Camera Operation

The One's camera app layout follows familiar Android design patterns with shutter/video buttons and zoom lever on the right and access to shooting settings on the left side of the screen.

The HTC One's camera app can easily be opened from the lock screen by tapping on the camera icon and pulling it across the screen. If you're in the camera app when the phone goes into sleep mode the One will also go straight back to the camera after you press the power button to wake the device up. We would wish more phone makers would implement similar solutions on their devices as this allows for quick access to the camera app in any situation.

Once open, the app layout will look fairly familiar to anyone who has taken pictures with an Android phone before but it's obvious that HTC's interface designers have made an effort in putting their own touch on it. Generally the app seems most suited to point-and-shoot users. You can adjust shooting parameters but will have to dive pretty deep into the menu to do so.

Tapping on the camera icon and pulling it across the screen gives you quick access to the HTC One's camera app from the lock screen.

There are two ways of capturing a still image. You can tap the onscreen shutter button or you can enable the "touch-to-capture" option in the menu to shoot an image by tapping anywhere on the screen. If you do the latter, the camera will set the focus point where you tap and link the exposure to that focus point. iPhone users will be familiar with this method of setting the exposure but the HTC One is the first Android phone we have seen to work this way. "Traditional" exposure compensation is still available but as mentioned above you'll have to enter the menu to access it.

If you tap and focus on a bright part of your scene you'll get a darker exposure and the other way around. The samples below illustrate how this works, the green square indicates the focus/exposure point.

For this shot we focused on the brightly lit white tarpaulin on the left boat. This gives you some detail on the fabric but overall the image is heavily underexposed.
Focusing on a shadow area such as the hull of the boat on the right gives you an overexposed image with large clipped highlight areas.
Tapping on a mid-tone area of the scene gets you the most balanced exposure. However, in this high-contrast situation we still end up with clipped highlights on green boat's cover.

Sometimes you might have to tap a few different areas before you get the desired exposure but mostly this system works decently and makes sure your focus area is well exposed. However, the tap-exposure works best in scenes with balanced lighting. Capturing a high-key or low-key scene is next to impossible as you won't find a dark or bright enough area in those scenes to achieve your desired exposure. The only way around this is using a third-party camera app that offers exposure compensation, such as Camera FV-5 or ProCapture, or apply additional exposure compensation in the menu which is unfortunately a slightly longwinded process.

This forest scene makes it difficult to find a focus/exposure point that is bright enough to trigger an exposure that is dark enough to convey the atmosphere of the scene. 
The only way to capture the dark mood of the scene and get some highlight detail in the flowing water of the stream is by tapping on the small area of bright sky in the top right corner, even if that's not really where you want to put the focus.

Unfortunately there is no dedicated hardware shutter button and in the default camera app there is no way to assign this function to the volume buttons either.

The digital zoom is best avoided but if you really want or have to zoom, the HTC's implementation of the feature is nice to use. You can either zoom with the familiar pinch-gesture or use the zoom-bar on the right side of the screen. Tapping on the loupe icons above and below the bar will take you directly to the minimum and maximum zoom settings respectively.

The switch between front and rear cameras has been implemented in a slightly unusual but nevertheless quite elegant way as well. You can switch between cameras via a menu setting but you can also swipe down from the top edge of the screen. This works very well and is a nice feature for those who frequently take self-portraits.

All other elements of the camera app are pretty standard. The thumbail above the shutter/video buttons gives you direct access to the gallery app and a tap on the filter icon at the bottom of the screen opens up a range of filter effect options.

Tapping on the settings icon in the bottom left of the screen brings up the settings menu and lets you choose from scene and shooting modes among other options.

There are three more icons on the left of the screen. The flash icon lets you choose between flash on, off and auto modes. The camera icon below activates Zoe movie mode which we are explaining in more detail on the features page.

The three dots at the bottom give you access to the menu options. Here you can choose from a range of scene and shooting modes, including HDR and panorama. You can select burst mode settings, apply exposure compensation and contrast, saturation and sharpness adjustments to images, manually set white balance and ISO and select video settings among other options. The HTC's camera menu is quite comprehensive for a smartphone, but we would prefer some of the options, for example exposure compensation and ISO, to be more accessible. It's also worth mentioning that the latter option is only of limited value as the HTC One, like most smartphones, does not display shutter speeds.