HTC One Ultrapixel Camera Explained

Friday, February 22, 2013

/ by Aman Banka
When HTC designed their newest flagship phone "HTC One", it knew that camera quality was one of the most important features on a smartphone.  HTC showed this kind of care in design last year with its release of the One S and One X; two phones that really showed serious improvements to not only image quality, but software quality.  New features like taking full-resolution photos during 1080p video recording, burst shots and many more advanced features really set the One line apart from the rest of the pack, but it wasn't enough to make a splash in the pool of Samsung’s Galaxy S III launch.  HTC has gone back to the drawing board and come up with their answer to this problem: The Zoe Camera with Ultrapixels.

HTC Ultrapixel Sensor

iPhone 5 Camera QualityHTC One Camera Quality

Left: iPhone 5  Right: HTC One

  • UltraPixel Sensor – Engineered with larger pixels, it enables each pixel to capture more than 300% more light than most leading 13 megapixel cameras.
  • HTC ImageChip – Offers continuous autofocus, color shading, and noise reduction, as well as more realistic High Dynamic Range.
  • F2.0 Aperture – The largest available on smartphone camera, it lets in 44% more light than the iPhone 5.
  • Optical Image Stabilization – Drastically reduces blur in still photos and shaky video footage.

HTC One Pixel SizeHTC One Ultrapixel Size
Why was this even needed in the first place? For years and years now phones have sported more and more megapixels, and there really seemed to be no end in sight. Modern smartphones have gone from a lowly 2 megapixel camera to massive 41 megapixel cameras in just a few years. Of course most phones are between 8 and 13 megapixels now, but the photo quality really hasn't improved all that much over the years. Often times photos from phones will be blurry, have lots of bloom, and just generally not look anywhere near as good as a dedicated point-and-shoot would, much less a DSLR camera. One of the biggest reasons for this problem is that sensor size, namely pixel size, hasn't increased with the megapixel count.  HTC Ultrapixel camera takes the fairly industry standard pixel size of 1.4 microns in phones like the Galaxy S III and iPhone 5, to 2 microns in the new HTC One.
HTC One Aperture
This 40% increase in size means that the sensor can now absorb more light, and thus take considerably better photos.  More light means less blur, more sharpness, less bloom and overall much better image quality.  HTC has coupled this with even better software than it had before, as well as a new dedicated image chip called the HTC  ImageChip 2.  The HTC One X and One S debuted with HTC first dedicated ImageChip, and the result was a camera that could just simply do more and do it quicker.  The new ImageChip 2 bring about some of the fastest continuous autofocus speeds at less than 200ms, and allows for new advances like HDR photos, HDR video and variable-speed slow-mo recording.  HTC also has 5 levels of flash strength on the new HTC One, which should keep objects from getting too bright even when only a little flash is needed for a scene.
HTC One Optical Image Stabilization

While Nokia can probably still claim best still photos with its N95 series from 2007 due to the massive sensor and pixel sizes they used, HTC Zoe Camera definitely gives it a run for its money, and with many more features to boot.  You won’t find HTC talking much about megapixels since this is “only” a 4mp sensor, however the results definitely show that more megapixels does not mean better photos.  HTC has definitely brought something incredible to the table here, and it has the distinct possibility of being industry changing.

Credits - HTC
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edited with by Aman