Bucking the trend for increased pixels on smartphone camera sensors, HTC has used just 4 million in its new release and focused on image quality. Callum Mclnerney-Riley tests the HTC One UltraPixel
WHILE many of today’s smartphone manufacturers seem to be having a never-ending megapixel race among themselves, HTC has opted not to compete with others in a bid to achieve the highest number of megapixels inside a smartphone. Instead, the company has evaluated what the consumer needs from a camera and built something that fits those needs.
Inside the HTC One UltraPixel smartphone camera is a sensor with a resolution of just 4 million pixels. A brief glance at this figure may deter the pixel-counting consumer, although it should be pointed out that putting 13 million pixels onto a small sensor can have an adverse effect on image quality. However, the camera’s other specifications show that HTC has focused on maximising this model’s performance and overall image quality.
A 1/3in (4.8×3.6mm) back-illuminated CMOS UltraPixel sensor has been fitted in the HTC One. The company has reduced the pixel count to 4 million pixels to accommodate ‘UltraPixels’, which are much larger than the standard pixels found in a smartphone. Using UltraPixels allows around 200% more light to hit the photosites than most top-end smartphones, which leads to improved dynamic range, colour rendition and, of course, low-light performance.
Currently, just the Nokia Lumia 920 and
HTC One have f/2 aperture lenses, making these the largest-aperture smartphones on the market. In comparison, an f/2 lens allows 44% more light than the f/2.4 lens of the iPhone 5.
HTCs very own Zoe shooting mode captures a 3sec video clip and allows you to go back through the clip frame by frame and save the frame you like as a full-resolution still image. Using a high-grade Qualcomm Snapdragon 600, quad-core, 17GHz processor makes this all possible and also unlocks some very advanced creative options. For example, objects can be removed in seconds or a sequence of shots stitched together effortlessly using Zoe.
BUILD AND HANDING
For maximum strength, a single piece of aluminium is used to construct the HTC One. A 4.7in, full HD, 1080p, 468ppi screen makes viewing images and videos brilliant, and it is of a far higher resolution than the LCD display on a standard digital camera. Currently, the stock camera on the HTC One is very good, but as Android 4.3 has just been announced by Google, we could see it updated very soon to make it better still.
In low-light the HTC One performs well and I found that the flash wasn’t often needed. I used the camera to shoot at a music event that had very little available light. I was impressed that the HTC One was able to capture a great exposure without a flash in such a challenging environment.
When subjects are close to the camera, shooting at f/2 gives a pleasing shallow depth of field. The portraits and macro shots I took with the HTC One are among the best I’ve taken with a smartphone.
The 28mm (35mm equivalent) lens on the camera is a very nice focal length to have. However, with a resolution of just 4 million-pixels the digital zoom and cropping have a huge impact on image quality.
When viewed at 100% the images show some noise, although for web use it’s hardly noticeable and doesn’t visually detract from the image. For a smartphone, the detail preserved is impressive and is on par with an entry-level compact. AP
PICTURES from the HTC One UltraPixel can be printed at 10x8in size without pixellation, although most people will upload their images to the web. Do I need 13-million-pixel images taking up space on my smartphone when 4 million pixels is sufficient? I think not. The advantages of fast processing, advanced editing, low-light performance, high dynamic range, good colour rendition and a reduction in mobile data far outweigh the slight limitations of the low resolution. Overall, with the HTC One you have a high standard of image quality right in your pocket.