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Camera comparison: HTC One (M8) for Windows vs Samsung ATIV SE vs Lumia Icon

HTC One M8 Camera

HTC just announced their latest Windows Phone – the HTC One (M8) for Windows. It's the exact same phone as their HTC One (M8) that they released earlier this running Android. One area of the device that's really interesting is the camera. The HTC One M8 camera has received mixed reviews since it launched. So we decided to test it out for ourselves in a quick shootout with the Lumia Icon and Samsung ATIV SE.

This is just a really quick look at how the cameras compare between the three devices. We'll have a comparison with greater detail once we've spent more time with the newcomer. For now, check out the camera specs and compares some shots. Head into the comments to let us know what you think of the HTC One (M8) for Windows camera.

Camera specs

HTC One (M8) for Windows

  • Primary camera: 4 MP, HTC UltraPixel, BSI sensor, pixel size 0.2 µm, sensor size 1/3 inch, f/2.0, 28 mm lens

Lumia Icon

  • Main camera sensor: 20 MP, PureView, BSI sensor, optical image stabilization, high resolution zoom, ZEISS optics, sensor size 1/2.5 inch, f/2.4, 26mm lens, dual LED flash

Samsung ATIV SE

  • 13 MP, auto focus, LED flash, 4x digital zoom

Photo Sample #1

HTC One

HTC One (M8) for Windows

ATIV SE

Samsung ATIV SE

Icon

Lumia Icon

Photo Sample #2

HTC One

HTC One (M8) for Windows

ATIV

Samsung ATIV SE

Icon

Lumia Icon

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Reader comments

Camera comparison: HTC One (M8) for Windows vs Samsung ATIV SE vs Lumia Icon

184 Comments

They're all pretty darn close in my opinion. Seems like the brightness and a little color is the only difference to write home about. Which... Can be adjusted.

But just taking quick pictures which is what MOST people do Samsung comes out on top.  My wife's then Galaxy S3 and now S4 have always had better looking pictures than my 920.  I loved taking video on my 920 but pictures I always left to my wife.

 

In my experience Samsung take photos that look amazing but are too over exposed, oversaturated and they use too much digital sharpening...
Las summer me and some friends went in vacations and when we were seeing the fotos we realized that... 1) they look amazing... 2) The color reproduction was awful, some pictures at 7 am without direct sun light were extremely overexposed and oversaturated in order to get this vibrant colors...
At the end the look well, the look amazing but they aren't realistic... We tested in Photoshop and all the photos taken with the S4 were digitally sharpened, it was evident, may be the camera APP from Samsung is programmed that way or maybe even is a Firmware thing...
Is like Samsung displays in Smartphones... Oversaturated but it looks good...
I'm not defending the Lumia but Samsung photos aren't that good... Seem good but they aren't...

You got that right.  The Samsung Photos are the sharpest and more vibrant.  1st picture look at the details of the bricks and the small tree near those statues.  In the second picture look at the mound of dirt on the right and the IVY hanging down.  The Samsung pictures everything is sharp.  Icon takes 2nd for the first picture and O1˥E takes 2nd in the second one.

I've always thought in HTC and Nokia pictures the colors were off from my HTC ARRIVE to my 920.  My 1020 is better though.  I've always thought pictures looked like they were taking on a cloudy rainy day.  These pictures are more of the same IMO.

 

IMO, all mid to high-end range smartphones perform decently enough in daylight exterior shots.

Plus, comparing the picture quality from these 3 smartphones without the original full resolution files is difficult.

That being said, Samsung looks indeed sharper on the bricks on the left building than Nokia. HTC picture has less details (to be expected b/c of a lesser resolution) and not enough contrast.

On the second set, we can't get a meaningful comparison because the focus was not the same! Nokia's picture seems blurry in the back but it is because it was focused way closer than with Samsung. And we have yet to check whether or not apertures were similar too. At the center of the pic, I find the leaves to display thinner features with Nokia.

IMO, the only opportunity for significant difference today is low light performance.

I agree, the ATIV pics look the best, more sharp and (I think) better color accuracy. Kinda dissapointed with the Icon.

Did you only look at the rather large thumbnails or did you open each picture in a new tab and flip back and forth like I did? The thumbnails don't do the pictures justice. In the full size pictures, the first image there was no comparison. Icon had the detail, Samsung had the color(by a very slight margin) and the M8 looked like crap. In the second picture it was a lot harder to say. Personally I thought the M8 and the Samsung were close, but the Icon was marginally worse. If everyone is right about the Cyan update I'm looking forward to it, because the camera is already good with the Black update.

I was thinking the same but you also have to ask yourself, which one is more accurate on the colours? After all, we weren't there while the shots were taken.

The Icon gave the building to the far right of the 1st picture a purplish hue. I don't see too many purple buildings.

Exactly.. The Icon is the worse... It would be more interesting if they included the 1520 because the Icon, and the 1520, supposedly should be similar. But, it would be interesting to see if there were any differences...

It would help if the sample pictures were factually the same image. They (phones) should have all been mounted or set in something that doesn't easily move. I don't buy into these type of review since the pictures aren't even close to the same.

Not the least. Looks like it wins in the last set. Rock grain is clearly defined on the wall from close up all the way out. Other two smear it close up.

First set, HTC loses. You can hardly see the railing in the distance by the water towers. Clearly visible on Icon and Samsung.

You really need to get glasses (or get the prescription checked) if you think the Icon is sharpest in any of the images. That is just absolute delusion on the part of someone who wants the Nokia's over-hyped camera to be the best. By any standard I would apply, and yes I am an archaeologist and a photographer, the Icon images are poor quality and (subjectively) the worst of the bunch. Classic example of what happens when you shove too many pixels into a sensor attached to middling optics.  The weaknes of the lens in amplified.  Zeiss is just a name on lenses that range from good to embarrassing; it is not a guarantee of optical superiority. BTW, you can put that sensor in any camera phone and the resuilts would be about the same. Sensor resolution counts but so do the optics and no camera phone will ever be more than a glorified P&S. They are all limited by their small form factor optics and fixed aperature setup.

Nope. Samsung is better. Look at the plant near the dark table. Is much sharper than the Icon. Look at the wall on the left with windows. I can also see the brick lines on the wall with ATIVE while Icon is not much and M8 is the worse. I think Pureview on Icon is really bad. Is worse than the 1520. Stop being biased.

Yea but the problem is that by the time you take one picture they would have taken 3 or 4.

That's the biggest problem with the 1020.

The 1020 hasn't always won every camera contest, in every category, everytime... It's time to dispel the notion that the 1020 can't be beat.. It's been around for awhile, and some of these newer devices are getting pretty good...
...........................
If MS doesn't come up with a 1020 successor really soon they are going to be in jeopardy of giving up their camera crown.

.... yes, keep telling yourself that if it makes you feel better. The single most over-hyped camera phone on the market; hamstrung by poor responsivemess, and noted for only producing slightly better image quality (if at all) in every objective assessment. Average P&S results (like all camera phones) but at a laugahbly inflated price. Lumia 1020 owners remind me of people who buy Jaguars and claim they have the best performance car on the road. In realty they bought a really expensive Ford or (since 2008) Tata Motors car, or worse still, an old british made joke that is in for service more than it is on the road.

You have no idea of what you are talking about. Under ideal lighting sure the difference in quality between a 1020 shot and another,top of the range phone is not huge, although still visible, but once lighting conditions are anything short of perfect the 1020 is leaps and bounds above any other modern smartphone with far less noise and more detail in the picture. I have a 1020 and a 1520 and I never use my 1520's camera unless my 1020 is not around unless there is a lot of light. The difference in medium and low light is huge.

Ya right. While M8 has already shoot like 4-5 photos and 1020 is still busying trying to saving the very first phone taken, or maybe the 1020 is trying hard to focus with near objects.

It's not that bad, until you zoom in.

 

Either way, the flash is pretty great for skin tones, and most people would likely just post the photos to Facebook, so it's not really that bad of a camera for most people.

What are you saying?.. That black people need a camera with better flash????? Racist❗
..............
No, but seriously.. It is good that camera technology has advanced because it used to be kinda embarrassing when my GF was the only one who showed up in the picture... Lol❗

If the Icon is the second pic then I think Nokia continues the camera lead. It's the most important feature for me. Otherwise in would look seriously at the HTC whatever

At first, yes. But when you start looking at the finer details the higher pixel count of the Lumia shows through.

That's what I notice about my Samsung phone. The initial look generally seems better until you look closer.

Same goes for every other phone.. Or Lumia.. I have been looking hard for good Lumia pictures but I end up knowing that the quality of Lumia, Samsung, Sony, LG.. is plain simple same when you zoom in. I also was saying how Lumia camera is good, but then I realised that my Ativ S actually does a better job at detail in good light.. SG5 > 930 .. Or its just better software as I think.. And no I don't care that much about low light photography while the perfect lighting lacks quality.

Color reproduction is over the top on Sammy. Shadows look black, not dark. The table cloth itself looks like it was photoshopped with a pitch black fill.

if you actually owned the samsung, the icon, the 1020 and the 1520 you would know what comes out on top, not just looking at pics on a web page.

The 1020 does indeed blow all smart phone cameras out of the water in every aspect.

The icon and 1520 do take better pics than the ativ s

I dont have the M* so i cant tell you about the pics from that phone.

The full res samples of the same thing doesn't lie. Was comparing with older models of Lumia with Ativ S, yet the new 20mp cameras sometimes just look like a bigger pixel count of "no information" or a mess without real detail and not "more pixels - more detail" idea. It's all up to the sensor size working with the pixel count. No matter what thing about all of this, I think that the Samsung owns a better software.

As a big smartphone camera fan I'm a little disappointed by the Lumia's quality with that *PureView* naming and so called best cameras.

The Lumia 1020 is a whole different story that needs some processoring boost in the upcoming model. Hopefully there will be one.

The first photo is just washed out on the M8. 

I've taken a lot of photos with it (my buddy has an Android version) and it's just plain bad. 

As someone who uses the phone (with android) on a day-to-day basis, I understand why you don't like it, but the camera takes amazing shots with a little practice!  If you take the time to get used to the camera, you will get awesome pictures.

I think the Icon looks better than the Ativ, but it is mainly for color balance reasons. In addition, build quality of Samsung sucks.

My Samsung's OIS never failed, charging port never broke, FFC never got muddy, proximity sensor never crapped out but my Lumia did... Samsung makes beasts, check these forums for some good ole Nokia build quality.

I'd go and say the Icon won the first set of pictures, as it has everything clear, color corrected, and sharp. Although, for the second set of pictures, I'd give it to the M8, mainly because of the grass in the back, without being in focus, is still sharper. While in both cases, especially noticable on straight lines, or leaves, the ATIV SE has pixelation, which never looks good.

 

Just my 2 cents! Good pictures though! :D

when the grass is not in focus, and yet sharper in the picture, it means the camera lacks depth (bad camera)...

nokia shows true bokeh (not exactly) effect

I thought so too until I looked at the detail on the wall. The Ativ picked up the water stains, but the Icon does a better job. The HTC barely picks it up.

i'm pretty surprised by this but it does indeed. i'd say the icon is worst of the group actually

It is hard to tell the difference in these samples which, to me, means that the M8 camera is not that bad for casual shooting (at least for this lighting condition). 

Any insight on app launch speed? focusing speed?   Also, why use 16:9 ratio for HTC and Nokia?  I thought 4:3 gives higher res?  However, I don't think it will matter much in this case.

I'm actually pretty impressed with all three, although I feel the Ativ is a bit too bright.

That said, the building in the Icon pic are much clearer.

Ativ looks more natural, while Icon has more brightness & color....sadly in the 1st pic, M8's click looks like a screenshot from an old low graphics game, second is better, but still not quite there yet.

I'm a Lumia owner but admittedly, HTC delivered more realistic/true to life color. In the second sample, there's a strong blue tint(concrete part) on the picture produced by the Lumia icon that makes the photo looks so unnatural.

Nobody but Apple has really nailed the automatic white-balance. On Lumias, Samsungs, any of them, one pic will look blue, another orange, and the third might have just the right WB. But then what sets them apart is the manual controls, which are pretty lacklustre on the iPhone.

To the untrained eye, all 3 of these look pretty close in these quick snapshots.  I'd imagine the Icon was using the normal camera app and not Nokia Camera though. 

An exhaustive comparison in the future by a pro would make things a lot more clear.  Probably wouldn't matter much to the average Joe though.  Well, except for the low light pics.  That's where how good these are would really show.

+1. I personally think most phone camera reviews by phone bloggers are worthless. They inject more noise into the picture (figuratively speaking) than provide real meaningful test results. WPC is a little better than others but still lacking. Dpreview is probably the best but they should dump the misleading dxo benchmarks to be taken really seriously. I'd say the best way is to review flickr photos thoroughly, especially ones taken by pros and very experienced amateur photographers who know what they are doing.

99% of people who buy smartphone aren't pros so they basically don't give a shit.

The average Jo won't be able to set the camera to look like a pro shot? So why look at pictures taken by pros?

And if I used one of my Lumia's it would have the revolting yellow tint. Glad to see it doesn't affect ALL lumias

have you noticed how samsung ativ in the first picture washed out the shadow on the left, and i guess nobody noticed that nokia has the biggest depth in macro mode

 

But one - the 930 - runs Cyan (with associated WB improvements), and the other - the Icon - has yet to receive the update...

Well you could just use a developer account and upgrade early. I did months ago and haven't looked back. As for it being "outdated" that's just rediculous. My girlfriend just purchased a 928 and it's still relavant. (and running 8.1 wonderfully) 

In the first set, ATIV SE takes it. The brick colors look closer to life and the glint on the black table isn't as noticeable.

In the second set, the ATIV & One are similar but the Icon looks like it was shooting in macros mode. The background is kind of out of focus in leiu of the plant. There's also a bit of a red tint on both Icon photos.

All 3 look good to me though.

The real thing you should compare is the front facing camera. The HTC One M8 uses a 5 MP front facing camera which blows away the 1.2 MP front facing camera of the Icon

The HTC have a greenish yellow tint on them. Samsung is way oversaturated, same goes for the Lumia on the greens. Best one in my opinion is the Lumia. Has a better balance between the colors and best details.

The M8 looks washed out, that can be recitifed with the software updates I guess. The colours on the ATIV SE look more vibrant however colour reproduction looks better on the Icon.

No, because the cover adds thickness. I'd say it's a less advanced Glance. Also I would never use a cover. And wireless charging is missing.

Thickness has nothing to do with technological advancement. Dot view interacts with Cortana, making it a more advanced version of glance. Wireless charging is a "nice to have" but not a deal breaker for alot of people.

until you try zooming in on the actual full res pics, from a quick glance they seem ok, but the proof is in the actual detail.

ATIV all the way although I want to see the Lumia win with its so called best quality for a smartphone and WP, but I don't care anymore if more OEMs come :) I would prefer a HTC with a better camera or LG on its design. Samsung is nice to my eyes but a aluminium trim around it would make it a lot better - like the Galaxy Alpha phone. So I'm very happy with Samsung. Hope for a Sony too :).

Nokia Lumia icon is the best, as it is showing true colours in the picture, then HTC, and then Samsung.
Samsung camera intensify the colour, which looks great sometimes, but it gives unreal pic

So preview is best, as it gives pure view of the image

It seems more like it comes down to preference on how one wants their image to look.

Posted via Windows Phone Central App

They all look pretty good. However, there are to many variables to really come to a real conclusion. 1.) We aren't there to really see the true colors. The phones could be over/under correcting the lighting and color balance. 2.) Your display, whether it be a smart phone, tablet or computer will display colors differently. Pull these up on three devices and look at the colors. 3.) Maybe they could provide us with the original images so we could download for pixel quality.

That's the top 3.

The thing is, these types of comparisons need a control, like a photo taken with a good quality DSLR or a mirrorless consumer camera, say, even a Sony RX100iii.

Then compare the smartphone camera performance to which matches the closest to the control shots.

If you want to see the where the M8 struggles, look at the buildings in the first set of pictures. What's missing on the M8 pictures?

Could you think about a slightly different approach: Compare the Android vs. the WP device on a typical daily use basis? I'd be very interested how the two OS's are perceived when running on the same hardware...

One needs a lot of different situations photographed in order to compare properly.

I'm speculating that HTC will update their software later on.
When does LG come in?
New Samsung?

The Samsung appears slightly oversaturated.  However, oversaturation has always had a broader appeal as Fuji and Kodak discovered during their film wars.  People don't want reality, it just doesn't look as nice.

 

The Lumia appears more color accurate and sharper.

 

The HTC is clearly in third place.

havent they ditched the OIS and instead bumped the resolution to at least 6 ultrapixels, this camera would be so badass, low light videos on the original one M7 are even better than the 1020, long exposure tricks wont work there, there is a lot of potential with this tech but keeping it at 4mp and removing OIS was really disappointing

Personally, I'm not a big camera person. The photos I do take are usually for social media so id be perfectly happy with the HTC. The Samsung ativ takes great photos, I think they look better than the icons.

Thank you, WPCentral for coming out with a comparison so fast! Hope to see more compares like this with the HTC vs various phones (1020, iphones, androids).

Honestly... all 3 phones took acceptable pictures.  I'd imagine the biggest difference would be noted when you tried to zoom in on something. 

Who cRes when the Samsung camera will never be updated and the HTC is only going to create problems through apps and such biased? Off course LumiaElite nokiabymicrosoft ambassador!

The Noise in the black table cloth on the htc is quite unappealing. However I would like to see comparison shots from a more controlled test. Focal points and white balance can change with just the smallest movement.

I think HTC has best color production but icon takes res cake obviously but for the res aspects of the HTC it does an amazing job and most stuff is shown on facebook and instagram nowadays making the HTC one camera just perfect for that.

Is that the 20MP image or the lower rez image from the Icon? It takes both at the same time/or saves a lower rex when taken. Note that it is stupid to judge photos that are high rez if you are looking at them on a low rez display.

I agree with those that said the Samsung had the crispest images as compared to the ICON and the HTC One. The pictures on the HTC M8 are not the worse but I think they are pretty much on par with what you get from the android version of the M8.  What I hope is apps like the ProShot could improve them.  I've seen low light shot with the M8 and they are not half bad.

HTC camera is the worst of the three. Kind a disappointment because I was really considering getting the HTC.
 

First of all, the aspect ratio of Samsung ATIV SE is 4:3, while HTC M8 and Icon are 16:9. This aspect ratio difference clearly makes the ATIV SE pics looks better. Also its always better to maintain the frame while the photos are taken with different phones. Since the frame of each photo are different, it is little difficult to compare it.

 Well in the first set of photos, HTC M8 seems to be very poor due to its low resolution. ATIV SE was able to get more details and best pic since the resolution is higher due to 4:3 aspect ratio.

Second set of photos cannot be compared with each other. Frame and focus are completely different from each other.

Post processing of images makes all the difference, Samsung ATIV SE images are looking better than Icon. While the quality remains very close to each other. HTC One M8 can't even near them.

All the hype for HTC One M8 camera is already busted months back. Though the hardware specs are great and design looks solid. At last what you do with the phone's camera is just P&S, can't expect more than this with these tiny lenses and image sensors.

Samsung crap in all departments as usual. Nokia and HTC better in every way, sad that people buy disgusting Samsung phones since they gave zero knowledge about phones.

Posted via the Windows Phone Central App

They all look decent. To me the first picture is a toss up between the Icon and the One. The second picture,the Icon and Ativ.E. The Samsung's colors look a bit soft and washed in both pics to me. The One's second picture shows the wall with a slight yellowish tint,and the Icon's picture seems to have a slight bluish effect on the flower wall. This as seen from the screen on my 920. I wonder if it would look different on my 1520's screen.. lol

One of the things I don't like about these photo test is that the picture angles always seem to be slightly different,and that can affect the lighting,which can make a difference between the pictures.

It would be nice to know which app was used for taking the photos? was it MS's app with everything on auto on every phone or..?

My Samsung SPH i325 ace takes realistic pic than my lumia 525. It looks more alive. Though that is a 1.3 mpx camera and the phone runs on Windows Mobile 6 which is a myth now! But Lumia is good. I like both of them. One for sharpness and the color tone and other for the 5mpx autofocus sensor

My iPhone 5s takes better photos than my 1520 in both day & night... Unfortunately.
Also I was hoping Cyan update will improve the quality of the shots but so far I didn't notice anything interesting. I'm still testing it though

What i would like to see is another test, this time not naming which camera took which picture. have a poll as to which photo readers thought was best. that way there would be no bias towards the manufacturer of your choice. Would make for a more accurate test. after say 24 hours, reveal which phone took which picture. i think the results would be rather interesting.

I would pick the Samsung for removable battery and expandable storage (while HTC has it, I still an skeptical about their reliability)
Sadly neither devices are available globally

On the first photo the HTC did horribly with regards to both detail and noise. It was a tie between the samsung and the icon, with both having more or less the same amout of detail but the samsung with better colour reproduction but the icon better depth of field.

On the second photo its much closer but its hard to judge because all phones seem focused on different points. That being said the colour accuracy of the icon seems a bit off while preserving more detail than the other two phones.