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HTC One UltraPixel Review

The HTC One offers less megapixels than any other smartphone currently available, but is this a good thing? Find out in our review.

| HTC One in Camera Phones
HTC One UltraPixel Review: Htc One Main

In a bold move, HTC has attacked the "megapixel race" in smartphones head on, by putting a 4 megapixel sensor in their latest high end smart phone, the HTC One. They emphasis the importance of light sensitivity by using a sensor with less megapixels, and therefore larger light gathering pixels, a bright f/2.0 lens, as well as optical image stabilisation. They say this combination gives them 300% more light than competitors with 8 and 13 megapixel smartphones, and even go as far as calling it an "UltraPixel" sensor.

HTC One Features

The HTC One and nearly every other smartphone* with a camera built in, uses a small 1/3inch sensor, which means that compared to a standard digital camera, the sensor is much smaller - see sizes compared in our guide to digital camera sensor sizes. This means that each pixel is also much smaller, and trying to cram an 8 or 13 megapixel sensor into a small space has lead to ever smaller pixels, with the latest sensors using a 1.4 (8mp smartphone) or 1.1 (13mp smartphone) micron pixel size.
* excluding the Nokia N8 and Nokia PureView 808

Compare that to a compact digital camera such as the Canon Powershot S110, with a 12 megapixel, 1/2.33inch sensor and 2 micron pixel size, or a Digital SLR such as the Canon EOS 700D with an 18 megapixel APS-C sensor and 4.2 micron pixel size, and you begin to see that each pixel is getting up to 2x less light than a compact camera, or 4x less light than a Digital SLR to each pixel.

There Can Be Only One

The HTC One still uses a small 1/3 inch sensor, but in order to get more light to each pixel, it uses a 4 megapixel sensor, with 2 micron pixel size. This isn't the only way the HTC One aims to improve low light performance, it also uses a bright f/2.0 28mm wide-angle lens, and combined with optical image stabilisation it should perform better than any other smartphone in low light conditions.

HTC One UltraPixel Review: Htc One Sensor More Light

Key Features 

  • 4 megapixel BSI sensor
  • Pixel size 2.0 µm, Sensor size 1/3inch
  • f/2.0 28mm wide-angle lens
  • Optical image stabilisation
  •  2.1 megapixel front camera, wide-angle lens with HDR capability
  • 4.7inch 1080p screen
  • 32GB built in (25.4GB available)
  • Full HD Video, Stereo sound, HDR
  • ISO100 - ISO1600
  • microSIM slot
  • Qualcomm® Snapdragon™ 600, quad-core, 1.7GHz processor

HTC One Handling

HTC One UltraPixel Review: HTC One (7)

Easy to unlock with shortcuts to web/camera/etc to give quick access to your most commonly used apps. On the bottom, underneath the screen are the usual Android Home and back buttons, although strangely the third menu button only appears when the screen is touched, taking up some screen area. MicroUSB connection and charging is at the bottom of the phone, and on top is the unlock button and headphone socket. 

HTC One UltraPixel Review: HTC One (5)

The unlock button is slightly raised, but as the phone is rectangular it can take a while to work out which way up the phone is without looking at it, when you first pick it up. On the side are textured volume buttons. 

HTC One UltraPixel Review: HTC One (6)

Facing forwards are the "Beats audio" stereo speakers, which are capable of producing good levels of sound and clarity, although as expected are low on bass. The phone has the latest version of Android with access to the Google Play app market, with all the popular photo apps such as Instagram, etc etc, and as an HTC phone has a few additional unique HTC apps thrown in for good measure. Performance and responsiveness of the phone and apps is excellent with programs loading quickly and the screen responding rapidly to touch. 

HTC One UltraPixel Review: HTC One (3)

The HTC One features a silver body made out of aluminium, and is extremely thin measuring 9.3 mm thick. There is nothing to protect the lens element on the rear so a case or careful handling of the camera phone is recommended, and as with other smartphones it's important to make sure the lens is clean as it's very easy to get finger prints on the lens. Build quality appears to be excellent, and the phone has built in memory and a built in rechargeable 2300mAh battery.  

HTC One UltraPixel Review: HTC One (8)

Speed - We took a number of shots to test the camera's responsiveness, from switch on to first photo, shot to shot, focusing speed etc. We take a number of shots and then use the average to ensure accurate and consistent tests, making it easy to compare with other cameras.

  HTC One
Shutter Response <0.05s
Wide - Focus / Shutter Response 0.05s
Switch on Time to Taking a Photo <15s
Shot to Shot without Flash 0.2s
Shot to Shot with Flash 0.9s
Continuous Shooting - JPEG 9fps (20 shots)

Continuous shooting shoots at 9fps, and for 20 shots, although you can enable more shots than 20. Shot to shot time is excellent and there is virtually no focus delay.

HTC One Performance

Additional sample photos and product shots are available in the Equipment Database, where you can add your own review, photos and product ratings.

HTC One Sample Photos

Sample Photos - The single LED flash does a good job of lighting the scene, however, you can get more natural looking results without using it, although the 28mm equivalent focal length of the lens isn't the most flattering for portrait shots.

HTC One Lens test images

Lens Performance - Detail is quite good in photos, although they do appear to have strong sharpening applied. Some purple fringing is visible in the photo of the trees above, however in most shots this was not a problem. Optical Image Stabilisation (OIS) meant we could take a sharp hand-held photo at 1/15sec or less without using the LED. Exposure is generally good, and can be set using the touch screen. The HDR shooting mode does an impressive job in dealing with high contrast photos, although it can look artificial.

HTC One ISO test images

ISO Noise Performance - ISO performance at lower ISO settings is good, but as light levels lower and the ISO setting increases, noise does become quite noticeable. The ISO800 and ISO1600 shots show no additional noise over the earlier shots, and due to the shutter speed and aperture remaining the same, we suspect the camera has not actually switched to these higher ISO settings. For examples of noise in low light, have a look at our other example photos above.

HTC One White-balance test images

White Balance Performance - Auto White Balance (AWB) performs well under tungsten light, with a slightly warm result, and the tungsten preset gives a more neutral result. AWB performs very well under fluorescent light with the preset giving a similar result.

HTC One UltraPixel Review: HTC One Panoramic IMAG0094 |  | 3.8 mm
Panorama mode - The panoramic mode automatically stitches photos while you pan the camera around. The photo is reasonably well stitched together, however there are some lines visible where the exposure changes.

HTC One Digital filters

Digital Filters - 15 effects are built into the HTC camera app and are selectable along the bottom of the screen. You can adjust exposure, contrast, saturation, and sharpness of photos. The "Zoe" shooting mode takes a number of continuous photos (up to 20) and then puts them into a video, the video makes a short clip and doesn't include sound, but you also get to keep the photos as well.

Video - Video options include slow-motion, fast HD (60fps), video HDR (Full HD), examples showing a standard video, and the same scene recorded using the HDR mode can be seen on our YouTube channel.

Value For Money

The HTC One is available for around £529 sim free, and is up against a number of new smartphones that put an emphasis on camera quality including the iPhone 5 (8mp), Sony Xperia Z (13mp), Samsung Galaxy S4 (13mp), Nokia Lumia 920 (8mp with OIS), and Nokia PureView 808 (41mp, Xenon flash).

HTC One Verdict

Up against the competition, the HTC One has taken the bold move to use a sensor with lower resolution (4mp), and therefore larger pixels than competitor smartphones, combined with a bright f/2.0 lens and optical image stabilisation, this gives major benefits in low light situations. However, this does noticeably damage the level of detail the camera is able to capture, with 4 megapixels feeling rather low resolution these days, with compacts offering around 12 to 16 megapixels, Digital SLRs 16 to 24 megapixels+, and other smartphones offering 8 or 13 megapixels.
Another camera that has used sensor technology in order to improve low-light performance is the Nokia PureView 808, with a physically large sensor and 41 megapixels, it uses pixel binning/merging to give better low light performance, and includes a real Xenon flash, so you can take lower resolution images (5-8mp optimum) with lower noise, and in good light you can also shoot extremely high resolution images, getting the best of both worlds, with detail and low light performance. Another camera designed to give good low light performance is the Nokia Lumia 920 with optical image stabilisation and an 8mp sensor. 
However, neither of these cameras use Android, and if you want the latest apps and an excellent web experience with great connectivity and sharing, then your choices come back to Android and iPhone. If you regularly take photos, or want to take photos in low light conditions, and are sharing straight to social media sites like Facebook, then the low resolution of 4 megapixels may not worry you too much, making the HTC One a great choice. It looks and feels like a premium smartphone and delivers decent, albeit not breathtaking, photos.

For the hardcore low-light photographers the camera phone will impress, but in good light the low resolution of the camera may disappoint. HDR photos and videos are impressive, as well as the high speed shooting. As a smart phone, the HTC One is simply stunning.

HTC One Pros

Large clear bright 4.7inch screen
Extremely responsive and quick in use
Lots of internal memory (32gb)
Optical image stabilisation
Impressive HDR stills and video
Great looking phone
Fast continuous shooting
f/2.0 lens

HTC One Cons

No physical shutter release button
Only 4mp images - daylight photos lack detail
LED flash


HTC One Specifications

Front Camera
PixelsNo Data
Max ApertureNo Data
Smartphone Cameras
Smartphone Cameras
    Additional CamerasNo Data
    Max Aperturef/2
    35mm equivalent28mm
    Optical ZoomNo Data
    Image Sensor
    Pixels4Mp (Megapixels)
    Pixels (W)2688
    Pixels (H)1520
    Sensor TypeBack-lit CMOS (B.S.I.)
    Sensor Size1/3 inch
    Sensor Size (width)No Data
    Sensor Size (height)No Data
    Aspect Ratio
    • 16:9
    • 4:3
    LCD Monitor
    LCD Monitor4.7in
    Screen resolution1080p
    Touch ScreenYes
    Focusing modes
    • Autofocus
    • Face Detection
    Exposure Control
    Shutter speeds shortestNo Data
    Shutter speeds longestNo Data
    ISO sensitivity100 - 800
    Movie modeYes
    Video Resolution
    • 1920x1080 FullHD
    • 1280x720 HD 720p
    Video FPS1080P up to 30fps, 720P up to 60fps, 1080P with HDR up to 28fps, 768x432 up to 96fps
    Stereo SoundYes
    Other Features
    Image StabilisationYes
    USBUSB 2
    Internal Memory32000MB
    Power Source
    Battery Type2300mAh
    Box Contents
    Box ContentsPhone, microUSB Cable, Earphones, Sim eject pin, Instructions, UK charger

    View Full Product Details

    2.1 MP front camera, wide-angle lens with HDR capability

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    Photographs taken using the HTC One

    Central LineA carpet of wood anemones60103_The Flying ScotsmanFlying ScotsmanNATURES ART. SCREEN 6Natures artBeer Fest...BirdThe forestchristmas treeRonni and reggyMountain PassSt Pauls CathedralPoppies B/Wpoppies

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