Two phones, same brand, same lens, same sensor, same UI, same photographer, same environment, different pictures – What what? We kid you not. The HTC One S and One X serve up amongst the best pictures of any smartphone on the market, but we noticed that the pictures are clearly processed in a very different way. Hardly earth shattering in the grand scheme of things, but it certainly threw us, so we thought we’d dig a little deeper, shoot a whole host of photos (about 30 in total) and compare and contrast pictures on the HTC One S and One X in a bid to prove we’re not going stir-crazy.
Here’s the grid with the images we selected. We start indoors and then move out, traipsing through Paddington and west London suburbs in a bid to identify where each phone excels and which One is actually the better buy from a camera standpoint.
HTC One S VS HTC One X: Indoor – low light
Before we even begin talking about the photo, we need to mention that the HTC One X took the in focus shot first time, while the HTC One S offered about 3 slightly blurry ones before we hit a happy place. This suggests that the HTC One X shoots at a higher ISO than the HTC One S in auto, despite a max of 800 in the settings. We’d absolutely love to confirm this but unfortunately, the ISO isn’t in the EXIF data. Hrmph.
Looking at the images themselves, the output does go to confirm this with the HTC One X image looking considerably noisier than the One S. The One S is also more saturated and warmer, with colours that look less accurate than the One X.
With the combination of more in-focus shots and more realistic colours, we’d choose the One X over the One S indoors, though bear in mind the One S does a noticably better job of suppressing that dreaded noise.
HTC One S VS HTC One X: Indoor – flash
In-line with our indoor findings, flash firing sees the HTC One X bring a lot more cold to the shot than the HTC One S. Both offer virtually identical amounts of detail, however the One S does a much better job of compensating for its flashes blue blue hue with its natural warmth, resulting in a more realistic colour-set.
In the One X’s defense, shooting people in a dark environment usually benefits from a little cooling down as demonstrated by the X. Dark scenes generally lean towards rouge low lighting and with people being so very red, a cooler flash compensation can be desirable. That said the HTC One S wins this round in front of an object and a big white wall.
HTC One S VS HTC One X: High contrast
Once more, we see the HTC One S warming up the beautifully architected ceiling of London Paddington Station. Information conveyed in both shots is incredible, pulling each metal beam’s detail right through to the end point where most cameras would turn the many layers into a messy, nondescript fuzz and both pictures definitely hit the light fantastic when it comes to displaying what a camera phone can do today.
The HTC One X does manage to grab more dynamic range with more lamp, more of the visible supports and more striation of the ceiling. The picture is however lower contrast, making for a less dramatic overall shot.
Given the screen tech, it makes sense for an AMOLED display to be slightly darker and saturated, and for an LCD display to offer more detail, however when exporting, odds are you’ll be doing so to an LCD. The HTC One X, once again therefore delivers more favourable, realistic colours and pulls out more detail winning once more.
HTC One S VS HTC One X: High contrast 2
Keeping in theme with the station, we’ve taken another picture in Paddington, this time with a slightly more demanding ceiling. We know we didn’t manage to get the shots to look identical, however, they do a good job of reiterating what we’ve found already.
Warmer, more saturated and less detail pulled out from the darks is yet again the order of the day when looking at the results from the HTC One S. Once more, it also offers a dramatic, higher contrast shot with better noise suppression while the One X captures more detailing in the beams and more realistic colours, though in the top part of the picture, it looks somewhat more hazy.
We actually prefer the HTC One S shot in this instance and that isn’t just the difference in perspective, however have to admit it isn’t as accurate in terms of colours as the One X
HTC One S VS HTC One X: Outdoor detail
Turn on the good light, aka the sun and there’s a whole load less discrepancy between the shots. Both hyper saturated, both blowing out the detail in the sky, and both offering some stonking depth to the shot.
The One X pulls more information out once again in the high contrast parts of the image like the trees and leaves, and offers up a better overall image with stronger range however there really is very little in it. This is the perfect scene for an HDR shot, and we can atteste to the HDR performance of the cameras working well, so while the X edges ahead, either of these phones will do a very good job given a modicum of sunlight.
HTC One S VS HTC One X: Outdoor macro
These cameras use a technology called EDoF coupled with auto-focus. It’s found in Nokia fixed focus lenses and is incredibly effective of maximising the depth-of field for a clearer shot across more focal range – you can read more about it on All About Symbian. This is perfect for landscape shots, however the question on our minds was how will this affect macro where odds are, we want more depth of field?
We took five macro shots to be sure, but have included one representative image for you. The first thing we can say for sure? These phones don’t jump into macro as easily as we want them to.
Between two and three taps is on average what it takes to focus up-close. That said, quality of the shot is great. The HTC One X pulled more detail from the focal point, and the EDoF lens didn’t appear to kill our depth of field too much. In fact, we’re pretty sure if shot later in the day we could have got some pretty attractive bokehing in the backgroundlights.
All in all, despite a degree of discontent with how quickly both these fire up into macro, they deliver great shots with the HTC One X winning once more thanks to sharper detail.
Two phones, same brand, same lens, same sensor, same UI, same photographer, same environment, different pictures – now we know what’s different, think we know why they’re different and are in a better position to give you our round up.
The HTC One X tends to pull out more detail, cool down pictures more and have better tonal range. The HTC One S saturates shots more, warms them up and makes them look altogether shinier. Macro is a bit of a pain on both as the cameras often need to be forced into it often through the settings, though the One X wins out on detail. As for indoor, the One X also seems to take quicker shots in the dark resulting in less blur. That said, the One S does suppress more noise and its flash performance has less of a blue hue skew.
Why are they so different? We think it’s got more to do with the screens than anything else. The HTC One S runs with an AMOLED display at a lower resolution than the HTC One X’s LCD 2 HD display. As most images taken on phones aren’t exported to another device, it makes perfect sense for HTC to optimise the output accordingly, giving the One S higher contrast to take advantage of AMOLED’s lovely darks and more saturation to make the display pop even more. In contrast, detail is the name of the game on the HTC One X screen, so to quote the late Andrea True and wrap up our round-up, shots taken on it pull out More, More, More detail at any given opportunity.
Comparison complete and as ever, your feedback is welcome. Download the big pics by clicking through on them, comment below and if you have something to share, fire us a tweet or a post on Facebook.