The Camera

If the One’s industrial design and materials choices make it nice to own, it’s the camera that makes the One a must have. In fact, that’s how it all started for me. I popped my test sim into the One and started carrying it around with my iPhone 5 as I went about the user experience part of my review process. I quickly found myself only taking photos using the One, and using the 5 for everything else. After a few days, the 5 was pretty much only used to check iMessages and answer calls to that number - with the One being used for everything else.

I remember talking to Brian after he first learned about what HTC decided to do with the One’s camera system. I believe he said something like “this is exactly what they should be building”. In the three years I’ve worked with Brian I don’t think I’ve ever heard him say that about any smartphone OEM’s decision with any component/subsystem. The strong endorsement was enough to pique my interest in the One.

Brian will go into great detail about the One’s camera in his review, and what I’ll provide here is no where near doing it justice but I’ll do my best.

At a high level, HTC’s strategy with the One is to boldly bow out of the megapixel race and instead integrate a lower resolution rear facing camera sensor with larger pixels. Each pixel in the One’s 4MP rear facing camera sensor is over 2x larger than those in the iPhone 5, and even larger than those in the Galaxy S 4. Larger pixels help ensure a better signal to noise ratio, which in turn can really improve low light performance when paired with a suitable lens.

The downsides are obvious. Very well lit scenarios can suffer compared to a higher resolution sensor, and the bigger issue for HTC is that 4MP doesn’t sound as good to the uninformed consumer compared to the Galaxy S 4’s 13MP rear camera. HTC tried to get around the latter problem by calling its larger pixels Ultrapixels, but then it’s up to point of sale training to ensure that the benefits are adequately conveyed. Call me cynical but I don’t have a bunch of faith there.

The F2.0 lens ensures a bunch of light can hit the sensor, and the result is easily the best low light performance I’ve ever seen in any Android or iOS smartphone. I took this shot during Jen-Hsun’s GTC 2013 keynote earlier this week:

The One seems to want to drive ISO as high as possible to increase brightness, so for this particular shot I manually set ISO down to 100, but otherwise everything else was left to defaults.

The Auto ISO algorithm doesn’t always drive itself super high however, the shot below is outside of Terminal 2 at the RDU airport at 11:29PM:

For this shot I didn’t touch anything and the result was a surprisingly low-noise shot.

It’s not just night shots where the One’s camera excels, but also in the more common poorly lit indoor scenarios where I come away very impressed:


iPhone 5

In well lit outdoor scenes the One’s camera does a reasonable job (although HTC seems to have an issue with noise in these well lit scenes from whatever processing they seem to be doing):

Integrating a good sensor and camera system is just part of what the One does really well here. The feature that I’ve found resonates the best among normal smartphone users is the highlights reel.

Sense 5.0 will automatically assemble 30 second highlights videos based on photos and video you’ve taken throughout your day. The One automatically adds filters, background music and stitches everything together; all you have to do is use the camera to take photos and video, everything else happens automatically.

The highlights reel below is one that was automatically generated based on my photos and videos from opening day at GTC 2013:

Although highlights reels are automatically generated, you can also generate highlights of individual albums. I created an album of photos I had taken over the past couple of trips (as well as some shots I took at home) and the One created this video:

Each highlights reel is shared as standard MP4 (baseline profile, ~3Mbps 720p H.264), so compatibility isn't a concern.

You can manually choose from multiple themes (filters/music combinations, 6 total), but there’s unfortunately no way to add your own background music yet (I suspect this is coming in the next major update).

The highlights reel is easily the most emotionally engaging feature the One has to offer, even ranking above aesthetics and build quality in my opinion. It’s the type of feature that really seems to resonate with everyone I show it to. The killer aspect in all of this is the fact that the One will put together highlights reels automatically, with no user intervention.

I can see the background music and filters getting boring after a while, and that’s why it’s very important for HTC to quickly enable end users to supply their own audio tracks (as well as quickly - and regularly - expand the collection of filters offered).

The downside to the One’s highlights reel autonomy is the feature remains relatively buried, almost hidden in the gallery app rather than front and center like Blinkfeed. The highlights reel is easy to demonstrate to someone else, it’s just not as obvious of a feature when you pick up the phone for the first time.

I haven’t touched on Zoe, the ability to simultaneously shoot stills and record a short video - both at full res. Zoe is a difficult feature to really explain without demonstrating it, but it does wonders in the creation of highlights reels. Zoe is a great way of dealing with the problem of what to do when your subject is in motion - do you hope for a good still or just capture a video? Zoe interestingly enough does both. It’ll capture a 1080p30 video, as well as 20 full resolution (4MP) stills at the same time.

I’ve mostly been using Zoe as a way to make my highlights reels more interesting, but the best use case I’ve seen was actually by a friend of mine who used it to capture the actions of some street performers in Europe. In one Zoe he had performers spinning on their heads, which typically would make for a good video or an emotionless (but potentially cool) still. Zoe delivered both.

The One, like Nokia’s Lumia 920, features optical image stabilization (OIS), which is designed to help both in shooting video as well as improving low light performance. In practice, I’m not super impressed with the OIS implementation on the One. It seems to need a bit of tuning, but I’ll leave it to Brian to explain exactly what’s going on.

Shot to shot latency on the One is amazing. Video quality is solid as well.

The One has the physical beauty to get you interested, but the camera prowess to keep you engaged.

Introduction & Design The Rest of the Features


View All Comments

  • CeriseCogburn - Monday, March 25, 2013 - link

    I'm not you, a stupid idiot who opens the piehole and loses.
    I have more than one very lucrative gravy job, gravy for my massive intellect, certainly difficult for someone like you, with propensity to completely ignore reality often, and spew untruths.
  • jayseeks - Tuesday, March 26, 2013 - link

    Stop lying, your only job is to troll for Samsung. And if you have any other job, it most certainly does not require a firm grasp of the English language. Loser. Reply
  • othercents - Thursday, March 21, 2013 - link

    Thanks Anand, I really like the HTC One specifically for the camera, however the S4 has some features that I like also along with increased performance. However I do feel that when someone goes to the store and looks at the two devices, unless they just love the looks of the HTC One then they will get the S4 due to the fact that the replaceable battery and SD are easy sell points along with the larger screen and increased performance. Reply
  • darwinosx - Friday, March 22, 2013 - link

    No they won't. Most people don't care and never use either. Reply
  • jayseeks - Friday, March 22, 2013 - link

    This is true. I don't understand the over emphasis of removable battery and microSD as a "deal breaker." If the mainstream wanted microSD and removable battery half as much as certain people seem to suggest, the iPhone wouldn't have nearly the amount of success it has had.
    I've also never met anyone who actually cared enough about removable battery or SD storage that it was the deciding factor in choosing a smartphone. Most people not in the IT profession are not willing to shell out the extra $50 for another battery anyway. As for the SD storage, it's only real advantage is being cheaper. Again, who, besides IT professionals carries multiple microSD cards with them so that it might actually be useful?
  • CeriseCogburn - Friday, March 22, 2013 - link

    The 1st SD card is useful, for appletards that pay well over $50 more like $300 or $400 for the memory space a simple SD card slot provides for $50, only being INSANE explains it.

    Thanks for being so deliriously appletarded bang for the buck is like TOTALLY GONE from your brain.

    I mean is it even possible to lie to oneself at the level you have and be on a tech site ?
  • jayseeks - Friday, March 22, 2013 - link

    You are a paid shill, stop with your weak arguments. I don't care for Apple more than any other company. Except for Samsung which I have great disdain for because of their low brow, pathetic guerrilla marketing efforts which involved hiring sad people like you to troll these sites. Reply
  • CeriseCogburn - Monday, March 25, 2013 - link

    LMAO - you lost again dummy. You don't like me because I point out how stupid you are, after you spew out your stupid lies and lines.

    Who cares what you the retard says, or how appleface you are, or what you personally buy, THE POINT IS THE SD CARD RAM SLOT MAKES MORE FOR LESS 100% ACCURATE PERIOD.

    Only tard tard tardy tards like you, being as stupid as you are, think the general public doesn't do the SD card.
    Like I said, they are bonkers about it. Crazy in love with it. They feel they have power and control over the phone then. They can remove their pictures and set them aside - fill up one card and get the next. This is what PEOPLE ACTUALLY DO YOU STUPID SACK OF CRAPOLA.
  • CeriseCogburn - Friday, March 22, 2013 - link

    and -BTW - people freaking LOVE sd cards.
    They love to buy them and fill them up - then keep them and use them for their picture frames and home PC's desktop screensavers - you must live in a Jobs cave.

    People go nutso over mem cards - they LOVE em.

    Everyone I know can replace a battery, which they do in hundreds of devices nowadays - only the appletard think it takes a TECH to replace a battery in a portable sound/mobile device.

    LOL - you people are crazy.
  • jayseeks - Friday, March 22, 2013 - link

    "They love to buy them and fill them up - then keep them and use them for their picture frames and home PC's desktop screensavers"

    No genius, there are USB drives for that.

    As for crazy, just read your comments.

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