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HTC One M9 Camera Improvements Aren't Enough

by on April 15, 2015
in HTC One M9, News, Phones and Mobile, Cell Phones, Blog :: 7 comments

After receiving universally mediocre reviews for the camera on the just launched HTC One M9 (including our One M9 review), HTC engineers were quick to roll out a software update for review units that HTC said includes "enhancements to the overall camera experience". While HTC was unable to provide specifics on what these enhancements were, I was hoping they would address the issues with poor exposure and lack of detail I found in my earlier testing.

After downloading the update and taking a series of test shots versus my LG G3 (which has a very good, but not market-leading camera), I found that whatever improvements HTC made were not enough to change my opinion about the One M9's less-than-ideal camera performance.

In the test shot below, you can see how the HTC still has issues with exposure, creating an unnatural halo around the building, with a sky that fades too dark near the top. The overall white balance is also off, showing too much of a red/pink cast.

HTC One M9 sample shot with software update

HTC One M9

LG G3 sample shot


Zooming in on the shots taken above with the HTC One M9's  20MP camera and the LG G3's 14MP camera seems to show an improvement in the HTC One M9 to the point where it is now better than the G3.

HTC One M9 camera sample image

HTC One M9

LG G3 camera sample image


Yet, in this second zoom from a shot I took from further away, detail is oddly lacking.

HTC One M9 sample camera image

HTC One M9


All-in-all, this is a disappointment. Given HTC's challenging market position, it was critical that they nailed the M9 camera out of the gate. They didn't. And this software update shows that the engineers still don't know what they're doing wrong. or, if they do, haven't figured out how to fix it. The HTC One M9 camera remains a very good camera in a field of excellent cameras from competitors.

Discussion loading

Funny I was just using

From Stan Jean-Baptiste on April 15, 2015 :: 9:22 pm

Funny I was just using this phone at work and every pic I took cane out incredibly clear and sharp, 50xs better then this mess you took….I’m waiting for the G4 and its amazing camera but the M9 took outstanding pics, to my surprise, I’m sorry I just don’t feel this is a trustworthy article



Glad you're happy with your results

From Josh Kirschner on April 15, 2015 :: 11:12 pm

As I said in this analysis and my original review of the One M9, the camera is very good, and many people will be perfectly happy with the results. But it’s not up to the quality of it’s competitors.

If you don’t feel my article is trustworthy, a quick Google search will prove that most other reviewers have found similar issues with the One M9’s camera. It was the initial widespread criticism that caused HTC to rush out this latest software update. Unfortunately, the consensus remains that whatever improvements this update may have made, the camera still lags behind other models.


Title is misleading

From Lucas Talunge Lukaso on April 16, 2015 :: 6:43 am

The title of your article is misleading like if the M9 has a terrible camera. In your previous review you said that the camera was very good, and now say improvements are not worthy ; What do you want to conclude? And the pictures you took to explain the “not enough” statement are just so awful. The M9 Camera is great and LOVE it.



Never said the camera was terrible

From Josh Kirschner on April 16, 2015 :: 11:57 am

Hi Lucas,

As I noted to Stan above and in the article, “The HTC One M9 camera remains a very good camera in a field of excellent cameras from competitors.”

However, both in my initial review and this latest follow-up, it wasn’t without issues (you can see more sample shots there. Link is in the article above). I also took a fair amount of time to analyze other reviewers’ experiences to ensure that my results were not an anomaly.

Many people will be perfectly happy with the performance of the camera. And, if HTC had released this phone 2-3 years ago, my opinion of its performance versus competitors would be very different. But in 2015, there are simply better cameras out there from Apple, LG and Samsung. That puts HTC, which is struggling for marketshare, in a difficult position with the M9 - they needed to do better. And the improvements are “not good enough” to put this camera on par with or ahead of those competitors.




Camera sensor

From Artyom on April 17, 2015 :: 7:36 am

I feel that the 20.7 megapixel camera would’ve been impeccable if HTC decided to use a proven Sony camera sensor like other flagship phones instead of the Toshiba T4KA7.



Software Version ?

From Markus on April 20, 2015 :: 7:32 am


what software Version are you using ? Phandroid referred to 1.32.531.33 while the one that is currently OTAed is 1.32.401.17, according to Insider @LlabTooFeR



The later one

From Josh Kirschner on April 20, 2015 :: 11:26 am

I ran 1.32.531.33 for this round of testing, which was delivered OTA for review units of the One M9 for T-Mobile.


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