iPhone 4S vs HTC One X: Camera Comparison [UPDATED: Lowlight shots]

I’m a huge iPhone fan (clearly, look what I do for a living) but I’m a firm believer in checking out the competition every once in a while. I got my hands on a One X a couple of days back, and throughout this week I’ll be doing various comparisons. Today, it’s cameras. In a couple more days I’ll be writing up my full comparison article.

I compared the 4S with the Nexus late last year, and the camera was a huge improvement on previous Android phones, but still under performed in lowlight conditions. Will the HTC One X be an improvement on Samsung’s flagship device? Both the 4S and the One X have 8MP snappers.

Crate 4S

Crate One X

The most immediately noticeable difference is the aspect ratio. Since the displays have different proportions, the HTC One X’s widescreen will mean that any picture will be wider, and narrower than the iPhone’s. Surprisingly, the HTC’s looks a little more washed out than the iPhone’s. (The complete opposite to my experience with the Nexus.) Sharpness is about on par, and photos do come out looking good on the One X.

Leaves 4S

Leaves One X

Again, the One X’s shot produces a more washed out look. But, in terms of focus and depth of field, the close-up leaves definitely stand out more on the HTC’s shot.

Bark 4S

Bark One X

 Obviously, these images are smaller than the original image, to get a better appreciation for the full quality and size of the photos, head down to the gallery below, and click on whichever image you want to see. In terms of detail, sharpness and clarity, the HTC’s shooter copes much better than I expected. It’s a big improvement from past sensors.

Path 4S

Path One X

One thing I have noticed, is that the HTC does appear to make colder colors like Green and Blue more vivid in certain images, but not others. It could well be that the white balance filter is set to make that the case. In order to test the cameras fairly, I left all settings alone and left it all on auto. One thing I did enjoy about the One X was the number of customizations available. You can alter all sorts of settings. Unlike the iPhone, you’re not restricted in any department.

Bluebells 4S

Bluebells One X

The daylight conditions were great (considering that it’s usually grey, wet and cold). It’s a bright, sunny, warm afternoon here, and yet somehow the HTC filters out any warmth and makes it seem a lot colder.

Sign 4S

Sign One X

Indoors, close up:

Keyboard 4S

Keyboard One X

One area that needs improvement on the One X is its focussing close up. Above you can see how much closer I could get with the iPhone, than with the HTC device. For day-to-day, average use, it won’t make a big difference, but if you want to get close in you will be frustrated by the One X.

[UPDATE: Some lowlight shots compared]

Street 4S

Street One X

The HTC’s F2.0 28mm lens really copes well in dark conditions. In most of the images I took (not all of them are up here) the One X produced better shots in lowlight conditions, in terms of how much light there was getting through to the sensor. Really impressed.

LEDs 4s

LEDs One X

Bannister 4S

Bannister One X


If I’m completely honest, I’d be completely happy with either camera in daylight. Both produce great photos, considering that they’re phones. I do still prefer the iPhone for image quality and the end result. But, for having the ability to control much more in terms of filters, effects, exposure etc, the HTC is fantastic.

Gallery (will be updated later, with a few lowlight shots.)

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  • liqwidzero

    Go into the camera settings on the One X and turn off “Widescreen” and you will have the full size image.

  • jimini

    “Will the HTC One X be an improvement on Samsung’s flagship device?”….are you joking? You should really do your research before posting

  • TiP_Cam

    I don’t understand what you’re taking issue with. The Galaxy Nexus is Samsung’s flagship smartphone – until the G3III comes out. What’s your problem ?

  • TiP_Cam

     @liqwidzero Thanks, I was aware that I could, but, to make the test fair I left all settings alone. I love that I can have access to all these customisations on the One X. 

  • rahshanh

    @TiP_Cam again the 4s wins! Don’t think any cell cam can beat it.

  • DustinHalter

     @TiP_Cam I think he was being technical, where Samsung’s flagship is the Galaxy S2 and Google’s flagship is the Galaxy Nexus…although it was made by Samsung.

  • JanisVaivars

    The images on HTC One X aren’t washed out, they’re just not over-saturated and not color graded. This is what you would get when properly shooting with a DSLR with advanced settings adjusted properly…

  • ThanhPhan

    General users (98%) of phones dont know how to use cuztomized settings properly and effectively (even myself)! I guess that’s why Apple doesnt want to put imany customization in the Camera app and let 3rd party apps handle it.

  • TiP_Cam

     @DustinHalter Possibly. I guess it makes sense. 

  • TiP_Cam

     @JanisVaivars Compared to most phone cameras though, the iPhone 4S’ seems “washed out”. That’s why I was surprised by the HTC. The iPhone’s images look much more like what you’d see with the naked eye. 

  • TiP_Cam

     @ThanhPhan Good point. And I love your image. Great tribute to Jobs. 

  • Scottyb112

    Its close. I think the one x pics look more detailed in most, and the 4s pics look brighter.
    From an outsiders perspective, and part time photographer, where im niether an apple nor htc fan. Id have to give it to the one x in this one.

  • I hve been taking some professional photography with a range of phones, (I wish I could post pictures on these comments) and the iPhone 4S has one in nearly every test. It terms of macro shots, it beats even many ‘SLR’s’ (not to be confused with DSLR’s). It terms of “real ness” quality, the 4S also wins. In fact, I usually pop open photoshop or iPhoto to tad the saturation up a bit. I have used the One X camera before by the way.

    To JanisV
    Your wrong. The HTC IS washed out. By an immense amount.

  • @JanisVaivars

    Read my earlier post. Your wrong, the HTC is immensely washed out. A DSLR, at least the canon rebel T3i(I own) would never unsaturate it this much even with a cold setting thrown on.

    I can show a color grid to prove it, but I can’t post pictures in comments.

    Not trolling, just don’t like Mis information.

  • christopherevensen

    Both shots look very nice. To my untrained eye, I tend to gravitate more towards the 4s pics because I like the slightly unrealistic, overly saturated pictures. Cam, great article and thanks for taking the time. Do you still have the OneX? I was wondering if you could reshoot some of those oneX shots with the HDR filter turned on with the HTC. I think this will give shots closer resembling the mega color photos like in the 4s shots. Please?  :)

  • JanisVaivars

     @amsmagic All I can say is that clearly you don’t understand anything about photography and post-editing, as well as color grading…See, Scottyb112 says the same thing I do and he’s also a part time photographer.

  • JanisVaivars

     @amsmagic  @JanisVaivars What is a cold setting? There is no such thing. There is sharpness, contrast, saturation, color tone. There are no such words as ‘cold setting’ in my T3i. And yes, I own one too. What you do, if you’re a more or less decent photographer is turn the sharpness and saturation down, because that creates noise. In which case, the images would appear pretty close to what I’m seeing here from One X.Cam, that’s because many phone’s cameras are just oversaturated

  • @JanisVaivars
    For someone owning a dslr, you should know how to create cold and warm settings. Theirs no specific name in the camera, but you can create them through the settings of the camera, to provide a cold feel to the picture.
    Also, you would never want to turn the saturation down. It’s true it produces more grain, but with decent dslr’s (t3i for example)

  • christopherevensen

    … Is this thing on?

  • JanisVaivars

     @amsmagic  @JanisVaivars What? Whaaat? I just explained you how you get that so called “cold feel” and now you’re telling me I don’t know how to do it?! And it’s not even a “cold” setting. Cause a cold one is with more blue tones, which would just mean that you haven’t set the white balance properly. And then there’s this – “Also, you would never want to turn the saturation down. It’s true it produces more grain, but with decent dslr’s”. What does that even mean? You say you would never turn the saturation down, but then admit it produces noise. Where’s the logic behind that? And the second part of the sentence “but with decent dslr’s”. What with decent dslr’s? Just seems like you haven’t finished the sentence. This just proves once again that you have ABSOLUTELY NO IDEA WHAT YOU’RE TALKING ABOUT.

  • Scottyb112

    @JanisVaivars @amsmagic any iphone fan is gonna say yup the iphone looks better, and android fan as well. @amsmagic that is totally your opinion and your eyes that the one xs pictures look washed out, because to me they certainly dont. And i have good eyes!

  • HTwashere

    @firsttiger @jasonseto_ should i get ready to sell my nikon gear ;)

  • JasonSeto_

    @HTwashere @firsttiger yes but because we are all buying D600!

  • HTwashere

    @JasonSeto_ @firsttiger now i gotta figure out how to erase that Beats Logo!

  • firsttiger

    @HTwashere @jasonseto_ Why ever would you do that? I’d thought you’d wear it really proudly to show off how cool you are… Haha!

  • HTwashere

    @firsttiger @jasonseto_ Beats on an old geezer – not cool

  • firsttiger

    @HTwashere @jasonseto_ It’s all in how you carry yourself :D

  • Jostian

    dear amsmagic not sure of your experience level but in every comparative test that included the Nokia N8 the N8 blows the 4S and anything else out the water, see tech radar tests and many other sites I have not seen one where the N8 does not win!! 4S takes good snaps but its flash is useless (LED vs Xenon from N8), the N8 shots are sharper too. The One X I think bests the 4S based on pics above, most are sharper than the 4S, so until the iPhone 5 comes I’ll go with the One X or N8 (though its OS sux a bit, but as a camera phone there is nothing that comes close, especially at 100%)

  • Jostian

     @amsmagic  @JanisVaivars amsmagic, you are dreaming, the One X shots look good, not washed out, the 4S one’s look ‘plasticky’ at times.

  • mgfjd12

    The Iphone 4S pictures are oversaturated. It seems paint photoshop editing. My friends and I agree the iphone pictures dont look that great anymore, waiting for the new one. I’ve seen the HTC pictures and they are more realistic and nicer.

  • TiP_Cam

     @Scottyb112  @JanisVaivars  @amsmagic  @amsmagic To be fair, I don’t see how anyone can say “this looks more natural” if they didn’t see the original view with their own eyes. It was warm, there was a yellow/orange glow from the sun. The HTC completely washes it out, and makes it look cold. The iPhone does to some extent too, just not as badly. 

  • Scottyb112

    @TiP_Cam @Scottyb112 @JanisVaivars @amsmagic its not the fact of having to be there and seeing the actually scenery before you shoot it. We’re judging it off the pictures, not the scene then the pics. Based on the pictures the One X has a more natural feel to “most” of them. Compared to the 4s, which sometimes can be to saturated. @tip_cam your already going into this with a bias opinion since your are an admitted iPhone fan. So its a little unfair for you to tell 4 people that their opinion of a picture is wrong. Like I said we are going off the picture, not what was on the other side of lens!

  • TodaysiPhone

    @sipietz Wow, wrote that a while ago. One X camera is impressive in daylight conditions.

  • sipietz

    @TodaysiPhone yup, love the One X camera 

  • it’s cameras. In a couple more days I’ll be writing up my full comparison article.

  • I got my hands on a One X a couple of days back.

  • The most immediately noticeable difference is the aspect ratio.