Is 4MP enough? HTC phone emphasizes pixel quality over pixel count

 

htc more-light

HTC says the new sensor, faster shutter speed, and f/2.0 aperture in its latest phone all mean “fantastic pictures and video” and “incredible shots of fast moving things and people in poor light, whether indoors or out.”

You know the old saying: Less is more. Many critics, myself included, have long insisted the imaging industry ignores this maxim, constantly emphasizing megapixels instead of picture quality — when in fact more pixels crammed into a fixed-sized sensor simply means smaller pixels, which gather less light, and yield an image with more noise.

The resolution competition that long engulfed the camera business also crept into camera phones, with 5-, 8-, 13MP and even higher resolutions stuffed into small sensors.

As phone-maker HTC puts it, “The smaller the pixel, the less light each one collects. This results in more visible noise and other defects in both still images and video.”

Now HTC is going against the tide with its latest One phone: four million pixels on a standard-sized sensor instead of the 8–13MP. That means larger photosites that each capture 300 percent more light, the company claims.

htc sensor2

The 2–micrometer “UltraPixel” has effectively twice the surface area compared to the typical 1.4 micrometer pixel “found on 8MP solutions from leading competitions,” HTC adds. With the One, “there are less megapixels, but the quality of each pixel is substantially higher than the industry average.” This means reduced noise, better low-light capture, and improved overall image quality, HTC says.

sensor

With lower resolution, the file size of each image is smaller, “requiring little, if any, compression when sharing, uploading, backing up, or storing in the cloud,” the company says. “This maintains the captured image’s inherent quality.”

The One also features a lens with an F2.0 aperture — the largest available on a smartphone camera, the company claims, letting in “44 percent more light than the iPhone 5.”

It also provides a gyroscope-based, multi-axis optical image stabilization. “While OIS is not new to cameras,” the company says, “this is a significant milestone for smartphones.” The gyroscope detects motion, and the lens physically moves in the opposite direction to counter it. HTC says its engineers “have made significant progress on reducing the OIS component to fit within the beautiful form factor of the HTC One. Leading the industry standards, it can counter motion on two axis and operates at an unprecedented frequency of 2000Hz, which means it detects pitch and yaw movements of the camera, and adjusts for those movements, 2000 times a second. This is much faster than any comparable phone camera with OIS. While other OIS systems might only compensate on one plane of motion, HTC’s system is designed so that the lens tilt an average of 1 degree in all directions from its center point, capable of countering motion from various movement angles.”

Also cool: the “Zoe” mode takes full-resolution videos while simultaneously taking full-resolution still photos.

The Android phone has a 4.7-inch touchscreen, 1.7 GHz quad-core processor, and front-facing stereo speakers and stereo mics.

While the reviews are out, the simple approach HTC is taking here is promising. We look forward to seeing actual pictures taken by reviewers and customers.

More information is here.

 

About Paul Worthington

Paul Worthington is a journalist and consumer imaging consultant. He produces the annual Future Imaging Summit at PMA@CES, and writes for PMA Newsline and PMA Magazine, as well as other publications.