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HTC One camera

It's all about balancing sensor size, pixel size and file size, says HTC's Symon Whitehorn

One of the more controversial engineering decisions made in the new HTC One was the choice to go with a 4-megapixel rear camera, but with advanced optics and larger individual pixels. After all, we've been conditioned to see the overall megapixel count as a rough way of judging camera quality. But as HTC's been keen to hammer home since the phone's announcement, pixel count isn't the be-all and end-all of digital imaging.

In an interview with ComputerWorld, HTC's director of special projects Symon Whitehorn -- a former Kodak executive in charge of the manufacturer's imaging efforts -- goes into more detail about the benefits of HTC's new "UltraPixel" sensor, consisting of four million, 2-micron wide pixels.

It's really [a matter of] becoming very rational about the megapixel count rather than using it as a marketing metric, which people have been doing before. Lots of megapixels have their place -- usually in a bigger device. The price the industry is starting to pay by cramming more and more megapixels into a smaller and smaller sensor is loads of added noise and all-over performance.

For 99 percent of what people do with their images, they actually don't need the high megapixel count. We'd rather give them the sort of performance that is real-world usable.

Whitehorn says one of those benefits is improved low light performance, something we highlighted in our review of the HTC One. But it turns out one of the HTC One's other main camera features is reliant on the smaller image size -- namely HTC Zoe.

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