Samsung Galaxy S5 vs HTC One M8 camera showdown

28 April 2014

The Samsung and HTC are set to duke it out again this year with their new flagships the Galaxy S5 and One (M8). Last year Samsung devastated HTC in sales, but in terms of device quality the original One (aka M7) was at least the equal of the Galaxy S4.

The M7 had a great camera. It was the first Ultrapixel (UP) shooter from HTC and it had fantastic low-light capabilities compared to its contemporaries. By comparison the Galaxy S4 had superior daylight shots thanks in part to its higher MP count and its great image sensor tech.

So how do the new flagships compare? Actually, fairly similarly. We took the two handsets toe-to-toe with a variety of different shots.

Test 1: Mid-range nature shot

The Galaxy S5’s shot was noticeably more crisp at full-screen thanks to the One M8’s UP camera, but when viewed in a smaller capacity there was little difference. The GS5 also had better colour accuracy (you’ll have to take our word on that one) and better focus throughout the image.

The focal point was the red leaf. The GS5’s picture has markedly better resolution of this part of the picture. It’s also less fuzzy from the bottom right corner right up to the top right and even for the buildings in the distance.

As for colour, the M8’s shot has a slight yellowy hue over it, which is evident in the leaves, water and buildings. The buildings themselves show glare that removes some of the detail. Both phones handled the shadowed areas similarly.

This is a win for the Galaxy S5. There wasn’t a huge difference between the two images, but the S5 nudged the One M8 out in just about every category.

Winner: Samsung Galaxy S5

Test 2: Texture

This one is a tough call. At full-size the Galaxy S5 showed superior texture of the bricks thanks to its higher resolution, but when we toned things back to this more standard viewing size the One (M8) started looking better.

The One M8 also picked up on details that the S5 missed like the mottling on the pipe which was the focal point of the shot.

The S5’s strength here lies in its brightness and once again better attention to detail in the original sized image. It also cancels out the shadows a little more than the One M8, but that’s not necessarily a good thing. Shadow contrast can be an important thing in photography, and the M8 generated a better image of the actual target of the shot. We’re going to call this one a draw.

Outcome: Draw

Test 3: Close-up and shadow

This one was an interesting comparison. Once again both images have their strengths and weaknesses. The Galaxy S5’s pic is more colour accurate and has detail in the shadows that the M8 missed. The M8 reiterated its ability to provide a clear shot of the focal point (the flower), while missing other details.

We’re going to have to give this one to the One (M8). When going for a close-up photo like this the target object is the most important aspect. While the Galaxy S5 provided better overall vibrancy, handled the shadows better and had better colour accuracy it failed to capture the actual focal point of the flower as well as the M8 did.

Winner: HTC One (M8)

Test 4: Sydney on a sunny day (long distance)

This is another extremely close one. Both pictures have impressive clarity for a smartphone camera, but the GS5 just edges out the One M8 once again with colour accuracy and image clarity when enlarged. The buildings in the distance show up a tiny bit better on the S5 and the sky, water and skyline are were all closer to the GS5’s colour mix than the One M8’s.

Alternatively, the One (M8) provided an attractive picture with nice colours and impressive clarity. It could even be argued that the reduced image is nicer than the S5's. That may be the case, but even if you prefer the look of the One M8's photo, the GS5 took a more realistic image when it comes to colour and sharpness.

It feels like nit-picking, but the GS5’s shot is better, even if there’s such little difference that it wouldn’t really matter in real-world use.

Winner: Galaxy S5 (barely)


As a point-and-click both cameras were both great, but the Galaxy S5 was just a tiny bit better at handling shadow, crispness and colour accuracy. Both phones achieved focus and captured images extremely quickly with minimum fuss.

It should probably be noted that the larger MP count of the Galaxy S5 makes for a larger image file than the One (M8). The S5 tended towards photos around 4.5MB in size, where the One (M8) needed just 3.8MB. The difference isn't too much, but it could mean fitting around an extra 500 photos on the available space of a 16GB device.

Ultimately though with cloud storage and easy transfer to PCs file-size doesn't matter like it used to. The Galaxy S5 and One (M8) both sport great cameras and, while the Galaxy S5 was the winner today, you may be wise to compare these two based on their other qualities.

Samsung Galaxy S5
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HTC One (M8)
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