The iPhone's camera has long been lauded as excellent but rival smart phone makers are catching up.
HTC has overhauled the camera kit in its new line up of One Series phones -- with its flagship quad-core One X having an eight megapixel lens, and boasting the ability to snap a continuous burst of up to 99 photos.
Another would be iPhone killer, Sony's Xperia S, has a 12.1 megapixel snapper which can give the iPhone 4S a pretty good run for its money -- although, in my view, the 4S edges ahead in most situations.
Settings -- where there are any settings -- were set to automatic, and all cameras were shooting at the maximum resolution offered.
All three cameras performed pretty well in the great outdoors, and all are capable of producing great shots, but to my eye the One X and the iPhone 4S inch ahead of the Xperia S -- which produces more noise in darker areas.
The most striking difference between the One X and the iPhone 4S is the distinctly different colour tone: the One X produces cooler tones that aren't quite as natural looking -- giving its shots a bluer colour-cast overall.
One physical characteristic to consider is that the One X's lightweight form can make it harder to hold steady than the Xperia S or the iPhone 4S when taking a photo.
Click on each photo to enlarge.
Moving indoors, once again all three cameras prove themselves capable of taking some very decent snaps -- but the Xperia S continues to generate more noise in darker regions. The iPhone 4S captures slightly more true-to-life colours than either of the other two snappers. And if you zoom in, shots taken with the iPhone 4S show slightly cleaner lines than the other two cameras -- meaning its images look a fraction sharper overall. Click images to enlarge.HTC One X
Very low light
In very dingy conditions all three cameras struggle, as you'd expect, but the One X's rendering of the book is especially fuzzy. The Xperia S includes Sony's Exmor R for mobile CMOS sensor, which the company says improves camera performance in low light. It certainly produces the brightest image of the three but it appears to be doing this by bumping up the ISO -- which results in a very grainy and noisy photo.
In a flash test -- using Legoman Torch and Android plush as subjects -- the iPhone 4S performs worst. Both the One X and the Xperia S have a variable flash that adjusts to the distance of the subject to help ensure it doesn't become washed out. To my eye the One X produces the clearest shot of the subjects but does create a stronger shadow behind them.
All three phones have very respectable cameras but to my eye the iPhone 4S edges ahead of the pack with the most natural colours, and images that are less noisy and slightly sharper overall. It also produces more even exposure when light conditions vary and can generally be relied upon to produce a decent snap in most conditions (flash excepted).
The HTC One X comes second -- putting in a very good performance that certainly gives the iPhone a run for its money even if it can't quite steal Apple's photographic crown. The One X does edge ahead of the Sony Xperia S though, which has the most megapixels but also produces the most grainy images.
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