I am so accustomed to cameras on Windows Phones being driven by manufacturer software that I overlooked the fact that Windows Phone 7 drives the camera regardless of the manufacturer. Each model may have unique hardware or capabilities (e.g. 5mp vs. 8mp camera, high definition video recording, etc.) but the software is the same.
Having said that, we are covering the particulars of the camera software in our review of the Pictures Hub. After the break, we'll review the Surround's camera with respect to image quality and overall performance. We've also thrown in some sample images and videos to help illustrate the camera's performance.
The HTC Surround is fitted with a five megapixel camera that maximum still resolution of 2592x1944. The video recording has a maximum resolution of 720p (1280x720). The camera is fitted with a light that pretends it's a flash. It's not a strobe but instead in low-light conditions it will illuminate your subject.
For review purposes, the light will be referred to as a flash, understanding that it's a light and not a flash.
As with all Windows Phones, to access the camera you have a couple of options. The quickest is to press and hold the camera button. You can also set up a Start Screen tile for the camera or access it from the App List. The phone's screen is the camera's viewfinder and to take a picture or start a video, you simply press the shutter button.
I found the quality of the 5mp camera to be really nice. With the poor performance of the light, the best quality comes in well lit areas (indoors or out). Here is a quick sample of with and without the flash. There is some camera movement present without the flash due to the slower shutter speed.
The camera on the Surround doesn't share the same white balance issues the HD7 is apparently having. In macro mode, it has a minimum focus distance of about six inches and does a nice job of close-up shots. Here are a few sample shots from the Surround. The only post editing to these and other images in this review is to re-size them for publication.
Video quality from the Surround is also nice. A little on the soft side but nice. The Surround can record at 720p but VGA quality is a strong performer as well. The first video sample is at VGA, the second 720p.
I think what impressed me most is that the video was shot into the sun and the camera adjusted really well for the back lighting. I feared that the test video would be a blacked out mess.
All in all, I was very pleased with the HTC Surround's camera performance. I'm still not ready to give up my DSLR but if I'm caught without it, I'm comfortable capturing the moment with the HTC Surround.