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Just How Effective Is The HTC One's "UltraPixel" Camera?

Are you on the lookout for a high-end smartphone that can take decent photos? We pit the HTC One’s controversial four-megapixel camera against the Samsung Galaxy S III’s eight-megapixel camera. The results may surprise you.

When HTC debuted the specifications of its flagship One smartphone this week, one thing really stood out: its four-megapixel camera. On paper, this sounds like smartphone suicide – most flagship phones on the market today boast between eight and twelve megapixels. However, HTC reckons its new ‘UltraPixel’ technology can trump its rivals, particularly when it comes to low light photography.

UltraPixel is basically a fancy marketing word for HTC’s newly developed 2µm pixels, which allow the camera’s sensor to capture more light. To use the company’s own analogy, it’s like capturing rain in a bucket — the bigger the bucket, the more ‘rain’ you can collect. (You can read a more thorough overview of the technology here.)

“Camera quality is completely separate to megapixel counts — the belief that more megapixels means better pictures is a big fat lie,” said HTC Asia’s senior marketing director, Darren Sng, during last night’s launch.

“So we created a new type of pixel that is double the size of what you find on other sensors, which allows it to capture 330 percent more light.”

Sng claimed that the HTC One camera produced sharper, more detailed photos with less noise and better colour accuracy than the market’s leading smartphones, including the iPhone 5 and Samsung Galaxy S III.

“When you compare the HTC One to some of the leading megapixel smartphones, you can tell that HTC One is clearly on top.” Bold words, but how do they measure up in practice?

Last night, we got the chance to test out the HTC One’s four-megapixel camera for ourselves. To put it through its paces, we took identical shots with the HTC One and our Samsung Galaxy S III, which sports an eight-megapixel camera with a maximum resolution of 3264×2448 pixels.

We stuck to the automatic modes on both cameras and kept the flash disabled. They say a picture tells a thousand words, so we’ll let the results speak for themselves. [Click on each photo to enlarge]

Outdoors Test: Samsung Galaxy S III (left) vs. HTC One (right)


Indoors Test: Samsung Galaxy S III (left) vs. HTC One (right)


Window Test: Samsung Galaxy S III (left) vs. HTC One (right)


Update: we have taken the photos from the low-light test down after the EXIF data revealed that the flash had been fired in one of the images, therefore rendering the test irrelevant (this was an oversight of HTC PR who accidentally sent us the wrong photo). Sorry for any confusion.