HTC’s future imaging plans revolve around the selfie market and optical zoom coming to smartphones, according to the company’s camera expert Symon Whitehorn. In an interview with Vodaphone (via Android Central), Whitehorn made various points, including his thoughts on 4K in smartphones, future applications of optical zoom, and the importance of the front-facing camera in the company’s attempt to clench the “selfie market.”
Regarding 4K imaging, Whitehorn believes that it’s a good standard to aim for, but that the technology isn’t quite there yet:
We could be 4K ready now. But we’re waiting until 4K can really fit into people’s lives, and to make sure that that decision makes sense.
If you look at 4K quality, it really is only about 8-megapixels. That’s a pretty good level to hold at, because over and above that we’re not sure what benefit you’d be getting. That kind of ballpark is where we’ll be very happy to be in the future, as long as we can maintain the large pixel model.
The HTC One M8 retains the same 4 megapixel sensor that last year’s One M7 featured, meaning that it can’t shoot at a 4K resolution. Various other devices are already capable of shooting photos and video at 4K, though the utility of 4K photos and videos on a smartphone at this point is negligible.
Whitehorn then goes on to discuss the inevitable downfall of DSLR’s as the reigning champion of image quality by making vague statements about an 18- to 24-month timeframe where the “lens barrier breaks down”:
There’s a boundary that everyone wants us to crack. As smartphones have become people’s primary camera, we expect more of them. That’s why we’ve put so much investment into the camera – because smartphone cameras take the majority of our images now. We already outperform a lot of compact point and shoot cameras, but we want to approach the performance of regular cameras. Every generation of our cameras seems to close that gap.
Whitehorn also states that “optical zooming in a smartphone is not too far off at all for HTC.” He seems to believe that optical zooming is the only advantage that DSLRs and other dedicated cameras have over their smartphone counterparts– which isn’t true. It’s hard to imagine a world where a $600 smartphone can match the image quality of a $2000 camera with professional lenses, due to both economics and physics. Whitehorn is optimistic, though, so maybe there is hope!
Finally, HTC is going to own the “selfie market.” The One M8 actually does feature a great front-facing camera, so the idea isn’t completely ridiculous.
HTC wants to own the selfie market. You’ll see a lot more investment in that area. In some markets 90% of pictures taken are selfies. … I’d rather optimise each camera for their roles, and treat them with an equal intellectual process. Selfies are a very different imaging environment.
Only time will tell whether HTC’s focus on the selfie market pays off, though it is nice to see HTC spending money to advance aspects of the smartphone that other manufacturers aren’t as interested in.