Android and Me

A closer look at the HTC Amaze 4G camera

3 years ago 13

Finding the perfect phone is a pretty hard task these days. Consumers have a myriad of choices at their fingertips; devices feature processors with single or multiple cores, high-resolution displays, physical keyboards and much more. So what makes one phone better than the rest? You could make charts and graphs all day long comparing different spec lists, but it really comes down to what you’ll be doing with the device. If you’re into gaming, you’d better make sure you have the best CPU and GPU combination on your phone. If you listen to music, HTC’s Beats Audio integration may be right up your alley.

Today we’ll be taking a closer look at the rear- and front-facing cameras on the HTC Amaze 4G. The Amaze 4G is the latest phone from HTC to hit the US market on T-Mobile’s 4G 42 Mbps HSPA+ network. The phone features some amazing hardware, putting it close to the top of most phone spec charts, but the one feature that really stands out is the phone’s 8 megapixel rear-camera.

Hardware

The HTC Amaze 4G features an 8 megapixel camera on the back with dual LED flash. It’s capable of recording videos in full 1080p resolution. The camera is accompanied by two dedicated buttons along the right edge of the phone, which can be used to automatically launch the phone into camera or video recording modes. The two buttons can also be used as an alternate to the on-screen shutter button for the camera or video capture. The front of the phone features a 2 megapixel fixed focus shooter located directly above the T-Mobile logo.

While an 8 megapixel camera on an Android phone may be easy to find these days, the Amaze 4G features a backside-illuminated imaging sensor, allowing the Amaze to capture more light. To help reduce motion blur, HTC has equipped the phone with an incredible 1:2.2 wide-angle f 2.2 autofocus lens.

If you’ve been keeping up with HTC’s most recent phones, you probably already know that they’ve been working really hard to deliver one of the best photo experiences on a mobile phone. Earlier this year, HTC introduced instant-capture on the HTC Sensation. This allowed users to snap pictures the moment they pressed the shutter button (as long as the subject was already in focus). While there’s some software wizardry taking place to make instant capture a reality, the HTC Amaze’s dual-core Qualcomm processor is the hardware component that makes this feature physically possible.

Software

Anyone who’s played with the HTC myTouch 4G Slide will probably notice many of the features included in the HTC Amaze 4G camera app. HTC has reorganized the UI slightly to make the user experience a lot more fluid.

Users still have complete control over all the camera settings and can change the flash (on/off, auto) ISO, resolution and white balance or add custom effects before snapping their pictures. But most people will likely select from the different preset scene settings available on the Amaze. Pressing the scene button from the main camera screen reveals 10 scenes that determine how the camera on the HTC Amaze 4G will capture your images.

  • Auto: Automatically detects and adjusts settings to achieve best results for most picture scenarios.
  • SmartShot:  Captures an array of shots when taking group photos and combines multiple images to create the best photo of everyone smiling.
  • SweepShot: Produced panoramic images by holding the camera steady and rotating in one direction after the camera button is pressed.
  • ClearShot HDR: Creates a single image from successive shots taken at high and low exposure settings to produce images which have low light contrast.
  • BurstShot: Shutter burst mode captures successive images for fast moving objects.
  • Night: Low-light setting which reduces image blur and increases preset ISO to create more crist and vivid images.
  • Action: Captures fast moving objects so that the image remains sharp.
  • Macro:  Lens and flash adjustments which allow users to capture macro style images.
  • Portrait: Produces images that keep the main object in focus while blurring its surroundings.
  • Manual: Enables users to modify advanced features (ISO, white balance, effects, and more) through the settings option.
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While the scene presets may not sound any different than those on a regular point and shoot camera, a few of them allow the HTC Amaze 4G to stand out from the pack. For most occasions, users will want to keep the camera on the HTC Amaze 4G set to automatic. This feature detects your current surroundings and does all the crazy settings changes for you. If you leave it on auto and decide to shoot a picture in the dark, the auto setting will adjust to Night mode for optimal performance.

The scenes really shine in SweepShot and ClearShot HRD modes. SweepShot is nearly as easy as SONY Cybershot’s panoramic mode, which made its debut about a year ago. Simply press the shutter button and start rotating the camera to the left or right. We’ve all seen panoramic pictures before; there’re pretty fun to show off. We spent a lot of time using the SweepShot mode to capture vertical panoramic pictures in downtown Minneapolis. The effect is certainly dramatic, but the image processing goes a little haywire if you’re too close to the subject.

ClearShot HDR was one of our favorite preset modes, since it allows you to capture outdoor images without worrying too much about the lighting around you. Turning this feature on allows the Amaze to capture several images at different contrast settings. Those images are then used to produce a single image. The setting works wonders if you’re in an area with shadows or want to capture a picture out in the open without over exposing the sky and the clouds.

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The SmartShot setting on the HTC Amaze 4G would be amazing if it actually lived up to its description. According to HTC, the setting allows the phone to capture multiple images during group photo shots which are then analyzed to produce a picture with everyone smiling. We tested out the preset scene on a few occasions, but never came out with a good result. If you could convince 5 people to only move their faces for 5 seconds, SmartShot may actually work.

Pictures taken with the HTC Amaze 4G are simply astounding when you consider that they’re captured by a smartphone. The clarity and sharpness of the photos from the Amaze could easily be compared to those of a $150 point and shoot camera. Though the HTC Amaze 4G’s scene presets do some pretty amazing things, users will notice that the image quality drops a bit when you use any of the settings that process multiple images into one. The images are decent, but lack the crispness of the phone’s other images. The increased ISO is typically much more visible, as well.

Video Recording

Recording video on the HTC Amaze 4G is simple. Just press the dedicated video hardware button once to launch the camera into video more, then pressing it a second time to record. Thanks to the Qualcomm S3 dual-core processor, the Amaze can record video in 1080p and can even use the LED flash to light up a room while recording. The backlit imaging sensor allows the phone to record good video even in low light situations.

While the quality of the video recorded with the HTC Amaze is really good, we found that the phone had issues reproducing quality sound. HTC has equipped the HTC amaze 4G with dual-microphones so that it can record stereo audio, but we found that recorded audio was always muffled or overpowered by the sound of the autofocus lens changing focal points.

Just like with previous HTC phones, the camera app allows users to change the focal point while recording video by simply tapping on the area of the screen users would like in focus. Users are also able to customize their video recording settings by choosing between a half dozen white balance options or applying a handful of imaging effects.

Watch on YouTube
Watch on YouTube

Front-facing camera

Normally, the front-facing camera on an Android phone isn’t anything of note, but the HTC Amaze 4G’s 2 megapixel front camera is a little different. Anyone planning to use the camera to take self-portraits should be more than thrilled with the results. But the real shocker is that it can also record 720p HD video, which can be used with the pre-installed Qik app for high definition video chat. Surprisingly, the audio that’s captured while recording video with the front-facing camera is a lot clearer than the audio from video recorded with the rear camera. It could have something to do with the location of the microphones and the way the phone is held.

Watch on YouTube

Wrap up

If it’s not already obvious, the cameras on the HTC Amaze 4G are at least a step or two ahead of most the competition. The images produced by the phone are stunning, and the preset scenes allow the phone to capture and produce images with some pretty amazing effects. The phone does have a few minor issues with muffled audio while recording video, but the front-facing camera is more than stellar.

No camera phone has ever been perfect, but we can definitely say that the HTC Amaze 4G is one of the top three camera phones we’ve ever used. You may buy a phone for its processor, screen or overall design, but if you’re looking for a decent replacement for your dedicated point and shoot camera, we suggest you place the HTC Amaze 4G at the very top of your buying list.