Up until a few years ago, HTC was one of my favourite manufacturers, as phones such as the HTC Desire, HTC One X+ and the Windows-based HTC HD2, all firmly found their way into my phone collection. Yet, with the launch of the original HTC One M7, the Taiwanese company lost me as a customer as the switch to an UltraPixel camera proved to be a step too far.Fast forward three years and HTC’s switch to bigger pixels actually proved to be a premonition of where the mobile industry was heading. The past twelve months have seen Google, Huawei, Samsung and even Apple switch to lower megapixel counts with larger pixels, to improve the low light pictures your smartphone is able to capture.
HTC’s initial UltraPixel camera delivered just 4 megapixels worth of resolution meaning relatively little data was captured, but with this year’s HTC 10, the company has switched to a much larger 12MP sensor. Coupled with f/1.8 aperture and 1.55µm pixel size, there’s a lot to like about the camera on paper, but does it actually deliver?
I’ve had the HTC 10 for 24 hours now so thought I’d share my initial reactions to HTC’s latest attempt to crack smartphone photography. Armed with the HTC 10, I headed to Qualcomm‘s inaugural freestyle drone racing event at the EE-powered Wembley Stadium on Wednesday and managed to take a few interesting snaps with HTC’s latest flagship. Let’s take a closer look.
The images below have all been reduced to 30 percent of their original size without cropping any of the scene. You can see the full resolution photos here.
In our HTC 10 review, Josh rightly called the phone out as struggling to handle blown out areas and this is something I immediately noticed. When handling elements such as a blue sky, the resulting image is often quite blown out, but adjusting the angle of the photo slightly can result in the same areas being less blown out.
This particular scene offered a very interesting conundrum, from the people to the colours, and for the most part, the HTC 10 certainly did well. When you zoom into the image, it is somewhat lacking in detail (as with all the current crop of phones that have a smaller number of megapixels with larger pixel size) but the image above is certainly clear, focused and with accurate color reproduction.
The main reason that many companies have switched to a larger pixel size is for better low light performance and this is something that HTC has championed for many years about the UltraPixel camera. This particular scene is quite interesting as the HTC 10 does well to capture the detail of the temporary arch, and also does well not to let the flare from the spotlight ruin the scene, but there is considerable noise in the immediate foreground.
A true camera king is able to capture great images in any condition and putting the HTC 10 to the test here allowed us to see whether it was capable of capturing the finer details on a group of faces. While some of the finer details are lacking – especially in the faces – the HTC 10 does capture a good photo and there’s less noise than you’d have experienced on other smartphones.
This is by far my favourite shot captured on the HTC 10 so far as the combination of large pixel size, f/1.8 aperture and Optical Image Stabilisation combine to really capture the scene. Zooming into the image does result in a loss of detail but the HTC 10 captures a lot more detail than I expected it to and the color reproduction is true to life. Overall, the HTC 10 does very well here, as the Galaxy S7 struggled to capture anywhere as good an image.
Spending barely 24 hours with a smartphone is not enough time to form a firm opinion on its camera – especially as I’ve yet to truly test the camera in daylight conditions – but the HTC 10 has somewhat impressed me so far. Yes, there is a lack of detail in images – which is something we’ve also experienced with other phones that have lower megapixel counts with larger pixels – but the HTC 10 does well to capture details.
Is it the best camera on a smartphone at the moment? That’s rather difficult to say – and I’d recommend checking out Josh’s full HTC 10 review for our thoughts on the camera – but I will say that this camera is probably the best that HTC have ever offered on a smartphone. I’ve been waiting for HTC to fix one of the biggest concerns I’ve had with its smartphones and finally, the HTC 10 delivers the smartphone camera performance that’s been long overdue.
Will the HTC 10’s UltraPixel camera stand the test of time? Well that remains to be seen but we’ll be comparing it to the very best smartphones on the market in the coming weeks so stay tuned for that. In the meantime, head over to our full HTC 10 review for the definitive view on the latest from HTC, let us know what you’d change about the HTC 10 and be sure to check out the quick look comparisons below to see how it stacks up to the competition.