Do HTC One ultrapixels deliver? Our full camera review
DPReview smartphone reviews are written with the needs of photographers in mind. We focus on camera features, performance, and image quality.
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.
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
- 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
- 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.
|Christine by JP Zanotti|
from Car wreck
|Fangorn Forest by cand1d|
|Yosemite Falls with Moonbow by Jonathan Shapiro|
from Best Landscape of the Week 4
Not everyone wants to pay a premium for a long zoom camera. Thankfully, there are many reasonably priced cameras available, though they won't offer the same image quality as enthusiast models. In this updated roundup we look at big zoom cameras with more consumer-friendly price tags. Read more
Think Tank Photo has updated two of its popular bag lines with improvements to functionality. Read more
We’ve all seen Bob Jackson’s Pulitzer Prize winning photo, but there's another.
The sample footage looks good.
It will automatically pick the best camera settings depending on shooting conditions. It even promises enhanced functionality for your camera, like exposure and focus stacking. It already supports many cameras from Canon, Fuji, Nikon and Sony. Read more
As if $13,950 wasn’t enough to pay for a special edition lens, the Leica Store in San Francisco is offering a prototype of said lens for $24,995. Read more
Make those old photos disappear without deleting them forever.
Firmware updates enable 10 fps shooting with adapted A-mount lenses, and faster startup times and better compatibility for 20 fps shooting when using native lenses on the a9.
Fujifilm has released firmware updates for its camera models X-T2, X-Pro2, GFX 50s, X-T20, X100F and X-T1 and updates to three of its software products.
A 22 year-old Romanian photographer uses his DJI Phantom 4 drone to capture unique perspectives of the city where he now lives.
What's it like to ride the waves with champion surfer Kelly Slater? This VR video from Teton Gravity Research gives you a taste.
When Nikon released the full-frame D3 in 2007, it changed the professional photography industry. In this week's Throwback Thursday, Barney remembers a legend. Read more
The new stuff should have better red hues, improved sensitivity and finer grain - but don't worry - will still shift blues to green, greens to purple and yellows to pink.
Ricoh has introduced a new rugged compact camera with a 16MP CMOS sensor, 28-140mm lens, 2.7" LCD and built-in LED macro lights. Read more
This compact drone can shoot HD video using a 2-axis stabilized 12MP camera. Read more
The new Prynt Pocket can print a photo directly from their iPhone simply by inserting the phone into the printer, then snapping a photo. Each print will cost about 50 cents. Read more
Updates for Adobe Camera Raw and Lightroom CC bring support for the Sony A9 and Panasonic ZS70/TZ90, along with bug fixes.
The Triggertrap remote camera control system is no longer sold due to the company folding, but now users will be able to build their own. Read more
The Magic Format Converter comes with internal optics that expand the image circle of full-frame DSLR lenses for use on the Fuji medium format camera. Read more
The usually Apple-exclusive MacPhun software developer has announced that it will introduce PC versions of two of its most popular applications. Both Aurora HDR and Luminar should be available for the Windows operating system by the autumn of this year. Read more
Sony's newest G Master telephoto zoom, announced alongside the a9, is the first of the company's FE lenses to reach 400mm natively. We had one in California and photographed horses, portraits, and landscapes - check out how it did. Read more
Garmin has entered the 360-camera market with the VIRB, which captures 5.7K video at 30p as well as 15MP stills. Read more
German media reports that the founders of the company behind the Panono 360-degree ball camera have filed for bankruptcy at a court in Berlin. Read more
With a claimed 800 new custom parts, Microsoft's updated Surface Pro comes with the latest Kaby Lake processors, better battery life, a new hinge, plus the Surface Pen is updated as well. Read more
DW Photo is attempting to resurrect the Hy6 medium format camera, though the legal tangles of its development may stop it being branded Rolleiflex.
The Kodak EKTRA, the company's 'camera first' smartphone, is now available to purchase in the United States. Read more
Apple and Nokia have settled their years-old patent dispute. Apple will make an undisclosed payment to Nokia and sign a licensing agreement related to digital health products with the Finnish company.
David Gibson, one of Britain's best known street shooters, shares all.
Photographers from the SKYGLOW project travelled 150k miles and took 3 million photos in increasingly rare locations: those without light pollution.
The world's fastest 200mm was produced for 16 years. In that time, only 8000 were made.