HTC went against all trends when they announced a radical new type of smartphone camera-sensor coming in the flagship uber-phone HTC One. Rather than stuffing a billion megapixels into the phone’s camera sensor, they downsized to just 4 megapixels. The reason? Well its pretty simple. Smartphone manufacturers these days keep increasing the megapixel count on their products but they do it while using the same tiny little camera sensors. The result? Well, because of the increased pixel count on basically the same sensor, the individual pixels become smaller and as a result the smaller pixels do not capture as much light. Photos then come out actually mediocre as compared to a camera with the same sensor but with lesser mega-pixels.
HTC One Camera – 4 Ultrapixels of (apparent) Goodness
In an attempt to mask the fact that their darling flagship has only 4 megapixels, HTC is using a marketing gimmick. They’re saying that the HTC One camera features 4 ultrapixels. Of course that is all just marketing babble, but it is not completely meaningless. HTC has used a fast f-2.0 lens coupled with a fairly standard 1/3″ BSI CMOS sensor. And because the megapixel count is so low, each individual pixel is now 2.0 microns. That puts the HTC One’s camera in the same league as some enthusiast point-and-shoots, and quite above the iPhone 5 and Galaxy S3 with their puny 1.4 micron sized pixels.
According to HTC, the One’s camera can capture 200 percent more light than a typical 8MP smartphone camera. And 300 percent more than the upcoming 13MP shooters. This should account for drastically improved low-light performance. Pair the big pixel size with the fast f-2.0 sensor and you have one of the most technically advanced cameras in the smartphone industry, if not the most advanced.
HTC One vs Apple iPhone 5
The iPhone 5 features a very capable and versatile camera. It takes excellent day light photos and possibly the best low light photos. CNET Asia got their hands on an HTC One and wasted no time putting the HTC One camera head to head with the iPhone 5’s. Here are the results:
As you can see, the results are nearly identical but there are subtle differences. The iPhone 5’s camera displayed over saturated and vibrant results whereas the HTC One’s camera managed to take a photo with more natural colors. If you like over-saturated and slightly overblown colors, the iPhone 5’s should be your priority.
The HTC One blows the iPhone 5 out of the water with its camera performance in this macro shot. Notice the more natural but more colorful details, better dynamic range and excellent focus of the HTC One Camera.
Portrait shots are difficult for cameras because the human skin tone is a complex color to get right. And it is evident here by the iPhone 5’s poor results. The colors are way over-saturated and it just looks unnatural. The HTC One’s camera fares much better here with excellently contained exposure levels and color accuracy.
HTC One Camera : It Can Only Get Better
The samples shown above were taken with a pre-production unit. That means that this probably is not HTC One camera’s full strength. As HTC works out some more magic out of this little wonder, it will be interesting to see how the smartphone industry will react to this new technology. Will they keep on increasing megapixels on their tiny HTC One camera-sensors or go for something more radical in an effort for better photos? Let’s just wait and see.