Last week, we caught wind of an upcoming software update for the unlocked version of the HTC One. Firmware version 1.29.401.13 finally made its way to our devices and we took the UltraPixel camera for a spin both before and after the update, as we wanted to have a firsthand look at the effects of the update.
Although only a 4-megapixel camera, we found in prior tests that the UltraPixel camera on the One packs quite a wallop, performing quite well in various areas: HDR, low-light and even well-lit conditions. The supposed changelog, according to SlashGear’s report last week, states this update brings various improvements in the form of:
- Improvement to sound capture with Zoe
- Noise reduction in slow motion movie capture
- Improved color reproduction and dynamic range (reduced over-exposure in non-HDR images) in certain conditions
- Fix to display correct ISO in EXIF information when ISO settings are manually changed by the user
- Improved system performance and stability
We took the One around and tested its performance on both old and new software. With only one unlocked model, we were forced to take the pictures at different times, which made it quite difficult to frame the pictures exactly the same in every scenario. Despite that small speed bump, however, the improvements – albeit slight – are still noticeable in many of the stills found below.
In all the images below, the images on the left are pre-update and on the right are pictures from after applying the update. You will notice that these improvements are more about slight modifications and taming the previous firmware, versus a drastic overhaul.
Click on a photo for full-size.
The most prominent improvement is in the reduced over-exposure in non-HDR pictures. This only affects some specific scenarios, but the scene above is a perfect example of just how it works. The post-update image is, overall, darker than the similar picture taken pre-update. The difference is that the clouds are totally visible. There is some aberration around the edges of the clouds, but they are visible. In the pre-update image, the grass is greener and brighter, but the clouds are only just visible above the tree line. Although the grass and trees look more vibrant in the first photo, the latter photo, the one taken after the update, is more accurate and true to life.
In this case, although the images are framed slightly different, the enhancements are not visible. The color, contrast, brightness and focus are virtually spot-on, though the light in the back of the photo (along the sidewalk) is brighter and more accurate.
Above is yet another scenario where the improvements of the most recent update are not noticeable. The images are on par with one another.
The HDR performance after the update seems a tad more natural. Where the balusters on the pre-update image (left) are brighter than usual, the balusters on the post-update photo are more true to life.
In many scenarios, colors seemed more vibrant after the update. The right image, for example, shows a more balanced, true to life view of the leaves and pine needles. The pre-update image (left) was quick to over-expose, even in a darker image.
Some colors seem to have been toned down ever-so-slightly. It’s not immediately visible, but as seen in the close-up of the leaf, in the post-update photo (right), the greens are less saturated and slightly more warm than they in the pre-update photo (left).
Low-light performance is on par with before, but yet again we can see richer colors in the globe around the light bulb.
One thing worth mentioning is that even post-update, whites still tend to over-expose from time to time. For instance, in the picture of figurines after the update (right), the desk around the blue Iron Man’s feet is slightly blown-out. In the similar image prior to the update, the image is not over-exposed.
That said, the colors are richer in the photo on the right. The blue is more blue, and the skin ton on the Psy figurine’s face is definitely more saturated.
Overall, we have to say that while these improvements are, more or less, slight refinements and will likely go unnoticed by most, they are in fact improvements. And we’re definitely happy to see a lower tendency of over-exposing. In all, this update isn’t going to blow anyone away, but it lends more credence to the fact that megapixels only matter so much. Software and optics play a major part, as well.
Below, you will find the video samples, in which there weren’t a lot of changes.