HTC U11 Review: Camera
Author:Soomal
Source:eng.soomal.com

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"The highest score in the DXOMark Mobile ranking" was the greatest selling point of HTC U11, for it means the camera has the supreme image quality to outshine other competitive products. We are deeply attracted by U11. We have had a headcanon about how U11 would beat those best camera phones like Galaxy S8, Pixel XL and Lumia 950XL as soon as possible.

  • Source: Self-Purchasing
    Type: Mass produced
    Commercial Relationship: No
Lens, Focus and Metering

Overview

HTC mentioned the word UltraPixel on its official website once again. So what is the so called UltraPixel? In fact, it can be curtly understood as "Bigger pixel size is better". So, there is no wonder that M7, with a 4 MP UltraPixel, lost to the main stream mobile phones of 8 to 13 MP designs. At this time, the U11's pixel size is 1.4 m, so the phone is attached with the concept of UltraPixel once again. Actually, it is nothing special since quite a few models are at this level. HTC's bringing UnltraPixel up again shows its reluctance of choosing a wrong technology tree branch.

According to the online information, it is quite probable that U11 does not adopt an ordered or special CMOS Image Sensor. Instead, it adopts Sony IMX362, a 12-MP CIS with 1.4 um pixel size. This CIS was carried on by Xplay 6 for the first time, and its specifications are similar to those of IMX260 adopted by Samsung Galaxy S7. So IMX362 is also considered as a modification version of IMX260.

HTC also mentioned "UltraSpeed Autofocus", also known as "full-pixel dual-core auto focus", on its official website. It firstly appeared on IMX260, and now IMX362 inherits this technology. The so called dual-pixel is a new on-chip phase detection auto focus system. It takes advantage of two sub-pixels as the phase detection point. The two sub-pixels share a common micro lens so that the pixel space is not squeezed and the area of detecting point is quadrupled. Full pixel dual-core auto focus means all pixel units are capable of phase detecting. The focusing performance of Galaxy 7 stuns people greatly, and also makes such technique high-profile.

Lens

Brands=HTC;Model=HTC U-3W;Focal Length=4mm;Focal Length In 35mm Format=0mm;F-number=F1.7;Metering Mode=Manual;ISO Speed=ISO81;White Balance=Auto;Exposure Bias Value=0.0EV;Exposure Time=1/1800seconds;Exposure Program=Not defined;Scene Capture Type=Standard;DateTime=2017.06.26 16:41:00
Brands=HTC;Model=HTC U-3W;Focal Length=4mm;Focal Length In 35mm Format=0mm;F-number=F1.7;Metering Mode=Manual;ISO Speed=ISO98;White Balance=Auto;Exposure Bias Value=0.0EV;Exposure Time=1/11697seconds;Exposure Program=Not defined;Scene Capture Type=Standard;DateTime=2017.07.10 15:36:30
Brands=HTC;Model=HTC U-3W;Focal Length=4mm;Focal Length In 35mm Format=0mm;F-number=F1.7;Metering Mode=Manual;ISO Speed=ISO95;White Balance=Auto;Exposure Bias Value=0.0EV;Exposure Time=1/11697seconds;Exposure Program=Not defined;Scene Capture Type=Standard;DateTime=2017.07.10 16:44:56

The aperture of U11 is F1.7, and the equivalent focal length is actually measured as about 26mm. U11 combines the OIS (Optical Image Stabilization) with the Electronic Image Stabilization technique, which is named as Dual Image Stabilization system by HTC. The designing idea is almost the same with iPhone 7 Plus.

The lens design of a large aperture together with a wide angle, is unfavorable to the resolution of edges, but the real performance of U11 impresses people incredibly. The central imaging enables abundant details and exquisite lines. It can be said that U11 has one of the best lens, which can be on a par with Pixel XL and Lumia 950XL. The resolution of edges is a bit lower, but the quality keeps at a very high level, which is pretty surprising. The general resolution is remarkable, and the great optical performance is one of the main reasons. As for image process, the stack imaging technique may be adopted.

U11 has a good performance when strong light shining into directly. The contrast is not apparently affected, but there may be solar flares or ghosting. In fact, this is not a problem as the flares and ghosting look not that bad, and can be blended in the images. Side backlight would produce a less-severe haze, and it can be avoided by adjusting the angle.

AutoFocus

Brands=HTC;Model=HTC U-3W;Focal Length=4mm;Focal Length In 35mm Format=0mm;F-number=F1.7;Metering Mode=Manual;ISO Speed=ISO82;White Balance=Auto;Exposure Bias Value=0.0EV;Exposure Time=1/2924seconds;Exposure Program=Not defined;Scene Capture Type=Standard;DateTime=2017.06.26 15:23:25
Brands=HTC;Model=HTC U-3W;Focal Length=4mm;Focal Length In 35mm Format=0mm;F-number=F1.7;Metering Mode=Manual;ISO Speed=ISO79;White Balance=Auto;Exposure Bias Value=0.0EV;Exposure Time=1/3899seconds;Exposure Program=Not defined;Scene Capture Type=Standard;DateTime=2017.06.26 15:23:14

There is no model that is based on "dual pixel"owning a bad AF. With a quick response speed, the focusing can be finished instantly. Combining with pre-focus algorithm, the phone can focus on the exact spot where the camera points to at the same time. The focusing has been finished before the finger touches the shooting button. Such experience is certainly good, for no waiting is needed. U11 also optimize micro shooting quite well. It would give priority to AF on nearer objects, while many models would focus on the background in micro shooting. In low light scenes, U11 can also AF fast with even a little light. There is nothing to worry about AF because the AF experience of U11 is really fluent and comfort.

Brands=OPPO;Model=OPPO R11;Focal Length=4mm;Focal Length In 35mm Format=25mm;F-number=F1.7;Metering Mode=Center Weighted Average;ISO Speed=ISO51;White Balance=Auto;Exposure Time=1/8205seconds;Exposure Program=Not defined;Scene Capture Type=Standard;DateTime=2017.06.26 16:23:13

Metering

Brands=HTC;Model=HTC U-3W;Focal Length=4mm;Focal Length In 35mm Format=0mm;F-number=F1.7;Metering Mode=Manual;ISO Speed=ISO543;White Balance=Auto;Exposure Bias Value=0.0EV;Exposure Time=1/14seconds;Exposure Program=Not defined;Scene Capture Type=Standard;DateTime=2017.06.29 12:41:42
Brands=HTC;Model=HTC U-3W;Focal Length=4mm;Focal Length In 35mm Format=0mm;F-number=F1.7;Metering Mode=Manual;ISO Speed=ISO1243;White Balance=Auto;Exposure Bias Value=0.0EV;Exposure Time=1/14seconds;Exposure Program=Not defined;Scene Capture Type=Standard;DateTime=2017.06.29 12:47:19
Brands=HTC;Model=HTC U-3W;Focal Length=4mm;Focal Length In 35mm Format=0mm;F-number=F1.7;Metering Mode=Manual;ISO Speed=ISO81;White Balance=Auto;Exposure Bias Value=0.0EV;Exposure Time=1/1462seconds;Exposure Program=Not defined;Scene Capture Type=Standard;DateTime=2017.06.26 16:33:26
Brands=HTC;Model=HTC U-3W;Focal Length=4mm;Focal Length In 35mm Format=0mm;F-number=F1.7;Metering Mode=Manual;ISO Speed=ISO87;White Balance=Auto;Exposure Bias Value=-0.8EV;Exposure Time=1/2924seconds;Exposure Program=Not defined;Scene Capture Type=Standard;DateTime=2017.06.26 16:33:49

There is something wrong with U11's EXIF data, which metering modes are all shown as "manual", while in fact, many photos are taken automatically. Those exposure compensation shows not 0 are by manual exposure. So don't be misled by the wrong EXIF. However, the scenarios needing manual metering of U11 are quite a lot, because auto metering has a problem of inaccuracy.

In sunny scenarios, there is no serious problem. In a scene with a large luminance range, the areas in light color would easily overflow. In low light scenes, the metering is easily to be over-reacted, making the images brighter. But the actual scene is not the case. Such over-reacted metering leads to incorrect luminance, prolongs exposure time, and increases the probability of shaking-blurring. Sometimes the sensitivity is also forced to be raised, in order to shorten shutter speed. In these scenarios, manual operations are necessary. Usually this time, you will think of the function of weighted metering which is named as "click to auto focus", but it is off by default. In both automatic and professional modes, U11 provides exposure compensation of 3EV with 1EV step.

U11's auto metering is not so smart. It cannot provide right exposures like other models in most scenes. U11 needs manual intervention, so shooting experience is in need. As phone cameras become more and more automatic nowadays, this would be a very apparent shortcoming, making the phone much less convenient to use.

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