The HTC U11+ has a 12MP UltraPixel 3 OIS camera with an f/1.7 aperture, 1.4µm pixels, UltraSpeed (read Dual Pixel) autofocus, and a dual-LED flash. The camera makes use of image stacking and supports the so-called HDR Boost - where it fully utilizes that image stacking.
The camera app interface is quite simple. Everything is organized into a drawer of modes and settings on the left. If it doesn't make sense at first, imagine that this drawer is the hamburger menu of any other app.
There's a Pro mode for those who want more control over the camera. It comes with adjustment sliders for white balance, exposure compensation, ISO, shutter speed (up to 32s), and focus. RAW capture is available as well. Shooting in Pro mode will also save a RAW version of the photos you take.
The photos taken with the U11+ look great. The first batch shots we snapped with HDR turned completely off. Colors are well represented but not oversaturated, dynamic range is very good and the exposure is metered very well in situations with contrasting light. There is great amount of resolved detail but some noise also made it to the final shots.
Just like the Google Pixel, the U11+ uses an HDR algorithm called "HDR Boost". Whenever you have HDR or HDR Auto mode enabled, the camera constantly snaps images in its buffer and analyzes them even before you press the shutter button. If the scene needs any correction in light, these frames will be stacked up to produce an image which has noise reduced, shadows filled, and highlights recovered, all while keeping a natural look.
The day we took the U11+ for a spin outside was sunny, but the HDR Boost (in Auto HDR) still felt the need to highlight the shadows and used stacked images for each of the scenes we snapped. The results are quite good - the photos kept the same good colors and contrast, the dynamic range improved, and the processing got rid of the noise. Sometimes we noticed the shots ended up blurry while on other occasions the resolved detail took a hit. We'd suggest keeping the Auto HDR option on for the daylight shots only when the weather is everything but sunny.
If you leave the HDR option to ON, you will eliminate the chance for blurry photos, but shooting is noticeably slower.
And speaking about the Google Pixel 2 XL, we just couldn't miss the opportunity to do a quick shootout. While the U11+ regular samples turned out a bit more detail, the HDR ones are pretty much the same as Google's.
And here are the Google Pixel 2 XL samples we took.
TIP! You can use our new compare tool available on each group of compatible samples to compare anything you see here.
While we have mixed feelings for the HDR Boost in daylight, it's a must-have for the low-light shots. The photos show without HDR aren't bad, they have enough detail, but are somewhat noisy and blurry takes may happen.
The samples shot with the Auto HDR on are quite impressive - the U11+ always stacks images at night and the produced photos come with lower ISO and noise. Then there is more sharpness and fine detail in those HDR shots and you should always keep the Auto HDR for low-light shots.
For further pixel-peeping, here are a few links to our photo compare tool and its extensive library of devices. The samples we used for our tool were shot with Auto HDR as intended by HTC, but you can select from the dropdown menu the same U11+ photos with HDR turned off.
The U11+ captures decent panoramas tall about 3,200 px, but they are nothing to really phone home about. Stitching defects are common across the U11+'s panoramic shots, which is something we thought to have been dealt with a long time ago even on the cheap $100 phones. On the flip side, you do get a decent amount of detail and plenty of resolution.
HTC U11+ sports an 8MP selfie camera with f/2.0 lens and fixed focus. The specs sure sound uninspiring, but the selfies we took turned out quite good. There is impressive amount of resolved detail, the colors and contrast are excellent, while the dynamic range is above average. For the low-light occasions we would once again suggest using the Auto HDR option.
HTC U11+ can take 4K videos at 30 fps and 1080p clips with either 30 or 60 fps. There is a 5min cap for the 4K vids, which might be inconvenient for some.
Thanks to the 4 mics on the HTC U11+ its camcorder can capture either 3D audio with acoustic zoom or high-res audio. The 3D audio uses AAC codec (96Kbps) and is the default option. The videos come in MP4 containers and in spite of the low bitrate - the sound is impressive.
You can opt for high-res audio capturing for your videos - then the HTC U11+ would use FLAC codec and save the clips in MKV containers. As you can imagine, the FLAC codec increases the file size, so you should use it only when high-res audio is of utmost importance.
The 4K videos are really sharp with great colors and plenty of detail. The dynamic range is great, while the Dual Pixel auto-focus really helps keep the focus accurate all the time. Those are one of the best 4K videos we've encountered lately.
The 1080p videos, no matter 30 or 60 fps, pack a serious punch as well. Just like 4K samples, which keep a pretty steady bitrate of around 54 Mbps, FullHD ones hover very slightly around the formidable 20 Mbps (30fps for 60fps) mark. Detail is plenty as well.
You can download a 2160p (10s, 65MB), 1080p at 60fps (10s, 36MB), and a 1080p at 30fps (10s, 25MB) sample for closer inspection too. You can also try this 4K video with FLAC audio, if you like (10s, 74MB).
We also did try how the new Acoustic focus works. If you zoom in while recording a video, the sound recording will also adjust the gain so the sound coming from your subject is clearer and easier to hear even if there is a lot of ambient noise. The usefulness of the feature will largely depend on whether you are used to zooming while recording video, but if you are, we can confirm it works quite well and just as advertised. Here's a demo video of the feature which we shot back when we reviewed the original U11.
Last, but not least, we have the HTC U11+ in our 4K video compare tools for all your examination needs.
Finally, here is a bonus 1080p video shot with the front camera of the HTC U11+.