camera image quality.

Introduction & Hardware Still Image Analysis: Spatial Resolution & Color Reproduction
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  • flyingpants1 - Monday, May 26, 2014 - link

    Thought so. Inferior device at a high price point. Get a Nexus 5 instead. Reply
  • piroroadkill - Monday, May 26, 2014 - link

    Every single time. Only Sony gets it - the Xperia Z1 Compact doesn't use a second-rate SoC or camera compared to the Z1. It's a full-fat version, just smaller. Reply
  • Chaitanya - Monday, May 26, 2014 - link

    Sony did everything right that neither Samsung or HTC have been able to do with their mini versions of flagship smartphones. Reply
  • teiglin - Monday, May 26, 2014 - link

    Couldn't agree more. I finally bit the bullet and bought an imported Z1 Compact about a month ago and am very happy with it. I don't have the words to express my disappointment that Sony's example is not being followed, nor that American operators aren't interested in picking up a great device like the Z1 Compact.

    On the topic of the One mini 2 itself, it seems like a perfectly decent phone, but you guys really hit it on the head with the "two worlds" thing--on the one hand, the same money gets you a G2, which is still a great phone by any account; on the other, it has the specs of a Moto G, which is half as much. I love HTC's industrial design, but it is hard to argue that the One mini 2 is competitive.
    Reply
  • seanleeforever - Monday, June 02, 2014 - link

    agreed.
    and i might also add LG L6, a phone that you can purchase right off the ebay for 120 (or 100 if it is on the ebay daily deal). that has almost the same spec as the original one mini (actual performance is better since the skin isn't as heavy). i recently get one and my god the battery is godly. i can go with 3 days (as in 3 day+ 3 night) on a charge when using it to check email, facebook and occasionally web browsing. on comparsion my N4, if used the similar manner, would be dead before the second day.

    with that all said, there isn't a single reason to pay 400 dollars for a mini 2 over the aluminum body when you can get L6 for 100 dollars, or Note 3 neo for about 360 dollars.
    Reply
  • synaesthetic - Monday, May 26, 2014 - link

    I don't understand why nobody except Sony seems to understand this concept. Both HTC and Samsung cripple the specs of their "mini" variants. Why... why would you do that? Don't you understand that some people just don't want monster screens, but still want top-tier performance? :/ Reply
  • Spunjji - Tuesday, May 27, 2014 - link

    This, a thousand times! Reply
  • AnnonymousCoward - Wednesday, May 28, 2014 - link

    If the Z1 is so high-end, then why is the camera latency so bad? Reply
  • pjcamp - Thursday, May 29, 2014 - link

    Everything has its problems.

    Sony's problem is that they can't seem to figure out how to sell things in the US.
    Reply
  • Alexey291 - Tuesday, May 27, 2014 - link

    aye my first thought too. "Oh look its worse than last year's mini but with a bigger battery" eurgh. Reply

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