HTC Windows Phone 8S review: Icebreaker
Camera quality is decent, but not great
The HTC Windows Phone 8S boasts a 5MP camera with LED flash, which can snap photos of 2592 x 1944 pixels resolution.
The camera UI is pretty simple - you have your viewfinder and some controls on the right. From top to bottom they are the still/video camera toggle, flash mode setting and the Lens button. On the left you have an arrow that takes you to the images taken with the camera, alternatively you can use a swipe gesture too.
The camera app on Windows Phone offers extensive settings, such as white balance, contrast, saturation, sharpness and ISO, among others. There is also face detection, while the flash can be set to auto, forced or off.
The dedicated shutter key will wake the phone up with a press-and-hold and launch the camera app. The 8S is not the fastest shooter around and it takes it a couple of seconds before a photo is taken. This is more delay than we're used to from modern phones. You can tap the screen to select where in the frame you want to focus, and the 8S will automatically snap a picture once it's focused.
Lenses is an interesting feature, enhancing the camera functionality without making a mess of third party apps each with its own UI. Lenses are accessible directly from the native camera app (they show up in the list of installed apps too if you want to pin a Lens to the start screen). Out of box, the 8S only has the Bing Vision Lens preinstalled, although you can get more from the Market.
HTC has included its Photo Enhancer app, which lets you apply various Instagram-like effects to any of the photos you've taken with the camera. Unfortunately, you can't access this app directly from the camera interface, and must instead launch the corresponding app.
The Windows Phone 8S doesn't do too well when it comes to actual image quality. Noise reduction smears away a lot of the fine detail, while oversharpening tries to bring back some of the lost sharpness. The result is less than stellar. The image borders have a decreased sharpness, suggesting poor quality optics. Colors are for the most part accurate, and the dynamic range is adequate. Overall, photo quality is below average.
Photo quality comparison
Our shot of the ISO chart reveals a pink spot, which appears in the center of photos taken with the 8S. The images taken with the HTC Windows Phone 8S can be compared with those of any of the smartphones in our database with our Photo Compare Tool. The tool's page will give you information on what to watch out for.
Video camera is better
The camcorder interface is identical to the still camera's and has plenty of features too. You can change the white balance, sharpness, and video resolution among others. The LED flash can be made to work as a video light, too.
The HTC Windows Phone 8S shoots videos of up to 720p resolution. The videos taken by the 8S are not as drastically oversharpened as the photos by the still camera and are even more lacking if fine detail. The pink spot in the center of the image is still visible.
The bitrate of the 720p video was at around 8.3 Mbps, while the framerate hovered around the 30 fps mark. Audio is recorded in mono at 96Kbps, 44.1kHz.
Here's a sample we uploaded to YouTube:
You can also download an untouched 720p@30fps video sample.
Video quality comparison
The HTC Windows Phone 8S is ready to bump heads with other Windows Phone devices, such as the Windows Phone 8X and the Nokia Lumia 820 in our video quality comparison tool. Once again you should consult the tool's page for information on what to look out for.