HTC One camera faceoff with a Samsung Galaxy S III. (Photo : Wired)
The HTC One was unveiled yesterday to mostly rave reviews, but some potential buyers are wondering about the smartphone's camera: it's only 4.3 megapixels.
HTC says the One utilizes "UltraPixels," larger photosensitive sensors that capture more light than typical cameras, particularly in low-light settings, and give equivalent detail to 8 megapixel cameras in normal light.
"What we realized is that megapixels is just a metric for blue shirts in Best Buy. It makes it easy for those guys to sell a camera," said Symon Whitehorn, HTC's director of special projects. "Not that megapixels are bad, they're good in the right context."
"Light is basically a bunch of photons in wave form," says Whitehorn. "The bigger your pixel is, the more of that you can capture. If you think of it as a bucket, it's going to take in more rainwater than a tiny cup. You can put a lot of little cups to try and collect the same amount of light in the same space. What happens is you have equal amount of light, but also you have the space in between the cups, which is called the noise."
Let's look at the camera's specs.
"The HTC One camera has a fairly standard 1/3-inch BSI CMOS sensor. What sets it apart is, due to having [fewer] pixels, it can have 2.0 micron sized pixels - an equivalent size to enthusiast compact cameras and significantly larger than the 1.4 micron pixels in 8-megapixel cameras like you see in the iPhone 5 and the Samsung Galaxy S III," writes Wired.
"The so-called UltraPixels can capture around 200 percent more light. Compared to 13MP smartphone cameras with 1.1 micron pixels, the 2.0 micron pixel captures 300 percent more light, according to HTC."
But how does it work in practice? "From our brief hands-on, it didn't work miracles: Photos of fast-moving people in a dim setting still had lots of motion blur. However, color and detail of static objects looked good," said Mashable.
Wired applied a more thorough test. "We took the HTC One out to a dimly-lit restaurant and it produced far better, and cleaner, images that the Samsung Galaxy SIII we had with us. The HTC One's photos were much clearer, and you could plainly see everyone in them. Photos snapped with the Galaxy's 8MP camera didn't look any sharper than the One's 4MP images. The only advantage to the Samsung's snapshots was you could zoom in tighter on a subject's dark face."
Will consumers be happy with UltraPixels? The 4.3 megapixel photos probably won't be good enough for people who want to print large copies of their photos, but most people won't see any difference when viewing the images online or on their phone. And maybe they'll be able to see more than a black screen when shooting in the dark.