If you read our launch piece, you’ve probably already heard and and seen much of what I’m going to talk about regarding the Surround’s camera. That said, things have been fleshed out a bit since the launch piece.

First off, the Surround packs a 5 megapixel camera with LED flash. Photos are 2592 x 1944 on the Surround and average around 4.5 MB between 700 kilobytes and 1.6 MB (update: mistake on my part), which translates to a lot of compression. Interestingly enough, the WP7 camera interface on the HTC Surround only lets you change shooting resolution (from VGA to 5 MP in 1 MP steps), not how much photos are compressed. The camera again can be launched either by holding the camera button for 4 seconds with the device off, by pressing the button while it is on, or by launching it from the applications list. Launch is pretty speedy averaging almost exactly 2 seconds from tap to live preview.

When I put the photos in our smartphone camera bench gallery, I accidentally missed one - the very last one. When I settled on the locations for our camera bench, I didn’t realize that the one at the very end would actually be the most useful. It features a wide range of colors, varying spatial frequencies (small and large objects on various backgrounds), and best of all, controlled lighting. Anyhow, that photo is now in the gallery and below:
Likewise, there are photos from the Surround in our more controlled lightbox tests with the lights on and off:
The photo taken with the Surround in the dark does have a noticeably blue cast which is a bit strange, and illumination isn’t as even as some of the dual LED flash phones. That said, exposure in the center is dead on even in the darkness.
Unfortunately, WP7 (at least on the Surround) neglects to illuminate the scene with the LED flash while running the autofocus routine with the shutter button pressed halfway down. The result is that shooting photos in darkness or near darkness results in missed focus a lot of the time. The capture flash in darkness is double - one dim followed closely by one bright, so it’s obviously pre-illuminating the scene with the flash for the sake of metering, and then capturing, but focus is somehow left out.
This is admittedly something that a ton of smartphone vendors are getting wrong in their products, but I’d like WP7 to get it right. If there’s an LED flash onboard that can be left on continually without overheating, use it to illuminate the scene during autofocus, tap to focus, or whenever showing a preview in pitch darkness. Just do it. Otherwise it’s virtually impossible to compose the scene or know if you’re at focus. For devices with a Xenon flash, obviously this isn’t possible, but it’d be nice to see continual illumination leveraged in a useful manner whenever possible.
In good illumination, the Surround’s camera isn’t much better than HTC’s other cameras I’ve tested thus far. Specifically, there’s a ton of extra sharpness that is being added, which is very apparent when viewing almost any of the images 1:1. The level of sharpness rivals (if not exceeds) the HTC Incredible.
But what’s strange about the Surround is that its focal plane is very curved. Check out this photo of the ground taken completely normal to it. 

Note how field dependent focus is. It’s clear there’s some very field dependent aberrations (most dominantly, field curvature) contributing to a strong increase in softness at the edges. The Surround is the first device I’ve noticed with so much field curvature that I felt it was worth noting, but I’m going to start rigorously testing more smartphone cameras for it. Overall, I’m not super impressed with the Surround’s camera. It’s totally fine for casual throwaway shots, but still reminds me a lot of the Nexus One’s all around mediocre performance. You can compare for yourself and see in the galleries.
Screen: Brightness, Contrast, Quality Camera - Video
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  • HobHayward - Saturday, November 13, 2010 - link

    It's possible different cell providers include different size microSD cards.

    Also anandtech's spam filter is trying to not let me post this.
  • Anand Lal Shimpi - Saturday, November 13, 2010 - link

    You are correct, fixed :)

    Take care,
  • deputc26 - Saturday, November 13, 2010 - link

    I'd like to see this metric included:

  • Meegulthwarp - Saturday, November 13, 2010 - link

    I'd really like to see a comparison of the speeds the different class cards give. If installing a class 6 or 10 card vastly improves the performance of the device then I would gladly replace it but if it is only for bigger GBs then I'll pass as I'm quite happy with 8GB right now.

    Orange UK has an option to buy a 16GB card when you are purchasing a HTC Mozart online. Not sure what that's about as the cards aren't user replacable, might phone them up later on to ask.
  • bigboxes - Saturday, November 13, 2010 - link

    that needs to use their headphones.

    *seated at the restaurant next to boxes*

    OMG! Listen to this!
    Let's play it again, but this time turn it up louder!
    *boxes picks up teen's cell phone and smashes it into restaurant wall*

    This is not going to replace larger sets at home and on the road (on the bus, in the grocery store line, at the restaurant, etc.) you should use headphones.
  • kevith - Saturday, November 13, 2010 - link

    Oh yes, in my country this is already quite trendy among teenagers. It can be realyy annoying.

    Seems like an ok phone though, still I think we´ve only seen the beginning. As before with first desktops, then laptops, the whole race for Mhz and faster hardware can start all over again in a new formfactor, The Pockettop...

    I´m 50 years old, it´s great to have lived half my life before computers entered the scen for home-users. I´m a muscician, and when I think of the things we used to dream, that computers would be able to, and what they actually are capable of today, I feel a little bit as if had been wittnessing the Wright Bros first attempts to fly.

    And now - well, in a short time anyway - maybe a studio-PC to carry in your pocket.

  • Nataku - Monday, November 15, 2010 - link

    i can see some use for this though, not that i want some jerk cranking it up in a bus full of already pissed off people... lol

    (kids learning to dance during break time some where down the hall might be one good application for this)
  • NYHoustonman - Saturday, November 13, 2010 - link

    What the hell is that noise D:
  • banvetor - Saturday, November 13, 2010 - link

    Dear Anand and Brian,

    Thank-you for the excellent phone reviews you are making. I wish to ask one thing though: in your reviews, can you make some points about the usability of each OS when you DO NOT have a data plan?

    I don't know how many of us are out there, but I use a lot my smartphone (music, taking pictures, gps, etc), but I simply have no need for a many-dollar-a-month data plan. I do browse the web and check e-mails also, but only when there is wi-fi... If I have some VERY IMPORTANT e-mail to check, then I pay for the KB of data...

    The most important points would be how dependent on a always-on data connection the OSes are... like the Zune music access, for instance. I have a Nokia N96 right now (planning to switch soon), and I just love that it has a map application that works offline, for instance (I know that no other phone has that, but I highlighted it just to make my point...).

    Thanks once again!
  • Gungel - Sunday, November 14, 2010 - link

    With AT&T you have to get a data plan on your smartphone. Even if you buy a phone off contract, they will add a dataplan once the network checks your IMEI and recognizes it as such. I was on an old $15 a month unlimited data plan grandfathered in when SBC became AT&T. I recently bought an Android phone off contract and got a nice surprise on my next phone bill. The data plan is now $30 and is limited to 2GB a month.

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