I’m tired of telling you what to think about the HTC One M8 camera.

Actually, telling you how to feel isn’t what a review is supposed to do; ideally, it provides information you need to make an informed decision about whether or not to buy a particular product. But that information needs to be placed in the proper context, and that always involves injecting some opinion –sometimes a great deal of it– into a piece. Finding a balance between the subjective and the objective is the tough part.

Nowhere is that tougher than when discussing a smartphone’s camera performance. We’re not a photography site, and with the exception of Adam Lein, we’re also not professional photographers, so Pocketnow doesn’t typically evaluate a smartphone camera based on objective industry standards.

That’s not to say our content isn’t trustworthy in this regard: photo-centric pieces like our Lumia 1020 vs 808 PureView comparison, or our guide on how to take great photos with the Lumia 1020 are good examples of methodical, objective reporting, and they’ve been well-received. But as experiments like our smartphone guessing game prove, it can be incredibly difficult to determine which smartphone took a particular set of photos – even for a detail-oriented audience accustomed to painstaking analysis.

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The HTC One M8 is one of the more polarizing devices we’ve ever reviewed, and that’s entirely thanks to its controversial camera. I’m on record as saying I might’ve given the phone a perfect score if it featured a better optics module, and Pocketnow has featured no fewer than three separate editorials this week critiquing the company’s decision to stick with a 4MP UltraPixel shooter for its 2014 flagship. While our official review score remains very high, the camera is without question the low point.

Yet I’ve found myself defending the HTC One M8 camera, despite its very real disadvantages when held up next to its predecessor (to say nothing of the rest of the competition). That’s because I still believe the Duo Camera is capable of delivering a shooting experience the “average consumer” could find acceptable – and even exemplary in some ways. Because even accounting for all its handicaps, it’s still capable of taking some remarkable photos.

Location credit: Citi Performing Arts Center | Wang Theatre
Location credit: Citi Performing Arts Center | Wang Theatre

But again, this isn’t about me telling you how to think. This is about presenting raw information, so that those considering picking up the M8 can make an informed decision.

Below is a batch of photos taken over the course of a full day in and around Boston, MA. No post-processing has been applied: what effects you see were provided by the One M8’s own software, and even those effects (such as HDR) have been used sparingly. I tried to capture photos under a variety of lighting conditions at a range of distances, doing my best to take a shot I’d be proud of in each case.

Combine those with the photos from our full review and those of our video review below, and you should have a fairly broad sample set from which to make your decision. So dive in: click on the pics, zoom in as much as you like, and pretend these are your shots to share on social media or attach to emails addressed to Dear Aunt Selma.

Once you’ve got a feel for them, drop a line in the comments telling us whether the HTC One M8 camera would be good enough for you to use for two years – and if you’ve already picked up an M8 of your own, share your own photos below! We’d love to see them.

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