Galaxy S4 vs HTC One camera comparison — Mega vs Ultra

by: Elmer MontejoMay 10, 2013

Camera Features

Some may argue that the Galaxy S4 camera’s new features are nothing more than plain gimmick. I find the new features cool, whether gimmick or not.

In its case, the HTC One’s Zoe camera has some endearing traits and functions that some people may find useful at certain times.

Photo effects and filters

Almost all smartphone cameras include a collection of camera filters and effects that you can apply to your photo to imbue it with a stunning effect, or to focus sharply on a portion of the subject while blurring the surrounding parts, or to tone it down to a more sober or somber mood, or to add the nostalgic feel of old photos, or to spice it up with funky or cartoonish fun, or even make it look like the image as seen by a fish.

Oil Pastel effect on the Galaxy S4

Oil Pastel effect on the Galaxy S4

Depth of Field effect on the HTC One

Depth of Field effect on the HTC One

The Galaxy S4 and the HTC One have these photo effects and filters at your disposal:

Galaxy S4HTC One
  • Vignette
  • Grey-scale
  • Sepia
  • Vintage
  • Faded Color
  • Turquoise
  • Tint
  • Cartoon
  • Moody
  • Rugged
  • Oil Pastel
  • Fish Eye
  • Distortion
  • Vignette
  • Depth of field
  • Dots
  • Mono
  • Country
  • Vintage
  • Vintage warm
  • Vintage cold
  • Grayscale
  • Sepia
  • Negative
  • Solarize
  • Posterize
  • Aqua

One small but noteworthy difference between the two phones is that on the Galaxy S4, the effect thumbnails show mini previews of what’s currently on the viewfinder — thus, resulting in a live preview of some sort.

Filters and effects shade on the Galaxy S4

Filters and effects shade on the Galaxy S4

Effects and filters on the HTC One

Effects and filters on the HTC One

On the HTC One, however, you’d need to tap on an effect first to apply it to the image on the viewfinder. Also, the image effects and filters provided by the HTC One are recycled from the HTC One X and even the HTC Sensation. The HTC One also discards the name/label below each effect thumbnail.

Shooting modes

Shooting modes and scene modes have a singular purpose: to help you frame photos at the right exposure. Such  camera settings presets (e.g., exposure level, white balance, shutter speed, ISO) are mixed and matched according to various real-life shooting situations.

Such modes can save casual but savvy users a lot of time from fumbling around or experimenting with settings. In that sense, camera modes can also actually help device makers make their cameras stand out because not only do they make camera use easier but also make camera use fun.

Galaxy S4 shooting modes and other features

The Galaxy S4 inherits several of the shooting modes that we first saw in Samsung’s other recent releases (e.g., Galaxy S3, Galaxy Note 2, Galaxy Camera):

  • Auto Mode — automatically adjusts camera exposure to produce colorful and evenly exposed images
  • Beauty Face — corrects facial imperfections when taking portrait shots
  • Best Photo — shoots eight photos successively and lets you choose the best one after
  • Best Face — shoots five facial photos successively and lets you choose the best one after
  • Rich Tone — Samsung’s other name for HDR mode (read more about how to use HDR on your Android device)
  • Panorama — captures a panoramic photo
  • Sports — ideal for fast-moving subjects; also known as Action Freeze on the Galaxy Camera
  • Night — suggested mode for low-light or night photography

The Galaxy S4 camera app also introduces a few new fascinating and interesting shooting modes: Drama, Animated Photo, Eraser, and Sound & Shot.

  • Drama — Captures stills of a moving subject and combines them into one photo, resulting in a dramatic portrayal of an action — somewhat similar in concept to slo-mo for videos. Here’s an example:
Sample of Drama Shot photo from Galaxy S4

Sample of Drama Shot photo from Galaxy S4

  • Animated Photo — Captures a still frame, with parts that move or animate. The file is in GIF format. Here’s an example:
Sample of Animated Photo image from Galaxy S4

Sample of Animated Photo image from Galaxy S4

  • Eraser — This works like Burst Mode, but with some intelligence thrown in. If you’re expecting photobombs to suddenly drop in while you’re taking shots, set the camera to Eraser Mode. The phone automagically detects moving or unwanted objects from the photo and asks you whether to remove or restore the objects (e.g., passersby).
Sample of Eraser Shot photos from Galaxy S4; Left -- unwanted objects highlighted; Right -- cleaned up image

Sample of Eraser Shot photos from Galaxy S4; Left — unwanted objects highlighted; Right — cleaned up image

  • Sound & Shot — Captures a still frame and the background sound at the time the photo was captured. A Sound & Shot photo will only work in the Galaxy S4. If you share a Sound & Shot photo, you’ll only be sharing the JPEG photo but not the sound file.

The Galaxy S4 also includes other cool stuff in its camera app such as the following:

  • Dual Shot — Simultaneously use the front and back cameras to take pictures or videos. By default, the back camera takes the whole viewfinder, while the secondary camera uses a resizable and floating window. You can switch views, if you like.
Sample Dual Shot photo from Galaxy S4

Sample Dual Shot photo from Galaxy S4

  • Auto Night Detection — automatically set the camera for low-light shooting to produce clear and bright pictures without using flash.


HTC One shooting modes and other features

Meanwhile, the camera app on the HTC One brings a modest bunch of shooting modes:

  • Scene Mode
    • Normal
    • Portrait
    • Landscape
    • Backlight
    • Text
    • Macro
  • Night Mode
  • HDR Mode
  • Sweep Panorama Mode

Does that list look familiar? The HTC One doesn’t introduce new shooting modes. Instead, it carries over most of the shooting modes and features from predecessors like the HTC One X, but the collection seems to be enough to make most people enjoy basic photography.


HTC Zoe is a brand-new and intriguing feature on the HTC One. When Zoe is enabled, the camera captures 20  still frames in quick succession, plus a 3-second MP4 video. Somehow, the set of photos increases the likelihood of framing a perfect shot.


In Zoe mode, the camera is always precapturing images and saves the last five precaptured frames just right before you press the shutter. Then, it captures the sixth frame at shutter press, and 14 more still frames thereafter.  The resulting photo sequence set and MP4 video are called a “Zoe.”

You can play back a captured Zoe in the Gallery app, which, much to our delight, displays animated thumbnails of the Zoes. It’s like looking at a photo album in the magical world of Harry Potter.

On the Zoe playback screen, you can pick a frame to extract and save into a single image. Just slide to the frame that you want, tap Menu, and choose Save Frame. It’s a rather roundabout way to capture a photo, but it can also help get you that perfect, or at least near-perfect, shot.


A 3-second video/photo sequence is good raw material for other interesting stuff, too. This idea seems to be what’s behind HTC’s answer to Samsung’s Drama Mode, Best Face Mode, and Eraser Mode.


By tapping on the Retouch button on an open Zoe, you can apply certain interesting effects, such as the following:

  • Sequence Shots — similar to Drama Mode in the Galaxy S4. This feature extracts a preselected series of frames (some of which you can discard) and composes them into one image, resulting in some kind of dramatic movement effect.

Sample Sequence Shots photo from the HTC One

Sample Sequence Shots photo from the HTC One

  • Always Smile — similar to Best Face in the Galaxy S4. This feature is ideal for face shots. It detects faces in the photo and then lets you choose one headshot with the best smile.

Sample Always Smile photo from the HTC One

Sample Always Smile photo from the HTC One

  • Object Remove — similar to Eraser Mode in the Galaxy S4. This detects photobombs and other unwanted objects that accidentally get captured in your photo’s background, and then lets you decide whether to remove those.

Sample Object Remove photo from the HTC One

Sample Object Remove photo from the HTC One

Video recording modes

Galaxy S4HTC One
  • Normal
  • Limit for MMS
  • Slow motion (720p HD)
  • Fast motion (1080p Full HD)
  • Normal
  • Slow motion video (768×432)
  • Fast HD (60 fps)
  • Video HDR (Full HD)

Both phones can record fast motion and slow motion videos. The S4 can record slow-motion videos for playback up to 8x slower than normal, with 720p resolution, and framerate of 15 fps. The HTC One has slow motion video recording of up to 96 fps in 768×432 resolution.

For fast motion, the S4 is capable of up to 8x faster video capture at 30 fps, retaining its 1080p resolution, while the One can record up to 60 fps Full HD fast motion videos.

The HTC One, though, has one thing that trumps the S4’s video-recording capabilities: its rear camera can record High Dynamic Range (HDR) videos in 1080p Full HD. On the S4, HDR is available only for photos via the Rich Tone shooting mode.

To see some sample videos, see the section on image quality comparison.


Flexibility is an important factor in a smartphone camera, too. There are occasions when you’d want to save on disk space, and, therefore, go for a smaller image resolution. There are times when you’d want to manually adjust the white balance or the contrast instead of relying on what the phone throws at you.

Can the Galaxy S4 and HTC One let you do stuff like that? This table might give you some idea:

 Samsung Galaxy S4HTC One
Image sizesPrimary Camera

  • 13MP (4:3)
  • 9.6MP (16:9)
  • 8MP (4:3)
  • 6MP (16:9)
  • 2.4MP (16:9)

Secondary Camera

  • 2.0MP (16:9)
  • 1.6MP (4:3)
  • 0.3MP (4:3)
uniform size/resolution (4 MP, 2688×1520)
Image adjustmentsPre-process

  • Exposure

Post-process (after photo capture)

  • Auto adjustment
  • Brightness
  • Contrast
  • Saturation
  • Adjust RGB
  • Exposure
  • Hue

  • Exposure
  • Contrast
  • Saturation
  • Sharpness
Video quality/resolutionPrimary and secondary cameras

  • 1920×1080 (16:9)
  • 1440×1080 (4:3)
  • 1280×720 (16:9)
  • 320×240 (4:3)
Primary and secondary cameras

  • Full HD 1920×1080
  • HD 1280×720
  • MMS 176×144
ISO ValuesAuto, 100, 200, 400, 800Auto, 100, 200, 400, 800, 1600
White Balance
  • Auto
  • Daylight
  • Cloudy
  • Incandescent
  • Fluorescent
  • Auto
  • Incandescent
  • Fluorescent
  • Daylight
  • Cloudy
Physical shutter keyNone, but volume keys can be set as shutter, zoom lever, or video record buttonNone
Gridcalled Guidelines; can be toggledcan be toggled

The Galaxy S4 gives you greater freedom to choose image sizes. The HTC One makes you stick to just one size: 2688×1520 (4 MP) pixels. Do take note that the higher the resolution, the bigger the file size.

For image adjustments, the Galaxy S4 offers more options for image adjustments such as exposure level, brightness, contrast, hue, etc. although most of them can be done only after photo capture. Both are capable of 1080p Full HD and 720p HD video capture. The S4 can record at as low as QVGA (320×240) resolution, while the HTC One is capable of an even smaller MMS (176×144) resolution.

Video size settings: Galaxy S4 (left) and HTC One (right)

Video size settings: Galaxy S4 (left) and HTC One (right)

The HTC One camera also can be set to operate at ISO 1600; on the Galaxy S4, the highest ISO level is only 800. This means that the HTC One, when set to use maximum ISO, can produce brighter photos than can the Galaxy S4.

Moreover, the Galaxy S4 lets you assign the volume keys as shutter, zoom, or video record button. This capability is unavailable on the HTC One.

In the next section, find out more about the unusual heat generated by the HTC One when used as a camera. I’ll also begin comparing image quality of studio shots and indoor shots from both the Galaxy S4 and HTC One.

  • wireless

    WARNING: samsung fanboy review

    • nebsif

      Because and extra speaker and aluminium clearly make up for:
      4mp camera with less features, bigger dimensions yet smaller display, android 4.1, no notification toggles, no removable battery, no multi window, no air gesture and a ton of other features, and the most annoying one, ladies and gentlemen, big device with power button on the top!!

      yes, aluminium, totally worth it.

      May your days with an unscratched and dent-less HTC One last long, amen.

      • David Brymer

        mate dont be offended because with all them things u said, its speaks volumes that the htc one is still the better phone hahaha.and 9 outa 10 creditable websites say so. please dont be bitter and enjoy ur s3+ hahaha HTC ALL THE WAY TO THE TOP

        • nebsif

          Meh its like talking to religious zealots, no facts, comparisons or specs help.

          -Why is it better?
          -Because its just better! People say so!

          • David

            Sense is 1 of the best now. Being a lot cleaner and easier to use, every website say that. It destroys touchwiz fact. Far better speakers. The phone feels proper quality in the hand., ie not plastic, 4.7 inch not to big not to small. The new camera, zoe, blinkfeed. The battery which I got 39 hours and 8 hours screen time. It’s the very best looking phone out at the min, teckradar giving it 5 out a 5 :-) only the 3rd phone ever 2 get that. The 32gb storage to put apps games and music on from the play store, unlike the s4 where a sd card is useless now……. Not my words this is just wat I Keep reading from lots of sites and s4 users. I really could keep going on. And most of wat the s4 has I can download haha but I won’t because it’s all gimmick shit. And it’s not my fault that 9 out a 10 websites say it’s better and giving it full ratings, but that’s there jobs and there r getting paid well because there experts. On my last note though, when I buy an upgrade I really like people to notice that;-) , have u ever commented on the iPhone and how it’s always the same and never really changes haha because I bet u have just like 90 percent of android users. And Samsung are doing the same now :-) but to be fair at least the iPhone looks and feels quality. So put that in ur pipe and smoke it. Samsung have had the best phones in most people’s eyes the last few years and htc have finally beat them this time and you all just can’t take it. :-) :-) it feels amazing to say I own the best phone on the planet atm and it’s called HTC One. Enjoy ur weekend mate.

    • Bone

      WARNING: God must be a Samsung fanboy cause he made the world better suited for the GS4 sensors.

    • uu

      Pls just accept it.. people will laugh at how stupid hater u are

    • Abdul

      You can have a look here, how the One’s camera competes with SGS4’s in daylight situations.

      Color reproduction comparision:

  • David Brymer


  • Muderko

    I neither own an S4 nor One, but I think this is the best camera comparison out there! Great job.

  • amine ELouakil

    One of the few reviews on AA in which we see comparisons in many aspects of both phones camera in different scenarios, so that’s heading in the right direction in terms of reviews.

    BUT, there are many things that weren’t mentioned, and there are couple of mistakes in this reviews, especially in some conclusions, and I’m not going to list everything as it will take a comment as long as the reviews but I’ll mention a few just real quickly to prove my point.

    -When it comes to specs you mention that the One has a 2mpx front facing camera which is a mistake it’s 2.1mp camera
    -How an earth a camera enthousiast would prefere the inaccurate yet vibrant S4 colors to the One more accurate colors in different circumstances.
    -I suggest you to read the review from Anandtech, there are many technical aspect you didn’t compare or talk about, and one of them is the speed of taking shots.
    -Where the hell is the front facing camera comparison ???

    I can keep going, but I get the feeling that you are an S4 owner and you’ve got the One just for the review, and thus the judgement and review was imbalanced to begin with.

  • How can you say that Digital Image Stabilization on Samsung Galaxy S4 is better than Optical Image Stabilization On HTC One….Its totally a biased review..My kind suggestion to Elmer Montejo….
    Check the link below

  • How can you say that Digital Image Stabilization on Samsung Galaxy S4 is better than Optical Image Stabilization On HTC One….Its totally a biased review..My kind suggestion to Elmer Montejo….
    Check the link below

    • The One

      I agree,this review is totally biased. God knows how much Samsung paid them to tell that OIS isnt as good as Digital Image Stabilization.
      Every review i have seen bashes Samsung bcoz HTC one has a much better video performance due to OIS.

    • Andy

      By default, image stabilization is disable on the Galaxy S4. Maybe some reviewers forgot to turn it on, thus produced a shakey clip. On the HTC One, on the other hand, image stabilization is turned on all the time. I have both phones and I also observe the same findings mentioned above.

  • Gustavo

    I think, the pink flowers conclusion was wrong, I liked the HTC photo better. NOTE: I own a SGS3, but, the true is there and cannot be missed. Also, I believe only people who enjoy the oversaturation from Samsung’s AMOLED screens will actually prefer the S4 camera. To be honest, it is better in some aspects but NOT in 95% of them. I was expecting a less “fanboy” comparisson. I would still pick the S4, but! that is just my preference.

    • Carl Draper

      The GS4 in this test produced more natural colours than the One, which tended to over-expose images or make them over saturated, less realistic, and the GS4 always produced more detail because of it’s high MP.

  • Arsenal™

    IMO One’s Pics were better

    This is coming from a photography noob :D :P

  • Arsenal™

    The heating effect has been in all the HTCs i have owned

    The Desire S, One V and One S all get alarmingly hot when playing intense games :S

  • EKfine

    this is like ios vs android and its getting out of hand! stupid fanboys we’re on the same boat!

  • EKfine

    htc one shots looks so blurry..

  • deadsingh007

    Amazing review man……Thanks alot..!!!!!!!!

  • bob

    Some of the specs you have for the GS4 are not true… It does not record slow motion in HD.. This is false.

  • Matt V

    gs4 clearly had more color.. So thats a win, regardless of the fact that the colors were blown out, oversaturated, and unrealistic.. lol.
    I’m also assuming this wasnt done on an international version of the one, that has the camera update already in place. You know, the one that almost doubled the amount of detail in the One’s camera. So this whole thing is kind of a worthless comparison.

    • amine ELouakil

      It’s not a win at all, the One picture are more accurate, they represente the reality, you want to take a picture that show you more color or want the most geniun reproduction? if you want vibrant image use a filter.

  • MariaxNY

    this is a Samsung paid website we all know this

    • Carl Draper

      Really? Have you read the article and looked at the photos and videos, it came across as very balanced and objective to me.

    • xoj_21

      did u see pictures?

  • annonym

    may i know the firmware version of both device when you reviewed the units?

  • was this review comparison done after the HTC One OTA update which improved the camera quality?

  • Not an opinion it’s a fact

    Samaung is much better then hTC I would rather buy an anolog phone than wasting money on hTC .
    I think that hTC has some good design but, it’s having a lack of technology.
    It’s 2013 hTC!!!!

  • Dey

    Not true s4 has more image post processing functions. One has all of them mentioned above.. Just use drag and drop to customize… They are a bit hidden:)