Last year's HTC One X was one of my favourite smartphones of 2012. The design was brilliant and the camera was stunning. While the 8X's design is an acquired taste, I have grown the appreciate it. The 4.3" size is also a welcome downsize from the ridiculous 4.7" form factor that every manufacturer seems to believe everyone wants now. HTC has set the bar high when it comes to image quality, so I was excited when the 8X landed on my lap. Here was a Windows Phone 8 device that can finally deliver on its imaging promise.
Well, not quite. Based on the specifications, the 8X and One X's 8 Megapixel camera are essentially the same, but short of gutting the two phones, I can't be sure. What I can for sure is thanks to HTC's own proprietary ImageSense chip, the camera is fast. On my previous WP8 phone, the Lumia 920, where it would take a second or two to focus, and then another to defocus, the 8X tends to require about a second, from focusing to capturing. Even my dedicated digital compact, the Canon S90, can't do that. The settings does not appear to be quite as extensive as on the Lumia 920, but you will have access to the white balance and ISO dials.
Sadly, the image quality doesn't appear to match the One X. It's close, but the images are noticeably more noisy, blotchy and over processed. The weather in Britain hasn't been the best these past week, so the 8X had to work hard. On the other hand, out of the 300 or so images I have taken, not one were out of focus. Colours, for most part, were accurate. Pictures, especially during cloudy days, tends to suffer from average dynamic range. This is expected, and can be fixed using the good old HDR mode - which is sadly absent from the 8X. On the other hand, the 8X excels with macro shooting.
The camera on the front is a different story. The front facing camera is a 2.1 Megapixel variety, fitted with a fast ultra wide angle lens with an aperture rating of f/2.0 aperture. It is also capable of recording in 1080p. The 2.1 Megapixel camera won't excite anyone, but HTC is gunning for the social users who love to take group shots of themselves for Facebook where 2.1MP is more than enough. On my tests, while a standard front facing camera would struggle with fitting two people in a shot, the HTC 8X could easily squeeze in four faces within the shot. HTC has not released any other details regarding the lens, but I suspect the focal length is roughly between 18-20mm in 35mm equivalent.
|A typical shot taken with the 8X's 28mm f/2.0 camera|
|Taken with the 8X's front camera - notice how much wider the shot is|
So the main camera isn't quite on par as the One X, but it is the best still camera I have played on a Windows Phone 8 device yet. This record won't be held for long as I have already seen the potential of the Lumia 920. It is only a matter of time before its buggy and unusable camera firmware is replaced. Still, if you do decide to get a HTC 8X, you won't find yourself overly disappointed. The back camera is fast, and the quality is acceptable for printing and web posting. And while the front camera isn't revolutionary, the ultra wide angle lens allows for plenty of fun portrait shots that would otherwise be impossible - short of passing your phone to a complete stranger.