HTC U Play camera review: We test and review the 16-megapixel rear and front cameras on HTC’s cut-price U Play mobile, including full photo and video samples.
The HTC U Play may cost under £30 per month on contract, but camera fans may be intrigued to learn of the 16-megapixel shooter which adorns the back of the phone. This feature-packed snapper is quite potent for the price, while you get another 16-megapixel camera around the front for pin-sharp selfies.
So are the U Play’s cameras any good, or should you look elsewhere for your ideal mobile photography device? Here’s our full HTC U Play camera review, complete with photo and video samples.
HTC U Play camera review: Specs, features and UX
The HTC U Play’s 16-megapixel rear camera doesn’t boast laser autofocus like the low-cost G4 Plus, which packs one of the very best snappers for a sub-£200 mobile. However you do get Phase Detection Autofocus (now quite common on affordable handsets). That means the lens can snap quickly onto your subject, for a crisp, clean result. You also get Optical Image Stabilisation, which again helps to produce sharp, blur-free results.
On full auto mode, the U Play has a built-in HDR feature which can automatically sort out tricky contrast as you snap. This makes for a longer shutter speed when active, but the results are often worth it.
HTC has also chucked in a couple of bonus camera features for more specialist results. For example, there’s the Zoe mode which captures three seconds of video with every photos – just like the iPhone’s Live Photo feature, which came after Zoe’s first HTC appearance. You can also shoot a panorama photo, if you’re struck by a particularly stunning vista.
If you switch to HTC’s Pro Camera mode, you get a full selection of manual controls. This includes the ability to tweak white balance, ISO levels and shutter speed, via handy dials. You can also shoot in RAW format, something rarely seen on mobiles, for easy editing on the move.
The U Play’s 16-megapixel front-facing camera sports an UltraPixel mode, which combines the data gathered from four pixels into one for a smaller, but arguably better quality photo – particularly in low light.
HTC U Play camera review: Photo samples and tests
The HTC U Play certainly captures plenty of detail when lighting conditions are adequate. Our test photos came out crisp and clear, with accurate colour reproduction. Close-up macro shots work well too, as you can see from our test gallery below.
Contrast is handled well with the Auto HDR function activated. Occasionally you’ll get duff results as your shot is oversaturated, but for the most part we managed to capture plenty of detail even when shooting against a bright sky or harsh indoor lighting.
However, when it comes to low light, the U Play’s f/2.0 lens really struggles. You’ll often need to employ the flash when conditions grow dim, while night shots are a mixed bag. The likes of the Xperia X and Samsung’s Galaxy A5 2017, which cost pretty much the same on contract, do a better job. If you want to see true low light functionality, you’ll have to stump up a bit extra for HTC’s U Ultra, which sports the latest f/1.8 UltraPixel 2 lens.
HTC U Play camera review: Video samples and tests
Overall we’re happy with the Full HD results when shooting video with the HTC U Play. Our test footage was good enough for playback on a big screen, with plenty of detail captured even from a distance. And while the resulting video wasn’t exactly vibrant, colours didn’t appear washed out either.
The lens adjusts well to sudden changes in brightness as well as focal range, so you aren’t left staring at a fuzzy, blurry image when the camera’s in motion. That optical image stabilisation helps to cut down on judders too, which makes for smooth, pleasing results.
HTC U Play camera review: Selfie camera samples and tests
The U Play’s 16-megapixel front-facing camera makes this HTC phone a bit of a selfie machine. It’s certainly one of the more powerful front-facing snappers we’ve tested recently, capable of capturing some seriously sharp and detailed mug shots.
On standard mode, you’ll take 16-megapixel photos like the one below. This is perfect for most purposes, offering a wide viewing angle if you want to fit in several heads. You also get an optional countdown clock which appears next to the lens, so everyone knows where to look.
If conditions are much too dark for a standard selfie, the HTC U Play has an ace up its sleeve. While the likes of the Samsung Galaxy S7 light up the screen to illuminate your face, and some phones such as the Moto Z Play even have a front-facing flash, the U Play has HTC’s UltraPixel mode.
Below is a rather dim and useless low light shot taken in the standard 16-megapixel mode.
And here is a 4-megapixel shot taken with the UltraPixel mode, which combines the light captured by four pixels into one. As you can see, the results are much brighter and clearer.
That’s good news if you take a lot of selfies in the club, or at night.
Overall the HTC U Play offers a pair of solid cameras, which will suit the majority of users thanks to their flexible functionality and bonus features.
Check out our full HTC U Play review for info on the rest of this £399 HTC blower.