HTC One M9 Camera Shootout

by: Joshua VergaraApril 25, 2015
1.1K

HTC may have things figured out when it comes to design and build quality, but one aspect the company has had issues with when it comes to their flagships is the camera experience. HTC has been working hard to change that reputation, with a slew of devices aimed at showcasing their camera prowess, leading up to the current flagship.

The HTC One M9 packs a traditional 20 MP rear camera, while moving their Ultrapixel tech to its better-suited position up front. We’ve already seen an overview of the camera performance in the comprehensive review of the device, but now, we take an in-depth look at the camera in this HTC One M9 camera shootout!

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Like most other smartphones out there, most of the good shots this camera was able to take were in broad daylight. All of these photos are taken at the full 20 MP resolution, and as you can see, the color saturation is quite good, but may not be as saturated as what you get with some of the other players in the Android world.

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As a daily driver, the HTC One M9 camera isn’t a hard one to use, with it very easy to access and switch between the various modes available. However, the camera app can be quite fidgety, especially when you’re trying to trigger things like HDR mode, which requires a few different presses to activate, as well as to turn off. Speaking of HDR mode, it does somewhat mitigate the exposure issues that happen in the camera app, but can be hit and miss. While taking scenery shots with the subject off in the distance, they do look good, but there is some grain present as seen with a closer look, because of the use of the digital zoom of the camera app.

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Without the availability of optical image stabilization, you do need steady hands to take the photo properly. The lack of OIS is felt even more prominently while shooting video, which can turn out very shaky if shot without very steady hands.

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Going back to the exposure issues that were mentioned earlier, this happens because the One M9 camera app focuses on spot metering, you have to find just the right spot in order to get the exposure that you want in the photo. If you go into a dark area, the entire photo gets pretty light, and vice versa. This is where using the HDR mode makes a world of difference, evening out the exposures, and adding some saturation to the photo, making it even more disappointing that it is a mode that takes some fidgeting to get to.

(Oppo N3 Comparison) HTC One M9 camera samples aa (9 of 30)

There are of course, a few other modes available, such as Panorama, which does allow for some really good shots, but do have some stitching issues, which can be chalked up to human error more than anything else. As mentioned, the front-facing camera is now of the Ultrapixel variety, which allows for some great shots and self-portraits, especially when indoors. There are also different effects available such as Face Fusion, adding particle effects to a photo, the ability to put two photos together with a number of different effects to get one nice shot. All of these effects are a lot of fun to use, especially Zoes, that makes a return with the latest flagship, which is a very nice way of recapping a particular day.

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As we move into indoor shots and those in poor lighting conditions, the main gripe I have with the One M9 camera is that its performance is quite inconsistent, in terms of sheer quality. When taking shots indoors, or outside at night, there is a lot more grain in the images, and unfortunately, there is a noise reduction going on that makes all of the photos quite smudgy, with the degradation more and more evident as lighting conditions deteriorate.

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From what I can tell, the main reason why the HTC One M9 has a problem with low light shots is because of the two things it typically does in these situations. The first being that it bumps the ISO to very high levels, which adds a lot of grain to photos, with the second being the lowering of the shutter speed, which comes with its own issues, requiring you to keep your hands as steady as possible because of the longer amount of time needed to bring in all of the light in order to get the proper exposure. You will likely end of taking multiple shots in those situations, and more often than not, the images will turn out blurry.

100% crops

Which brings us back to the issue of consistency. While able to take some great shots in prominent lighting, the grain comes out in even indoor shots, and the noise reduction that the camera app uses in post processing doesn’t do much to help the situation.

Ultimately, the camera of the HTC One M9 is not a bad performer by any stretch of the imagination. Unfortunately, the reason I may not be using it all the time is because I prefer to have a smartphone camera that can take a good shot in any situation, and that isn’t always the case with this device. Many users have confirmed though that you can go into the Settings to make some changes that do allow for better photos, but given the fact that you do spend a lot of money to get a phone like this, the out of the box experience should have been good right off the bat.

  • nebulaoperator

    AA you are corrupted retards. “the colour saturation is quite good” or “Ultimately, the camera of the HTC One M9 is not a bad performer by any stretch of the imagination” . Colour saturation and reproduction is awful cant you see how washed out and tinted colour is? Can’t you see it? Smudging, focusing and metering inconsistency, bad low light performance, poor dynamic range. You could pull it off somewhere else but not on the tech site. People are educated, read, reason and compare things around these days. Who thinks otherwise go to xda developers and see how auto mode sucks through out camera performance. Only when you take full control of manuals you are able to fix some issues but the colour but hey shouldn’t camera be spot on in 2015 on the flagship phone?! :) I still own M7 and it’s by far the best phone they ever come up with.

    • John Quincy Adams

      I own the M8 and the camera quality is outstanding. To me, it boils down to the person taking the photo. I am considering the M9 for my wife who currently has the Moto X and has no more room to add even an app. Very frustrating.

      • nebulaoperator

        Take into consideration M9 screen is inferior to both M7 and M8 http://www.anandtech.com/show/9102/the-htc-one-m9-review-part-1
        And honestly take some time and read M9 thread about camera on xda. I doubt your wife will be happy to fiddle with camera every time she wants to take a photo especially if you have fast running kids.

        • steve

          The m9 screen isnt that much better. Still 1080p. Should have went with QHD

          • John Quincy Adams

            Why QHD? The naked eye cannot tell any difference and it sucks down power. 1080p on 5″ is the right move.

          • steve

            Well I can see a difference with my g3 being QHD compared to my z2 1080p big time. QHD is the future. Why stay in the past

          • Ismail Akram

            I am sure you would be kidding. Z2 display is rgb so it have a lot more pixel and ive used S6 and M9 side by side only difference you feel is of colors.

          • steve

            You know shit. The g3 has 538ppi and the z2 has 424 PPI. I live when people act like they know something. I will stick with the pros saying the s6 has the best screen ever

          • JC

            You’re just trolling, I have the note 4 (QHD screen) and many 5″ 1080p phones, and those 1080p phones look more pixel dense than the note 4. I think it’s probably due to the Samsung pentile screens that make Samsung phones less pixel dense.
            And believe me, you don’t need QHD on 5″.

          • medtza stratospore

            who are you? I don’t believe you, and I plan to buy gear VR along with my S6 QHD is needed, I like fancy thing..

          • JC

            Why is QHD needed to use VR? You don’t have to believe me, go and compare a good 1080P LCD screen with a 1440P AMOLED screen, you’ll see there’s no difference resolution wise (not color wise).

          • steve

            Another one that knows shit. The g3 has a 5.5 inch and the Z2 has a 5.2. Who’s talking about 5?

          • JC

            No, you’re the one that knows shit. Go compare a 5″ 1080 screen with G3, I bet you won’t see a difference.

          • steve

            That’s where the argument started I have. I own a g3 and sony z2, and moto x. The only company not on QHD is HTC. Sony made the move. You compare your note 4 if you can’t tell a difference your a fool

          • JC

            Oh no, certainly not a fool. Go have a look at a display note 4 or something, you’ll know what I’m talking about.
            If you have a Google cardboard you would agree with me as well, the magnifying glass on the cardboard proves my point with the Pentile display on Samsung phones perfectly.

          • JC

            It shows you know nothing then… both the Z2 and MotoX are 1080P and you say they’re QHD, that further confirms you can’t tell the difference between 1080p and QHD…..

          • Ismail Akram

            Seem you only know shit :) coolness

          • Ismail Akram

            Z2 display is not know for great. 1080p display you should know that

          • Stalin

            I have seen many people say that s6 has a better battery life than the m9 though.

          • Guest

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          • Chris

            To be fair, I remember a couple of years ago when phones just started getting 1080p and people used that same argument. I don’t know about you but I don’t know anyone who spends all day looking at the pixels on their phone…

          • John Quincy Adams

            ^^^Exactly^^^…I can’t tell a difference in my 1080 42″ TV and our 720 32″ TV….much less 5″ smartphone devices.

        • John Quincy Adams

          The screen is the same and the M8 screen is gorgeous.

          • nebulaoperator
          • Ismail Akram

            It is :) and for that you need to have one in person. If you use bote 4 in basic mode i am sure you wont love the display as in adaptive mode, basic mode most accurate but not really pleasing to look at

          • nebulaoperator

            Yes I had in hand and I can confirm. Also scientific numbers don’t lie they only reaffirm.

          • JC

            It’s also important to note that screens colors are often different on every phone, even the same model. So if you have 2 M9s side by side you’re likely to see one being more green and one more red.(I had this exact experience when I had 2 One X) Same with Samsung phones as well, I bought 2 note 4 from 2 different shops and colors aren’t so different, but beightness were really different. I guess it’s just the way it is, screen panels just aren’t going to be exactly identical when they are manufactured.

          • Ismail Akram

            Yes it really is gorgeous, and looks better than M8. He talking about scienctific measurement and i am talking in daily usage or wheb you look at the display, its really pleasing

          • Slaughter

            Same display, with inacurate calibration.

        • Ismail Akram

          Scientifically it might be but in real M9 display looks far better than M7 and M8. M9 is really pleasing to read and look at too. This is coming from one who have used M7 for whole year then M8 and now M9.. though i have also used note 4 And nexus 6.. ( use means as daily driver )

          • nebulaoperator

            I have held M9 next to my M7 and Iphone 6 and can confirm M9 colours are way off. They might be pleasing like some photographic filters but they are not accurate. Do me a favour read a single page from most reputable tech website about display ” Overall, the display of the M9 is disappointing.” You must be tripping or simply trolling around.

      • steve

        16gb is 16gb and the moto x uses a lot less bloat in their ROMs. I still have 11.5 GB left out of box. My s5 has 9 GB only out of box. What I would do is, root and get rid of system apps you dont want, then move any system app that has been updated back to the system. Also, move any pictures to the computer or the cloud. Delete cache and data you dont need. It is a pain, not having an sd card, why the s6 did it, I dont undetstand, Samsung was the company that saved it, now they abandon it, same with the removable battery.

        • John Quincy Adams

          Root, delete system apps, move photos, etc…etc…etc….

          No thanks….

          I would rather have an HTC and just be happy using my device.

          • steve

            Are you a fool? HTC 16 GB is the same as Motorola 16gb. In fact, sense uses 2 more gbs. HTC doesn’t mean more space. Unless you are including sd card space. You’re funny

          • John Quincy Adams

            Steve…you seem to love the word “fool”, but you probably need to look at yourself as the Verizon HTC One M9 is a 32 gb, fool!

          • Chris

            32GB

        • Chris

          I would have spent the extra money on the 128GB model. At least it’s closer to laptop storage and you’ll still have a lot of space left over even after doing what you said you did

    • daggettbeaver

      If they tell the truth, they probably won’t get freebies and review units anymore.

      • nebulaoperator

        So hard to resist :)

    • Andrew Breazna

      True!! Have the max… The m8 is too fidgety with the camera. the fact that the m7 was THE best in screen& body while inovative and still good camera (if used propperly) and of the best internals on the market and boomsound. Just blows away everything else they’ve done. Kinda regret the max for the no ois camera and plastic wraparound, but the phones still pretty, and performs great. all they need is some smallll camera improvements, and they’d be my favorite again

      • nebulaoperator

        I still have my 2years old M7 with me. Body is simply the best design up to day. That phone was and is reminder of how awesome phone can be.Yep camera is fine not the best but good for a 2013 flagship. I am done with HTC for with buying any new HTC for now till/ if they ever come back with M7 equivalent and bested camera. Happily I am not brand tight and there are dozen decent phones around these days.

  • Rick_Deckard

    HTC has made a huge mistake with the M8.1 by not adding OIS, one of the main reasons for the poor low light performance…. Also, I believe by using a Toshiba sensor instead of Sony IMX sensor, it was the stupidest thing ever done to the M8.1…. I am getting the S6 or G4 instead…

    • Husky Wyatt

      *M9

      • Rick_Deckard

        Well… The real M9 is being released exclusively in China….

    • Chris

      Agreed. If they went with a Sony sensor the camera may have been much better…. Why in the world they went that route I do not know…

  • roberthenderson

    Excellent review.

  • steve

    HTC just has to get this camera right. Same with motorola, the two fastest skins available by far, but the camera is behind. Sony has awesome skin also, camera is good, not the best, but tgebuild quality is shit.

    • cborro

      The build quality is shit? Please enlighten us…

      • steve

        Talk to any repair man. Sony’s the worst. Glued in LCD. USB ports that break after a month. The sony z ultra was the worst build phone I ever owned. Looked 2 years old after 4 months. Original bender. I could snap it in half easily. What’s with Sony’s crap plastic sim trays and sd trays? You enlightened? Sony sleep of death. Always great to hear about a brand new phone that won’t turn on. Very expensive to fix compared to Samsung, lg. Oh and why does sony make it so you can’t use the touch screen wet? Almost every sony owner will admit ghost touching while wet

        • Awayze

          Utter nonsense.

          • stalin

            Yeah, Nonsense. Since phony xperia’s are even worse than what he said

    • Chris

      Sadly Hoc decided to go with a toshibia sensor instead of a Sony sensor.

  • daggettbeaver

    I don’t use my phone camera much, so it wouldn’t be a deal-killer for me. However, many of those photos look really crappy. I mean REALLY crappy. Even the food photos lack detail and crispness.

  • Gabriel Belmonte

    HTC One M9 = The new Nexus 6 of HTC …

    • steve

      How’s that? The nexus has a 5.9 inch screen and no sd card slot

      • Gabriel Belmonte

        Nexus 6 had a camera that was good but cant take decent shots in nighttime, had beastly performance within its price range but N6 price wasnt within people’s budget. If people had money, they choose Note 4 over Nexus 6 any day (costs a little more than N6 but perfect in all way)….

        Thats what exactly happened with the One M9: great phone, but wont shine because there is S6. M9 has only one way to survive: price drop.

        • steve

          I would take stock androud over touchwiz anyday. I would take either phone equally. They sell for the same on used market. I dont think the s6 is all that spectacular either or m9. No removable battery, no sd card. Good camera and best screen, but not waterproof anymore and touch wiz and Microsoft bloat. I will wait to see the note 5, or maybe see the g4. I am do sick of Samsung. I know the build material is nice, but it still looks the same.

          • Gabriel Belmonte

            I didnt say that Nexus 6 or M9 is bad, I am just saying that they are the tragic heroes.
            S6 is the best performing android right now, but we cant call it the best untill we see the performance of Z4 and G4. To me, G4 is more appealing than a S6 but probably it will cost as hell (around $800, just rumor) …
            HTC should drop the price of M9 …

        • trapsbrah

          It’s not just that. Samsung is more popular than HTC.

          • John Quincy Adams

            What does popularbhave to do with it?

          • Martin Lane

            Nothing, it’s just an excuse.

  • pytajnik

    This camera… What a joke.

  • jk

    Is this review after the camera software update?I heard it improves day light photography.According to gsm arena this cam is better than sony’s 20.7mp and they have praised its day light performance saying it picks up colours quite well,Even pocket now people have praised its day light performance

    • Martin Lane

      Sort of, it was only the US version which suffered with this and that go addressed in a software update. The international version didn’t need the update.

  • jasonlowr

    Indoor shots are not acceptable for a 2015 flagship. Plus it cost 1000 AUD here, thats right up with the s6, with such price tag, i would rather go for the s6.

    • Милен Стефанов

      The shots look nice… If they are from a 2014 midrange phone…

  • Martin Lane

    Doesn’t a shoot-out generally involve other devices? then again it would probably be too embarrassing for HTC.

    • Chris

      a shoot out is what ever android authority says it is.

      • Martin Lane

        Hi Chris ☺

  • Guest

    Every Time andoriadauthority with you ————— SEE MORE INFO<—– <<<<

  • CAROL

    i would rather recommend this phone nubia z9 ,http://flosmall.com/phones/nubia-z9-max-black-3gb-16gb-detail

  • brendanhohoho

    The HTC One M9 is a genuinely desirable smartphone with the best design and build available in Android land, even with Samsung upping the ante. It’s good to see the powerful Snapdragon 810 and more memory, however, some key hardware remains the same meaning M8 users are unlikely to be tempted to upgrade – and the old model is now an attractive buy at around £350.