Google Nexus One vs. HTC Incredible camera

Nexus One sample pictures (slide show):

Incredible sample pictures (slide show):

Wow. I’ve carried the Google Nexus One in my pocket every day for almost 6 months now. As my primary phone, it’s been with me to Seattle, Sydney, and Los Angeles – I’ve snapped hundreds of shots with it!

While not best-in-class, the Nexus One takes much better pictures with its single LED flash equipped 5 megapixel AF camera than any HTC device before it – in fact, it’s good enough for me the majority of the time, and I’m picky :)

So, when the HTC Incredible landed in my dirty little hands a month ago with its dual LED flash equipped 8 megapixel AF camera, I was both excited and intrigued. How would it fare?

As it turns out, the Incredible (like the HTC EVO 4G, which uses a similar sensor and optics) improves upon the Nexus One to represent the finest HTC currently has to offer. See for yourself after the break…

The evidence

The above pictures were taken about 30 seconds apart from the exact same location at dusk, and show pretty respectable low-light performance from both cameras.

The Nexus One uses a wider angle lens, but the Incredible features a larger lens opening, and is able to gather more light. As a result, the Incredible handles colors and exposure slightly better than the Nexus One in this shot.

Here is a pixel for pixel closeup (with 5 MP scaled to 8 MP) – Nexus One at the top and Incredible at the bottom:

The Incredible clearly captures more detail than the Nexus One – just pay attention to the road signs in the foreground and trees in the background.

Here is another pixel for pixel closeup, this time in normal daylight – Nexus One to the left (original) and Incredible to the right (original):

Beyond the minor differences in time-of-day and perspective, the Incredible still captures more detail, but the Nexus One comes close. Both cameras exhibit over-sharpening here.

For reference, check out the same picture taken by other 8 MP devices.

Onto the last pixel for pixel closeup, this one indoors – Nexus One to the left (original) and Incredible to the right (original):

The shot from the Nexus One looks more appealing, right? Perhaps, but the colors and exposure from the Incredible are actually more realistic.

This is a picture taken in bright daylight – Nexus One at the top and Incredible at the bottom (click to enlarge):


The structure at the top of the stairs is completely overexposed by the Nexus One – the Incredible fares slightly better.

Consider this night shot – Nexus One at the top and Incredible at the bottom (click to enlarge):


Can you see the flagpole above the Macy’s sign? Can you read the text at the base of the column? The Incredible is able to gather more light before noise becomes a problem, and the result is clearly better than the Nexus One.

So now that I’ve busted this myth, let’s answer a few questions.

How is else is Incredible better than the Nexus One?

The Incredible features extra camera settings not available on the Nexus One (contrast, saturation, sharpness, ISO, widescreen, self-timer, metering mode, review duration, flicker adjustment, grid).

The Incredible allows touch-to-focus, which also adjusts exposure in “spot” mode.

The Incredible flash is brighter than the Nexus One flash (dual vs. single LED).

The Incredible records video at a 800×480 @ 30 fps with initial auto-focus, vs. 720×480 @ 30 fps with no auto-focus on the Nexus One.

How is the Nexus One better than the Incredible?

The default camera settings for the Nexus One don’t have to be tweaked out-of-the-box. The default camera settings for the Incredible don’t make a lot of sense, with widescreen enabled (instead of standard 4:3 ratio), geo-tagging disabled, and some over-sharpening.

The Nexus One saves the flash mode between sessions. The Incredible always resets the flash mode to “auto”.

The scroll ball on the Nexus One behaves like a two-stage shutter button. Pressing it focuses the camera and releasing it takes the picture. The optical trackpad on the Incredible behaves like a single-stage shutter button.

What could be improved on both the Incredible and the Nexus One?

The lack of dedicated two-stage camera button really hinders the user experience on both devices.

The OLED display is difficult to see in bright sunlight, making it difficult to frame shots properly.

The additional evidence

Nexus One sample video (download original, 720×480 @ 30 fps):

Incredible sample video (download original, 800×480 @ 30 fps):

Update: (September 22, 2010) The HTC Incredible recently gained support for 720p HD video recording (up from 480p) after receiving a firmware update from Android 2.1 (Eclair) to Android 2.2 (FroYo). Here is a sample video (download original, HD, 1280×720 @ 24 fps):

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14 Responses to Google Nexus One vs. HTC Incredible camera

  1. Dave says:

    Hi tnkgrl

    I have a Incredible and my photos seem to come out like below, is there anyway of me fixing this:

    Same shot taken with my Omnia looks like this:

    How can i fix the blueness of my Incredible?

    Thanks, and great review.

    • tnkgrl says:

      While I have not experienced this problem others have reported it too.

      Perhaps you are not waiting long enough for the white balance to settle… You can always point the camera at a white surface to force to white balance to settle, or set the white balance manually!

      Are you just snapping away or are you using touch-to-focus?

      • Dave says:

        Thanks for the reply :)

        I am using touch-to-focus and i’ve tried setting the white balance manually and auto. Ive been playing around with all sorts of settings hehe…

        My results are a little better but I do still get a slight blue tint to some pics.

        I’m actually getting the unit replaced due to the grounding issue, so I will check the new one in a couple of days.

        Thanks again for the fast reply :), you have a nice site.

        Dave

      • Dave says:

        oh can you try and take a sunset photo with your incredible if you still have it, and see what is a good setting for it maybe?

        Thanks

    • tnkgrl says:

      There are a couple of sunset pics in my set above…

      The only picture that looks wrong to me in the 6 pictures is the one of the laptop taken with the Incredible.

      The sunset is fine!

  2. Dave says:

    Here are some better outcomes :) thought you might wanna see them.

    Using Camera 30

    Standard Camera

    Hope you don’t mind me posting these, just thought i’d show it its working well after playing with settings :)

    Thanks

  3. Gabriel says:

    Thanks for busting that myth. This is really helpful. Also, SF is beautiful!

  4. stiche says:

    Great job, tnkgrl. I am jonesing bad for an Incredible, mainly to get away from WinMo on an Ozone, as well as the old eyes and fat fingers would like some bigger targets when I am mobileing, which is most of the time.
    I am a videographer and photographer and would also like a device that does both this well in my pocket all the time.
    Guess I’ll have to rob a liquor store so I can get me an Incredible since I am only a third of the way through my contract.
    Ciao, stiche

  5. Peter M. says:

    Thanks for the great review tnkgrl. I’ve been on the hunt for a great Android camera phone. Most review sites just list the number of mega pixels or LED flash being included as an indicator of how good it will be for taking pictures. It looks like the Incredible will be on my list of Android phones to look at for purchase, unless you can think of another current phone that would be better.

  6. david s. says:

    hey there fellow SF’r. I have been using the Samsung SCH-A990 for the last 3 years and at 3.2mp I still think it’s a great camera. This phone camera even has multiple shot capability. Does the Incredible have this option? I really want to get the Incredible for the camera, will I love it? Also, have you heard of any Android apps on the way to compete with the Hipstamatic feature available for the iPhone?

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