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[GUIDE] HTC Desire HD Camera guide - all issues resolved

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By hamdir, Recognized Contributor on 16th December 2010, 01:02 PM
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[final update 10/11/2012]

I have moved to the HTC One X you can see my photo samples from the One X here and here

You can find much more impressive photos posted by One X users in this thread

so I've concluded a similar guide for the One X is not really needed

[last updated 11/12/2011]

3.12.405.1 Update:
. Introduces new scenes options: portrait, landscape, action, closeup, backlight, beach, snow, candlelight and low light.
It attempts to auto select settings based on the scenario of choice, image quality remains bad because it locks the sharpness setting to 0, thankfully with scenes>auto you can override, control sharpness and follow this guide
. Improved quality: color treatment, face detection, auto focus and low light
. Low light video recording @30Fps is back, its achievable by using the low exposure trick
. For root users Panorama mode can be enabled here>>

2.36.405.8_R Update:
. Introduces improved sharpness algorithm, sharpness -1 is now acceptable
. new colors treatment, tries to extract more colors and adds some sort of soft bloom, sometime gives unreal results and colored grain, can't be disabled
. higher 720p recording video/audio bit rate
. a new option called auto enhance which blurs noise in the image at the cost of details, fortunately it can be disabled
. low light video recording 30fps is no longer achievable using the low exposure trick, you can still achieve better fps using this trick but not full fps

1.72.405.3_R2 Update:
. improve system performance and camera feature enhancements
. camera interface is faster after the update and 720p recording freeze bug is fixed


A lot of people even reviewers have been complaining about the camera quality, however the Desire HD boosts a good 8 mega pixels senor, you can achieve great results if you know your way around it.
I will start this guide by showing some tasty examples since this thread is all about photo quality please don't complain about photo sizes as its meant to be examined.

The guide is intended for the stock HTC camera app, although the general guidelines can apply to any other camera app.

The following is a quick version of this guide, each setting is later explored in details.
  • Manually set your focus, wait for the focus signal to turn green, keep your hand steady until the shot is taken (keep it till the preview appears)
  • Make sure the camera protection glass is wiped clean
  • To fix image quality: Disable digital sharpness so it’s set to -2 or reduce it to -1 if you feel its too soft but never sharpness 0, you can later increase sharpness using external apps
  • To fix the video recording freezes: update to firmware 1.72 or above, also make sure no apps are busy in the background (i.e. skype)
  • To fix low light bad video FPS: reduce the exposure setting to -2, it will go up to 30fps, use the flash to boost the brightness back
  • To fix the green tint caused by the flash: set white balance to Fluorescent
  • To fix the changing colors while recording video indoors: set the white balance manualy. Auto is good during daylight but jumpy indoors
  • Higher ISO will always boost the camera available light, so higher ISO improves frame rate, reduces motion blur and reveals more detail in darkness. However keep in mind higher ISO will reduce image quality since it introduces noise to the image. Auto ISO is pretty smart
  • If your photo is washed out, use the auto enhance effect from the gallery to fix levels and color balance, your photo will stay at 8MP, the enhanced photo will be saved as a new file

Taken at 8 mega pixels, sharpness -2, everything else is default Contrast/exposure/saturation 0, ISO auto, White balance auto and Flash is off.
These are from first attempt and untouched It’s just Flickr resizing them. Flickr limits the size to 1k.







Larger: http://www.flickr.com/photos/5693012...7625450976523/

more samples here: HTC Desire HD group on Flickr

As you can see these photos look great and natural, two things the Desire HD camera excels at, color reproduction and marco shots which works automatically as long as you set your focus correctly.
The main issue we need to tackle with the camera is the sharpness setting.


Image adjustments: Sharpness
  • +1 +2: Increases noise reduction and sharpness, however it doesn’t appear to change much from the default, the screen displays more sharpness but when you examine the photo taken there is little difference
  • 0: Default value, in reality it applies aggressive noise reduction and sharpness
  • -1: Reduces noise reduction and sharpness.
  • -2: Disables noise reduction and sharpness completely



At default this setting is set at 0 with four other options (-2, -1, 0, +1, +2) so effectively the default sharpness is actually set at 2.
Like other cameras, at first it attempts to reduce noise by blurring out fine detail and then attempts to restore detail by sharpening edges.
However it’s all very over done so it introduces lots of blur and artifacts, even down scaling the image by half leaves it looking unnatural.



As you can see its pretty bad job at default, it’s a good thing we have the option to reduce it or turn it off, despite being a little soft-2 looks the most natural and has the most detail.

Recommendation: disable it at -2 so you capture the pure image taken as by the camera sensor, despite looking a little soft at full scale it’s still a lot of pixels at 8MP so it will look great when scaled like on the phone screen, TV, websites like Flickr or even print.
If you want a little more sharpness you can extract more detail by sharpening it in Photoshop, you can also sharpen it using an app like PicSay pro which is pretty good but sadly downscales it to 1MP.
By the way some of the effects in the gallery can improve definition and sharpness, more on this later.

Otherwise If you must have some sharpness in the image and willing to sacrifice some image quality you can set it at -1 which is less aggressive. But as you can see above even with -1 detail are getting lost.

Keep in mind taking a photo with the default sharpness applied will leave little choice to fix it later, since the image details are already tempered with.


Image adjustments: Contrast, Saturation, Exposure
  • Contrast: controls the levels between black and white, reducing it will reveal more detail in dark areas but at the loss of overall definition.
  • Saturation: controls the richness of colors, increasing it can reveal more grain.
  • Exposure: controls brightness, you increase the brightness but risk over exposing an area.
    This setting appears to have an affect on the camera speed and frame rate, reducing it will increase frame rate at low light, -2 it can achieve up to 30fps at low light.



Recommendation: leave them at default 0 which is well balanced, unless you see a need to adjust your photo.


White balance

White balance enables the camera to capture colors more accurately by adjusting to your current lighting
environment. White balance settings include: Auto, Incandescent, Fluorescent, Daylight, and Cloudy.

Recommendation: leave it at auto it does a good job, unless your photo appears wrong in the viewfinder.
You can use Fluorescent to fix the yellow colors hue caused by using the Flash.
If you are filming a video indoors set it manually since it’s a little jumpy.


Focus



Auto simply sets the focus at the center of the screen whenever you move the camera, you can still pick your focus even with auto focus engaged.
If you want properly focused shots without any blur plus good photo framing you will have to set your focus manually, focus will also adjust your target exposure.
A slight issue sometimes after you set the focus the handset detects a slight movement and resets the focus at the center so you need to be careful.
Unlike previous HTC phones you can no longer keep holding an area to focus and shoot, you will need to press the capture button after the focus is set.

Auto focus also has a face detection sub function; it works really well when people are in frame.

Recommendation: Unless you want a quick point a shoot photo always set the focus yourself, it will insure you get the proper sharpness plus fix the exposure of your subject.
If people are in the picture face detection will do the job for you. If you like to insure the focus never mess up turn off auto focus altogether but you will lose face detection functionality.
Of course always wait for the focus pointer to turn green.


Self Portrait & Self Timer
  • Self portrait: If you want your camera to automatically take people photos, you can set it to identify 1 or 2 faces and automatically adjust the focus.
  • Self timer: If you need to take a group photo or your own photo, you can set a time delay before your camera automatically takes the photo.


ISO, Shutter speed & Flash

ISO determines how sensitive the image sensor is to light, increasing it will help you get more light in darker settings, however the higher the ISO the grainier the photo will look.
The Shutter speed is also affected by light sensitivity, so higher ISO can reduce motion blur.



Recommendation: leave it at auto it does a good job of detecting the needed settings, however if you notice the image is too grainy, too dark or suffering motion blur you can adjust it manually.
Use an ISO of 100 or 200 when taking photographs outside in sunny conditions. If the sky is overcast or it is evening time, then use an ISO within the range of 400 to 800.
Moving subjects will require some ISO and flash consideration to prevent motion blur.


Shutter Speed



The shutter speed in the DHD is linked to the available light, testing in daylight at low ISO reveals motion blur with moving subjects.
Higher ISO means more light so it will snap moving subjects sharply of course of at the cost of increasing grain in the image.
You can see the difference in the viewfinder by changing the ISO value (in daylight). The higher the ISO the less motion blur.
Exposure also seems to have an effect on the camera speed, reducing it can reduce motion blur at low light.

Recommendation: Compared to other phones the capturing and saving speed itself is pretty fast.
So when capturing moving subjects a good practice is to snap multiple shots in a raw to make sure you get a good shot, you can disable preview to make this process faster.
As always insure your hand is steady and wait until the photo is completely taken i.e. wait a little after you press capture.
If you can't be bothered then rely on ISO 400 or 800 to prevent motion blur with moving subjects. At low light you still have to insure a steady capture, exposure consideration and enable flash to help.


Flash

If it’s very dark you will have to rely on the flash, The good news is with auto ISO the flash rarely burns your subject and it usually selects a good ISO.
Flash will also help in preventing motion blur. However flash tints the image with some green-yellow hue, it can be improved using the following tricks.

Tips to improve the yellow color tint:
Thanks to Elemental_Fire for the tip! you can get much more natural colors while using the flash by choosing Fluorescent for white balance.
Remember this white balance tip is only good during flash, if you keep it at fluorescent it might ruin your daylight shots.
Like any other photo you can also improve it by using the auto enhance feature in the gallery effects menu.



Here are some examples of low light and flash performance of the DHD camera





Larger: http://www.flickr.com/photos/[email protected]/sets/72157625585331314/


Widescreen

To fill the viewfinder 5:3 widescreen aspect is selected by default it gives a cropped photo at the size of 3264x1952, while disabling it produces a full 8 megapixels 4:3 photo at 3264x2448

Recommendation: Leave it disabled, you are loosing lots of pixels with 5:3, even better when widescreen is disabled the viewfinder actually runs smoother.


Gallery Effects

A very nice feature included in the new sense, it allows you to further improve your photos from within the gallery.
On the Gallery app’s Albums screen, tap an album > Press and hold on the photo that you want to add effects to > In the menu that opens, tap Edit, and then tap Effects.
There are too many to list but auto fix will improve the colors and contrast of your photo, while effects like high contrast will add an artistic vignette and increase the sharpness of your image, of course you can also apply them over each other.
It works at native 8 mega pixels photo without badly recompressing it.

Here are some examples (original, auto enhance, high contrast, lively and overexpose)



Larger: http://www.flickr.com/photos/5693012...7625585449676/


720p Video recording

Zooming is not available in 720p mode but you can change focus while filming.
In good to ok lighting conditions, the Desire HD films at 30fps, but it can drop to 20 fps and as low as 10fps if its dark.
The exposure settings seems to have an effect on the camera performance, so reducing it will improve frame rate and reduce motion blur.
Filming at 800x480 allows you to zoom in while filming.

The video encoding is good at 8MB/s baseline mp4 level 3.1 but the audio is badly compressed at 8 kHz 32 kbps! Maybe to improve performance…

Recommendation: The main issue with photos applies in 720p, the sharpness setting at default 0 is pretty bad especially with filming people.
Unlike photo mode, setting sharpness to +1 or +2 makes a visible increase in sharpness.
The video will be full of artifacts and jaggies unless you disable it with sharpness -2 or lower it at -1 if you really like sharpness.
If you are filming indoor manually select your white balance, with auto its quit jumpy and keeps changing while filming!
To film at 30fps in low light, scale exposure down to -2 and use the Flash to boost the brightness.



http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=c2uK6uk5MIw&hd=1

The above video recorded 30fps at sunset without any lag, using auto ISO. Keep in mind when you upload to YouTube it re-encodes the video

720p Freeze/Lag issue: [issue appears resolved with the 1.72.405.3 update]
It can be solved by killing tasks before recording, use an app like free advanced task manager hit end all and then launch the camera app. Be careful of background heavy like Skype.
Some people have said formatting the SD card with 32k cluster size will help but I found no solution other than killing tasks before recording, I have the bundled class 2 microSd and it works every time.

Solutions for bad FPS in low light conditions:
Thanks to SupremeBeaver for this excellent tip! Reducing the exposure will improve frame rate, at exposure -2 the frame rate will jump up to 30fps, you can then use both the flash and ISO 800 to boost the brightness, perfect solution for indoors low light.
Keep in mind extra light will always help both the image quality and pefromance, so make use of the Flash and ISO settings, although by default auto ISO takes care of it pretty well.
You can't select the ISO level while in video mode but you can force it in photo mode, of course this will also result in a grainier image.

more samples here from solopalmari.com http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CNtZSgcaToY


Finally the fun part

Desire HD vs Desire vs iPhone4

The iPhone4 has a very good sharpness algorithm, which is quite similar to what you can get with Photoshop. Its great outdoor but fails badly in indoor daylight lighting.
It extracts a lot of noise, perhaps the sensor is working at a very high ISO and unlike the Desire HD you can't adjust any of this.
In case of 720p recording iPhone 4 is the winner by default, it always films at 30fps even in low light (with lots of noise). However the Desire HD can achieve equal results by filming with exposure -2.
The flash on the iphone 4 is a major fail, on the other hand it has a very nice HDR mode. Finally color reproduction on the DHD is better, colors with the iphone4 are adjusted and unreal.



To conclude the DHD has a quit good camera, its only the default HTC settings failing it, fortunately it can all be solved by understanding the available settings.
Deal with sharpness, understand ISO, set framing and focus right and you can achieve great results.
Finally don't forget to experiment with the effects feature in both the camera and gallery which are really impressive.

Feel free to post your success stories or questions

have fun!
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16th December 2010, 01:16 PM |#2  
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thanks i've asked the mod to stick it, it should save lots of questions about the camera
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16th December 2010, 01:21 PM |#3  
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Nice job Hamdir, looks like quite some work!

I did notice the comment on the sharpness -2 setting in one of the other camera threads. It does give the photo's a sort of 'blurred' feel imho, judging the above comparison pics.


Anyway, very clear comparison of all the possible settings.
16th December 2010, 01:26 PM |#4  
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That must have taken some time to put together . Thanks very much for it, greatly appreciated.
16th December 2010, 01:27 PM |#5  
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Quote:
Originally Posted by paulus_01

Nice job Hamdir, looks like quite some work!

I did notice the comment on the sharpness -2 setting in one of the other camera threads. It does give the photo's a sort of 'blurred' feel imho, judging the above comparison pics.


Anyway, very clear comparison of all the possible settings.

yes i'm the one who keeps preaching sharpness -2 hehe

its a little soft at full scale, but why would you ever look at a photo at this size?
it can be improved in many ways since the details are there in the image, anything higher then -2 will mess up the original photo in my opinion

you can settle to sharpness -1 its the closest we can get to Photoshop sharpness quality but you can see in the comparison some details are lost in the bushes for example

don't come anywhere near sharpness 0 its pure @#$%

anyone knows how to embed a youtube video? i can't get it to work
16th December 2010, 01:35 PM |#6  
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Superb post... thanks for that.

My main issue is capturing moving people (especially my 2 year old!) indoors. Keep getting blurred shots/footage.

Any suggestions to improve this?

Thanks again.
16th December 2010, 01:48 PM |#7  
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Quote:
Originally Posted by mjt

Superb post... thanks for that.

My main issue is capturing moving people (especially my 2 year old!) indoors. Keep getting blurred shots/footage.

Any suggestions to improve this?

Thanks again.

good question, i'll add a part for that, sadly it seems the shutter speed is a little slow in the DHD.

But capturing a photo is still very quick so there is a solution, when i'm snapping a photo of people i take a few quick shots in a raw, one of them will work

hope this helps
16th December 2010, 02:30 PM |#8  
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My camera issue:
Having decent settings to get the best result is one thing, having a design flaw is another:

Below is a picture I have taken with the DHD inside a football stadium (it has been resized, but that is irrelevant for the point I am making).
I am sitting 1 meter from the field, with just one row beneath me.

When I try to take a picture of the field, the lights in the roof of the stadium reflect behind the camera's glass protection (it actually reflects behind the black circle which says 8.0 megapixels). This results in the reflection being caught on camera as well.

This, in my opinion, is a design flaw and really should not have occurred. What is your opinion?

it happens mainly when you take a picture and a bright lightsource is above and opposite from you, while your camera is pointed straightforward.

16th December 2010, 02:41 PM |#9  
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i don't get it, isn't this lens flare? it occurs in all cameras, otherwise you need a specialty lens to deal with this

as a matter fact we simulate and add it as an effect when we make a CG stadium animation...
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16th December 2010, 02:55 PM |#10  
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None of the pics I made with my K850i had this show up.
I think this should not happen, it is a reflection of the light on the inside of the camera cover or something.
16th December 2010, 02:57 PM |#11  
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i think it varies between different lenses, cameras and phones, i don't know its clearly lens flare, here check these from google



and this a straight shot of the sun, its just lens flare tons of cameras do that
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