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HTC One M8 camera is very hit and miss in full photo test

We compared the HTC One M8's camera against some of its smartphone rivals -- and we weren't blown away by the results.

HTC's latest metal flagship packs a heady lineup of the best tech, from a supercharged quad-core processor to its Full HD display and latest version of Android KitKat. The One M8 maintains the same 4-megapixel camera as its predecessor -- with the physically larger sensor to let in more light -- but HTC says it's been tweaked to improve clarity. I got my hands on a model ahead of its launch to put it to the test.

While the One M8 is capable of capturing some great shots, in my testing, it didn't stack up too well against its flagship rivals, including the iPhone 5S. I've picked out a few shots below that best reflect my findings, but check out my full gallery of example shots, along with comparisons from some of its main competitors.

The main issue I found with the M8's camera was in its ability to correctly expose for a scene. When shooting a scene with areas of brightness and darkness, it tended to overexpose in order to correctly capture the darker areas, leading to the brighter areas being overexposed and washed out.

HTC One M8 test shot Andrew Hoyle/CNET
iPhone 5S test shot Andrew Hoyle/CNET

As you can see in this shot, the M8 has captured plenty of detail in the brickwork below this bridge, but it's completely blown out the bright sky, which doesn't look at all good. While the iPhone 5S's shot was darker, it's captured the deep blue of the sky well.

HTC One M8 test shot Andrew Hoyle/CNET
iPhone 5S test shot Andrew Hoyle/CNET

This shot of trees shows similar results. The iPhone 5S captured the darker areas well, but still managed to show the menacingly grey clouds in the background. The One M8, however, again had a rather washed-out sky, making the scene much less imposing. The lower resolution of the M8 also means that the fine detail on the leaves is much less crisp at full screen.

HTC One M8 test shot Andrew Hoyle/CNET
iPhone 5S test shot Andrew Hoyle/CNET

I also found its auto white balance to be rather hit and miss. In this scene in Richmond, West London, the M8's white balance made the scene look very cold and blue -- a big shame, considering it was actually a lovely afternoon. The iPhone 5S meanwhile had a much warmer, more natural colour tone. Both phones at least did a decent job with exposure.

HTC One M8 test shot Andrew Hoyle/CNET

In the right circumstances, the M8 can capture some brilliant shots though. This riverside scene (above) has great colours and exposure, while this close-up on a boating knot (below) came out the best on the M8.

HTC One M8 test shot Andrew Hoyle/CNET

Although it didn't completely impress in overall image quality, it does have a load of extra tricks up its sleeve that help make it an appealing camera phone. Various image effects can be applied, it has a great panorama function, a 360-degree photo stitching function and a burst mode that allows you to select the best photo or combine a moving object in a scene into an action sequence photo.

When snapping portraits of your friends, the depth sensor on the camera also allows you to selectively edit the background of the image, without altering your friend, refocus the image after it's been taken, or even cut them out of one picture and place them into another.

It seems that while the camera is technically capable of snapping great photos, it's being let down by the camera software in automatic mode which doesn't always read the scene well.

There are a whole load of settings to tinker with on the phone, include white balance and exposure, so if you take your time to try different manual settings you'll probably be able to get much better shots.

If you're after quick snaps when you're out and about, don't want to spend time fiddling with settings and aren't that fussed about having a wealth of shooting modes, the iPhone 5S's great image quality still makes it the best choice.