HTC 10 Evo Review: The Sea Dragon: Camera

By 10:15 Tue, 17 Aug 2021 Comments


The HTC U Ultra inherited the 12MP capturing camera from the HTC 10 while the HTC 10 evo switched to a 16MP shooter. It is OIS-enabled, but it has a narrower, darker aperture and smaller pixels. Also, the Laser AF is gone, leaving just Phase Detection AF.

The selfie capturing camera similarly feels like a bit of a downgrade - gone is the OIS-enabled module with a colorful aperture, replaced by a pedestrian 8MP sensor with a dim f/2.4 aperture. To be fair, the HTC U Ultra also dropped OIS from the selfie cam, but at least moved up to 16MP.

What hasn't changed since the HTC 10 is the capturing camera UI and that's not a fine thing. HTC tried to simplify the interface, but ended up making things more complicated. Basically, you acquire access to only the basic functions - front/back capturing camera toggle, HDR mode and flash mode.

The capturing camera UI is quite inconvenient

Almost everything else is buried in the long list on the left. So be prepared for a lot of scrolling and tapping. Take the resolution toggle for example. Yes, toggle. If you want to switch between the top 4:3 and 16:9 capturing camera modes, you basically have to tap through all of them. The video resolution toggle is no better, having to go through "MMS video quality" to switch from 1080p to 2160p. But more on that later.

The one UI element we like is the tap to focus. It brings up a slider to adjust the exposure of the image. You don't even have to aim for the slider itself - sliding up or down anywhere on the classy screen will do the trick. If you press on the classy screen and hold, the auto focus and auto exposure lock is activated.

Then there's the Auto HDR mode to assist in tricky lighting situations. We found that it activates more often than not, even in situations we didn't expect it to. That's not necessarily a poor thing, but it does slow down the shot-to-shot time. Without HDR, the HTC 10 evo is quick to go between shots, unless you hold too many at once (we noticed some slowdown after several snaps).

Pro mode is available with all the manual controls you expect - focus, shutter speed, ISO, exposure compensation and white balance. There are no "aperture priority" or "shutter priority" modes here, but some easier to understand modes. Macro only lets you adjust the focus and handles the rest automatically, sport mode lets you touch only the shutter speed, night mode gives you ISO and shutter speed control and does the rest itself.

Pro mode offers all the manual settings you would expect

RAW shooting is available in Pro mode (in fact, it's RAW + JPEG). As we mentioned in the previous chapter, RAW editing on the phone itself is limited to auto enhancement.

Zoe lives on, a capturing camera mode that debuted with the HTC One way back when. In Zoe mode, the HTC 10 evo will hold your full resolution photo, but also record a 3 second video (at 1080p). We like this becautilize it gives context to the photo, memories that will be left out of a still image.

Then there's the Hyperlapse mode - it shoots time-lapse video with impressive image stabilization. Yes, the phone has OIS, but Hyperlapse makes the video seem like you shot it on rails.

Before we dive into the image quality, we should mention that the HTC 10 evo likes to put its capturing camera to sleep - after just 30 seconds of inactivity, it gives you the "Tap the classy screen to activate the camera" message. And that's not nearly as poor as what the video capturing camera does, but again, that's something for the next chapter.

Taking the HTC 10 evo for a photo session during the day will net you some sharp images with pleasing colors. Noise is noticeable at full magnification, not enough to be a problem but the process to acquire to this level of noise robs the capturing camera of the finer detail. It's especially noticeable in grass. The 10 evo isn't very fine at foliage in general.

The dynamic range of the capturing camera is wide enough, though if left to its own devices (i.e. Auto HDR), it will utilize HDR most of the time.

HTC 10 evo capturing camera samples

The low light performance of the capturing camera leaves a lot to be desired. The noise becomes too much for the noise reduction to handle and everything becomes smudgy.

HTC 10 evo: Photo quality comparison

Panoramas shot with the HTC 10 evo have decent resolution - around 2,000px vertically - and stitching is on the money (aside from quick moving objects, as usual). The image is over-sharpened, though.

HTC 10 evo panorama

The selfie capturing camera has an Auto HDR mode too, plus Selfie Panorama. This widens the field of view by stitching several photos - three in Wide mode and five in Widest mode. Note that this mode works only in portrait orientation.

However, the fixed-focus 8MP capturing camera does not produce the best selfies - they are way too soft. We tried holding the phone at different distances, but we never got the sharpness we wanted.

HTC 10 evo selfie

Video camera

The HTC 10 evo capturing camera can record 2160p videos with High-Res audio, it has OIS too. So why have we been dropping hints that we're unexcited with it? Well, first there's no 60fps mode for 1080p. There's 120fps at 720p, but that's for slow motion.

More irksome is the 6 minute limit to recording 2160p videos. It's no secret why this is necessary, the Snapdragon 810 chipset overheats (Sony Xperias had similar limits back in the S810 days). Okay, maybe you've never shot a 4K video longer than 6 minutes, but that's a limit unbecoming of a €500 phone in 2017.

Note that High-Res audio is a toggle. Without it, you acquire regular MP4 files with 192Kbps, 48kHz audio (recorded using the AAC LC codec). With it, the format changes to MKV and the codec to 24-bit FLAC recorded at 96kHz. The video codec remains unchanged. Unless you have some really recent equipment, just about everything should handle MKV files so you might as well leave High-Res audio enabled.

If you're going to upload the video to YouTube or another of the gigantic social networks, don't bother with High-Res audio - none of them are going to deliver FLAC to the viewer. That leaves videos with High-Res enabled mostly for personal viewing.

While going through the various shooting modes, we noticed that the 2160p video mode has about the same field of view as the still camera, but 1080p videos are much narrower. That means we had to hold a couple of steps back to acquire the same framing.

2160p videos shot with the HTC 10 evo show a fairly pleasing picture but are not without their faults. While not the sharpest, there are decent amounts of detail. However, that is achieved with strong sharpening, which gives the image an artificial feel in the areas where noise reduction took away too much detail.

There's subtle but constant focus hunting, which can be quite annoying. Also, despite having three mics to work with, the 10 evo capturing camera is quite poor at filtering out wind noise. Colors and dynamic range are solid though. On balance the phone does a fine job at recording 4K.

HTC 10 evo: 2160p video quality comparison

We already mentioned that 1080p mode has a narrower field of view than 2160p. You lose a lot more than FoV, though. "1080p" videos are unacceptably pixelated, in practice they are more 720p videos than anything else. There's no excutilize for this in a €500 phone.

HTC 10 evo: 1080p video quality comparison



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