Camera Comparison: HTC One vs Motorola Moto X

Moto X and HTC One rear-facing cameras

I was very excited when Motorola announced the Moto X. I mostly liked its customization options, size and the always on touchless voice control.  As the other previously announced Droid MAXX, Ultra and Mini, the Moto X also comes with a Clear Pixel sensor technology with RGBC Color Filter array. In this article I will compare the HTC One UltraPixel rear-facing camera versus the Motorola Moto X Clear Pixel based camera.

OmniVision is the company who developed this unique sensor. The camera sensor model is OV10820 is a 10.5MP 1/2.6-inch  sensor with 16:9 aspect ratio and 1.4 micron sizes pixels. The sensor uses a color filter array that is different than the conventional RGB Bayer filter array which can be found on almost any digital camera out there. The sensor also offers 4K2K at 30 fps and Full HD 60fps video recording.

The RGBC (C stands for Clear) sensor features one green, blue and red pixels and a clear non-filtered pixel in a 4-pixel matrix. The luminance information from the non-filtered pixel is used to demosaicings the RGB channels For those who don’t know, due to the unique pixel color filter array in Bayer sensors, each pixel store data for a specific color. A demosaicing algorithm is used to reconstruct the full color image. Without this algorithm, you will look at an image with pixels that are either Red, Green or Blue and that will result in kind of weird looking image that the real full color image that you expect to see.

Having an unfiltered pixel means that the pixel can absorb 100% of the incoming light instead of capturing third the amount of light. The Clear Pixel sensor based camera can capture 75% more light compared to the conventional RGB Bayer pattern-based BSI CMOS sensor (according to Motorola), improving the camera low-light performance for both stills and videos.

The OmniVision OV10820 sensor was designed from the ground up to improve the camera low-light performance and be competitive against mobile device cameras like the HTC One that have larger pixels, but at the cost of reduced resolution. This means that the Clear Pixel technology is used to allow phone manufactures to use a camera that have relatively high-resolution, but at the same time offer a very good low-light performance.

2.0 micron vs 1.4 micron pixel size comparison

2.0 micron vs 1.4 micron pixel size comparison

The size of the image area of the sensor is 6092.8 µm x 3449.6 µm. The sensor out is 4320×2432 pixels at full resolution.  The sensor use 1.4 micron size pixels.

In comparison, the HTC One UltraPixel camera features a STMicroelectronics 4MP 1/3″ BSI Stacked sensor with 2-micron pixel size. A 1/3″ sensor size measured about 4.80 x 3.60 mm.  You get 2688 x 1520 pixels full image resolution, much less than the Moto X.  However, each pixel on the HTC One absorbs more light due to its bigger size.

The first thing that wanted to know is how the Moto X camera performs in high ISO compare to the HTC One UltraPixel camera. Second, I was interested to know about the general image quality performance  like the sharpness, dynamic range, etc.

Before we dive into the image quality analysis, let’s take a look at the main camera specs of both handsets.

Camera Specs Comparison – Moto X vs HTC One

 
Moto X
HTC One (UltraPixel)
Sensor ManufacturerOmniVisionST Microelectronics
Sensor ModelOV1820 VD6869 / 58698A

(STMicroelectronics first back-illuminated sensor)
Color Filter ArrayRGBCRGB
Sensor Size1/2.6"1/3"
Image Area6092.8 µm x 3449.6 µm5440 μm x 3072 μm
Sensor Resolution10.5MP
4320x2432 pixels
4MP
2688×1520 pixels
Sensor Image Ratio16:916:9
Sensor TechnologyClear Pixel
BSI CMOS
BSI CMOS
Pixel Size1.4 microns2.0 microns
Lens4.5mm (~31mm) f/2.43.82 mm (28mm equivalent) f/2.0
FlashLED FlashLED Flash
Image StabilizationYes, OpticalYes, Optical

2-axis (pitch and yaw)
Accommodates +/- 1 degree of deviation (2 kHz = 2000 cyrcles per second)
BurstYesYes, Up to 8fps
ISO100 - 1600100 - 1600
Features- Slow motion video
- Full HD
- Image control: exposure
- HDR
- Panorama
- Slow motion video
- Full HD (optional 92db dynamic range boost)
- Image control: exposure, contrast, saturation, sharpness, white blaance
- HDR (real-time hardware)
- HDR Video up to 28 fps
- 1080p30 / 720p60 / 768x432 96fps
- 200ms focusing speed
- Color shading for lens compensation
- Advanced de-noise algoruthm
- Panorama

source

For many of us, the specs don’t say too much. The most important thing is how the two cameras perform in casual shooting and whether you like the JPEG rendering image output. Not everyone cares about sharpness or high ISO performance. In order to understand how the two cameras perform, we need to inspect sample image from both the Motorola X and HTC One, better if those taken under the same lighting conditions and shooting the same subject.

Unfortunately as of the time of writing, I couldn’t find any serious comparison that compares the two.  I’ve decided to analyze HTC One and Moto x sample images from various online resources to get a better idea how the two phone cameras perform.

HTC One Sample Image Quality Analysis

I was really satisfied with the HTC One Ultra Pixel camera low ISO performance. The image quality is just superb with punchy colors, great sharpness and very good dynamic range (not scientifically measure though).

ISO 100 | f/2.0 aperture | 0.004 sec (1/246 sec) shutter speed | 0EV (via Flickr by Rick Takagi)

HTC One sample photo

DID YOU KNOW? — That HTC is in the 9th more popular brand used in the Flickr community (e.g. HTC One One X, Evo), with Apple being in the 3rd place and Samsung in the 6th place. Canon captures the first place, followed by Nikon (see here). The most popular cameraphones are iPhone 4S, iPhone 5, iPhone 4, Samsung Galaxy S3 and iPhone 3GS.

ISO 400 | f/2.0 aperture | 0.05 sec (1/20 sec) shutter speed| 0EV (Via Flickr by Sarah M)

IMAG0355

Even at ISO 400 you can certainly notice noise at the dark and mid-tones.  From here it’s just getting worse. If you just want to share the image with friends online, you have not problem with ISO400.  You can even get a somewhat clean image if you post process the image in noise reduction software like NeatImage.

ISO 1190 | f/2.0 aperture | 0.1 sec (1/10 sec) shutter speed | 0 EV (via Flickr by Haris Abdul Rahman)

Good Night

Overall I was very impressed with the HTC One performance. It has a superb color reproduction and impressive detail resolvement power. If you want to get the best image quality for making prints, shoot at the ISO between 100-200, preferably ISO 100 which is the lowest possible.. You can also see that even with very slow shutter speeds, the optical image stabilization helps capturing sharp images and does an incredible job compensating for hand movements and preventing low-light images to appear blurry.

Now for a HTC One sample video taken by phandroid (also compared to the Samsung Galaxy S4)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NxnjYSYIdu8

Looks good to me, what do you think?

Moto X Sample Image  Quality analysis

I’ve been looking at various sample images taken with the Moto X. What I did notice is that the image looks much less punchy than what we are used to see from other Smartphones, like the iPhone 5 or the Lumia 1020.  I first observed it after viewing some sample image on phonearena.com website, and the same results from Andy Ihnatko on Flickr, when he compared the Motorola Moto X image against the Panasonic GX1, iPhone 5 and Nokia Lumia 1020 (check out my Lumia 1020 low light performance review).

The next image by Andy Ihnatko from Flickr certainly shows the difference in how the Moto X renders the image compare to the Lumia 1020 and the iPhone 5.

Moto X Quick Comparison

I’ve read many comments from people that really dislike the image color rendering and you can clearly see that the iPhone produces an image that is likely to better please the eye of the viewer (warmer, more saturated and with higher contrast). I did notice that the Moto X camera did a good job opening those shadow areas and did well with highlight areas, which might suggest that it has a wider dynamic range than the iPhone 5 and the Lumia 1020 (again, just by observation).

At low ISO the Motorola Moto X camera did an  excellent job. Take a look at this flowers image (taken by Vrian Bennett from CNET) taken at ISO 160. The image is very sharp and looks very natural. If you are watching this image on a high-quality IPS display, you can see that it’s very natural and like watching the flower in your back yard. The Moto X is also did a very good job getting the right exposure. The image is also relatively very clean.

It’s worth mentioning that the Moto X lens as a tighter field of view compared to the HTC One, and therefore you find it less appropriate for times when you need to get more of the surroundings into the frame (e.g. Group shots, architecture, interiors).

When inspecting some high ISO samples, I was quite impressed with what I’ve seen. Looking at the ISO320 studio image taken by CNET, you can see that it has relatively low noise. The problem with that type of image is that although it was shot at ISO320, most of the image is bright and has less dark tones. But when you look at the Kodak Gray Scale chart at the top, you can see that the small details are well-preserved.

I liked the HTC One rendering better, especially the colors. In terms of high ISO, both did a very good job up to ISO 400.  As more photos are released to the web, we’ll get a more accurate understanding how the two cameras prefer in terms of high ISO.

It’s also worth mentioning that even if the Moto X color are more subtle than what you are used to, you can always boost the saturation and change the color rendering using dedicated image editing apps.

Before we move to the conclusion section, let’s take a look at a Moto X sample video by Booredatwork (including slow mo)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xYoox4f4MKo

Looks pretty good..

Conclusion

I love the HTC One color reproduction, but I did find it a bit too noisy to my liking, even at low ISO. The Moto X sensors seem to do a better job dealing with image noise. It seems that the Clear Pixel sensor did what it was supposed to do, but I think that some people will find the colors to be muted out-of-the-box and less pleasing. The Moto X also enjoys a higher resolution sensor, allowing photographers to grab more details from the scene and give them more image editing freedom, cropping and tweaking their image to their liking.

We can see that each company have decided to choose a different path to allow photographers to be able to shoot high-quality image at low light.  There is also the camera software side which I didn’t cover here, as I emphasize on the camera specs and image quality.

The camera indeed plays a significant role for many people, as most of the popular apps one the Android market are based on the camera.  I probably wouldn’t base my buying decision on the Moto X camera if I decide to buy this phone, but at least you know that you get a decent camera that can serve you well, even in low-light.

Which camera you liked better, the Moto X camera or the HTC One UltraPixel camera. Share your opinion and tells us also why you prefer one over the other.

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