HTC One M8 Camera Review
High Dynamic Range (HDR) modes capture two or more images at different exposures and then blend the individual frames. This helps to reduce highlight and shadow clipping in high-contrast scenes. HDR capture is pretty much a standard feature on smartphones these days but implementation and results vary greatly. On the One M8 you select HDR mode in the menu and snap away, there are no further parameters or settings to play with.
Looking at the results below the HTC One M8's HDR mode is less balanced than competing solutions. In high contrast scenes smartphones often have trouble with highlight clipping and the M8 is no exception. Yet the phone's HDR mode focuses on the shadows and leaves the highlights virtually untouched.
In the two samples above you can see how the shadows have been lifted heavily while the highlights are still clipped. In the second sample the blue sky has turned cyan, too. Overall the M8's HDR results look unnatural and don't do anything to recover highlight detail. This is in stark contrast to systems like HDR mode in the Apple iPhone 5s, which leave midtones looking natural but give you some detail back in bright areas. Overall the M8's HDR feature could really do with a review of exposure and image blending parameters.
The HTC One M8 shoots panoramas in portrait or landscape orientation. Panorama mode is selected in the settings and once activated you simply capture a pano by panning the camera. As you do so you can see the individual images being auto-aligned. The process is easy and quick but we have seen better results on competitors, specifically the iPhone 5s and Samsung Galaxy S4. With a width of approximately 6500 pixels the images aren't particularly large and when you zoom in to 100% view you'll notice quite a few small stitching errors.
Like most phones the One M8 locks the exposure with the first frame which explains the slightly dark exposure of the first sample below. In the second sample you can also see a pretty ugly color shift towards the highlights. The blue sky turns cyan before it totally clips to white.
Like most other recent high-end Android phones the One M8 can capture images with front and rear cameras at the same time and create a picture-picture effect. To do so you have to select Dual Capture in camera app. The HTC version of this mode has a nice touch in so far that you can adjust both size and position of the small image inside the larger frame.
Google started the trend to 360 degree panorama images on Android devices with Photo Sphere and by now most manufacturers pre-install a proprietary solution or one that is based on Google's technology on their high-end devices. HTC's version is called 360 Pan and can be accessed via the camera selection screen. Most 360 panorama apps work in a very similar way. You are guided by an on-screen target as you capture frame by frame to complete the sphere around you.
In terms of usability the HTC solution is one of the best solutions we have seen. The targets are bright red and easily visible in bright light which cannot be said for most other sphere apps we have tested. In the top right corner of the screen you also have a progress indicator which makes it it easy to spot if any patches have been forgotten.
Unfortunately the image results do not quite match the good ergonomics of the app. The sample below was shot on a market square with most of the buildings and objects at a good distance from the camera. We would always accept some stitching errors on objects that are close to the lens, like my bicycle that I had dropped just in front of me, but on buildings in the distance the stitching should be better.
If you zoom into the into this image you can see a lot of small stitching errors and ghosting all over the buildings in the distance. When viewed on Google+ you still get a good impression of the space though and Pan 360 seems to deal well with moving subjects in the scene.
The image size you get out of the HTC One M8's front camera is almost the same as the rear shooter. That's more than the front cameras on many other smartphones but overall the image quality is still limited. If you look at the full image size you'll see a lot of noise reduction and smearing of fine detail but it's good enough for a quick snap in good light.
In Selfie mode the self-timer is set to 2 seconds by default but you can turn it off or switch to 5 or 10 seconds as well. Otherwise the menu options are limited but you still get HDR and Portrait mode and have access to White Balance, Filters and exposure compensation.
The HTC One M8 also offers a shooting mode that allows for manual setting of white balance, ISO, shutter speed and focus. If you leave ISO and shutter speed on Auto you can alternatively use exposure compensation. All parameters can be modified on easy to use sliders and while you might not want to use manual mode on an everyday basis it is definitely useful in certain situations.
Like most smartphones the One M8 attempts to keep the ISO down in low light by using very slow shutter speed. This leads inevitably to blur on moving subjects. Manual mode allows you to select the shutter speed you need to freeze motion. With ISO set to Auto the app will then select the sensitivity that's needed to achieve that speed.
Gallery app and editing
Apart from the Duo Cam features that are described on the previous page the HTC gallery has not changed much from the One to the One M8. images are sorted by Album, Location or timeline. For each of those a larger cover thumbnail is displayed that turns into a "Highlight Movie" a couple of seconds or so after it appears on the screen. Highlight Movies are videos that mix up still images and videos in a folder and throw in some effect filters for good measure. We had a closer look at them in our HTC One review.
Once have selected one of the albums you can tap on thumbnails to show the image at full screen and use the pinch gesture to zoom in and out. Another tap then opens up a fairly comprehensive range of editing options. Video editing options are limited to trimming of your clips.
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