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