HTC One S: camera review

With consumers increasingly looking to camera quality alongside battery life and screen resolution when choosing a new mobile, HTC’s decision to devote significant resources to the photo side of their new One series only underlines how important the major manufacturers see the multi-function, ‘all-in-one’ nature of their current ranges.

The HTC One S sits in the middle of the company’s One V and One X models, positioning it as a high-end mid-range handset, although in speedtests performed during initial reviews it outperformed many of its supposedly superior rivals. The One S is a significant upgrade to what we’ve personally played about with in the past, so it was always going to feel like a giant leap; nevertheless, what’s surprised us the most is its ability to combine ease of use with high performance. Not every hardcore Android fan is fond of HTC’s - now much simplified - Sense overlay, but for those who have no inclination to fiddle with our phones terribly much (and that probably accounts for a significant proportion of the general public), it’s snazzy enough to impress while remaining eminently functional. On a practical level the phone also just feels good - especially compared to the One X, the dimensions of which sit uncomfortably in our rather dainty lady-hands.

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HTC have touted the 8MP camera’s abilities in low light, a scenario where a lot of cheaper handsets resort to flash - the bane of gig and club goers everywhere. So in comes a dedicated camera chip and a tidy f2.0 lens to try and resolve the problem. Our initial tests were a little disappointing but that was largely down to operator error - messing about with ISO levels and what have you did not return any images of note but we eventually stumbled on the phone’s special ‘low light’ feature, leaving the hardware to do all the work.

As you can see, the One S just about catches the action in a poorly lit club environment - without flash. With a bit more familiarisation time, we reckon it will more than do the job of capturing those nights before the morning after, without annoying everyone or having to get busy with the ‘red eye removal’ feature in an editing suite.

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The camera comes with a selection of effects built in - although they are, strangely, different depending on whether they’re implemented pre- or post- shot. They range from the usable (Instagram-style retro filters) to use-once and ignore (dots), but it’s an acknowledgement by HTC that users want their phones to come as ready ‘out of the box’ as possible.

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Finally, there are a few other features that really elevate its usability. It's fast for a start: you can launch the camera from the the lock screen (which definitely enhances the spontaneity of taking a shot) and there's no perceptible delay in the camera saving a photo and readying itself for the next one. A burst mode, where if you keep your finger on the shutter the camera will fire off a series of shots, allows you to keep the best and discard the rest - great for sports or other fast action scenarios.

With the One series having been out in the wild for a few months now, early adopters will have already formed an opinion, but if you're due an upgrade - and camera features form part of your decision-making process - we have to say we've been won over. The One S is a stylish and easy to use phone that benefits from Android's latest Ice Cream Sandwich operating system (and HTC have confirmed the latest Jellybean updates will roll out soon) and one that more than negates the need to slip a camera into your bumbag.

For anyone wanting to see more from the HTC One S and its camera, follow @thedigitalfix next week when we’ll be taking it around the Edinburgh Festival. (Watch out for our #HTCOneS tags!)

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