The HTC U11 rear camera features a 1/2.55" camera image sensor. According to many websites, the sensor is the 12.2MP Sony IMX362 sensor, which is the same sensor found in the Vivo Xplay 6, ZenFone 3 Zoom and Moto G5 Plus. This sensor enjoys a relatively large 1.4-micron pixels. It also boasts a very bright F1.7 aperture lens (f/1.75 according to DxOMark) and an Optical Image Stabilization (OIS) system. There is also a Dual LED flash at the back. All these features were designed to work in synergy to results in very high quality images. I don't know which optics are being used, but with a high-end Stacked-BSI Sony sensor and the ability to shoot in RAW as well, you can expect the U11 camera to perform amazingly well when it comes to image quality.
I've spent some time reading DxOMark review of the HTC U11 camera. They showcase a side by side comparison of the U11 versus the Google Pixel camera (the second highest rated after the U11) and the Samsung Galaxy S8 camera in low-light situation. The HTC U11 did better than the S8 and the Pixel with sharper and brighter results. In fact, I was quite surprised to see that magnified area so sharp and clear and that image was taken in 5 Lux, which is quite poor light, so the results are quite impressive. Outdoors the HTC U11 just showcase incredible image quality, with very good color reproduction and low noise.
DxOMark wrapped it up my mentioning that this is the best mobile phone camera they have tested to date. HTC probably wouldn't let other website editors to post sample images taken with the pre-production unit. I assume they gave it to DxOMark in order to examine the camera's performance and if it performs well, they can showoff the results on their website and talk about it in their U11 announcement presentation. Good for them that the U11 main camera indeed perform amazingly well and it now tops any other camera before it.
It's great to see that newer phones push the image quality forward. Of course there is not big surprise here. The HTC U11 rear camera has all the right ingredients to make it stand out. It was smart not going with a sensor above 12MP resolution and choosing a camera module that has large pixels and a very bright aperture. The U11 doesn't feature a dual-camera setup. Some might see this as a disadvantage. There is certainly an advantage of having a second ultra-wide angle lens with 125-degrees field of view like in the LG G6. I think the second camera opens a whole new creative options for getting some amazing shots. There are so many times that I stumble upon scenes that I just wish the camera could cramp up more of the surrounding into the image, especially when shooting landscape images or when shooting indoors. That being said, I think that most people will just be satisfied to know that they get a camera that can take superb pictures, even in low-light situations.
Being No. 1 in DxOMark can really help sell more phones. The camera is the most used hardware component in the phone for many people. If you are already spending a few hundreds dollars on a flagship smartphone, you at least want to know that you get an amazing camera with it. The HTC U11 also praised for its very fast AF system, although some reviewers who got their hands on the U11 pre-production model wasn't that thrilled about the AF speed, but DxOMark praised it based on their tests. There is RAW image support, full manual shooting mode, HDR boost and many other options that suppose to help you get that Perfect Shot.
It will be interesting to see how the HTC U11 rear-facing camera compares side by side against the LG G6, iPhone 7 Plus and Samsung Galaxy S8 cameras, but I think that even before its release, the U11 got its sealed of approval from DxOMark that assured that you get a superb camera when you buy this phone. So it's safe to say that we are indeed looking at The Best mobile phone camera to date, or at least one of the best. This is because some cameras perform better than others in specific areas, whether it's in autofocus speed in low-light, bokeh quality, noise levels in high ISO, purple fringing, JPEG artifacts, etc.
For me it didn't came such a huge surprise after seeing the camera's specifications. When I saw a 1.4μm pixel size sensor (HTC UltraPixel), an OIS and f/1.7 aperture, I knew that we are going to see some great results coming out from the main camera of the U11. To see how it compared against the other leading phones like the Google Pixel, HTC 10, Galaxy S8, Galaxy S7 edge, Huawei P10, iPhone 7 and others, we need a reliable source to test those cameras in a controllable environment. Once the HTC U11 is released, we are going to see many more camera comparison reviews that will compare those phones head-to-head in outside the lab in real-life tests and I'm looking forward to this. Whatever comes next, nothing will take the crown from the HTC U11, not today. Of course sometime in the future a new contender will grab this crown, but as of the time of writing, it belongs to U11.
By the way, if you know the exact sensor model used in the HTC U11 and if it's indeed IMX362, please drop a comment below, Thanks.