We've lined up four 8MP sharpshooters: the HTC Sensation of course, along with the Samsung Galaxy S II, LG Optimus 2X and the Sony Ericsson Xperia Arc.
A few words first on the interface and the general experience of shooting, before we move on to image quality.
The Sensation with its Sense UI 3.0 interface completely reworks the Android camera interface. It's simple, keeping the major settings in the column on the right along with the shutter key, and all the other settings in the Settings page, which slides out and only covers part of the screen.
You could adjust the ISO or exposure settings if you wish, but the UI is more fun oriented: Effects is among the settings always available on-screen.
Shot-to-shot time is quite short (unlike the Optimus 2X which takes about 2-3 seconds to be ready for another photo). The continuous autofocus cuts down on the time it takes the camera to find the correct focus to almost zero, but it also tends to miss the focus in a few shots.
The Galaxy S II, Optimus 2X and the Xperia Arc take the more traditional approach - press and hold the shutter key (be it virtual or physical) to focus and release/full press to shoot.
The HTC Sensation is a member of the 8MP gang but the level of resolved detail is not the best of the bunch. While contrast in photos is usually very good, the camera does have a clear tendency to overexpose some areas. Color rendering is okay if you like warm colors (as most users do).
The biggest problem however is the noisy image sensor. The noise reduction algorithm manages to clear it out but unfortunately, most of the fine detail goes with it. We've prepared a few crops to prove our point.
Look at how each camera has done in these details: the sharpness of the numbers, the fine detail in the grass and asphalt and the lines between the tiles on the building's front (and the "OUTLET" sign).
And of course, here's a batch of camera samples we took during testing.
The HTC Sensation shows clearer signs of oversharpening than the other two cameraphones, but the Sensation does very well at this synthetic benchmark. This mostly shows the limitation of synthetic benchmarks. Once you get to the third poster the limitations of the Sensation camera become more apparent.
While in the first chart, the black on white lines for measuring the horizontal and vertical resolution are resolved clearly, the similar lines in the second poster (that don’t have as much contrast being black on grey) have been smudged away.
The HTC Sensation packs the best camera on an HTC we've seen yet - which is great news since that's a traditionally weak area for the Taiwanese company. And while it's not the best mobile phone camera ever, it certainly made the competition break into a sweat.