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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  • jayseeks - Friday, April 05, 2013 - link

    Form and function go hand in hand. It's the form that pushes engineers to advance function. To squeeze more pixels in the screen, to create a thinner case, to extend battery life all within a pleasant form requires the engineers to push their efforts in order to create components that can accommodate such needs. By your logic, we should all use a uniform design based on who can max outs specs the quickest and easiest. Reply
  • jayseeks - Friday, April 05, 2013 - link

    And if you want to talk about misdirecting efforts you might want to direct your efforts at Samsung who's spent more on marketing than R&D in 2012. Reply
  • h4ldol - Monday, April 08, 2013 - link

    Samsung may spend more on marketing than R&D but Samsung also spent about 3x the money on R&D than Apple did. Something like $10B versus $3.4B last year. I don't know how much HTC spends, but it's probably a lot less than Apple, which is again, 3x less than what Samsung spent on R&D last year. You might want to educate yourself on more than the most popular talking points on tech blogs. Reply
  • hc - Tuesday, April 09, 2013 - link

    Sure Samsung spent 3x more R&D than Apple last year, but what proportion of that is for foundry, TVs, or DRAM etc? Putting all that in perspective, Samsung is spending even more marketing per mobile R&D dollar spent just because it can shift its cash within the conglomerate. I don't see how your argument is any more educated just because they spent more overall.

    They spent more on marketing than R&D in 2012. Fact.

    They spent more R&D than Apple last year. Irrelevant.
  • jayseeks - Tuesday, April 09, 2013 - link

    Considering that Samsung ELECTRONICS consists of their TV, semiconductor, LCD panel, AND mobile phone divisions, spending 3x on R&D than Apple or HTC is still a rather weak number. Which is not surprising, cause it's Samsung. Reply
  • jayseeks - Tuesday, April 09, 2013 - link

    You might want to not try and mislead people by not indicating that that R&D figure is for Samsung ELECTRONICS as a whole. Reply
  • harshilshah - Saturday, April 06, 2013 - link

    "isn't buying a phone for its casing like buying a gift for its wrapping ?"

    No it's not! Do you chuck the casing of whatever phone you buy and then use it? As Brian said, the casing really does matter a lot for a device you use all the time. To each his own, but the casing is definitely NOT equivalent to a wrapper.

    "a big screen"
    Agree with the rest, but since when is a big screen a basic aspect of a phone? And how much bigger than 4.7" is your 'big"?
  • sherlockwing - Saturday, April 06, 2013 - link

    GS4's 5" is largers, and I haven't seen the casing of my GS3 for more than 3 minute since I bought it 8 month ago, it have been sitting safely in a $50 case. The only thing I need to see on a phone is the screen anyway. Reply
  • Tyronius - Sunday, April 07, 2013 - link

    If I had a Samsung, I would also hide it in a case... Reply
  • amdwilliam1985 - Monday, April 08, 2013 - link

    yep, because Samsung users are copying iphone users by hiding their smart phones inside huge protective cases. Reply

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