Jul, 06 2011

The biggest thing about the HTC EVO 3D is its camera. With two five megapixel shooters on the back and with 3D functionality, many people are wondering if HTC has stepped their game up, especially compared to the original EVO 4G. Our friend and esteemed moderator at AndroidForums.com, novox77, wondered just how much better the camera was himself and decided to do some side-by-side comparisons and analysis. With his permission, we’ve reposted his results here, but you can find more discussion inside the thread at AndroidForums.com. (Note: the three asterisks detail where novox77’s content begins and ends.)

*** The Evo 3D is such a camera-centric phone that IMO it deserve a very robust analysis of its cameras. This post will focus on image quality for 2D photos.

Let’s start off with some photo comparisons with the predecessor, the Evo 4G. In the following images, the top picture is from the E3D, and the bottom picture is from the E4G. The inset picture is a direct crop from the original photo, so you can see the quality at native resolution.


Both cameras were set to their max resolutions (5mp for the E3D and 8mp for the E4G). All settings within the camera app were set to the same values. Photos were taken from a fixed position with E3D first, followed by E4G. I tried my best to frame the shot as similarly as possible to minimize metering variations. The first two comparisons were shot under direct sunlight on a ‘mostly cloudy’ day. The last set was shot under the shade of a tree.

Test set 1

In this first set, you can see that the E3D got the colors right. E4G went crazy in the auto-white-balance mode and made things way too yellow. I was unable to force the white balance to give me something more natural. Looking at the insets, there is a lot more noise in the E4G pictures (note all the reddish spots in the shadows), and the leaves do not look as sharp. This is directly due to the 8mp being overkill for the resolving power of the lens.

Test set 2

One again, E3D wins this one. The maple leaves are in sharp focus, and the color tones of the soil and rocks in the background are much more representative of the actual scene. I made 3 attempts to take a sharp photo with the E4G, and what you’re seeing was the best of the three. The Evo had a very hard time focusing on the thin maple leaves. So while this comparison might not seem fair since the E4G shot isn’t in focus, there’s something to be said for the camera’s inability to focus correctly. Who cares how good the sensor is if the camera can’t focus light on it?¬† And looking at the insets, it’s once again clear that the 8mp is doing nothing but magnifying the imperfection.

Test set 3

For the final shot, I chose something in the shade and less colorful for some contrast comparison. The E3D appears to have higher contrast, though I tend to prefer the color temperature of the E4G shot. However, if you look at the insets, the E3D image is clearly more sharp. It seems that again, the E4G has problems getting the focus right. For web viewing where you get to resize the photos way down (like I did for these images), that slight blur is not so noticeable. But clearly the E3D wins in clarity and contrast.

So in broad daylight and daytime shade, the Evo 3D cameras win hands-down in my book. Coming up: more comparisons under low light with and without flash, and we’ll see which camera takes the cake.

Here are the results of the low-light comparisons. Overall, the E4G wins this round with better color reproduction, despite being much grainier and less sharp. E3D has a much more powerful flash but tends to tint the photos blue as a result.

Test set 4

In this test, the box of toys are under a 40W incandescent fan light, which is pretty dim for indoor photography. I set ISO and white balance to auto for both cameras. Color reproduction goes to the E4G, hands down. E3D had a hard time figuring out how to white balance the tungsten lighting, but looking at the insets, the E3D shows less noise than the E4G. From a post-processing perspective, the E3D has the most potential, since it’s much easier to color-correct than to remove noise. Still, if I were to pick a favorite without any touch-up, I’d pick E4G here. Note, I did also try the preset Incandescent white balance setting, but it did not look right at all. This was true for both phones.

Test set 5

In this set, we have even dimmer conditions than before. The room is lit by a 40W-equivalent CFL lamp, which is pretty far away from the subject. E3D once again proves it takes sharper pictures, judging by the insets. And unlike the previous test set, the E3D gets the colors correct. E4G still has a hard time focusing, and the contrast is not as good as E3D. Noise is very evident in the E4G image, especially in the glass vase.

Test set 6

This final comparison tested the flash capabilities of the phone. The clear winner was the E4G. E3D seems to have a much more powerful flash, but the final photo is tinted blue and overexposed. I tried many variations to improve the shot but was unable to. E4G had good contrast and color, albeit noisy, as usual. Flash actually improved color tones when compared to test set 5. Clear winner here is the E4G.

The results of these low-light tests surprised me; I went into these thinking the E3D was the shoo-in winner. Not so. However, I’ve seen my E3D perform better than this, and for sure, my E4G has produced some pretty horrendous flash shots. But in these controlled tests, the E4G came out on top for low-light. Definitely worthwhile to do more tests, but it’s certain that low-light photography is hit or miss sometimes, even with dSLRs. ***

A few more notes from deep within the thread:

  • Some HTC EVO 3D units appear to be producing a light green tint in many of users’ shots. This mainly happens in direct sunlight, but does appear to be a problem with a specific subset of camera sensors on specific models. We haven’t yet gathered data regarding which hardware version these users are on.
  • Some 2D pictures may produce dark photos if your brightness is low when taking the photo. To remedy, simply increase brightness and take the shot again. This is not an issue with 3D photos.
  • HTC apparently says the first bullet point above may be a software glitch and are looking to provide a fix in an OTA upgrade. We’re assuming the second bullet¬†point is software-related as well.

I should note that I (Quentyn) have not experienced the green/yellow tint issue in direct sunlight, nor has Novox77, the original poster. Here are his thoughts and some recent shots of him trying to reproduce the error:

*** I would agree that the green tint problem is likely a camera post-process problem for some subset of Evo3Ds. The focus problem could be a hardware issue. My Evo 4G appears to suffer from it (all E4G photos in my OPs are out of focus).

This morning, I tried to reproduce the green tint problem you guys have referenced but couldn’t. So I think it’s only affecting some percentage of E3D owners. Here are three pics I took under direct sunlight:

The flipflop shot looked fine. Red is slightly pink, but that may be due to a slight over exposure. In the street shot, the grass looks a little saturated. In the flower shot, the flowers are washed out a bit, but that’s due to the high contrast range (poor choice of subject in direct sunlight).

Focus was fine. I don’t see any green blotchy tinting. If the camera is important to you (as it is to me), I would definitely try an exchange to see if you can get one that takes better pics. ***

There it is. Ahead of a full review, here’s a very good look at the camera in every day situations. Novox77’s findings show that the camera on the EVO 3D is above average and far surpasses the quality of the original EVO 4G, but some users may be met with a bad experience if they were unlucky enough to get a bad apple. Personally, I have been able to take exceptional photos with the EVO 3D and am completely happy with its camera over the EVO 4G’s. I have produced similar results to Novox’s, but mileage always varies. Look out for a full review of the HTC EVO 3D in the coming days.

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