The day is February 19, 2013. HTC is about to announce its new Android flagship phone, and the tension in the air can be cut through with a butter knife. Rumors are suggesting that the company will introduce a new, revolutionary smartphone camera technology, which is going to blow the competition's smartphone cameras right out of the water. Needless to say, geeks everywhere are excited about this new phone, eager to find out what kind of camera HTC has crafted. Then comes the HTC One announcement, followed by our thorough review a month later. The phone itself rocks, but its 4-megapixel UltraPixel camera, although good, doesn't quite manage to match its high-end rivals.

Now, over a year later, it looks as if history is on the verge of repeating itself. HTC just took the veil off of the all new HTC One (M8), and its most peculiar feature is its much-touted Duo Camera. The latter consists of two cameras – an UltraPixel camera that is technically very similar to the one found on last year's model and a secondary unit to capture “depth information”. Thanks to the tandem, the photos can be post-processed for an emulated shallow depth of field – photos that look as if they have been taken with a professional camera.

But in reality, what will photos from the new HTC One's camera look like without the fancy after-effects applied? Could HTC's UltraPixel camera finally be a worthy rival to the cameras on today's high-end smartphones? Well, we're about to find out. We took the time to bring you this full-on camera comparison starring the new HTC flagship and some of the best smartphones in existence – the Galaxy S4, Galaxy Note 3, iPhone 5s, LG G2, Nexus 5, Nokia Lumia 1520, and the Sony Xperia Z1S.


First, the good news. For the most part, the new HTC One's photos have a fairly accurate color representation. They can be regarded as slightly undersaturated, although this could be a matter of personal taste. The bad news is that there are still some problems (due to artifacts), as our samples demonstrate, such as the weirdly pinkish clouds seen in most daytime shots. Still, the phone's photos are absolutely acceptable and a step above last year's model.

As for the rest of the bunch, we'd rank the Samsung Galaxy S4 and the LG G2 the highest, although they aren't leading by much. Colors in the photos by these two are very close to reality, and what's more important, color accuracy is retained across scenes. In contrast, the Nokia Lumia 1520 takes awesome photos in some cases, yet throws the color balance out of the window in others. Photos by the iPhone 5s represent a scene that is warmer and brighter than what it looks real life, but as a whole, its photos are very eye-pleasing. We were expecting for the Galaxy Note 3's images to be as accurate as those by the S4, yet strangely, its photo turned out slightly more yellowish than they should have. Still, they're still pretty good-looking. The Sony Xperia Z1S produces great photos, although there might be some excessive color boost in some of them. The only not-so-great performer is the Google Nexus 5, which constantly produced overly warm, yellowish photos across the outdoor scenes in our testing.



1. PapaSmurf

Posts: 10457; Member since: May 14, 2012

Hold up.. S4 ranked higher than the Note 3?

4. _Bone_

Posts: 2155; Member since: Oct 29, 2012

It is an interesting battle. Most S4s are equipped with the Exmor R (SD600 versions), some with the Exmor RS (Exynos 5 versions), while the Note 3 packs a newer Exmor RS (both versions), that has higher level of detail than the Exmor R, but worse dynamic range. Of all the Exmors looked at here (S4, N3, Z1s, G2, N5, 5S) the iPhone does consistently the best photos, while I think the 1520 needs a SW update, cause it's far more capable than the results it's pulling. Expect Samsung's ISOCELL to make all run for their money, bar the 1020.

7. PapaSmurf

Posts: 10457; Member since: May 14, 2012

Photo #27 and #35 is where the Note 3 shines.

52. refillable

Posts: 1071; Member since: Mar 10, 2014

Seriously? I have no Idea how the heck can a 1/2.5" sensor beat a 2/3" that was just been released a year ago?

5. Johnnokia

Posts: 1158; Member since: May 27, 2012

It is really so absurd to Lumia 1520 in the pre-last rank .. So silly and suspicious indeed!

8. Contreramanjaro

Posts: 153; Member since: Dec 04, 2011

I usually just look at these articles to compare pictures on my own. I don't think I've ever agreed with PA on the results.

20. akki20892

Posts: 3902; Member since: Feb 04, 2013

We should compare photos with professional photographer.

58. The13thKing

Posts: 849; Member since: Feb 26, 2014

It Hurts More Than Market Share Doesn't It ...? and here you go, cold water thrown in your face.

73. utg001 unregistered

I think in some scenarios, the 1520, iPhone and Z1 out shine the others by a margin. Clearly!

16. sergiobr

Posts: 718; Member since: Feb 25, 2013

PapaSmurf as a Note owner (like you) I must say that, in low or high light my phone takes better photos than S4 (I checked with my friends), when I shot with CameraPro is much better. I don´t know what PA is doing.

69. geordie8t1 unregistered

i agree, i have galaxy s4 and note 3, and for me it was MUCH more noticable in night shots, my s4 just could not do very well at all, my note 3 however on similar settings, performs probably twice as good, my night shots are crisp and clear for what i got, i dont really notice so much in the day time shots.

24. Ashoaib

Posts: 3309; Member since: Nov 15, 2013

I accept, S4 and g2 are almost equal with a slight difference of saturation levels but note3????? well, my experience with note3 is way better, I experienced note 3 performing better then z1, better then s4 and g2 as well... dont know about lumias bcoz I dont bother myself to check nokia

31. doejon

Posts: 411; Member since: Jul 31, 2012

hahaha htc one m8 where u aaaaaat :D

56. sergiobr

Posts: 718; Member since: Feb 25, 2013

85. KingaSpades

Posts: 45; Member since: Nov 04, 2013

And that's how you know that the entire thing is bullshyt.

2. CX3NT3_713

Posts: 2364; Member since: Apr 18, 2011

Nokia 1020!!!! Nothing comes close

11. akki20892

Posts: 3902; Member since: Feb 04, 2013

And we know that.

51. mayur007

Posts: 593; Member since: Apr 10, 2012

everyphone knows that ;)

59. The13thKing

Posts: 849; Member since: Feb 26, 2014

17. Arte-8800

Posts: 4562; Member since: Mar 13, 2014

yes it does the PV808

23. Nexus4lifes

Posts: 303; Member since: Feb 13, 2014

Nokia lumia 1520 almost all flagships beat it..:)

45. rockers123

Posts: 137; Member since: Sep 08, 2013

You should have a look at MKBHD top 5 Camera phones

70. geordie8t1 unregistered


81. Hlorri

Posts: 40; Member since: May 07, 2008

Uh... Except the Nokia 808 PureView! ;) Still, 2 years after, the "king" of camera phones. That said, the 808 (and even moreso the 1020) are not really the most suitable for casual/action shots. Both (especially the 1020) are slow to start, have long picture-to-picture durations, and have relatively slow exposure times (compared with, for instance, the HTC One). The 1020 has Optical Image Stabilization, but that does nothing to prevent motion blur of the subject (and not the photographer). Between my 808 PureView and my HTC One, I find that the One often captures the sharpest photos of my kids - especially if they're moving around. Of course the 808 takes the cleanest photos of still objects (nature and such) - though for that you'll probably want to use a DSLR anyway....

3. hmd74

Posts: 546; Member since: Jan 31, 2013

the question is when did PA get the phone to do the compare? :| WTF? they reviewed it :|

42. KillerKeyboard

Posts: 372; Member since: Nov 21, 2013

Embargo. Tech review companies get pre-sale units before the product launch with an agreement to only publish their articles in a given time set by the manufacturer.


Posts: 650; Member since: Nov 20, 2011

umm?? they didn't look bad in camera comparisons for the HTC One but not the best either. i'll accept it... i hope they make a detachable lens like what sony tried to do with the QX

9. SlowPoison77

Posts: 28; Member since: Nov 30, 2013

htc one m8 photoes are stunningm better than expected from 4mp, i m ready 4 upgrade

10. FaisalWibowo11

Posts: 166; Member since: Aug 12, 2013's camera comparison is really inconsistent and unprofessional. In the previous comparison, Z1 has a score of 8.5 in colour representation but now it only has 7.0. In the previous comparison, Z1 was rated lower than note 3 and s4 in night shots. Now, the Z1 is rated higher. Video scoring also changes now. Jeez, I don't get it. Maybe someone can clear me up

12. PapaSmurf

Posts: 10457; Member since: May 14, 2012

Because it's a different test under different scenes?

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