HTC One Updated – Our second camera test

Today the HTC One received an update. Software version 1.29.4.12, which is a 229MB download, is said to update the camera, improve HTC Zoe sound quality, improve Beats Audio and adds system stability tweaks.

HTC One Updated   Our second camera test


Let’s wind back the clock because, in February, we posted this article which compared the HTC One camera against the Nokia Lumia 920. The test caused quite a stir, especially as there was so much interest in this new HTC Ultrapixel technology which lets more light into the shot.

So, with the newest update installed and a brand new unlocked HTC One from our friends at UR Mobile, would things improve?

Well, before I show you what happened I must let you into a little secret. I’ve seen everything that the HTC One has to offer in Barcelona but this is the first time that I’ve spent a good chunk of time with it and, I have to say, I’m shocked at how much I like the HTC Zoe system. I took my son on a quick trip to see the trains at the local train station and, as is usual, I snapped a few shots. Normally these shots (and the odd video) stay on my phone and I never seem to find the time to put the pictures in a digital album or stick the videos on a DVD. The Zoe system brought a simple few shots and videos to life in a really fun way and that sound quality is absolutely epic.

Believe me, if you choose to buy the HTC One I’ll come round and pat you on the back. This is a really, really good phone.

So, to the photo comparison. Last night, at 8.45PM on Wenesday April 24th, it was pretty much dark. The sun had set, the street lights were on and there was only a tiny amount of light. I took a shiny new HTC One with the very latest updates and a Sony Xperia T running Jelly Bean.

Now yes, the Xperia T has a 13 megapixel camera whilst the HTC One has a 4 megapixel camera, however the HTC One pixels are bigger and let in more light. This test isn’t about resolutions, this is about picture quality in low-light, so I went around the garden in the dark. I took the same photos at the same time. Some came out a little blurry, but I’ve included them here anyway. I turned HDR on with both handsets.

First up, a shot of our trampoline and slide. This really surprised me. To the naked eye it was fairly dark, but the green of the slide really jumped out on the HTC One..

HTC One
HTC One Updated   Our second camera test

Sony Xperia T
HTC One Updated   Our second camera test

Next up, a flag we have hanging in the garden. You can see here how the HTC One has injected extra brightness. Again, it was really weird because the sky wasn’t that bright to the naked eye. It really does boost the tiny bits of brightness. The colours are really enhanced here too..

HTC One
HTC One Updated   Our second camera test

Sony Xperia T
HTC One Updated   Our second camera test

The sky was on the next shot too. I just wanted to see how each phone handled the light and dark, and you can really see how the HTC One has picked up the clouds and the sky here compared to the Xperia..

HTC One
HTC One Updated   Our second camera test

Sony Xperia T
HTC One Updated   Our second camera test

As things got darker you can start to see how an almost “Instagram type” effect comes into some of the HTC One shots..

HTC One
HTC One Updated   Our second camera test

Sony Xperia T
HTC One Updated   Our second camera test

This shot of the wheel also seems to have the same effect..

HTC One
HTC One Updated   Our second camera test

Sony Xperia T
HTC One Updated   Our second camera test

By now it was getting a little too dark, so I headed inside. In this particular room there’s a 40 watt bulb in a lamp and nothing else. This is real evening-time mood lighting here.

HTC One
HTC One Updated   Our second camera test

Sony Xperia T
HTC One Updated   Our second camera test

Lastly, I went back out into the garden again and snapped a shot of a flower…

HTC One
HTC One Updated   Our second camera test

Sony Xperia T
HTC One Updated   Our second camera test

I could see that the HTC One was being very clever. In very limited light it seemed to boost a circular section in the middle. Colours are boosted and become more vivid and I was genuinely surprised at how bright they were in the preview window. At times I did find the effect a little “digital” but overall it did enhance low-light shots.

I’d like to hear your opinions on this though. Which do you prefer? I’ll be taking more shots later this week.

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  • Darren Roberts

    Apart from the Flag and Tree shots I prefer the Xperia T photos. They look a little more real. The photos from the one all look like they’ve had an instagram filter applied. Just my opinion

  • ColinP

    prefer the sony pictures – altho the htc is brighter the colours are more wishy washy

  • Anonymous

    I can see that the HTC One could be a much more useful general snapper. The amount of light it can capture seems to bring out details in the picture the Sony doesn’t, and I think if one were to further digitally enhance each of those pictures, you could do more with the HTC One pictures than the Sony ones.

    Certainly in a couple of those snaps the Sony appears to capture a more balanced image, but I think in practice there is more software amplification going on, and therefore less overall per-pixel accuracy.

    I think HTC will have an uphill struggle convincing folks that a 4MP camera is better than a 8+MP camera, but I honestly believe the HTC would be slightly more useful in practice. I liken it to the incredible improvement in quality the iPhone 4 (and 4S) had over pretty much every other smartphone camera at the time.

  • Bagpuss

    Using pixels as a measure of camera quality is the modern Emperor’s
    New Clothes. It doesn’t take much to realise that sharing the light entering an
    almost pinhole lens on a phone across ever increasing numbers of pixels means each
    one gets less so a smaller signal. Only by increasing the gain with a correspondingly
    poorer signal to noise ratio can you retrieve something. But that’s not the
    solution. This marketing hype is hoodwinking the masses into buying devices
    with rubbish cameras but lots of pixels. Even camera manufacturers have been at
    it when in reality a 6 MP DX sensor (the same physical size as those in most
    DSLRs) will take excellent photos, even for enlargement. HTC’s move to increase
    the sensor size and restrict the pixel count is a good thing for taking photos
    and should be applauded. Whether they have got all the other camera ducks in a
    row can only be revealed by testing.

    • Anonymous

      Well said. Unfortunately, most people respond to this kind of marketing where bigger numbers apparently mean better.

      Quite a long time ago, I used to write the drivers for video conferencing equipment (webcams, before they were called that). At the time, a dedicated card had to be used, and there was a lot of hardware processing that went on before the image even got to the PC in any form. The CMOS sensors at the time were quite crude, and even then we had a lot of light problems even though the sensors and apertures were much bigger than you find in phones these days. The main challenge was to be able to profile each sensor so you could get good contrast. To tune each one to return accurate values for common light levels was a nightmare. I believe this is still one of the main issues these days, and is why you tend to have a few firmware releases before the cameras are working optimally, especially where they use new types of sensor (like the HTC One). So assuming the One’s optics are decent, I firmly believe this camera will have the most potential to produce consistently good pictures than the competing phones.

  • ccsvchost

    Isn’t it wrong to test out the cameras just on HDR?