iPhone 5s vs. HTC One M8: Camera shootout!

HTC One M8 vs. iPhone 5s: An in-depth camera comparison

iPhone 5s vs. HTC One M8 photography comparison: From low light to panoramas to HDR — which smartphone camera reigns supreme?

The iPhone 5s and the HTC One M8 arguably have two of the best smartphone cameras on the market. Sure the iPhone is 6 months old and the HTC One is brand new, but until Apple releases an iPhone 6, these are devices we have to choose from right now. The HTC One M8 tosses conventional megapixels aside in favor of UltraPixels, which is a fancy way of saying they suck in a lot of light. The iPhone 5s' iSight camera has smaller pixels, but twice as many. Even though both of them look great on paper, how they perform in the real world is what really matters. That's why we're putting the iPhone 5s and HTC One M8 head-to-head, camera-to-camera, in a full-on, in depth, photography shootout. So, which smartphone camera reigns supreme?

iPhone 5s vs HTC One M8: Camera specifications

The iPhone 5s has an 8 megapixel (2448x3264) iSight camera with a pixel size of 1.5 micrometers, and an f/2.2 aperture. The HTC One M8 has not one, but two rear cameras. HTC calls it a Duo camera. The main lens sports a 4 megapixel (1520 × 2688) UltraPixel sensor with an f/2.0 aperture and a pixel size of 2.0 micrometers. The secondary lens is there strictly to gather information about depth. Both the iPhone 5s and HTC One M8 feature backside illumination (BSI) which gets the wiring out of the way so the sensor can capture as much light as possible.

Like its predecessor, the HTC One M8 focuses less on sheer megapixel count and more on the size and quality of the pixels. Looking at specifications only, our gut tells us that means the HTC One M8, like the one before it, should take some seriously great low light photos but struggle a bit in brighter settings. It could also cause it to struggle a little while capturing motion shots. The iPhone 5s on the other hand has a higher megapixel count and a lower aperture. That should make it faster and more able to capture brighter shots without over exposing them.

iPhone 5s vs HTC One M8: Consistency

Unless otherwise specified, I used each camera in each test exactly the way they came out of the box. All settings were default. On the iPhone 5s that means I am running iOS 7.1 with Auto HDR enabled. On the HTC One M8 I am running KitKat 4.4.2 with HTC Sense 6.0. All settings are on Auto for every comparison.

I did choose a focus point when necessary. Otherwise, I let the hardware and software do all the heavy lifting.

iPhone 5s vs HTC One M8: Every day photography

From left to right: iPhone 5s, HTC One M8

HTC One M8 vs. iPhone 5s: HTC One M8 vs. iPhone 5s: General photographyHTC One M8 vs. iPhone 5s: General photographyHTC One M8 vs. iPhone 5s: General photographyHTC One M8 vs. iPhone 5s: General photographyHTC One M8 vs. iPhone 5s: General photographyHTC One M8 vs. iPhone 5s: General photographyHTC One M8 vs. iPhone 5s: General photographyHTC One M8 vs. iPhone 5s: General photography

From top to bottom: iPhone 5s, HTC One M8

HTC One M8 vs. iPhone 5s: General photography

The first thing I noticed is that the HTC One M8 occasionally has a hard time handling bright light. This is especially evident in the photos of the candle holder and the dogs on the bed. The lighting in both is blown out in the HTC One's samples. This is most likely due to the larger sensor and higher aperture on the M8. In other instances the HTC One M8 produced darker images in bright light, almost as if it overcompensated in order to not overexpose.

On the other hand, if you look at the photo of the incense jars, the M8 does a much better job of handling white balance than the iPhone 5s. The shelf looks yellow in the iPhone 5s sample while it's a better representation of real life in the HTC One's sample.

The iPhone 5s may not balance whites as well as the HTC One M8 but it's more consistent in producing images that are well lit and not over exposed. The HTC One struggles in bright settings and that's a much more noticeable problem.

Winner: iPhone 5s.

iPhone 5s vs HTC One M8: Capturing motion

From left to right: iPhone 5s, HTC One M8

HTC One M8 vs. iPhone 5s: Motion captureHTC One M8 vs. iPhone 5s: Motion captureHTC One M8 vs. iPhone 5s: Motion capture

From top to bottom: iPhone 5s, HTC One M8

HTC One M8 vs. iPhone 5s: Motion

For motion capture I didn't use any extra features on either camera and used them as they'd come out of the box stock, since with motion you typically have one chance to capture something. In almost every scenario the iPhone 5s produced clearer and more vivid images. Both suffered in lower light scenarios where motion was concerned but the iPhone 5s still faired better. I did not use burst mode on either device for the sake of consistency. It is worth noting however that the HTC One M8's burst mode can capture 12 fps while the iPhone 5s' can capture 10 fps. The difference was negligible in my experience though and the HTC One M8 still produced darker images.

When it comes to capturing motion, the iPhone 5s does a better all around job with less room for error.

Winner: iPhone 5s

iPhone 5s vs HTC One M8: Low light photography

HTC One M8 vs. iPhone 5s: Low light photographyHTC One M8 vs. iPhone 5s: Low lightHTC One M8 vs. iPhone 5s: Low lightHTC One M8 vs. iPhone 5s: Low lightHTC One M8 vs. iPhone 5s: Low lightHTC One M8 vs. iPhone 5s: Low light

The HTC One M8 lets you edit ISO settings in the native camera app, so changing them is fair game. I attempted to get the best possible photo from each device given the settings I had to work with. What I found interesting was that I expected the HTC One M8 to do a lot better in low light than the iPhone 5s due to the aperture and pixel size. That wasn't always the case and no matter what I did, I still had noticeable amounts of grain in both samples. The iPhone 5s was more consistent in what it produced though. It produces consistently darker images for the most part but there was less noise. I never managed to find a happy medium with ISO on the HTC One M8, which was disappointing.

Both the iPhone 5s and HTC One M8 produce passable low light images but the results can be sketchy and still show significant amounts of noise.

Winner: HTC One M8, but only by a slight margin

iPhone 5s vs HTC One M8: Flash photography

From left to right: iPhone 5s, HTC One M8

HTC One M8 vs. iPhone 5s: FlashHTC One M8 vs. iPhone 5s: FlashHTC One M8 vs. iPhone 5s: Flash

Flash photography is always hit and miss with a smartphone but in the 6 months I've been using my iPhone 5s, I've found it to be passable. The HTC One M8 is also passable and most of the time produces an image you'll be happy with — unless there's any kind of motion involved. In that instance, you'll get blur. The iPhone 5s struggles here too but not nearly as bad. The most interesting thing I discovered is that the iPhone 5s under low lighting conditions does a much better job balancing whites, which is the opposite of what I found during normal lighting conditions. Perhaps this is due to the iPhone 5s' flash and its ability to produce more natural skin tones and hues. Maybe it wasn't just marketing jargon Apple was spitting out?

The iPhone 5s produces an overall better image where flash photography is concerned.

Winner: iPhone 5s.

iPhone 5s vs HTC One M8: HDR photography

From left to right: iPhone 5s, HTC One M8

HTC One M8 vs. iPhone 5s: HDRHTC One M8 vs. iPhone 5s: HDRHTC One M8 vs. iPhone 5s: HDRHTC One M8 vs. iPhone 5s: HDRHTC One M8 vs. iPhone 5s: HDRHTC One M8 vs. iPhone 5s: HDRHTC One M8 vs. iPhone 5s: HDR

In the above samples I enabled HDR mode on both the iPhone 5s and the HTC One M8 so we were sure both devices were actively implementing it. The first thing I noticed is that the iPhone 5s does an incredibly better job balancing outdoor colors. Not only were they more vibrant and balanced, they were a more accurate representation of what was actually in front of me. Look at the photo of the berries and of the marina to see the huge difference in quality. The HTC One M8 doesn't do as good of a job balancing environments where there's a lot going on.

Winner: iPhone 5s

iPhone 5s vs HTC One M8: Macro and closeup photography

From left to right: iPhone 5s, HTC One M8

HTC One M8 vs. iPhone 5s: MacroHTC One M8 vs. iPhone 5s: MacroHTC One M8 vs. iPhone 5s: MacroHTC One M8 vs. iPhone 5s: MacroHTC One M8 vs. iPhone 5s: MacroHTC One M8 vs. iPhone 5s: MacroHTC One M8 vs. iPhone 5s: MacroHTC One M8 vs. iPhone 5s: Macro

When it comes to macro photography, both the iPhone 5s and the HTC One M8 do incredibly well. I was able to get almost on top of subjects without having problems focusing. The iPhone 5s allowed me to get in a hair closer before focusing became difficult but the HTC One M8 was hot on its heels.

Both the iPhone 5s and HTC One M8 produce stellar closeups that anyone would be happy with.

Winner: Tie.

iPhone 5s vs HTC One M8: Digital zoom

From left to right: iPhone 5s, HTC One M8

HTC One M8 vs. iPhone 5s: ZoomHTC One M8 vs. iPhone 5s: ZoomHTC One M8 vs. iPhone 5s: ZoomHTC One M8 vs. iPhone 5s: Zoom

Both the iPhone 5s and HTC One M8 suffer when using digital zoom to its fullest extent. For each shot above I zoomed in as far as each camera would allow me. It becomes apparent very quickly that the iPhone 5s' higher resolution works in its favor as colors remain sharper without getting the hazy effect the HTC One M8 suffers from. I was also able to zoom in further with the iPhone 5s from the same point.

If you have to use the zoom feature frequently, the iPhone 5s' will fair far better than the HTC One M8's due to its 4 MP resolution.

Winner: iPhone 5s.

iPhone 5s vs HTC One M8: Panoramas

From top to bottom: iPhone 5s, HTC One M8

HTC One M8 vs. iPhone 5s: PanoramasHTC One M8 vs. iPhone 5s: PanoramasHTC One M8 vs. iPhone 5s: Panoramas

I was pleasantly surprised with how well the HTC One M8 handles panoramic photos. Not only is the Camera app easy to use and more forgiving, it produced consistently good panoramas. A lot of this you can attribute to software and how the feature itself works. I expected certain areas to be blown out where bright light was present but it wasn't nearly as bad as I expected. The iPhone 5s also produces consistently great panoramic shots and in most cases displays more accurate colors and tones — which we've seen throughout this entire comparison so far. So no surprise there.

They're both good but if you're picky about color, you're going to prefer the iPhone 5s.

Winner: Tie.

iPhone 5s vs HTC One M8: Depth of field

From left to right: iPhone 5s, HTC One M8

HTC One M8 vs. iPhone 5s: BokehHTC One M8 vs. iPhone 5s: BokehHTC One M8 vs. iPhone 5s: Bokeh

From top to bottom: iPhone 5s, HTC One M8

HTC One M8 vs. iPhone 5s: Bokeh

Bokeh is a term used when you want to achieve a shallow depth of field, also known as blurring the background for those not familiar with photography terminology. The secondary rear camera on the HTC One M8 is specifically made to capture depth information. A feature built in to the camera called Ufocus lets you tap to change the focus of a photo, as well as do a plethora of other cool things. Since it's built into the camera, it's fair game for this comparison. You can tell in the bottom photo of the coffee cup that the Ufocus feature not only works, but it works extremely well. The only photo above I did not use the Ufocus feature on is the photo of the Lego keychain on the railing. Those are stock photos in order to show the depth of field difference straight off the camera.

When it comes to bokeh and other special effects, the HTC One M8's depth sensor blows the iPhone 5s out of the water. It may be a novelty, but it's a damn cool one.

If you want to learn more about the HTC One M8's Ufocus feature as well as the other special effects the depth sensor is capable of achieving, check out Android Central's coverage of the M8's camera.

Winner: HTC One M8

iPhone 5s vs HTC One M8: The bottom line

HTC One M8 vs. iPhone 5s: An in-depth camera comparison

The HTC One M8 offers a lot of extras but it's at the sake of consistency — which is something Apple has managed to pretty much nail with the iPhone 5s. Sure the Duo camera is a neat feature, but it doesn't save the M8 from falling short during every day scenarios. Having only 4 megapixels, even if they are UltraPixels, has a seriously negative impact on resolution. Not only are the iPhone 5s' images consistently crisper and clearer, the zoom feature is actually useable. I may have been able to overlook some of that if the low light photos on the HTC One M8 were what I expected. Sadly, they weren't. In most instances both devices produced images that were so similar, the different was negligible. In comparison, the iPhone 5 really struggled in low light last year — if you can remember from our 2013 HTC One vs iPhone 5 comparison. I didn't find that to be the case with the iPhone 5s. The improvements are obvious.

HTC and Apple made very different choices this year when it comes to camera hardware. In my opinion, Apple wins this round. The iPhone 5s does a great job of balancing colors, tones, and exposure 99.9% of the time. And for people who just want to pull out their phone, snap a photo, and not have to fiddle with settings, they'll appreciate that. The HTC One M8's Duo camera does some neat tricks but I would have rather seen HTC focus on overall image quality before adding bells and whistles.

iPhone 5s vs HTC One M8: Your thoughts?

We can objectively measure specs. We can read more megapixels or bigger pixels, higher aperture or number of lens elements. We can also make subjective calls. We can say which colors or levels just look better to our eyes. But a good camera is more than the sum of its parts, and the definition of a good camera can and will vary from person to person depending on their priorities and tastes. So, if you've tried both the iPhone 5s and the HTC One M8 let me know which one you liked better and why. If you haven't, check out the photos above and give me your assessment. iPhone 5s or HTC One M8 — which camera is better for you?

See also:

Have something to say about this story? Leave a comment! Need help with something else? Ask in our forums!

Allyson Kazmucha

Senior editor for iMore. I can take apart an iPhone in less than 6 minutes. I also like coffee and Harry Potter more than anyone really should.

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iPhone 5s vs. HTC One M8: Camera shootout!


Just visiting from Android Central. This review was completely and utterly.... correct. HTC blew it... again.

Also like to add that this review was completely and utterly...useless. We KNOW that HTC one has the worst camera of all leading smartphones including android and iphone5/s.

I actually am using the HTC One M8 as a secondary phone, and activated another line because i like it THAT much. There goes your iSheep theory....

Yet you compared the feature that is weakest on the HTC to one of the strongest features of the iPhone... Like a lot of people have said here, "Was there any question which phone would win in the camera department?"
It would be like me comparing the screens of these two phones, there's no comparison.

I still found it useful. Photos are a big deal to me and many others. The HTC One is a great phone in many ways and honestly the photos weren't horrible and many of the issues look fixable in firmware, no?

Exactly this. Some people are willing to overlook a few shortcomings. Perhaps one person takes a lot of night photos while another takes a lot of daytime photos. They may have completely different needs making one phone better for them while the other is perfectly okay for someone else. We have choices for a reason. My job is to help people make a more informed decision. No more, no less.

We write about what people are searching for. And this was a huge thing people were asking for and searching for. So we did a camera comparison. Because you know, our readers asked for it.

Nice, review Allyson kazmucha, this was really helpfull, then the other ones. Keep it on. And can you do the same for Samsung galaxy s5 and iPhone 5s, and Xperia z2 thanks

But these are two flagships that are supposed to have a great camera... Can you just not give credit where credit is due ? It doesn't always have to be about iOS vs Android.

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benthe1 says: "iSheep need more reasons to buy the iPhone than Fandroids need to buy a flagship Android."

Ah, the life of a troll. You get to go and hang out at blogs concerning products, companies, and consumers you dislike (mainly because they have chosen something different than you did, and they are happy with their choice). You also get to freely insult people you don't know and have never met, due to the comfort of your anonymity on the Internet.

It is a life that only the least satisfied, and most immature people dream of living... and do live it.


Can you restate that in some sort of rational context? My comment had absolutely nothing to do with mirrors or sleeping...

... or perhaps this is just your way of expressing your discomfort with an accurate description of the life of a troll (You know, the type of people who call other people names like "iSheep", using insults as a form of communication).

Well if you didn't get my mirror comment then I feel sorry for you. Here, let me explain it to you. The mirror reference is just symbolism of me saying, all the descriptive words you used to explain me were actually explaining yourself. How so, you may ask? Well, first you called me a troll, (insult), second, you said I hang around blogs, (I guess you do too), third, you say I insult people freely because I'm using the comfort of my anonymity , (what's your real name again?).

I hope my explanation helped you. If you need any other explanation for why you're an ignoramus please let me know.

I think that's the point of competition right? More reasons to chose one device over another which fits your specific needs. Right? Seems right?

Please don't forget that the IPhone itself has enhanced colours, Such as reds,blues,yellows and greens that does make it look like it has the better picture. Also I do agree that HTC has blown it its camera and could have done a better job... But at-least they have put some thought into "an" Idea. I am neither leaning towards the IPhone or HTC. But all together they are both great phone and even out in the end.

"HTC and Apple made very different choices this year..."

Funny thing is that this is Apple's last year phone. This year's can only get better.

Not really. I have both. Lumia has better glass, iPhone has better chips. If you're a photographer, get the Lumia, if you're not, get the iPhone 5s.

Let me correct it right, " Rene is talking false stuff, because eahinrichsen thinks people buy iPhone because Rene asks them to do so?"

I mean how foolish can that be. People buy iPhones because they love it. You have the right to hate the truth but remember you cannot change it. Apple will continue to sell more and more iPhones beating past records. This time 75 million in One quarter.

So normal person shouldn't get the best camera? You will be the first person to jump all over it if the iPhone had same camera capabilities as the Lumia 1020.

Maybe I wasn't clear: The Lumia 1020 isn't the best camera for most people. I use a Canon 5D Mark III but it's not what I'd recommend to most people who just want to take photos.

The iPhone 5s camera is, in most cases, just as good as the Lumia 1020. What the Lumia 1020 does better aren't things most people taking every day photographs will care about. They are things people who want RAW or long exposures, etc. will care about, so it's great there's that option.

I agree with Rene here. I use my phone to take pictures of my kids. I just like to be able to take my phone out and quickly snap the picture before the moment passes. My gf 5s is perfect for that task, as my Note 2 doesn't work quite as well for this. I'm hoping the GS5 camera is really good. I don't want to fiddle around with setting to get a great picture because I typically don't have the time to try.

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You use the Canon for photography and wouldn't recommend it to people who want to take photos? Is it not a good camera?

I can't agree. I have both also and the detail the 1020 captures, even for quick snapshots of my kids, is incredible. The 5s is very good but the 1020 is better.

As an all round device though, the 5s is better.

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I think that's what Rene is implying. It's an all around great camera that doesn't require fiddling with settings etc.. snap a photo and 99.9% of the time, you're happy with what the iPhone 5s captured.

Yes exactly, with iPhone its simple point and click no brainer, no fiddling with settings, and it works most of the time, and where it fails to capture the details, there most of smartphones fails. And one drawback which i felt with lumia 1020, is amount of time I have to wait to take next pic, but with 5s there is no waiting.

With all due respect Rene because I value your opinion, the Lumia 1020 shouldn't even be in this conversation. Just the pixel count alone puts it in another league compared to the M8 and the 5s. Add the quality of the glass in there and you might as well say you have a camera that makes phone calls as opposed to a cell phone with a camera. And we ARE talking about cell phone cameras here. I do consider myself a photographer - not a pro by any means, but an enthusiast and still a photographer - and I prefer the iPhone over any other phone because I believe it does the best job of processing the images that it takes. Sure there were times when the M8 did a better job in Ally's comparison, but overall, for a phone, the iPhone reign's superior for me. Great job on the article Ally.

If you do not want the 1020 in the conversation -- for some absurd reason -- then you can throw the Lumia 1520 in there. A conventional phone camera with OIS and takes better pics than my 5S in most conditions. And, since it has a sun-light-impervious screen, you can actually take that photo even in bright day light. I am amazed how people never criticize the poor outdoor visibility of the iPhone screen. I have even missed photos because of it -- did not see a damned thing of the screen. Usability fail onApple's part. On Nokia devices, every hardware aspect always just works in all conditions -- camera, screen, mics, battery life, etc. It is these practical, small-on-paper details that Apple has started missing lately in favour of some easily-marketable 64-bit silliness and overpowered processors.

Hard to believe you actually have a 5s with these comments. They're almost 180° different experiences I'm enjoying with the 5s. I, too, shoot a 5dmk3 & 2. We do a lot of motion with Panasonic cameras as well. The iPhone is hands down my favorite 'phone cam' and has provided plenty of 'B' stock footage on national, Alaskan broadcasts you may have seen on Discovery, History or NatGeo. Keep in mind, an NG photog just did a four continent tour shooting about 6,000 shots with the 5s. A couple of their recent publications showcase those shots. The Nokias aren't bad cameras. They're quite good...but when a person is planning to take a 'quick shot' (snapshot), they're reaching for a simple, always on soliton. One that's with them daily, has immediate response and execution time and maybe most importantly for the bulk of the 'public'....the 'auto' functionality is phenomenal.

Don't get me wrong, I'm not dissing Nokia for the cameras they put in their devices, but I just think the pixel count doesn't belong in the same category as the iPhone or the HTC devices in this comparison. The 1520 has 20 megapixels, more than most point-and-shoot digital cameras. I've never used a Nokia phone before so I can't say how good the hardware is, but in all honesty, the number of times when I've taken a picture and couldn't see it for the sunlight on the screen is really a small number. In any case, the bottom line here is that this was simply a comparison between the 5s and HTC One M8. Maybe iMore can do a big multi phone camera shootout where we can discuss all the brands.

iPhone also has a camera UI that is a travesty. Nokia's UI design seems like years ahead in this area. It really lets one take that good picture every time, in all conditions. It makes even a horrible photographer decent.

I've owned both and the iPhone is just better at taking pictures consistently up to mark. You'd have to fiddle around the L1020 far too much to get an excellent shot. The software on it isn't good enough.

I have neither phone, however looking at the shots and angles, there are some issues. We all know that when we take a picture, especially against either something close, or at a different angle than the previous picture, the results can vary widely even on teh same device.

Moving a camera even a few inches can darken or lighten an image due to ambient lighting. Looking at the thread, the coffee store side, the candlestick holder, the white flower, the dog under the cut the rope doll, etc... suffer the same issue, one or the other, in various pictures is noticeably in a different spot. That alone can skew the results either way.If you really wanted to compare, put the camera on a tripod and universal mount to take a picture in the exact same spot. Then come back and show us the results. As it stands now, the results aren't that great in a majority of cases.

I was waiting for this post even reading the article only.

So we have 40+ coincidences here, on the M8? Damn that fate!

I can assure you I did not move an inch. We also are not scientists. Also remember that there is a vast difference in resolution here as well as sensor size, which means the HTC One M8 and iPhone 5s fit different amounts of space into a frame. Same thing happens when you have cropped lenses or a cropped sensor on a DSLR as opposed to full frame. I'm not a scientist and this is subjective.

And the point wasn't to produce the "best possible image" - it was to produce the image you'd get pulling your phone out of your pocket and snapping a photo, which is real life. I don't know many people that carry tripods around for their smartphones on a daily basis, do you? This is how these phones perform in real life, not in a lab. And I'd think that is what matters, no?

I got a lot of motion blur on it to be honest. The point was that in still photography, the iPhone 5s did well without burst even used. Bad wording on my part though, I'll change it. Thanks!

I didn't mean my comment to come across as scathing. iPhone 5s has an epic burst mode. It's the only reason I get any good pics of my ever in motion pugs. It definitely helps you get a good shot sometimes when taking only one would result in a blurry mess.

Great and fair comparison.

For over a year, it seems that the vast majority of HTC owners/fans have been telling HTC to ditch the "Megapixel" gimmick...So how did HTC respond? Hell, just add 2 MegaPixel cameras: Double the gimmick... It used to be the ARROGANT/OVER-RATED Jobs who would enjoy pontificating, "WE ( APPLE) tell you what YOU like!" ; and the APPLE-CHUMPS would slobber all over themselves while nodding to their APPLE GULAG Master. Sorry HTC, but ANDROID owners are more independent & demonstrate a MORE discriminating palate; the other Flagship phones being released this year by the OTHER companies will be stomping all over this MEGAPIXEL 2/Year 2 camera...AGAIN.

It's not a gimmick. What they should have done was make the sensor bigger. 6 MP is what they should have upgraded to. That would have helped a lot and the software is the other key part of this. Apple probably has the best software processing and that is the magic. HTC can make upgrade the software because it's still new with the dual lenses. HTC also has to get a company to manufactor these camera sensors just for HTC and since they don't have lots of money and their HTC ONE didn't sell crazy amounts HTC probably recycled most of the camera sensors that they already were on the hook for and thats why its only a slightly different camera. 6 MP sensor would have been a clearly better camera then the 4 they have now.The sensor would have to be 50% bigger than the current on however. I think if it sells good this year and HTC can make some money they should be able to upgrade to around a 6 MP sensor or more. I'm wanting to see the Samsung S5 now.

Not much of a camera buff but the 5S IMO takes better pictures. HTC built a dynamite phone, they cheaped out on the camera. Maybe a software update could fix the problems but out of the box it should be much better. HTC is just being stubborn trying to force this 4 pixel down the consumers throat. That phone would have hit a grand slam if not for the camera.

Good article. Overall iPhone 5s camera is a clear winner. When it comes to Lumia 1020 which I owned and purchased because of 41 mp sensor is way too slow. I used to miss so many moments because of it that I gave up. Speed + good picture quality is winner. You can have 41 mp sensor but when it's that slow you can only take set up shots. hTC did cheap out and it's very sad they continued with same thing this year. Most of people care how many megapixels the camera is because all they know is the more the better.

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This is my only complaint with my 1020. It gets consistently better photos than my iPhone 5 or my nexus 5 ( the camera on this is so disappointing ) in various situations. But I have two little girls and the processing delay and the delay upon opening the app is frustrating to say the least. If they could fix that, no smartphone camera really compares to it. Maybe a better processor does that.

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The differences really aren't huge but, like I had already guessed before reading this article, the 5S is better. That being said, I still bought an M8 because the camera is a very low factor for me and the shots produced here would be very sufficient. What draws me to HTC phones is their unparalleled sound quality (external and internal), amazing screens, and beautiful designs.

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I'm actually a bit suprised the differences were not greater. Kudos to Allie for at least trying to be fair here

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Just to put some perspective, assuming all things are equal (and they most likely are not, you can also see differences in the lenses between the two phones), the difference in pixel well size (1.5 vs 2 microns) won't produce as big a difference as most people would hope for. Most people won't notice a difference in noise/dynamic range unless it improves by 1EV; in other words, the amount of light gathered has to double. Between the One and the 5s, the difference is only 1/3EV (33% more). You might see that difference between DSLR's, but that difference gets buried in the limitations that cellphone cameras have. There used to be a time when trading resolution for image quality worked, but technology has advanced to the point that in most applications, more resolution means more data. You can definitely see that with the 5s, as there's no contest in picking up subtle textures on fabrics and surfaces.

However, increasing the area of the image sensor is one way to improve it; the other is to improve the efficiency of the circuitry and light gathering ability, and with that, iSight cameras seem to be pretty good at this. The One produces output that looks under-optimized compared to the 5s; you could definitely get more pleasing images with more tweaking, but as per the point of the post, that would be extra work.

It's possible using a different camera app on the HTC One M8, still using auto mode , to get 3 times the file size and hence a lot more data. The M8 is a fun camera.

The iPhone 5S is unbeatable for quality.

I have both phones.

I've had the HTC One M8 for a about a week now, having donated my iPhone 5 to my wife. So much debate over nuances of camera quality. I guess it all comes down to your own priorities. I don't need my phone to be my best camera. I have a Nikon One with 6 lenses, if I want to take incredible photos with crop options galore, I have a tool for that already. I'm not looking for a phone to render my camera obsolete or irrelevant. 99.9% of my phone photos go no further than social networks or email. Again, maybe I'm one of the few people here who don't publish my phone photos in upcoming issues of National Geographic. I want my phone to do things and offer neat features that my stand-alone camera can't easily replicate. Low light performance is also important on the phone because you're often taking photos in impromptu less than ideal lighting. Too much debate over megapixel counts and slight deviations in detail when it comes to phone cameras in my opinion. If you're truly honest about your use case, chances are, it's barely relevant. If you want your phone to be the absolute best camera you own, chances are the M8 won't be the right choice or the best choice on the market, certainly. If you want an incredibly well designed Android phone, with the best speakers in the business and a camera that does some cool unique things and takes totally decent photos, the M8 is a great choice.

My thoughts exactly, which is why I am commenting on my new M8.
This is my second HTC ONE and I have not yet purchased a smartphone for its photography.

No issues for which phone you prefer. However, it's silly to start making excuses. There is a point where megapixels become meaningless. It's not 4 MP though. Given the size of lenses and image sensors in phones, 8 MP does seem to be the sweet spot.
A mobile phone should never be the best camera someone owns. However, your mobile phone is the best camera that you'll always have with you. The criteria for this type of a device is to take decent photos with decent levels of performance and versatility. There are trade-offs with every mobile device. There are also physical limitations. In order to get a bigger sensor, you'll need bigger lenses and a thicker phone. Unless you want your lens extending out of the case (like the Nokia phones), you have to work within the confines of the space available.
The bottom line is that there are trade-offs to make. I don't feel that the M8 has made the right choice for these trade-offs. While you may claim cameras are not very important to you, I think it's fair to say the masses would disagree and certainly place quality of cameras well ahead of something like phone speakers.

I own the HTC One (m8) and my wife owns an iPhone 5s. We were at Disneyland this last weekend and even when I tried forcing the HTC One (m8) in to manual mode (which kills the UFocus feature, by the way) I could not get images that looked as good as the iPhone. It was a bright day out, and the HTC One just wants to over expose the image. Even HDR mode didn't help. Heck, even when I forced the exposure down, it just dipped the darker objects in to nothingness. The dynamic range on this camera just isn't there!

When I put the camera back in to auto mode and allowed it to do its own thing, I could greatly improve the feel of shot with UFocus. While that is a gimmick, it is a really, really great one. The image is still over exposed, but it is easier to excuse that.

I think this review was spot on. If HTC is able to either improve the dynamic range somehow, or allow the camera to properly expose in bright conditions, I think it would make a world of difference. Until then, the iPhone still produces some great candid shots far better than the HTC One (m8). In my opinion, that's what smartphone cameras really excel at: candid shots. If I want a beautiful shot that just blows your mind, while possible on a smartphone, I'll probably be using a DSLR of sorts with something like fixed 50mm f/1.8 glass. But if I have something that I just want to grab now without too much fiddling, my smartphone is the easiest device to do that on.

Other than the camera, I think the HTC One (m8) is a stellar smartphone. It is fast, feels wonderful in the hand, has a great screen, Sense isn't too terrible (although you can also go AOSP if you want) and overall just kicks major butt. Sadly the camera is one of the worst features of the smartphone, yet one of the most desired ones. They really dropped the ball there.

boom.. this guy nailed it.. honestly any normal person would be happy with any of the pics in the gallery. I do agree the HTC may need some tweaking when it comes to blowing things out.. maybe a software update can help.

dpix & bencredible summed it up perfectly. Would you use the M8 to take photos during a once in a lifetime vacation.... or would you use a real camera? Same to be said for the 5s. For myself, both are great phones. Went to the M8 from 5s simply because I could with my Verizon Edge, not regretting one bit. Now, once iPhone 6 releases either in July, October or whenever, I will be in line like everyone else, not because the M8 will be a bad phone, but, if and only if, Apple lives up to finally making a larger screen. Right now, using a camera as a selling point, is a very limiting way to "market" a phone. Look at Lumia, yeah it has like a 100000000000 pixel camera, but its a windows phone with zero apps and poor back-end software. If a camera is truly a high level selling point, Blackberry could simply put a 80-megapixel camera in their phones and win back all the market share they lost to Apple & Android. HAHA!! Even Samsung right now is missing the mark. heart monitor, ok. fingerprint something, ok been done but whatever. Still having a plastic cheap looking backing and a horrible build quality, totally inexcusable when compared to the competition. Looking at phones, I would put Samsung build quality lower than Nokia and Blackberry. HTC & Apple are light years ahead. I guess it is always what you like the most. I like a phone that works and looks good. HTC & Apple both do this consistently and will remain my choices for phones every year. Just my 2 cents

I agree with you 100%. The Lumia is a nice phone with large pixel Count.. but the pics are not good enough to justify the increased processing time.. with a phone I think you want fast/instant pics. thats really what the M8 is so good at. So is the 5s. I also traded up the M8 is over all the better phone IMO, even with the camera "issues". To be honest when i look through my photos the pics that seem to stand out are all from my HTC one M7, so I totally have no complaints about the M8.

I have a Lumia 920 and a 5c. The WP camera sensor is great and there's lots of stuff to play around with. But if you want serious photography, just go buy a decent DSLR. The WP OS is just not good enough right now. My Apple is a much better all-rounder and it captures perfectly acceptable images (and I'm not easily pleased let me tell you!)

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Both images look fine. I think 99% of phone buyers will think either camera above is perfectly fine. If there is a difference in image it's not one that matters to most people.

Very well put together comparison. Wondering if some of the M8 camera issues could be improve from a firmware update - or if the optics/sensor are simply too subpar to overcome with software fixes...

Its really not fair to anyone (me) who really wanted to be excited about the M8. I mean, some of the best speakers on a phone ever, perfect screen size for getting stuff done and watching videos/playing games. How did HTC think it would be a good idea to take the worst feature of last year's model, do absolutely nothing to change what people didn't like about it, then put all the focus they could on it just to show how much they didn't change it? UGH!!!

Well to be honest, i think your taking it a bit hard. I just got my M8 phone. Without any question its the best phone i've ever owned. From the quality feel to the amazing audio (#1 reason I bought it) to the snappy responsiveness (most snappy phone i've ever used) to the amazing screen & screen size its a winner. Using my friends 5s seriously feels toy-like in comparison. It's itty bitty size, hard angular square body, and the lack of screen widgets and blink feed make the 5s feel archaic to me. Also the swipe features of the M8 are a delight but not first noticed. As for the camera, Ive taken a few dozen pictures on my M8 now and though this comparison shows the M8 as a wounded dog in a fight, in my personal use, ive found nothing but perfectly fine images. Like others above have mentioned, I am not buying this phone to post photo of the year to National Geographic... I have a my Nikon & Canon for that. If you want the best all around phone, buy a M8. If you want the best camera buy a nikon or a canon. Also, I have never had more fun with a camera phone than the M8. The dual camera IS cool and IS fun. You can seriously do more with it than an iPhone and the picuters are really quick to shoot. Sometimes im amazed as to just how fast I can click the "take photo" button. It takes and is ready way faster than I can click. Im sure the 5s is no slouch either, but the M8 camera is really not bad. Its pretty stellar actually. Also I noticed in almost every picture above, the color is more natural in the M8. The iPhone seems more poppy and colorized... at least to my eyes.

Maybe if I was just comparing it to my iphone, that would be valid, but I have a Moto X, Note 2, and 5s that I switch around for various tasks everyday and nothing about the M8 really strikes me as a worthy upgrade from any of my current daily drivers. If the camera on my Note 2 can capture shots as good or better than the M8 (which it does from the test shots I've tried out in stores) I can't take that seriously.

Also, using anything much smaller than your current phone will feel like a toy. The HTC One last year compared to the Note 2 felt like a toy also. Super small and hard to work on without that multi window function. It all depends on what you're used to.

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Based on these images, I'd have no trouble declaring the iPhone 5s the clear winner of the macro images.

I also think the panorama is a win for the iPhone 5s, but that is more subjective.

How she got different results? Um with our EYES!!! The pictures are there for you to see and it's obvious which one is better. Pathetic.

I dunno, your (Allyson) conclusions are pretty biased as well. Your indoor shots clearly favor the HTC One M8, yet every time you minimize that fact while pumping up the iPhone's outdoor shots.

I guess we will have to disagree. I found indoor shots that contained light from a window or any lighting source to get blown out by the HTC One M8, and that bothered me. Again, photography is a touchy subject with many due to the differences in what we see. I can only be so objective before it becomes pure opinion. Basically I wish HTC would have done better. I really wanted the M8's camera to be better overall. That way Apple steps up their game and everyone wins. I just don't feel the differences were that vast. For having 6 extra months, HTC missed the mark for sure. Not to say it isn't a great camera. If I only owned the M8, i'd be perfectly happy with the camera. But since I have a 5s, i'll favor that for photos, at least until I see something better come along. i'm interested to see how the S5 does.

But that's the point. It's all subjective. On some of the images you think one is better someonone else may believe the other is. On most of them I could definitely see a difference yes but did not necessarily think the iPhone was better.

I give you credit for going through the motions and at least trying to be objective, and think you honestly believe you were. But unless you pitted the iPhone against something clearly superior by several magnitudes the iPhone was going to be the winner and at best there would be a tie.

You did a lot better job at this then most who simply decided the thing was bad before even trying it. It's sad that a lot of people will not choose this phone because of one of those reviews or something a tech minded phone tells them even though it's a perfectly good camera for the vast majority of users.

Now that being said I don't think either is the best camera phone. I give that honor to the LG G2.

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I have the G2 i don't agree as I also have the HTC one from last year. In the day time its ok but at night it doesn't come close to my HTC one . I have both because I work for LG. I mean its a solid camera but over all I like my HTC one pics better. I'm no ultra pixel camera fan tho I personally plan on picking up the Xperia Z2 soon for its camera.

Somehow here you only post articles about topics where it is clear the Iphone will win. The camera of the M8 is its weakness. I hope you post a camera comparison with the S5 next week!

Not really. i like the M8 and am keeping it as a secondary phone. Also, we are an iPhone centric site so yeah, we post comparisons against iPhones, because that's what our readers care about. Actually, I wanted HTC to win, I really did. Because that forces Apple to step up their game even more for the iPhone 6, and isn't that better for everyone?

As I told you. I am interested to see if you will post a detailed camera comparison with the Samsung S5.

Actually the HTC One M8 produces better indoor shots, but inferior outdoor shots. Fortunately it's just a matter of a software update to fix the outdoor auto exposure algorithm. I know it hurts for a fanboy to hear that his beloved toy isn't the best in the world, but hey that's life.

I was a little surprised with indoor and low light stuff and it seems it's hit and miss. I found the HTC One 2013 did a lot better than the iPhone 5. Perhaps the 5s was really an improvement, or something with the M8 is off-kilter here, perhaps software? I found the differences this time around indoor to be negligible. Not to discredit either though, and honestly if I only owned an M8, I'd be perfectly happy with it.

Nice, thorough job, Allyson. No question that Apple has the superior camera. Also no surprise. But I lend my voice to those who do not make smartphone purchasing decisions based upon the camera. The device itself is a tool; equivalent (if not more frequently used) than a desktop or laptop computer; and the OS and apps and everything else have to work reliably and easily first, then you can consider the addons and bells and whistles. I've been using these devices for years and never once have I permitted the extras to affect the decision on the bottom line.

It's also like flavors of ice cream. So, while I respect those who favor Apple, my phone is an HTC One M8.

Yes, you're absolutely right, a good camera is more than the sum of its parts and I'd to add that...
A good camera does not exist on any phone...period...And never will..The end!.
The only way you're ever gonna get great pictures from a phone is if they become large cameras that happen to have a phone's functionality. It is not scientifically or photographically possible to get pictures that are comparible to a half decent dedicated compact camera, let alone a DSLR.
As for the HTC One M8's full manual controls, as oposed to the iPhones complete lack of, I'm sure I could get better results than this myself. You do actually realise that you tap to focus the M8 right? And yes,I can manually take up the colour saturation a stop or 2 to make it look more iPhone like and cartoonish. As for white balance, exposure compensation, and manual ISO settings which you can actually save for later use in the M8, where are they on the 5S?
The easiest way to get pictures in bright sunlight on the HTC One flagships, is to take Zoes and choose after. As for the flash shots,they both have identical flash units, so I'm sure HTC can and will fix in software updates. The first fix came after just 2 weeks after release last year on M7 and 2 further fixes came after that, so I have faith...
Anyway,who cares, it's phone! Phone's on cameras are for sticking pictures on social networks, you're not gonna be hanging them on walls are you?
And we didn't bother talking about the front facer which is class leading 5mp, as was the M7's 2mp. Video calling on the HTC One, then some again on the M8, is the best experience, when coupled with those 2 class leading front speakers, you're gonna find on any phone.

It's always nice to see direct comparisons. Too many people get caught up just comparing specs. Although, of the tests performed, I'd suggest two of them were completely unnecessary as they are direct results of specs.
For example. What's the point of comparing the digital zoom? Clearly, megapixels will win this comparison every time. Hence the 5s advantage. Similarly, depth of field test was unnecessary. Obviously, the larger aperture is going to win that match - hence advantage HTC.
Finally, from the images presented, I didn't share the opinions of some of the "ties". While I would agree that both cameras had issues, I wouldn't call the final images ties either. Overall, I preferred the 5s for low light tests. Even if both images had the same amount of noise, megapixels would be the tie breaker.
Similarly, in what universe is the macro photography a tie? Why does it matter how close the phone can get before focus issues occur. What should matter is the end result. Both the images of the food and the flowers clearly show the 5s to be better at macro photography. Also, how can you look at the completely unrealistic color tone in sky for the HTC panoramas and call that a "tie"? I understand the desire to appear impartial, but the results displayed don't seem to match all of the conclusions.

I just want to add that Nokia 920 is better than 1020 in my opinion as far as taking good raw pictures especially after the Amber update but as far as all around phone, I use Iphone 5 as my daily driver sometimes (besides my HTC One and my Note 3) Lol.... all these phones have their own advantage and that's why I have em all!!! Hehehe and now I'm just waiting on LG G3. ;)

The Lumia Icon is probably more comparable to these devices than the 1520 or 1020. 5 inch 1080p, Snapdragon 800, 2 GB RAM, 32 GB of storage, 20 MP, OIS, Zeiss, f2.4. The 1020 was a bold experiment for the lack of a better term. With the Snapdragon quad core processor, photo processing is quick and painless and the quality is outstanding. Low light performance is great and lossless zoom with the high resolution images is very useful. Nokia's photo app suite is incredible and Windows Phone's lenses feature is very helpful. For video capture, many of the same features apply but with four directional microphones for audio recording, it really is a different ballgame.

Luckly, the HTC One M7 had issues with the adjustment as well, and a software update was pushed out to fix that. That aside, I'd have to agree with the results. The HTC One M8 produces some exceptional images, far better than the iPhone 5S ever could... when it works proper.

When it comes to pulling the phone out of your pocket and taking a picture, the One does a great job of this - far better than any phone I've seen or owned, and I have yet to take a picture that didn't capture the subject even if the image wasn't ideal, so to say HTC dropped the ball on the camera is idiotic - if you expect to create professional photographs, you won't get the same results from a phone as you would from a camera, but if you're looking to share to Instagram or Facebook, the M8's speed and quality are more than sufficient. As is the iPhone 5S.

Also, anyone here comparing color - you weren't there. In Florida, where we hardly have seasons, the weather and temperature has a major impact on any and all photos and perceived colors. You have to see with your own eyes to truly judge if the color is accurate.

I think where they need to work on the camera is in the software mostly. The exposure of the HTC one (M8) is way overblown and the color reproduction is way off, this is extremely evident in its outdoor shots. The HTC one camera makes it look like you're taking an outdoor shot in all fluorescent light setting, ( makes the sun look like a lightbulb basically LOL.) plus I thought I would never say this but they really need to increase their megapixel count. you can't even zoom in at all in any of the HTC's photos without seeing pixels just jump up at you and hevy distortion in the photo. Honestly, you have a problem when you're facing camera has more megapixels then your rear camera does. HTC has some really great ideas when it comes to the phone's camera but they're not executed as well as they could be and that is the issue.

HTC One is the best looking android phone. Period.But to be a killer phone & to crush Samsung, they need to revamp the camera software. I'm pretty sure that if the software is taken care of , camera quality can be improved. Look what google did by updating the os in nexus phones ( and actually made it better ). Even iphone 5s suffers from inferior video ( darker/washed ) compared to ip5 and it's mostly a software issue.

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I have an HTC One M8 and I have to say that your review was surprisingly objective and pretty well spot on. Nice work, thanks-

I have the HTC One M8 and I guess I'll be the first to say it.....This review was totally biased and it does not represent my experience with the camera on this phone at all. I don't know what you did when taking those pics, or if those pics were actually taken with the HTC One M8, but none of my pics look like that. Your angles are taken differently on the iPhone than the HTC, so as to keep the words from showing clearly on the HTC pics. If you thought the HTC won in a category then you called it a tie. Totally biased. You people need to go find an unbiased review of these two cameras.

HTC One (M8) vs. iPhone 5s - Ultimate Camera Comp…: http://youtu.be/sPOXwXe-g7A

Allyson. I purposefully looked at the photos before I read your comments. Given the name "iMore", I expected some iBias, and I wanted to draw my own conclusions before reading yours. I have to admit that the ultimate Winner here is the iPhone 5s. As I've said repeatedly in HTC forums, Megapixels DO matter. However your slam on ultrapixels in the opening paragraph, " a fancy way of saying they suck in a lot of light" reveals your bias from the start. Given that beginning one can't help but wonder how objectively you shot these photos. Also, you conclusion that the iphone got the colors right, when it consistently shows skies as purple, is baffling. Skies where I live are blue, though not the aquamarine that showed in the M8 shots. My M7 gets the sky right most of the time, so that was strange to see.
I am disappointed that the M8 doesn't blow the 5S out of the water. I want the best camera available on a phone, but don't want to go iPhone as I prefer Android. It is apparent that Apple stills rules the camera though.
I hope you here my feedback about your bias. If you stay objective, folks will trust your reviews more.

Apple rules the camera? I thought Lumia 1520, 930, 1020, ... Wipe the table clean, as they sat, on imagng performance, both harware and UI wise. Of course, alysson writes for iMore and hence only compares iPhones to inferior products, since it is not amenable to iPhone promotion to show its deficiencies or to portray it in weak light. Hence the "two best cameras now available", while everyone knows the HTC has arguably the worst current higher end camera. So, it will be picked for comparison. Makes sense.

Additional: After looking more closely at these shots. It does appear that you often took a slightly different angle from one camera to the next. I agree that we don't take pictures in a lab, but in real life. However, the entire point of an exercise such as this is to compare apples to apples (or HTC to Apple as it seems!) and anyone who has picked up a camera knows that the slightest adjustments can lead to very different results. As can metering in a slightly different place.
I am not saying this to call your integrity into question, but rather to encourage you to use a tripod and make every effort to take the shot from the same place, so as to leave nothing to doubt. I do these challenges with my M7 and my wifes 5s all the time (she wins each time!), so I know how difficult it is...but it is worth it to get the best results.

If you want great photos you buy a Lumia. If you want great sound you get HTC.
If you want a little something from both you buy an iphone.

We have both the 5S and M8 in our family, and hands down the 5S camera is infinitely better than the M8. Which saddens me, as the M8 is mine and the iPhone is my husband's.

I have the HTC One M8 and I've had iPhone. And I'm telling you. The camera on the M8 is not garbage! When you're nitpicking obviously there's flaws. IPhone tended to yellow out ALOT of indoor shots. When you're using the phone as a phone and taking normal pictures you won't have an iPhone to constantly compare it to. The M8 is an AMAZING phone. If you guys want to get technical, the M8 has a better screen, front facing camera, speakers etc. 5MP front facing! That's double the IPhone! IPhone will always hold the title of best camera, but when you're talking about best phone... The M8 beats it head over heels. Definitely go do a review on the front facing cameras haha. See how bad the IPhone does compared to the HTC.

I wanted to have a one on one testing with this HTC because of their 4 uP dual lens camera. I'm a Sony Exmor Rs smartphone enthusiast and as a user, I seem to dislike the comparison. OK, let's say that iPhone is more superior than Sony, but I can shoot those kind of photos on a Sony smartphone. Something that bothers me is why the photos are not taken similarly. I mean, look at the iPhone macro shots. It's macro alright, but what was taken from the HTC M8 was a bit far to be called as macro. I think there's a bit of chance that HTC can beat iPhone but it depends on the user on how he executes or handle the camera.