Mayor of Awesometown
Thoughts on the One's camera sensor dimensions
So I learned something new in Alex's post today comparing the Nexus 4 to the HTC One: the physical aspect ration of the One's camera sensor is 16:9, as opposed to 4:3 on almost all other smartphones. (Thanks Alex!)
I personally don’t care for 16:9 photos, I think it’s a little too wide. I grew up shooting with 35 mm cameras so I prefer a more classic 3:2 aspect ratio, and in fact have my Samsung Galaxy Camera set to that (even though I’m not taking advantage of all the sensor’s pixels, since it’s a 4:3 sensor). My Nexus 4 is set to 4:3, which is typically how I've set all my camera apps on my smartphones.
I’ve always found it odd that phone manufacturers tout their megapixel counts (8! 13!) but then ship the phones defaulting to 16:9, which on a 4:3 sensor means you’re taking pictures with less megapixels than the manufacturer beat you over the head with as nirvana. Even the Nexus 4 ships this way.
I believe the reason the phone’s camera apps default to 16:9 is because that’s the dimensions of the phone’s display. The average user who really doesn’t have any idea about camera sensors or what the megapixels really add up to doesn’t care if they’re not using the “full” sensor, but would probably bug support staff with “why are there back bars on the sides of my pictures?” “the camera on my phone is broken, it doesn’t use the whole screen!” questions if it defaulted to 4:3 to use the full sensor. In order to keep the lowest common denominator happy, shipping with 16:9 as the default would make sense, and the people who care/know can always change it to 4:3 in the settings.
With a 13 MP or 8 MP sensor, defaulting to 16:9 still leaves you with pretty significant pixel counts for your photos. But what if you’ve dropped to 4 MP as HTC has done? They’re already fighting an uphill battle in the spec war trying to convince people that fewer, larger pixels is actually “better” than more, tiny pixels. If you format those fewer, larger pixels in a traditional 4:3 sensor which you then effectively ”crop” for the average user who wants to use their full display to frame/view their pictures, you’ve lowered the actual “used” megapixels into the 3-range.
So there’s that. Or it might just have more to do with Zoes and other special features HTC has included with their camera that take advantage of video processing which is done in 16:9.
Whatever the reason, the bottom line for me is if I want to get the highest resolution still pictures possible on the HTC One, I have to shoot in 16:9. The camera was the major attraction for me to this phone - I really have bought into the "bigger pixel is better" argument since 90% of my cameraphone pictures are viewed on displays, not printed, but I really don't like the idea of 16:9 photos.
Curious what everyone else thinks