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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  • danbob999 - Monday, April 08, 2013 - link

    The Samsung is smaller despite a larger display. A 4.7" phone is not more comfortable if it is larger than a 5" one.
    Even if you don't care about the removable battery, it is larger in the SGS4 so it will last longer.
    Also while I understand that some people prefer the look of metal, plastic is more practical as it is lighter and absorbs shock better. So plastic is better build quality.
    And I will wait for reviews about the SGS4 before telling which one has the best camera.
  • blacks329 - Monday, April 08, 2013 - link

    So you won't wait for the reviews and eventual drop tests to see which is better between the two for battery and build quality?

    Also larger battery does not always mean last longer (as is also mentioned in the review; it comes down to software optimization, hence why the iPhone generally does better with considerably smaller batteries). Especially with a higher clocked SoC it might not be 'better,' as you've expected.

    I'd be surprised if the SGS4 garners any sort of Anandtech Editors Choice award. While HTC is actually making functional improvements in terms of how they think hardware and software for a phone Samsung just throws horsepower. I hope the One sells well enough for HTC, b/c this is the phone all other manufacturers should be striving for.
  • augustofretes - Tuesday, April 09, 2013 - link

    Of course it's more comfortable, especially because the biggest issue with phones is not the size in every dimensions, the problem is width, and the S4 is wider than the HTC ONE.

    "it is larger in the SGS4 so it will last longer" Is just false. Especially considering how inefficient AMOLED is while displaying whites.

    "And I will wait for reviews about the SGS4 before telling which one has the best camera." I don't need to. The S4 will take better pictures when there's plenty of light, and it will be abysmal when there's no light.
  • darwinosx - Tuesday, April 30, 2013 - link

    Turns out the larger battery in the S 4 doesn't last longer. Also if you had read the review you are commenting on you would have seen Brian say the same thing. Reply
  • superflex - Friday, April 12, 2013 - link

    Samsung users need a removable battery because they need to force reboots of the crappy Touch Wiz UI. Reply
  • darwinosx - Sunday, April 07, 2013 - link

    Newsflash..not everyone uses a case or wants one. Its a pretty pitiful comment that cheap plasticky phones don't matter because you can slap a plastic case over the existing plastic. Smells like rationalization. Reply
  • darwinosx - Tuesday, April 30, 2013 - link

    Not everyone uses cases and who has inferior hardware. Reply
  • nyrulez - Saturday, April 06, 2013 - link

    I am surprised why folks don't care about SD card expansion at all. For big media consumers, that can be huge. I was constantly hitting the wall on my 16 GB iPhone. It was extremely annoying and not much I could do about except delete my music ir apps. After moving to a Motorala Razr + 64GB micro SD card, it hasn't been the same since.

    Though this one is super awesome and would love to get it, the horror of running out of space all the time stops me. Thoughts ?
  • tainguyen81 - Saturday, April 06, 2013 - link

    you do know this phone come with 32 and 64GB right? then you can buy a USB-OTG cable and connect any 64GB or 128GB usb stick to it as you like. This is better because you don't have to take the back cover in/out constantly.

    In my opinion, 64GB internal on the HTC one is way faster performance compare to 16GB s4 with 64GB sd card everyday.
  • therealjoshhamilton - Saturday, April 06, 2013 - link

    It's not just your opinion, r/w on internal was 19/14mbs on the galaxy s, class 10 sd cards are stuck at 10mbs (and that's if you shell out the money for class 10). Reply

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