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HTC One debuts UltraPixel technology, but is the phone's camera all it's cracked up to be?

Jackie Dove | April 9, 2013
Is the HTC One's UltraPixel camera better than all the others? HTC's Symon Whitehorn explains why it is.

This debunks the so-called "megapixel myth," which says that more megapixels equals a better image. "The old analogy that the industry uses is called pixel rain, so you can imagine photons coming down as rain--with photon rain being collected in buckets with the buckets being the pixel," says Whitehorn. "Now you could put a lot of little cups out and try to collect the same amount of rain and you wind up getting noise between the cups as opposed to it all falling into one big bucket."

With UltraPixels being larger than ordinary pixels, fewer pixels take up more space on the sensor--buckets rather than cups. According to HTC, the 2.0 micrometer UltraPixel has twice the surface area of the 1.4 micrometer pixel found on typical 8-megapixel cameras and even more over the 1.1 micrometer pixel on 13-megapixel cameras. Thus photos from the HTC One should display greater color accuracy. It also means shooting with less flash. "You get really natural looking photos without using a flash," says Whitehorn. "We modulate the flash to be very subtle for good skin tones. People don't want to use the flash, so it's not blowing out skin tones or the foreground."

Another UltraPixel benefit is that the actual file size of each image is smaller, requiring little, if any, compression for sharing, uploading, or storing, while at the same time maintaining the original image quality. HTC says images shot with its camera can be printed at full resolution up to at least 8 by 10 inches.

The processor

The famed UltraPixel doesn't work alone. Pleasing images and video are also properly focused and exposed, evenly lit, and noise free. And that's where HTC's ImageChip 2 technology goes to work providing continuous auto focus, real-time video HDR, lens color shading compensation, and de-noise processing.

HTC promises that its algorithm boosts focusing speed to an almost instantaneous average of less than 200 milliseconds per full distance scan. Video dynamic range can be boosted to match the human eye. The sensor captures interlaced frames up to 60fps with high and low exposure values, while the HTC ImageChip 2 hardware processes the frames in real time to create the HDR frames. Another algorithm specifically designed for this camera lens can process and compensate for color shading, meaning no more dark spots near the edge of the frame. De-noise processing removes noise captured both on the main camera and the front camera.

HTC spared some love for the front-facing camera too. "We've put some resources into that--we have a wider angle than is normal," said Whitehorn. "You can fit three people horizontally at arms length and there's a lot of correction going on for a natural looking wide angle shot."


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