Between a 13-megapixel smartphone camera and another with only 4 megapixels, which do you think is the better buy?

We usually lean towards whatever we think is higher or what appears to offer more. In this case, 13 megapixels — which the Samsung Galaxy S4’s camera has.

The HTC One and its 4-megapixel shooter seems to look like a limp, wimpy, soggy thing compared to that 13-megapixel monstrosity. But, does higher necessarily trump lower all the time?

In this camera comparison, take a closer look at the camera prowess of today’s latest Android smartphone giants — the HTC One and the Samsung Galaxy S4. (Or, jump ahead to the end of this post for a video comparison of the two phones’ cameras.)

Galaxy S4HTC One
Camera13-megapixel rear, 2-megapixel front4-megapixel rear, 2-megapixel front; UltraPixels
SensorBack-illuminated sensorCMOS BSI sensor
Image/video stabilizationDigitalOptical
Zoom capacity4x Digital zoom4x Digital zoom
Video resolutioncan capture up to 1920×1080 (Full HD) video resolutioncan capture up to 1920×1080 (Full HD) video resolution

Megapixels vs UltraPixels

The HTC One’s camera might look weak, but it has larger pixels than the Galaxy S4. HTC calls the larger pixels UltraPixels. These special pixels take more space on the camera sensor. That is why the HTC One only has a 4 megapixel camera. The Galaxy S4 may have a 13-megapixel camera, but its pixels are about half the size of HTC’s UltraPixels.

Image credit: HTC

Image credit: HTC

Sensors with large pixels capture more light, making images brighter and less noisy than on cameras with smaller pixels. And, with lower image resolution also comes smaller file size.

Image credit: HTC

Image credit: HTC

The camera’s megapixel count is only one of the factors to evaluate camera performance. There are other important factors, too, such as the camera sensor, image processor, image stabilization, zoom, etc.

Camera UI

To people who frequently take photos using their smartphones, the camera’s user interface plays an important role.


The Galaxy S4 camera’s interface is more akin to the Galaxy Camera’s UI than to the Galaxy Note 2’s camera UI. The interface is easy to navigate and most of the modes and settings are easy to find. Like in the Galaxy Camera, you’ll find two separate buttons for the camera shutter and for video recording. You don’t need to switch between video and photo mode anymore.


The carousel of mode and effect thumbnails particularly looks pleasant and makes it easier to find the shooting mode that you need. The filters and effects shade also morphed into mini thumbnail versions of the viewfinder.


On the other hand, the HTC One’s  camera interface strongly resembles that of some of its recent predecessors such as the One X. Only very few elements have changed. It’s a very clean, simple, and navigable interface.


The HTC Zoe toggle button has been placed prominently along one side to make it easily accessible. Unlike in the One X, however, the HTC One no longer displays labels for the built-in filters and effects. Thankfully, like in the Galaxy S4, you get separate buttons for photo camera shutter and video recording, so you won’t need to take extra steps to switch between photo and video mode.

In the next section, learn more about some of the camera features on the Galaxy S4 and the HTC One, including photo effects and filter, photo shooting modes, video recording modes, and camera flexibility.

Image credit: HTC
Image credit: HTC
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