HTC One vs. iPhone 5 – Camera Shootout

Feature Camera

I was due an upgrade on one of my lines, and so decided that – instead of getting an iPhone 5 in a different color – I should go for the latest flagship Android device. Yes, I know the Galaxy S4 is about to land, but I was of the opinion last year that the One X was better than the Galaxy S3, and this year’s the same in my mind. One of the major talking points of the One is its HTC’s decision to go against the trend of packing too many pixels on a tiny sensor, instead offering a camera system that supposedly gathers in tons more light. Would the result be good or bad? I took the HTC One out for a photo shoot with my iPhone 5 to see how the two compared.

As always with my all camera comparisons, I took the photos from the same spot with both phones, manually focusing on the same object. With some of the close-up shots you might notice a slight difference in the images, and that’s because the cameras are placed on different parts of the phone. The iPhone 5′s lens is placed in the very top left corner on the back, whereas the HTC One’s lens is about an inch from the top edge, place in the center.

Any image can be viewed in full resolution by simply clicking the image.

Glasses iPhone

Glasses iPhone

Glasses HTC One

Glasses HTC One

In both images, I focused on the hinge of my glasses’ leg, but the color on the iPhone 5 had so much more depth, and came out much sharper.

Snowdrops iPhone

Snowdrops iPhone

Snowdrops HTC One

Snowdrops HTC One

Although there’s undoubtedly more light coming through on the HTC’s image, the contrast levels aren’t as good as the iPhone. Having half the number of pixels means it’s also less sharp than the iPhone. Colors on the iPhone 5 are also much richer.

Rocks iPhone

Rocks iPhone

Rocks HTC One

Rocks HTC One

Dead iPhone

Dead iPhone

Dead HTC One

Dead HTC One

As has been shown already, the HTC does indeed take in much more light, but sometimes to its detriment resulting in less color and much more areas of over exposure

Focus on Dark

One trick I tried in this test was to take two images from each phone’s camera of the same view, but with focus on two extremes. In this one, I focused on the dark, shaded side of an old tree.

Bark light iPhone

Bark light iPhone

Bark Light HTC One

Bark Light HTC One

Both produced similar results, and I was amazed by the level of detail taken by each phone from the bark, despite the fact that very little light was on it. As expected, both over exposed the much lighter area in the background, leaving little detail of the surrounding trees, or color in the sky. As I’ve noticed a lot, the iPhone does tend to give a bit more life to greens and blues, as can be seen on the patch of moss on the left-side of the tree’s bark.

Focus on Light

Bark dark iPhone

Bark dark iPhone

Bark Dark HTC One

Bark Dark HTC One

With this one, I focused on the sky in the background. Obviously this meant the bark was completely dark, but the color in the sky, detail in the trees and the ground were all retained in much better detail and vividity. If anything, the HTC One did better in this instance. The blue in the sky is much more accurate, and the iPhone seems to fall prey to its much maligned purple glare. That said, I do love the richness in the earth and plants on the ground. Six and two threes on this one.

Low Light

Sunset iPhone

Sunset iPhone

Sunset HTC One

I know many will argue – and often do – that the image with less color is a much more professional image. And I’m aware of the arguments for it. However, the purpose of this comparison is to show the difference in a way that the average Joe would perceive it. Not everyone takes joy in editing a photo using Snapseed. In fact, most users will snap an image, upload it to Facebook or slap an Instagram filter on it. The sunset image above shows that both perform relatively well in low light conditions. However, the colors – once more – are a lot more rich and much more natural, top that off with higher contrast levels and the iPhone’s photo is a better result. Both had similar levels of noise.

Street iPhone

Street iPhone

Street HTC One

Street HTC One

Once light levels get even lower, it’s easy to see where the advantage of its “Ultrapixels” sensor lies. It draws in tons of light, and manages to do so without creating too much noise.

Kitchen Light iPhone

Kitchen Light iPhone

Kitchen Light HTC One

Kitchen Light HTC One

HDR

Both phones have HDR built in to the camera processor, so I decided to compare the two.

HDR House iPhone

HDR House iPhone

HDR House HTC One

In most occasions the HTC One did a better job of evening out the extreme dark and light parts of the photo. In the images of our house I focused on my office window (top right) and let the HDR processing take place. I was a little bemused by the unusual glare and greay patch in the sky on the One, but the iPhone really struggled to pick up anything at all in front of the house.

Panorama

Panorama iPhone

Panorama iPhone

Panorama HTC One

Panorama HTC One

Both also featured a panorama mode, but with slightly different methods of capturing. Both have a sweeping motion, but the iPhone requires your device to be held vertically, whereas the HTC is executed in landscape mode. The difficulty with shooting panorama is always varying light levels at different points. As you can see, the HTC managed to retain more of the blue sky than the iPhone. Apple’s camera overexposed the light as soon as it approached the sun, and there’s little pink/orange hues left on the horizon. The iPhone’s image was also much noisier and distorted. All in all, in the lower light conditions, shooting panorama, the One was a much better tool.

Overall

I really like using both cameras, but for different reasons. HDR, and Panorama were both better on the HTC One. But, for the average day-to-day shots in good light, the iPhone was better at retaining color richness, depth and contrast levels. That said, the iPhone is very much a simple point-and-shoot with little choice for customization. The HTC gives plenty of choice for different types of shot in different conditions and can adapt to those admirably.

 

 

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  • Tim2015

    Did this HTC One have the software update for the camera?

  • pld940

    To be honest. The iPhone 5 beat the HTC One 99% of the time (besides the panorama). I REALLY thought the HTC One would be better, guess not.

  • sagarsamtani

    What a fantastic review…. Can you please do the same for Apple iphone 5 vs Galaxy s4??? Please

  • blahh457

    From what I’ve heard, the iPhone auto-enhances contrast, etc. before you even see the picture.  Perhaps if you used the auto-enhance feature on the one, the colors would be more appealing.
     
    Also, in the glasses photo, the angle the picture was slightly different; more light from the window is going straight into the lens of the htc, seems like it would definitely make the photo more washed out.

  • TiP_Cam

    @sagarsamtani If I can get hold of one, absolutely.

  • TiP_Cam

    I think you’re right about the glasses. The main difference is where the camera is actually situated on the phone. I couldn’t get the same angle exactly, but it’s as close as I could manage.

  • thrmda

    Baraa_Nimrat إها بس

  • MT

    Well done review. It was exactly what I have been looking to find as a compare/contrast between these two devices. I have had iPhones for 4 years now using a 4s and this review has pushed me to the android ( was leaning that way anyway for a change of pace). Again, well done review

  • sccomega

    @pld940 Did you take a look at the night shot?  Also I would recommend taking a look at Anandtech’s camera comparison if you really think it’s that much better.

  • kevhowe

    @Tim2015 I was wondering the same thing.