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- Are You willing to sacrifice resolution just for the sake of better low-light photographs on Your smartphone?
Posted by : Vardan Nazaretyan Tuesday, April 1, 2014
Note: this is a purely speculative article, which is based on the countless reviews and (camera) comparisons I have watched after the M8 launch. If we ever get a hands-on on an M8, there will be a rebuttal article to bust or confirm my speculations. Hope You guys enjoy this one!
After the recent announcement of the HTC One M8, I think this is a hot topic. Are You willing to sacrifice the resolution on Your phone's camera to get better low-light photos?
So, what do we have in the One M8 as a primary camera? It consists of two sensors, the main, 4.1UP sensor and the secondary depth sensor, which has 2MP.
This is a more precise specification list from HTC (Elevate)
We are not going to talk about the FFC, because it crashes everything else on the market besides the Oppo N1 of course.
- The rear sensor retains the same pixel size of 2.0 um, the physical sensor is 1/3", 28mm lens, f/2.0 lens
- HTC ImageChip 2, which allows the phone to now do real-time HDR 1080p video
- The front-facing camera has been boosted to 5 megapixels, using an f/2.0 lens and a BSI sensor, an ultra-wide angle lens, and HDR images
- The two rear-facing lenses mimic the stereoscopic vision capabilities of the human eye; two independent lenses allow it to detect and calculate the relative distance of subjects in the image
- Optical Image Stabilization technology is not compatible with the Duo Camera system, so a software-based Smart Stabilization system has been created
- Faster focusing: it will lock on in 0.3 seconds, a dramatic improvement
- UFocus allows you to leverage the depth information from the second sensor to re-focus your images after the fact and apply an artistic blur called "bokeh"
- A new feature called Foregrounder allows you to emphasize the subject of a photo and apply various effects to the background
- Seasons is a fun way to add motion and ambiance to your images
- Dimension Plus is a new way to look at your photos, giving you a unique effect
- We've created a twin LED Smart Flash system that will vastly improve the photos you take using a flash
- When you pick up the phone as though you're going to take a picture in landscape mode, and press the volume button, the camera will launch
Now, let us talk about the Main cam.
Resolution.As I stated above, it has a resolution of only 4.1UP. While that might be enough for your casual Instagramming or Facebooking, it certainly isn't enough if you want to crop the photos, or view them on a high resolution display. Viewing these photos on a 2k display (found in some tablets, a lot of newer PC displays and even some of the latest phones like Oppo Find 7) shall be an "okay" experience, but as soon as you zoom in, you loose details. A lot of detail in fact. You see, a 2k display has nearly the same resolution as a 4MP/UP camera. No matter how big or small your pixels are, you will be loosing detail while zooming in.
Low-light performance.Now this is what HTC advertises a lot about the UltraPixel camera. The low-light performance is really good when you have Ultrapixels instead of Megapixels, because your pixels are much bigger than on a conventional sensor. And rightly so, the M7's camera was praised because of the UP technology+OIS. And sadly, with the addition of the depth sensor on the new One, as HTC stated, OIS became incompatible so the awesome low-light photos you had on your M7 are gone. Now, I am not saying that the M8 is a bad performer in low-light, because it isn't, but it is also not as good as the M7 due to the lack of the OIS, which will also result in some shaky video recording.
Opposite to the camera hardware, the camera software on the One M8 is actually quite good. It has tons of effects, is pretty fast and has very little lag. Couple that with Zoe, and Your Facebooking/Instagramming becomes a quite enjoyable experience. But is the good software enough to compensate for the lackluster hardware? That is a decision the consumer shall make when (not) buying the phone.
Possible improvements.As a solution to the resolution problem, HTC could implement similar software to what is found on the Oppo Find 7, which will take numerous small pics and combine them into ultra high resolution picture. Taking photos like this, might take a little while in comparison to snapshots, but if you really want to have that one beautiful landscape in a high-resolution raw photo you can later edit and make even more beautiful, I'm sure you can wait a couple of seconds for the photo to be captured.
It's already late for this second idea, but I think this is the way HTC should have gone. If they would have reduced the size of pixels by a little bit (not making them as small as conventional ones, but also not as big as UP) and bumped up the resolution a little bit (to 8MP for example), I think this would have been a very good solution. You see, Apple did that with the 5S. They have pixels that are 15% bigger than the ones on any conventional smartphone camera, yet they were able to maintain the resolution of 8MP. And the 5S is a tiny little phone compared to the M8, so similar solution with slightly bigger pixels than on the 5S would have made sense.
The duo camera.
If you are some fancy person looking for fancy camera effects, then the duo camera is made for you. You can refocus the pictures anywhere you want after taking them. But there is one major gripe here, as stated above, the second sensor (the depth sensor) results in the sacrifice of the OIS. Software stabilizations might help you a little bit though, on the video side anyway, but don't expect them to work good in low-light situations too.
The bottom line.Now, in the end, it comes down to You whether you want to have the camera of the M8 or not, but if you are searching for a smartphone with stellar camera performance, you should probably look elsewhere. ;)
If we ever get an M8 hands-on, I will be more than glad to do a rebuttal, to bust or confirm my speculations in this article and share the sample videos, pictures and compare them to the photos by the Nexus 5. Don't forget to share this article, we need Your help to grow!