HTC Sensation review: Front-page stuff

GSMArena team, 10 June 2011.

Tags: HTC, Android, Touch UI

8MP camera has its highs and lows

The HTC Sensation packs an 8MP camera that does stills of up to 3264x2448 pixels and records 1080p video @ 30fps. There’s a dual-LED flash / video light too.

The camera interface is very space efficient. Most of the controls are on the right side of the viewfinder, with the virtual shutter in the center. There’s a virtual zoom lever on the left. By default the viewfinder image is cropped so that it fills the entire screen, but you can switch that off (note that cropping reduces the resolution).

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HTC Sensation HTC Sensation
HTC Sensation camera interface

The HTC Sensation has touch focus and face detection; geotagging is enabled too.

Continuous autofocus is enabled too which is good to have on a phone like the Sensation with no hardware shutter key (the virtual shutter key cannot trigger autofocus either). On the downside, the continuous autofocus may be way off in some shots - the only way to be certain you have the right focus is to tap and hold the shutter key.

The effects button brings out a panel on the left with the usual set of color effects (sepia, solarize and so on).

There are other image effects too. For example, Warp places a control point on the screen, which you can drag with your finger and see the result in real time.

Depth of field is another such effect – it adds a radius slider besides the control point and will blur everything in the photo that falls outside the circle.

Unfortunately, image quality is a traditional weak spot for HTC phones and the Sensation is no exception. Despite its 8MP resolution, the captured detail isn't all that much - noise reduction is trying too hard at times to offset a noisy image sensor - and although contrast is good, the colors are oftentimes way off. And oversharpening is present throughout all samples.

On the other hand if you don't need the full 8MP resolution (an let's be honest - most of us don't) then the results are quite acceptable. And the HTC Sensation probably has the best camera we've seen come from HTC. Most other 8 megapixel smartphones, however, are better than it. The Sensation comes close to the Sony Ericsson Xperia Arc, but the Galaxy S II and the Optimus 2X are better in still pics.

Anyway, we've got a bunch of samples below and we plan to do an 8 megapixel showdown quite soon.

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HTC Sensation camera samples

Photo quality comparison

The HTC Sensation enters our Photo Compare Tool to join the other 8MP shooters. The tool’s page will give you enough info on how to use it and what to look for.

The Sensation is a lot harder on image noise than most other 8 megapixel phones, so its images come out cleaner, but the finest detail gets smeared. Oversharpening is another defect that is easily noticeable. Portraits of people however come out with more pleasing skin tones

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HTC Sensation in our Photo Compare Tool

FullHD video recording is nice

The interface of the camcorder is similar to the still camera’s and there are lots of customizable options with this one. You can set the video resolution, recording limit and add effects.

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The new camcorder interface

Autofocus works here too, but only before you start shooting – then the focus is locked and won’t change even if you get closer or move back. Still, the Sensation had no problems focusing at even very close distances.

Videos are shot in .3GP, which isn't the ideal container for HD video, especially 1080p. Ask the LG Optimus 2X, if you don’t believe us. Still, the Sensation camera boasts stereo audio recording at 44kHz, which is a huge improvement over the sub-22kHz mono sound that, say, the LG Optimus 2X or Samsung Galaxy S II record.

But the image quality of the videos is nothing to shout about. The FullHD videos have less detail than the 720p footage recorded with the iPhone 4, let alone matching the Galaxy S II sharpness. Still they are smooth, with no doubled frames and have pleasing colors so it's not too bad.

The 720p videos captured are doing better for their class. In fact they are almost on par with the 1080p footage and really, the higher-res videos won’t give you much in terms of increased resolved detail.

Here goes an untouched sample 1080p@30fps video clip (13.8MB) and a 720p@30fps clip (10.4MB).

And here’s a video uploaded to YouTube for convenience. Don't forget to click 1080p on the FullHD video sample and open the video fullscreen.

Video quality comparison

We entered the HTC Sensation in our Video Compare Tool database too and put it head to head with other 1080p mobile camcorders.

This test shows curious results - the camera seems to have potential but the low-bitrate (around 10Mbps) takes its toll on the fine detail. Still, it manages to put up a good fight in our studio test and both phones qualify well ahead of the Optimus 2X.

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HTC Sensation in the Video Compare Tool

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