HTC’s best yet: HTC One (2014) reviewed

You’ll find HTC’s Zoe still sitting around, though it’s in a different place and has to be activated through the camera options, and there are more camera modes on offer, with HDR, panoramas, anti-shake, portrait, night, and text modes.

Similar to Nokia’s own camera app, there is also now a manual mode with shutter and ISO settings for those who like to get down to the real nitty gritty, but these extra modes don’t really seem to be the bread and butter of the new HTC One camera.

Rather, an extra lens and new camera technology is the point of this new device.

On the back of the HTC One from 2014, you’ll find not one, but two cameras. The first one is the main one, and this sits in roughly the same place as the old one: below the aesthetic line on the back.

A new camera also sits up top, and it’s the job of this camera to capture extra things such as a wider image and depth information, with all of this used by the camera to allow you to play with the image even more.

For instance, using this depth information, you can refocus an image later, similar to what Lytro does with its Lightfield cameras.

It’s not the same effect, not by a long shot and technically the image is already focused, with HTC simply allowing you to soften everything else except certain areas.
(You can see the difference below with the static HTC One depth image above made from an in-focus shot, compared to the interactive Lytro image below.) 

You can also separate the subject in the foreground from that in the background, and apply individual effects to each layer, such as adding line drawing or blur to the back, while keeping the front in focus, or do it the other way around.

HTC has even made animated effects, which grab the image and then apply falling seasonal effects such as leaves, flower petals, or snowflakes to and around the image, with the elements falling both in front and behind the subject.

But these are merely effects, and they won’t work without a decent camera.

Fortunately, the new version of the Ultrapixel rear camera does appear to be better than last year’s one, with decent low light and quality high light image offered beyond the gimmicks HTC has rolled into the new model.

Images were reasonably detailed, but don’t expect to crop too much as, once again, the Ultrapixel size is still technically 4 megapixels, which may well have had redeveloped technology in its sensor, but still bandies the same number for output size.

Touching the screen allows you to not just focus, but also pick what should be well lit, and it’s in this regard that you might find some discrepancies, with images either coming out too light or too dark. If you want a balanced amount of lighting, put the camera into HDR mode for better results.

Overall, the camera seems faster, as you can pretty much hit the touchscreen button and it will fire the shot without any pause between, which is always good to see, and the swipe from the opposite direction still activates the front facing mode, which is now called “Selfie” mode.

The prevalence of self-portraiture seems to have spawned the need for better cameras up front, and not video conferencing (which was what the camera was originally thrown up there for), and so HTC has moved to include a 5 megapixel camera in this position.

It’s not a bad camera, but it won’t offer much in the way of detail, with some soft images. Instagram and Facebook will serve it fine, but don’t expect to become a Cindy Sherman with major works of self-portraiture using the front camera alone.

The front-facing camera at full (left) and cropped at 100 percent (right).

But we have some reservations about HTC’s new and redeveloped camera, and unfortunately we’re going to have to play the megapixel remark here, because at 4 megapixels, HTC’s new One may not cut it for some people.

Let’s get something straight here: no one will argue against the megapixel myth more than we will.

GadgetGuy is made up of people who are lovers of photography, and nothing gives us more pleasure than to be out in the field taking pictures, although writing can give that activity a good run for its money (and making and consuming ice cream, for what it’s worth).

Last year, HTC tackled the megapixel myth by throwing a 4 megapixel sensor in its One smartphone, changing the concept from “megapixels” to “Ultrapixels,” and moving on from the regular tactic of handset manufacturers to just update the megapixel quantity and look at the sensor altogether.

Rather than just rely on an 8, 11, or 13 megapixel sensor, HTC made its 4 megapixel sensor something special, capable of firing images quickly in succession, with several second video support, Photoshop-like effects, and some extraordinary low light skills.

This year, HTC has taken a look at its one year old Ultrapixels technology and improved on it, but still left the megapixel size the same. New features are included, and a new camera which supports the ability to read depth to a degree, similar to what Lytro does in its Lightfield cameras, but technically, it’s still a 4 megapixel sensor.

Unfortunately, that just won’t be enough for some people, and we actually don’t disagree.