Now, the image quality on the HTC One X isn't the best. In fact images, even those taken in daylight, suffers from plenty of noise and evidence of over processing and sharpening. Having said that, high image quality isn't a deal breaker for a performance-focused smartphone. When I am carrying a cameraphone, what I expect it to do is be quick. And here is where the One X excels. Boy, the camera here is fast. It takes about three seconds in total to unlock the phone, press the touchscreen camera shutter and capture, autofocus and all. It's the sort of camera you want to be with if you are the type of person who does not like missing the moment then post right away on Twitter and Facebook.
But image quality is important too and the HTC One X doesn't disappoint. It won't dethrone the Nokia N8 - but seriously, if image quality is that important you would have carried a SLR already. No, the HTC One X takes good enough pictures for its intended use - posting pictures on Facebook and other social networks. In any case, adequate image quality won't matter for any serious photographers. It's what you do with the camera that matters. Regardless, the HTC One X's camera outputs images with image quality that is pretty good and is easily one of the better HTC camera phones I have tested.
With a focal length of 22mm equivalent, the One X's camera is one of the widest I have used on a smartphone. And with a rated aperture of f/2, which is rather fast for a phone, the One X allows you to get closer to your subject regardless of lighting. A faster lens will mean more light gets into the sensor, usually at the expense of depth of field, but isn't a issue with a sensor this tiny. My Lumia 800 has a focal length of 28mm but because it uses a larger sensor, so the field of view is similar to the One X. That said, the One X easily matches the Lumia 800 when it came to image quality (and even betters it when it comes to colour accuracy), even though the latter has a larger sensor.
It is nice to see HTC not employing some over aggressive JPEG compression to images taken. Image file size averages between 2.5 to 3MB in size, which is what you would expect from a 8MP camera. In comparison the Nokia Lumia 800 with its 8MP camera over compressed files down to around 1 to 1.5MB, partly explaining its meager image quality. Samsung on the other hand is equally generous with image compression, with its flagship Galaxy S II's camera outputting files that are usually between 2 to 3MB in sizes.
The One X also comes with built-in HDR mode. HDR works by allowing the camera to capture three simultaneous images, an overexposed, underexposed and 'normal' image and then using the information on all three images to produce a single image with high dynamic range contrast. This technology was borne out of necessary to compensate for the poor dynamic range that currently plagues most digital cameras including high end DSLRs. A small image sensor like the one found on the HTC One X will no doubt suffer from poor dynamic range, and in this case having an easy to use HDR mode helps.
No reviews I have read of the HTC One X has mentioned this defect once, but like I mentioned previously, it is easily replicated and in fact well reported by users on various forums. I suspect many reviewers never bothered changing the image capture setting to 4:3 aspect ratio, when the image sensor is put to full use. If they did, they would have stumbled upon this bug sooner or later. Why? Becase taking pictures with 4:3 aspect ratio uses the full sensor thus resulting in image file size bigger than what you would get when using a widescreen aspect ratio (who takes images with widescreen anyway, especially when you can crop later?).
In any case, the HTC One X has huge issues saving images with great amount of details - for example even a picture of a brick wall or flowers. In fact looking at the file sizes of image files that were not corrupted, none were above 3MB (apart from panoramic pictures), so I suspect that the HTC One X's camera buffer is unable to output anything larger than 3MB. The number of images the HTC One X was unable to saved during my testing period is so huge, that unless HTC provides a bug fix soon, I can't possibly recommend the HTC One X as a camera if imaging is important to you. Fingers crossed HTC doesn't sweep this under the carpet because the One X's hardware deserves a lot better than this.
Update (18/04): HTC has released an OTA firmware update that fixes many bugs, including the serious camera bug that corrupted images over 3MB in size. Good one HTC!
|'Depth of Field' (sigh...)|