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Playing with the HTC Titan II's 16MP camera. Low-light and macro samples.

Titan II

Earlier today, we compared and contrasted the Nokia Lumia 900 and the HTC Titan II on AT&T and each featuring 4G LTE.  Both phones have their strengths and weaknesses but if there is one thing we can absolutely agree on is the impressive rear camera on the Titan II (review).

Featuring a back-side illuminated (BSI) sensor for excellent low-light performance, 16MP for high resolution, f/2.6 lens with dual LED flash, the Titan II has arguably one of the best cameras on a phone today (well, definitely on a Windows Phone). In fact, HTC in general has been investing heavily in cameras as of late, including their new flag ship Android phone, the One X (review), which has an 8MP BSI sensor with a jaw-dropping f/2.0 22mm lens.

There's no debate about it: the Titan II's rear camera crushes the Lumia 900's (review) That doesn't make the Lumia 900 a bad phone at all, in fact we find that the camera performs quite well in well-lit conditions and we're throwing down $450 on April 22nd for a glossy-white one to back up our opinion. But if photos matter to you, then the Titan II deserves a serious look. And if you have 4G LTE in your area to send those massive pics, it will certainly helps for those uploads.

Besides the exceptional camera hardware, HTC have done some really great work with the Titan II's camera software too. For instance, it's the first Windows Phone that we know of that has smile detection in addition to face detection. There's also an impressive red-eye reduction built in, burst mode for rapid shots and the familiar anti-shake option (ramps up ISO for non-blurred shots).

settings

Those are very impressive and useful features but there's more. There's also 18 "scenes" including more obscure things like "Backlight portrait", "Night portrait", "Text", "Beach", "Foliage' and even a special setting for "Food". Yup, there's a pre-set mode for taking pictures of your latest meal. If you don't want to bother choosing your scene, just use the "Intelligent Auto" mode to automatically choose one for you (and yes, it's smart too). You even have some built in effects like "Vintage warm", "Vignette" and "Blue Tint" which can also be used for video. That's on top of what's built into the optional Photo Enhancer app by HTC.

But enough talk, lets see some photos. We walked around the streets of Manhattan snapping a couple of pics as well as some macro and regular shots for you to peruse and yes, we're linking to the full resolution pics for your pixel peepers out there. These photos have not been altered in any way except to remove some EXIF info like GPS from our home pictures. The dual LED flash was not used for any pictures.

Jump past the break to take a look...

 

Low-light and Macro shots from HTC TITAN II

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Full-size photos found on Imgur below

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Reader comments

Playing with the HTC Titan II's 16MP camera. Low-light and macro samples.

74 Comments

Macro*
 
but, Wow, HTC really did step it up. Their cameras have always been crappy--having owned the wing(herald?), Touch Pro 2, Samsung Galaxy S, now HD7...I am impressed.
Nokia 900 shots next?

Will see. We have some up in the 900 review and our Titan comparison articles. For me, the 900's camera is so mediocre that it's not really worth a highlight article. But if enough people want one, we'll do one ;-)

The Titan II's camera is so good that it makes point and shoots redundant. As a hobbyist photographer, it's the first camera phone that I feel I can really experiment with and create worthy shots.

Ok, I was resisting so far in commenting, but I guess, I gotta comment now after seeing "biased" comments here. 
In my opinion:
The low light shots below don't make most of the good point and shoots redundant. 
You gotta be kidding, if you think so. 
2nd. As a hobbyist photographer, Nokia N86,Nokia N95 and  Nokia N8 should have been the camera phones that you are describing above. 
Again, you must be kidding that the Titan II was the first camera phone, you feel you can really experiment. 
 
So, obviously, based on your other comments, and posts earlier, you like HTC more than Nokia, which is completely fair.
So me now just giving my opinion.  
 

"Nokia N86,Nokia N95 and  Nokia N8 should have been the camera phones that you are describing above"

I never used those so I have no opinion on them.

"Again, you must be kidding that the Titan II was the first camera phone, you feel you can really experiment."

Why must I be kidding? Aren't you presuming a lot telling me how I should feel here?

"So, obviously, based on your other comments, and posts earlier, you like HTC more than Nokia"

Did you even read my Lumia 900 review? On the podcast today I said that I wish the Lumia 900 had the Titan II's camera because the Titan II is uninspired in design. I also own the Lumia 710 and Lumia 800 and like them both a lot, so no, I don't like HTC more than Nokia.

But the 900's camera is crap compared ot the Titan II's, that's just a fact and has nothing to do with how I feel about either company.

Finally, I stick by my point and shoot comment. I'm not saying the Titan II has a better sensor than PnS or are shaper/cleaner, rather when I leave home, I'll grab my Titan II over my TL500 in a lot of situations.

I would say that the original Titan's camera is better than the Lumia's. I would like like to see a 3way shootout. Or even a 4way with the focus s since those two had the best cameras of the first part of this generation.

"The Titan II's camera is so good that it makes point and shoots redundant."  
I wouldn't go that far.  It may replace point and shoots for 'normal consumers' (like any quality camera on a smart phone), but for people actually into photography (like you), no phone has a camera that comes close to say, for example, the Canon S90/S95/S100.  
Although I guess you are correct that it makes them redundant for 'most' people.

For little everyday things, I feel less compelled to grab my TL500 now that I have a Titan II. I'm not saying a Titan II will beat those cameras, it just makes their need less. In other words, I won't feel so bad if I leave it at home.

If I can carry less and still snap presentable shots (mind you, those above are not even touched up) then I'm a happy guy.

Personally, I do most of my "real" shooting on a D700 with prime lenses and don't even touch my TL500 that often.

Good point.  I'd say my Titan has replaced my P&S (an older Fuji F40fd which does outperform the Titan).  But for real shooting, I reach for my dSLR (an older pair of Nikon D70s and D1H).

The real problem with these cameras on phones is no optical zoom. That's what's keeping a phone camera from ever being your only camera, if you ask me.

Actually, since you seem photography-savvy, it would be appreciated. In fact, it would be really awesome if there was a in depth article of photography with windows phones. In sure a lot of people just point and shoot and expect amazing pictures, but some knowledge would help actually create amazing pictures.

Thanks Daniel for sharing these excellent photos and article. Thank you all other people for making this yet another debate section. Geesh!

I understand fully what you're saying about the camera on the 900, but Nokia had to save somewhere. Lets face it $99 on contract and Nokia's answer is the 41MP camera on the phone listed on this site last week. I do hope they modify the design for wp7 before releasing it.

My Titan has replaced my camera. It shoots fast and great in good lighting. Movement is a problem. I got kids and that's what I'm shooting. Previous Nokias can't compete with my Titan and I will back me. Rubino on his comments! Would appreciate a "live-rating-list" of current phones that rates poor-lighting, action-shooting... Great article... Keep em coming!

As a Lumia 900 owner who played with the HTC Titan II yesterday at the At&t store; I will agree with you Daniel. I think HTC blew Nokia away with not only the image quality, but the camera skin/settings that are available too. The 'rapid shot' and the approch to 'panorama shots'  are nice. The true mind blower for me, was shooting a photo with the digital zoom MAXED OUT and seeing how perfect it appeard after the windows phone 'auto fix ' feature got it's hands on it. Looked like it was taken with a professional  zoom lens. I wonder if the auto fix feature is modified by each OEM. 

@sly boogie...I think that the sites that tend to do 'face offs' or 'shoot outs' are PhoneArena and GSMArena, and both tend to use the N8 and iPhone 4S as benchmarks; so you'll probably see those comparisons pretty soon.

I got 97 views on YouTube already lol check it out everyone - NOKIA LUMIA 900 my bud and his nokia being recorded by my nokia #2

Really, in the past few days I've seen some good stuff done on the TitanII with all the hype over the Lumia900 one would think that Nokia is the only WP producer. Granted the design of all HTC devices is out right borning. the Radar being the lest good looking device. I have an HD7 and a 710 the 710 is much better even the camera is better than that of the HD7 but this bad boy is a shocker.... Something I'm going to have to have a really long hard look at.

We're trying to give a little balance here. We all love Nokia and we all now own Nokia phones here at WPCentral, but we have to give credit where credit is due and sometimes HTC does things right.

For those where a camera is a deciding factor, not considering the Titan II due to the hype of Nokia will be a mistake. If a camera is a less of a concern then the 900 is a solid choice.

IDK about HTC design being "boring". I will say that HTC took a good phone design (TITAN) and refined it into an awesome phone. Every niggle I had with my TITAN has been fixed on my T-II. I also carefully compared the T-II and the 900 and wanted to like the 900 but other than the unique rounded sides there was nothing for me to like more than the T-II. The T-II has the rolled glass at the bottom that makes it easier to hold and definitely not boring.. The T-II feels better in the hand, has better button placement with better textured finish, better speaker, better mic, (comoared both) by far a better camera and camera software, a larger, more natural looking screen. It also has a classy look rather than that plastic look IMHO :-)

Anyone know if the Titan II utilises Gorilla Glass? I'm a UK L800 user so can't get hold of one anyway...but just wondering. Love my mobile cameras, but hate fragile phones that make you nervous everytime you get them out of your pocket...

I do not believe my TITAN had actual Gorilla Glass but something as good as it never got a scratch even though I do not use a screen protector and am in a rough line of work. I did hear that the T-II is Gorilla glass but do not know for sure.

To be honest. I had the day off to pick up a 900 but wasn't pleased on the pictures it took. The color balance was off compared to my 5 mp HTC Trophy. I love the design but decided to wait for the white version. I would hope Nokia correct this issue on a software update. It's a shame such a beautiful device lacks a thing of beauty.

I'm quite disappointed with the comparison shots and what I’m reading about the Lumia 900 camera and I don’t what is up that because Nokia is supposed to have an absolute camera phone wizard of an engineer. I hope it is not because he is not much into Windows Phones though. However, for me the Nokia design, exclusive apps and the colour choices make it so much more of a compelling phone than boring HTCs that it more than makes up for the camera. Plus I suspect Nokia is going to extend is already big advantage in exclusive apps. I do hope that HTC can rise to the occasion and put a more effort into building some unique (and funkier) Windows Phones but I also wonder if anyone is going to be able to compete with Nokia for much longer.

I think there's a few reasons for Nokia's lackluster camera's so far:

  1. Keep costs down
  2. They're rushed a bit to market
  3. The chipsets/APIs don't give them as much control as they want/need
  4. Philosophy (they've said they're not impressed with BSI yet)

Daniel, do you happen to have a Fhotoroom account? I'm an amatuer/sometimes professional photographer with a Titan and I'm decently active in that community. I would love to see some of your shots on there and to follow what you've taken.
 
My username is PrestonIII

Thanks. I'll look into it. I've only played with that app a little bit.

I need to contact MS first to get some phones removed from my account as I can't add new software (i'm sideloading for now).

I'm not sure if it's been updated since it's been reviewed, but it's basically an Instragram for WP7. They make some pretty amazing HDR software for PC as well.

I will admit, as an HTC Titan owner I was upset tonight with the quality of the pictures I took in store on the Lumia 900. I take a LOT of photographs on my Titan (It's capable of amazing things, really) but that still isn't going to stop me from switching out for a Lumia 900 on Friday. It's not easy to pass up on the Titan II as some of those shots are just insane for a mobile device (seriously, that shot of what looks like a hospital is just insane. EVERYTHING has such clear definition and depth it's absolutely ridiculous) but alas.... the Titan II is $200 more than the Lumia 900 and I REALLY want LTE (Central Florida/Tampa Bay markets).

Im surprised by all these comments saying how horrible the Lumia 900 camera is. Ive been using it in low light inside shots and while its not the best camera ever the pictures are quite sharp. I havent seen Titan II pics in person so i cant comment but the Lumia 900 doesnt take as bad as pictures as everyone seems to be saying. All in all I love my Lumia and am glad to be using Windows Phone.

Id like to see the low light shots that are sharp. shots in lowlight areas are grainy with color distortion.

Even when u take photos. As the photos are getting saved after ur taking the shot u can actually see the colors change.

900 is a bad camera.

That's the thing. The Lumia 900 camera is not "bad". Far from it. The Titan II has a darn 16MP camera. I fully expect it to be better. But the Lumia 900's camera is not "bad" at all.

Not so much in this article, bit I'm just curious as to why some get so defensive when some that can be perceived as negative is said about Nokia or the 900?

I hate to say it, but Nokia is starting to build up a vocal fan base.

I partially understand it...they are the biggest supporters and they do great things, but I feel like we're going to have "Nokia fans" and "everyone else" soon.

@Daniel....Starting?  Lol!  Nokia has had a vocal fan base for years!  When Nokia announced their partnership with Microsoft...my goodness; every Nokia site I visited was on fire and they were fierce!  I still visit many of those sites, and many are quite vocal, but some have actually come to accept the partnership.  Nokia really does care about and tconsiders it's user base with regards to services, so it's kinda hard not to care about a company that cares for you.
I just think that the expectation will always be high regarding Nokia products, especially in imaging, given their history.  It is disappointing that Nokia didn't make any improvements over the L800 camera; perhaps they couldn't.  I guess this is the best that they could do with a 8MP camera.
But yeah, Nokia fans - old and new - are a passionate bunch :)

Maybe Microsoft will get Nokia to show them how to do hardware for the new Xbox or have Asus do the hardware r dell with ther alienware design :D

It's 95% the same (whatever that means).Same lens, same sensor, updated software.

As mentioned, earlier, none of those shots are low-light which is what the real test for sensor performance requires. The 900 does well in abundant light as I mentioned in our review. 

...and not a single low-light shot ;-)

The 900 does well in ample light. Most cameras do. It's in low-light where noise gets to be an issue and on the 900, it's pretty bad.

The shots with the 800 are great my problem is that you can't see the original photo.  The 800 has a 8mp camera as well and yet the photographer doens't let you see the full original shot...some of the pictures I take with my 900 look nearly as good as those but when I look at the full res picture I see the noise and all the other problems.

"I take with my 900 look nearly as good as those but when I look at the full res picture I see the noise and all the other problems."

Cameraphones don't have substancial sensors yet [hopefully will change with PureView] so no matter what device it is (even iPhone 4S) of course if you view the photo full-size you see the flaws, but since when does anybody view their cameraphone photos at 100%? 9/10 the photos are downsampled either from an editing program, when it get's uploaded online or what I do is limit the resolution in the camera settings to whatever is near 1080p; only time you will ever need greater pixel density is for print.

Instead of everyone pointing out the problem with the Lumia 900 camera I think people should contact Nokia and get them to tweak the camera driver to fix the auto-focus and the low-light noise issue which is easy to remedy if they improve it's algorithm and how it handles the information coming to the sensor. This is the main reason why the 4S camera excells because when things are low-light the sensor bumps up the ISO and allows more light to enter the lens but still retaining the sharpness.

For Photographers: If you feel the photos come out that bad then use Adobe Lightroom and Imagenomic Nosieware for post-processing or use Photomatix Pro (HDR) with 3 different EVs (-X, 0, X+) to give your photos a lift. Most pro photographers that use the 4S still do post-processing because the cameraphone is never going to be perfect until the sensor and optics improve.

Still getting the 900 though unlocked and will sell it for an Apollo device. :-)

Do you imagine there are ANY software tweaks that could make the low light pics better on the 900?

I'm coming from a first gen focus. It had plenty of noise in low-light pics too, but I'm pretty sure it was less than on the 900. I could tell the second I fired up the camera and pointed to something in low light that the snap would be bad

Lets all remember this is about windows phone being the best better then the others not Nokia vs HTC r Samsung vs LG its the software we support so stop hating on HTC I'm glad ther supporting windows variety is what windows is about not one hardware like apple does and blackberry

Could someone with both phones PLEASE, take the exact same pick form the exact same angles with both phones.. maybe its because im a more casual user..but i think my Lumia 900 takes excellent pictures.

I have recently had a, iphone 4, focus, a galaxy s2, and a HD7S... i think the lumia 900 takes the best pics out of them all.. they are as good as the s2 in quality and WP doesnt have as much "shutter delay" in my experience.. with the S2 i couldn't get a pic of my kids going down the slide at the park.. the same pic i had gotten on my focus several times.. Android sucks.

If any one has any links to side by side shot comparisons between the two phones.. please send them to me =)

-Lolken

 

I believe the author did post a small comparison of samples in an earlier post.  The T2 photos appeared overexposed with off white balance.  It did seem to fair better than the Lumia in lowlight, but we'd have to see more samples.  According to Engadget's T2 review, the lowlight photos are too noisy, so if anything I'd rather save the extra $200 and use my S95, or if the shot is really nice, my 5D.  I know my current Titan is horrid in lowlight if there's even the slightest movement. 

I wish us UK user had chance to play with TitanII as I don't believe it will be released over here.
Also it took me a while to figure out that touching different parts of my l800 screen exposed pic for part touched as opposed to using dedicated button (where majority of shots were poor)

Every telco person I ask gives a different answer so I've come to the experts for a definitive answer - I hope.
Does the 16 mp camera on the Titan actually translate into better images once loaded on to a PC rather than the 8mp on the One X or a Galaxy? I would have thought it would but people who should know give different opinions.
 
Thanks for the help..