While we love the HTC One M8, the Samsung Galaxy S5 has a much better camera that could make you think twice about buying the latest HTC device. These two Android phones are both fantastic devices, but there’s no doubt that the Galaxy S5 produces superior photos. The HTC One M8 has some unique tricks up its sleeve though, so making a buying decision isn’t so simple.
Read on to learn more about why the Samsung Galaxy S5 is the way to go if you care about being able to take high-quality photos with your smartphone.
Read: HTC One M8 Review
This is a picture I took with the Samsung Galaxy S5 in San Francisco. The Samsung Galaxy S5 has a 16 megapixel camera, which is double the resolution of the camera on the iPhone 5s and four times more than the HTC One M8′s camera. Of course megapixels aren’t everything, but it’s a shame that the HTC One M8 is handicapped by a camera that isn’t up to par with the competition. The HTC One M8 camera’s sensor uses what HTC calls ‘ultrapixels,’ which are bigger than the pixels on the Galaxy S5′s camera. The larger pixels help the HTC One M8 capture better pictures in low light, but there are unfortunate tradeoffs.
Above is a similar picture taken with the HTC One M8. At first glance it looks a lot like the one shot with the Galaxy S5, but there are some notable differences. The colors are duller and there isn’t nearly as much detail as the Galaxy S5 sample.
Take a look at the above image from the Galaxy S5. With it cropped to 100% you can clearly read the text on the white box truck on the left and the sign for the piano shop on the right.
The above is a 100% crop of the picture shot with the HTC One M8 cropped at 100%. Notice how it’s very difficult to make out the numbers on the truck or the letters on the bottom of the sign hanging in front of the piano store. The reason the cropped part of the photo is so much smaller is because the HTC One M8 is only working with 4 megapixels rather than the Galaxy S5′s 16 megapixels.
This is what it looks like if we zoom in on the photo shot with the HTC One M8 so it’s about the same size as the one shot with the Galaxy S5. Here you can see distinct pixels and everything looks really muddy. This is pretty much the result you’ll get with the HTC One M8′s camera if you zoom in while you shoot.
The Samsung Galaxy S5 is much better at capturing pictures of people than the HTC One M8. Above is a photo of my son playing on his scooter that I shot with the Galaxy S5. Notice how the picture is crisp and there’s plenty of sharp detail. I took this photo using the stock Galaxy S5 camera app in auto mode, which is exactly how most Galaxy S5 users will take photos.
At 16 megapixels, there’s plenty of pixels to play with in case you need to zoom in. Above is a 100% crop of the photo. It looks like the Galaxy S5 focused on the background rather than my kid, but you can still see the level of detail in the leaves in the background.
Above is a similar shot taken with the HTC One M8 a few seconds after the one I shot with the Galaxy S5. I took this photo using the HTC One M8′s built-in camera app in auto mode. This photo is noticeably less vibrant than the sample Galaxy S5 photo. The picture looks muddy and it’s not something I’d want to print or even put in an online album without enhancing it a bit.
Things get even uglier with the HTC One M8 sample photo if you need to crop or use the zoom feature. The above image is a 100% crop and there just isn’t a lot of detail. With the HTC One M8, it’s best to zoom with your feet rather than relying on editing or the digital zoom.
Above is what happens if you zoom in and crop an HTC One M8 photo My son’s teeth are just a few pixels wide. Notice the “C9″ logo is hard to recognize on this image. Compare that to the 100% crop of the Galaxy S5 photo from earlier in this article. Even though that one’s a bit out of focus it’s still easy to read. Cropping past 100% isn’t recommended, but there are plenty of times you’d want to get rid of distracting backgrounds and focus on a subject.
Speaking of blurry backgrounds, the HTC One M8 does compensate for its camera’s limitations with some good software and an extra camera lens. The back of the HTC One M8 has two cameras on it, one of which is dedicated to gathering depth of field information. This allows users to refocus shots. Above is a photo that I shot in San Francisco’s Ghirardelli Square.
With a couple of taps on the HTC One M8′s camera app I applied the UFocus tool and the distracting tourists milling behind the fountain are blurred away.
Though the HTC One’s camera doesn’t compare well to the Galaxy S5 camera in terms of straight image quality, the HTC One M8 is still my go-to ‘camera’ for capturing certain kinds of events. The Zoe Camera mode captures still photos and video simultaneously, which means I don’t have to decide between capturing one or the other. The HTC One M8 automatically mashes up photos and videos into Highlights like the one above.
The HTC One M8 takes pictures that look fine on its own display and as part of Highlights videos, but the magic fades away if you zoom in a bit or display the images on larger displays.