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HTC One X Phone/Camera - Review 14 May 2012

HTC phoneThis review is mainly about the CAMERA function of the HTC One X.

I purchased the HTC One X on 1 May 2012 after doing quite a bit of research. It was  almost a toss-up between the Samsung Galaxy Note and the HTC One X.

 My principal aims were to get a phone that could serve as a respectable pocket camera (as well as a phone) and would be good for email and browsing the Internet. A large high resolution screen was also an important requirement.
 I loved the idea of the S-Pen on the Galaxy Note but in the finish the quality of the camera was really the overriding consideration and, from what information I could glean, the One X seemed to have the edge with its camera. (But what I was really looking for was the sort of detail that I have compiled below).

Well after using the One X for 2 weeks I am equivocal about the camera. It has taken some quite good pictures but it has also taken some quite poor pictures.

The main negative issues are:

1.  Poor White balance:
This is a reasonably significant issue: sometimes the white balance is about right but at other times it is way off.  In general, pictures taken in outdoor light have a bluish or even purplish tinge when using "Auto White Balance".  If the white balance is changed to "Cloudy" then the resulting picture has a yellowish tint - far too overcompensated really, and there is no option for a "custom" white balance.

2.  No Optical Zoom:
When compared with a "proper" pocket camera it is noticeable that the OneX  lacks  optical zoom. To be sure you can zoom the picture but it is only digital zoom and when you use that you are throwing away precious pixels and the resulting picture lacks sharpness. (Although you probably won't notice it if you use only about half of the zoom range, i.e. 2 X zoom rather than the full 4 X zoom).

3.  Movement-Blur:
Another issue is movement-blur.  The camera is supposed to have image stabilization, but its tolerance for movement must be  pretty small because you have to hold the camera very steady to avoid blur.  If you have to take a picture in a hurry then chances are high that it will be blurred.

4.  Narrow Dynamic Range:
This is an inherent problem with the tiny sensors that are used in tiny cameras. The reason is that it does not take very many photons to saturate (or overflow) a tiny pixel.  However, the camera does provide an HDR (High Dynamic Range) mode  and this mode does work quite well in an appropriate situation, (see examples below) but that  can not be used for many ordinary pictures. (Incidentally there are no white balance options available when in HDR mode).

There are also plenty of positives about the One X camera which I will discuss further on,  but first here are some pictures to support what I have said above.  (Note: All pictures in this article are 'as taken' except for resizing and/or cropping).

White Balance:

The two pictures below were taken at about the same time (on a cloudy day). The picture on the left is with white balance set to 'Auto", whilst the one on the right is with white balance set to 'Cloudy'.  One picture is too blue and the other is too yellow. A more correct white balance would have been somewhere in between.

Swans 'auto'Swans 'cloudy'

No Optical Zoom:

Left picture: no zoom. Right picture: Full digital zoom (4x)
The right picture does not look too bad on this scale but when enlarged it shows very noticeable pixelation. (See next picture). As is known, digital zoom is not a complete substitute for optical zoom.
(Incidentally the EXIF data for the zoomed picture still reports it to have a full complement of pixels i.e. 3264 x 2448, which is somewhat misleading).

Pond 1pond 2

pond 3

Movement Blur:

If you don't hold the phone very steady you will get the picture on the right instead of the one on the left.  It is not easy to do a controlled test for movement blur but the OneX  seems to be  more sensitive to it than is my current pocket camera (a Sony Cyber-shot TX7).

blur 1blur 2

Narrow Dynamic Range:

In the pictures below: The first is taken in 'Auto' mode and the second in 'HDR' mode.
The HDR mode has markedly improved the detail in the shaded area in the top right-hand corner of the picture.
Also observe the bright, washed out, patch on the chair in the first picture and notice that this is not so washed out in the second picture. Thus  the HDR mode  definitely improves what is otherwise a pretty narrow dynamic range.

dynamic 1dynamic 2

Next page: Other Aspects of the HTC One X.

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