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


View All Comments

  • comomolo - Saturday, April 06, 2013 - link

    In no way Class 10 SD cards are stuck at 10MBps. That's just the minimum.

    I'm simply not buying a non-expandable phone. The same with battery. I'm not the kind of person who changes devices every two years. I just had an iPhone 3G battery die on me and I swear I'm never going to experience that again. In a couple of years, 128GB very fast SD cards will be cheap.

    I also dislike physical buttons. I think Google is right putting them inside the screen and both Samsung and HTC are wrong putting them outside it.

    Finally, all this trouble to get through metal seems pretty silly to me. Coloured polycarbonate (Nokia N9-like) is my first choice regarding materials.

    I'm definitely no the target for this phone.
  • thesavvymage - Sunday, April 07, 2013 - link

    xperia ZL has a micro-sd slot and has on screen buttons :) Reply
  • MobiusStrip - Sunday, April 07, 2013 - link

    On-screen buttons suck because you have to look at the screen and poke at them, whereas physical buttons can be felt and operated without looking. Reply
  • Nuren - Monday, April 29, 2013 - link

    HTC just released the One here in China. It's exactly the same awesome phone but has a removable back with dual-sim card and SD-card slots. I still use my 2007 iPhone with its original battery and it still works fine. I love my Nokia Pureview 808 with it's lovely and tough polycarbonate (plastic) body. The plastic of Samsung phones is real cheap-looking and crappy, and easily damaged. I had a Samsung Note that I got rid of whilst still keeping my antiquated iPhone. This review has convinced me to get the HTC One instead of waiting forever for the iPhone 6, which I seriously doubt will be better than or as innovate as the HTC One anyway. And I must express my gratitude for the most thorough and thoughtful phone review that I have ever read to date. Reply
  • darwinosx - Tuesday, April 30, 2013 - link

    You are wrong about card speed. Ask Brian. Reply
  • eebrah - Tuesday, April 09, 2013 - link

    If you have to remove the cover in order to access the MicroSD card then they have designed it somewhat poorly, that is not the case with all microSD equipped phones.

    That being said, It is unlikely that one will be constantly removing and switching microSD cards, hence the inconvenience of removing the back cover once every few weeks for whatever reason may be justifiable.

    The higher capacity versions of these phones come at a SIGNIFICANT premium, you may not feel like it is an issue to you but for others it may be when compared to the cost of acquiring a similarly sized microSD card.

    USB OTG cables are fine .... when copying files, but not when you wish to have the expandable storage with you at all times e.g music playlist? It would just make holding and carrying the device awkward and increase the chances of doing damage to the device when compared to microSD card.
  • augustofretes - Sunday, April 07, 2013 - link

    The developer edition costs $649 and is 64GB, game set and match. That's my next phone. Reply
  • darwinosx - Sunday, April 07, 2013 - link

    Yeah thats a deal. Any word on when they are selling these? i assume developer edition means you don't have to root it.. Reply
  • darwinosx - Sunday, April 07, 2013 - link

    The carriers know that very, very few people ue SD card slots. Google doesn't like them either and never has. Reply
  • FITCamaro - Monday, April 08, 2013 - link

    It has nothing to do with Google or manufacturers not liking them. It is application developers that don't like them. Apps being stored on SD cards means easier piracy. That is why Apple has never allowed removable storage. And application developers love them for it. Google and Microsoft are moving more this direction to appease developers. Reply

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