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HTC One Product Images
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Connect smartphone reviews are written with the needs of photographers in mind. We focus on camera features, performance, and image quality.

Introduction

HTC is a pioneer in the smartphone world. The Taiwanese manufacturer got very early into the game with its Windows mobile devices, many of them marketed under carrier brand names. It also designed and manufactured the first Android phone in 2008, the T-Mobile G1/HTC Dream.

However, in the more recent past HTC has been struggling to compete with its bitter Korean rival Samsung. While HTC's 2012 flagship device, the One X, got rave reviews and was universally praised by technology writers as one of the year's best devices, it could not match expectations in the marketplace where many consumers found Samsung's Galaxy S3 to be the more compelling choice. 

2013 could therefore be a "make-or-break" year for HTC and it seems the company has done everything it could to prepare itself. With its 8MP camera, fast F2.0 lens and a 1.5GHz multi-core processor, last year's One X was no slouch, but the new 2013 flagship has been improved in almost every area. The HTC One swaps the One X's polycarbonate body for a beautiful all-metal unibody design which houses a 4.7-inch 1080p Full-HD screen, 2GB RAM and a Snapdragon quad-core processor.

The photosites on the camera sensor in the HTC One are approximately the same size as those in enthusiast compact cameras such as the Pansonic Lumix LX7.

While all the general device specifications leave no doubt that the One is a high-end device, HTC has put special emphasis on its flagship phone's image capturing capabilities. Like its predecessor, the HTC One comes with a fast F2.0 lens but also offers an optical image stabilization system, making it, at least on paper, an ideal low-light imaging smartphone.

The HTC One is not the first smartphone to sport a fast lens and OIS, but its 4 "ultrapixel" CMOS sensor is a novelty in the mobile space. "Ultrapixels" is essentially a marketing term that has been coined by HTC to describe pixels that are larger than those on competing models. The core of HTC's argument is based around the idea that using fewer, larger pixels on a sensor that's the same size as the 8 or 13MP units found in competitors should offer better image quality. This of course runs counter to conventional marketing, which has always contended precisely the opposite, i.e. more pixels are better.

There is an argument for using fewer pixels on a smartphone, since most images are edited and/or shared at lower resolutions than 4MP. That said, there’s a pretty strong argument that what really determines image quality when looking at the image as a whole is the total amount of light captured by the sensor, not by each individual pixel. We've put the HTC One through our review process to find out what ultrapixels mean for image quality and how the device generally performs in imaging-related tasks. Read on to find out how it did.

If you would like to see the HTC One in a side-by-side image quality comparison with the Samsung Galaxy S4, Apple iPhone 5, Nokia Lumia 920 and Apple iPhone 4S please also have a look at our comprehensive Smartphone Super Shootout and our comparison with the Apple iPhone 4S.

Key Photographic / Video Specifications

  • 4MP backside-illuminated HTC 1/3" CMOS sensor
  • F2.0 aperture
  • 28mm equivalent focal length
  • Optical image stabilization
  • 1080p Full HD video on both front and rear cameras
  • HDR video
  • HDR Microphones and stereo speakers with Beats Audio
  • Slow-motion video with variable speed playback
  • HTC Zoe movies
  • Object Removal, Always Smile and Sequence Shot editing options
  • 88-degree wide-angle front camera

Other Specifications

  • Qualcomm Snapdragon 600 quad-core processor, 1.7 GHz
  • Android 4.1.2 "Jelly Bean" OS with HTC Sense 5.0
  • 4.7-inch 1080p screen (486ppi)
  • 2GB RAM
  • 32/64GB storage
  • NFC
  • 2300 mAh battery (not removable)
  • All-metal unibody design

Our ten-page review

We've considered every aspect of the HTC One, with the photographer in mind. We examined the user interface of the native camera app and its special features. We experimented with the camera's performance when taking stills and video. Click any of the links below for more information of specific functions and continue to our conclusion for a final summary of our findings.

Comments

Total comments: 40
Simon Paton
By Simon Paton (1 month ago)

HTC ONE camera in HDR Mode or: Best 3rd party app for HDR Mode?:
-HDR Camera +
- Camera HDR Studio
- HDR camera
Hi all. I have the update 4.3 Android version. I've been told to use HDR Mode in camera settings to get best photo in low light or when there is bright and low light. Overall, I am happy with the photos. I compared a friends Sony Xperia z1 camera with my HTC ONE camera. Overall, if you do not crop, zoom in or want to blow up your pictures into photos, its a great camera. However, when it comes to HDR Mode, I was told to install a 3rd party app for this as HTC's HDR Mode is not consistent and was told some 3rd party apps are better for HDR. These are:

* Camera HDR Studio
* HDR camera ( i believe this free app has full HDR features from HDR Camera +). Not sure if that's true? Anyone know?
-HDR Camera +

Can anyone suggest one over the other for my HTC ONE?

0 upvotes
jeffw0502
By jeffw0502 (4 months ago)

The HCC One ultrapixel camera has to be the worst i have ever owned. The colours are totally different from the real life colours, tending to be faded. The video function is jerky. The worst of it though is its big design flaw. If you are taking a photo in reduced light and it doesnt have to be dark, if you have a tv or monitor in the picture, all you get is a bright white screen. A trait of the ultrapixels apparently according to HTC, a big design flaw according to me. The HTC One will definitely be the last HTC phone i purchase.

0 upvotes
rfsIII
By rfsIII (10 months ago)

Wonderful review. I have a question about the typical Connect visitor and how our usage of the tools play into the relative weighting of the scores. Do we the readers shoot mainly stills or mainly video or are we split 50/50? And what do we use our pictures and videos for? Is it more for work, social media, or for our art?
How does the use to which your typical visitor puts their camera phone affect the score? Do good still scores have more weight than good video scores or are they equal?

Comment edited 46 seconds after posting
0 upvotes
Muzika38
By Muzika38 (10 months ago)

Hi guys! Great camera review it did guide me a little bit on what to do on certain conditions.

Anyways thought I would also ask further help from you guys. Well just want to ask how should I work around the purplish haze on the camera?

Usually this occurs when using it at night when pointing the camera in very dark places with limited light source. The purple haze always show up in the dark parts of the picture. This only happens on dark places. Taking pictures in well lit places is perfect.

And by the way the purple haze usually disappear when I set the iso lower than 800 but obviously the the picture becomes dark anymore rendering it unusable. Tried also using HDR mode on under that circumstances and it just adds up a white foggy view + the purple haze combined. And yeah same thing happening on night shots. Tried checking the exif and it always shows I am getting ISO 800 to 1000+ when using it in those dark places.

0 upvotes
Lars Rehm
By Lars Rehm (10 months ago)

Hey, the purple haze is caused by strong light sources that are just outside the frame. So if you take a night picture and have street lamp just outside the frame you've got a good chance to see the effect. We have also seen it in bright light with the sun just outside the frame. Your best bet is to frame your shot in a way so that you haven't got any light sources in the critical area.

1 upvote
dpLarry
By dpLarry (10 months ago)

All I know is that I have great 2,3&5 megapixel pictures and that's all I need for a phone cam. I'd rather have low grain good low light than a massive grainy pic.

1 upvote
Daniel L
By Daniel L (10 months ago)

Continue from previous ....

Normal operation - Android is not as polish as iOS and transitions is jerking. It's like going back to Windows Vista after using mastering OSX. It's a sick feeling.

I want a bigger screen size phone and better Google Map integration with Google account, i think i got it from HTC One but the cons, in my case, far exceed the pros. I'm so going back to next iPhone (with bigger screen)

0 upvotes
Daniel L
By Daniel L (10 months ago)

Here's my take having switched from iPhone4s to HTC one, i preordered mine and being using it since then...

HTC COO just step down and they are restructuring company quality control, that explained why my HTC one have three cracks from normal use. What a joke. Is this thing make out of "glass"? I never have to worry about iPhone screen scratch, let alone crack! I didn't even drop it!

This thing run hot, hot to touch just using Google Map on the car. Nothing more frustrating that having to reboot your phone while using Google Map on the drive. It hangs, and stuttering so bad, i have to reboot the damn phone. Crappy OS can't help even with fastest processor on earth.

HTC sync manager is a piece of junk ( On OSX), even the support told me to buy 3rd party software/app. That says, you have to pay if you are synching your data with your itunes.

If you like IPod music player. You are going to hate anything android have to offer, I have to pay an app to get something usable. Conti

0 upvotes
dpLarry
By dpLarry (10 months ago)

my friends switched to htc one said its amazing.

0 upvotes
Richard Shih
By Richard Shih (10 months ago)

Perhaps you received a lemon. I've never experienced any of the slowdowns you reported and the only time it runs relatively warm is when I've been playing a 3D game for 10-15+ minutes, but by no means unbearable.

Can't speak for the sync manager as I either pull content off the phone via web services or just through Windows Explorer.

0 upvotes
GURL
By GURL (10 months ago)

I understand that a camera specifications page (à la DSLR) would be misplaced in this review but saying nothing at all about the recorded angle of view looks strange. All phone cameras are equivalent in this regard?

Comment edited 55 seconds after posting
0 upvotes
Lars Rehm
By Lars Rehm (10 months ago)

it says "28mm equivalent focal length" in the spec list on the first page

1 upvote
captura
By captura (10 months ago)

I bought an HTC One last year. Never worked properly. When I sent it to HTC they returned a 'repaired' unit with a different serial number and it was defective too, but with different problems. Buyer beware!

0 upvotes
Lars Rehm
By Lars Rehm (10 months ago)

Can you provide any specifics? What was wrong with it?

0 upvotes
Richard Shih
By Richard Shih (10 months ago)

HTC One X or One X+? The One was released this past March.

2 upvotes
Sirandar
By Sirandar (10 months ago)

I was an avid HTC user and would love to keep buying them BUT microSD is simply a must have feature and HTC no long supports it.

If you use your phone for music or as a picture mobile viewer for a large picture library nothing can currently replace or even remotely compete with microSD. Otherwise microSD is pretty optional.

0 upvotes
Richard Shih
By Richard Shih (10 months ago)

Unfortunately lack of external storage seems to be the common trend with more and more services being put into the cloud. Though HTC's base model has 16GB more than most other phones' base models, there are alternatives if microSD are a must. :)

0 upvotes
Impulses
By Impulses (10 months ago)

4" USB OTG cable with a thumbnail sized microSD reader can go a long way towards mitigating the need for an internal microSD IMO... For a lot of those things it's actually more convenient than removing your case, lid, and possibly battery just to get at the card... I've yet to remove the 32GB card inside my EVO LTE (One X variant) but I've been getting a lot of mileage out of that USB OTG cable.

0 upvotes
HowaboutRAW
By HowaboutRAW (10 months ago)

Wouldn't the option of recording in raw make sense here? Those picking an "ultrapixel" camera would likely understand how useful raw can be.

Then: Why on earth did HTC forgo a swappable battery? This is one of the great advantages that the Samsung Android phones and the new Blackberry Z10 have over the iPhone.

0 upvotes
dpLarry
By dpLarry (10 months ago)

RAW in a phone cam?? Please.

(My macbook pro has an excellent fixed battery. No regrets. better than previous macbooks with batteries that come off. It can be replaced if necessary at the store.)

0 upvotes
HowaboutRAW
By HowaboutRAW (10 months ago)

dpLarry:

Yes, because raw capture would improve color, white balance, exposure, and also offer a bit better noise control. You know improve the photos, at the simple cost of more storage space. (The same point applies to small water proof tough cameras.)

As for your Macbook, hope you don’t own the new 15 inch Macbook “retina”.

Then, it’s not so much about where or how to replace a built-in battery, it’s about when the phone stops working after some hours of use, and you don’t have AC power because you’re out and about, or/and you don’t have a charger with you.

Milwaukee, Makita, Dewalt, Bosch would all be laughed out of the battery powered tool business if they stupidly shipped tools with only built-in batteries. And the same goes for Panasonic, Sony, Samsung, Nikon, Canon, Olympus, Fuji, etc and the camera business.

So to get around this problem with the iPhone you have to have an external battery, sometimes built-into the case. (Still a dumb "feature" of the iPhone or HTC1.)

0 upvotes
zodiacfml
By zodiacfml (10 months ago)

i thought the camera is really good since the shadow areas are better in the htc one. i hope to see the same philosophy on a larger sensor though.

0 upvotes
gil12
By gil12 (10 months ago)

Many of the reviews seem to skip over the fact that the pictures can be greatly improved through in camera adjustments. The review notes over sharpening by default but does not bother to lower it in the settings. It has been rumored that reducing sharpening to -1 greatly improves pic quality. Why is this not done?

1 upvote
Lars Rehm
By Lars Rehm (10 months ago)

We speak about sharpness adjustment on the feature page but, as for camera reviews, we do most of our tests at default settings as this is what almost all users take their pictures with. Frankly, on the HTC most users probably wouldn't even find the settings in the menu :-)

1 upvote
zonoskar
By zonoskar (10 months ago)

Again a phone that exhibits this annoying color shading. Why does this only occur in phones and not in any of the compact camera's? How difficult is it to design a phone without this 'featue'? This is the main reason why I almost never get usable pictures out of my Lumia 920 (and other phones).

0 upvotes
Hclarkx
By Hclarkx (10 months ago)

No sensor actually measures colors properly. There is always a need for a "profile" to adjust the color information provided by the sensor to the true colors. The profile is developed by the phone manufacturer and that's where the colors go awry. Hopefully a calibrated monitor is used to prepare the profile! The bottom line is that the colors are only as good as the profile that corrects the sensor output. I'd guess people like Datacolor are working on an app to fine tune color in the phone. They already have this for pad screens.

0 upvotes
Bass3d
By Bass3d (10 months ago)

Nokia 808 Pureview has not been beaten so far in this area.
I think it's at least two years ahead in camera and flash performance

0 upvotes
HowaboutRAW
By HowaboutRAW (10 months ago)

And could be even further, if the 808 recorded and shared raw data.

0 upvotes
JAkira
By JAkira (10 months ago)

Some of the indoor photos taken with the HTC One that I've seen exhibit the "pink spot" problem that has plagued several phone cameras, like my old Samsung Galaxy S2 Skyrocket. This is one reason I passed on the HTC One and went with the Galaxy S4, which does not seem to have this problem. The replaceable battery and MicroSD card slot are nice, too.

0 upvotes
panteraaa
By panteraaa (10 months ago)

phones back then had lower pixel count. were their sensor smaller?

0 upvotes
coudet
By coudet (10 months ago)

Nice phone, just the camera seems to be poor. Ultra pixels, ultra crappy IQ.

0 upvotes
ConanFuji
By ConanFuji (10 months ago)

Good work on the amount and quality of samples. It's really nice to browse it.
I skipped to the conclusion, and saw 75%.
I thought it would be more meaningful if there's a relative score.
We want to know if it takes better pics than the Note 2 or other phones which sets the bar.

0 upvotes
Lars Rehm
By Lars Rehm (10 months ago)

we're working on a scoring comparison widget for our smartphone reviews but not quite there yet :-) For now I recommend you open the two reviews side by side.

0 upvotes
joe6pack
By joe6pack (10 months ago)

This is at least the 3rd article from dpreview alone involving comparison of the image quality of HTC One. Don't you guys have something better to review?

0 upvotes
Lars Rehm
By Lars Rehm (10 months ago)

This is arguably the most popular smartphone for imaging this year, so I think it is in order to publish a full review (this article) and include it in a couple of comparison shootouts but we will keep your feedback in mind.

8 upvotes
JadedGamer
By JadedGamer (10 months ago)

... but that is just because the new iPhone is not out yet... :D

0 upvotes
Lars Rehm
By Lars Rehm (10 months ago)

well, when it's out we'll publish a review and probably a couple of shootouts as well, so we can all make up our own mind :-)

1 upvote
hwttdz
By hwttdz (10 months ago)

I finally realized why I dislike the name ultrapixel so much, because 1 ultrapixel = 10^42 megapixels. It's an si-prefix.

0 upvotes
LKJ
By LKJ (10 months ago)

Where did you hear that?

Official SI prefixes go as far as 10^±24, and ultra isn't one of them.

IMO the only reason you need to dislike "ultrapixel" is that it's ridiculous and marketing driven. :)

Comment edited 2 times, last edit 6 minutes after posting
6 upvotes
hwttdz
By hwttdz (10 months ago)

I got it from Wolfram alpha, of course I don't know where they got it. Maybe it's part of some other standard?

So I guess it bothers me because it sounds like a prefix.

0 upvotes
Total comments: 40
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