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We put the HTC One's UltraPixels to the ultimate test

Lauren Crabbe | April 12, 2013
The new HTC One puts a lot of emphasis on its camera, but is it really much better than the competition?

The Lumia 920's color correction put some warm-toned life into our subject's skin tone while the other cameras made him look green or blue. The HTC One came out on top in handling the black tones of the image, producing the least amount of digital noise and keeping the tone black instead of navy blue. Surprisingly, the point-and-shoot Canon PowerShot didn't outperform the HTC One or the Lumia 920 in the flash category.

Low-light portrait (without flash)


Clockwise (from the top left): HTC One, Apple iPhone 5, Canon Elph 520 HS, and Nokia Lumia 920

If flash makes your subjects looks like Martians, the obvious solution is to turn it off. But can your camera handle low light levels without extra help?

When it comes to low-light photography, pixels aren't everything. Your camera's lens helps bring in more light, and you should be able to leave the shutter open long enough to allow more light to hit the sensor. Some cameras handle this task better than others. And some can't do it at all.

Take the iPhone 5: In the iPhone's native camera application, the camera can't operate at shutter speeds slower than 1/15 second. As a result, even at the highest sensor sensitivity (ISO) level, the iPhone's low-light photos often come out dark. The Lumia 920 and the HTC One, on the other hand, are much better equipped to handle low light. Complementing their slow shutter capabilities, they have a smaller aperture number, meaning that their lens's opening to the sensor is wider and thus lets in more light.

The winner of this round was the Canon point-and-shoot. Not only did it give us the brightest results, but its image also had the best color. The HTC One's photo looked too gray, the Lumia 920's shot appeared too blue, and the iPhone 5's picture seemed too dark; but the Canon PowerShot's image was just right.

Macro (full sun, with bright colors)


Clockwise (from the top left): HTC One, Apple iPhone 5, Canon Elph 520 HS, and Nokia Lumia 920

When it comes to smartphone photography, colors and clarity are crucial. How else are you going to stand out in someone's Instagram feed? To test each camera's capabilities in this respect, we took an outdoor macro-style shot of a red flower.

The HTC One did much better than the other two smartphones on this test. Unlike the iPhone 5 and the Lumia 920, the One captured excellent detail in the shadows on the red flower, showing the texture of petals even in the harsh sunlight. Nevertheless, despite its strong showing in the shadows, the HTC One couldn't outdo the Canon PowerShot in the full-sun details. Overall, I preferred the smartphone shots to the point-and-shoot for this example: Though they didn't pick up as much detail, the smartphones captured more-vibrant colors.

 

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