HTC Desire Eye: 13MP camera, still disappointing

For the Desire Eye, HTC left it's "Ultrapixel" philosophy. The larger pixel size on a 4MP sensor didn't exactly bring what the company hoped for. On the HTC One M7 and M8 it was generally considered to be the only flaw on two otherwise as good as "perfect" devices. The new Desire Eye brings a 13MP camera on the back and the front. I only tested the one on the back.

I got a review sample of the HTC Desire Eye in a time I got quite a few other smartphone cameras - like the Galaxy Note 4, the Xperia Z3 and the Panasonic Lumix DMC-CM1. So it got less attention than I hoped I could give it. I did use it in some of the earlier comparisons (as you will see), but the results didn't inspire me to include them in the earlier posts as well. I thought the mediocre outcome was my own fault in some way, but looking at everything I captured with it, I think I'm safe to blame the device itself.

As a general impression I'd say it's a charming phone for what seems to be a reasonable price - although about €450 isn't cheap to start with (without contract of course), modern day smartphones are never cheap anyway. It has a large 5.2 inch FullHD display from which I noticed the visibility in broad sunlight is not great unless you set its power to maximum. Its plastic body has a very nice silk feeling and it's the third brand after Sony and Samsung (not counting the Panasonic Eluga) to claim a device is dust proof and water resistant (up to 1 meter and 30 minutes).

It has a quad-core 2.3Ghz processor and that's pretty fast, but I've seen faster. Like the 2400 mAh battery isn't the best - it will get you through the day, depending on how much you use it of course. Generally speaking it's not a high-end device so you can't really expect high-end performance.

Of course, the "front camera" is something else: it boasts an almost ridiculous 13MP sensor with flash even. I tested it for a short while and it gives a good result for a "selfie", although I noticed it's not always easy to get the camera to focus in the best way. You may know I'm not into sharing selfies here at the club - and you probably won't be visiting here when you're interested in selfies either. This club is about the best imaging quality in a smartphone camera and I'm sorry to say the HTC Desire Eye doesn't live up to any expectation, even with its new 13MP sensor.

I'm only going to share a few shots here I captured a few weeks ago in (you guessed it) Amsterdam. Just a few of the "best results" I got, and it took me a while to select those, since in fact a lot of shots turned out too bad to share. Why that is, I'm nor really sure. In some shots the left half from the center appears to be fuzzy, in other shots it's the right half. It has given me the impression the lens is extremely sensitive for finger prints, although the center is always sharp, more or less. I can't think of anything else that might be responsible for the fuzziness on either side.

The few shots I selected are the best I could find in a few dozen, but the crops will show you they still show a no less than dramatic corner sharpness. Like in this case, the Utrechtsestraat in the early morning.

Resized, it doesn't look that bad. Here's the first crop of the center:

Far from great detail but at least you can make out some - look at the corner though:

Here's to show you don't even have to go that far from the center of the shot:

Center again is more or less okay

But already if you look at bit to the left...

It's this kind of fuzziness I've been seeing again and again in all results. Here's one shot you might have seen earlier

Detail from the center is readable, at best

Detail from a part not that far from the center of the shot is something else.

In the next two shots you'll see the difference between using HDR or not. It sure is effective, as expected:

Now again, let's have a look at the crops (from the last shot)

To compare, a crop from the last shot without HDR - just to show it's not HDR responsible for lesser sharpness

I think this should be enough to prove my point. We already knew that only the amount of MP doesn't make a good smartphone camera, but HTC is underperforming in a way I can't remember seeing earlier - not since I'm running this club anyway. It might be a mid-end device, HTC is still asking a serious amount of money.

And of course the Desire Eye is "all about the front camera", but I don't think even the most vain person will be satisfied with the rear camera. Already, there are many speculations about the next HTC One (M9?). I can only hope HTC will manage to get its act together. One more comforting idea: the fact I don't share my tests from the front camera only means a few less ugly shots in this post :-) This is the last of the Desire Eye you'll see here anyway.