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Android Headliner: Why the HTC One (M8)’s Camera Misses the Mark

March 28, 2014 - Written By Tom Dawson

If you’re a fan of great-looking hardware, good sound quality and meaningful software features, then this was a good week for you. The new HTC One (M8) hit the scene and then immediately became available in stores. However, if you’re a fan of genuinely good mobile photography, then this week wasn’t so good for you. The new HTC One features some pretty impressive camera features, and definitely has some bragging rights, there’s no denying that. However, when all’s said and done, we’re left with low-resolution, soft images that most of us with even a passing interest in photography would have issues with sharing. The Duo Camera at the heart of the HTC One misses the mark, and instead of focusing on genuinely good images, HTC chased gimmicks.

Being able to edit photos after the fact to the degree that HTC allows in the new One is brilliant, and being able to refocus parts of a shot is downright cool. However, that novelty will soon wear thin when you realize that you’re just shooting 4-megapixel images a lot of the time. There’s nothing “ultra” about a 4-megapixel file in 2014, no matter how big those pixels are, HTC. Last year when reviewing the HTC One, I was very impressed with the camera and as I prefer to shoot with honest camera hardware, as oppose to smartphones, it takes a lot to impress me in a phone. I love photography, and it’s a very personal interest of mine. The photos I take are the ones that I want to keep as memories, pieces of art and that I want to share with my friends and family. Instagram is a fad as far as I’m concerned and while everyone thinks they can take a good-looking photo thanks to “Vintage Look filter #3456819391”, they can’t. Unfortunately for us that genuinely care about our images though, it’s the Instagram generation HTC has targeted here.

Being able to shoot slow-motion video in HD, easily control the ISO and White Balance while shooting, refocus after the fact are all awesome; but they’re just another fad. The uncomfortable truth when talking about the UltraPixel camera on the HTC One (M8) is that HTC grew lazy. Sure, it takes in a lot of light, which is key, but that’s all it can do. With Optical Image Stabilisation available in even the Nexus 5, it’s just sad to not see it being used here on the One. Add that to the fact that 2560 x 1600 screens are on most high-end tablets, and sharing images and footage to our TVs is getting easier and easier with Chromecast and other similar services, and that 4-megapixel shooter will start to show its age.

Last year, the HTC One produced bright, colorful images that looked more like genuine photos than other smartphone shooters. However, even then there were cracks showing and while everyone else pulled their socks up and Sony and Samsung both introduced better imaging experiences, HTC added another camera and a cool, fashionable feature. What they should have done, is spent time thinking how they could improve the UltraPixel camera in ways that would help it stay relevant, and continue to take the great shots that HTC promised it would.

I can’t say for certain just how good, or how bad, the images from this new HTC One are until I take some shots with it myself. However, things aren’t looking good for HTC and their Duo Camera. When I do get my hands on the new HTC One, I’ll be excited to try out the new camera, and I hope to be proven wrong, but so far it seems that HTC have left the one feature that needed work the most untouched.