Every flagship smartphone hypes its camera with a spicy mix of marketing-speak. Laser Focus. Ultra Pixels. Often it's just bullshit, but I've been using the camera on the new LG G4 and it it really does live up to the hype. Mostly.
The camera on the G4 should be great in theory, due to its 9.8mm sensor size, which is larger than most phones' 8.5mm sensors. It also has a bright f/1.8 lens and something called Laser Focus, which is supposed to be really fast. But specs and fancy names only get you so far.
To test LG's claims, I first did a quick comparison between the G4 and the G3 in daylight and low light. There is in fact a significant improvement. So that's great!
But I was more curious about how the G4 stacks up to the competition. I ran some tests comparing photos from the G4 to a couple of the current most popular smartphones — the iPhone 6 and the Samsung Galaxy S6. Swaths of the phone-carrying population swear by the iPhone camera, and in our recent testing, the Galaxy S6 proved to have formidable image snapping acumen. The perfect competitors.
The following tests are 1:1 crops, and should be viewed large with the magnify button in the corner of each image.
The first comparison is a simple daylight cityscape to look at the clarity of detail. Holy hell, the results. The G4 knocks it out of the park, showing clearer, sharper detail. The iPhone 6 looks like a mess next to it, with the Galaxy S6 somewhere in the middle. Remember, this has nothing to do with resolution. It's true that the iPhone has half the megapixels other two phones (8 vs 16), but that shouldn't matter. If you resize the G4 and S6 down to 8 megapixels, they still show superior detail to the iPhone.
Here's the full G4 image:
The next test is low light, where things even out a bit. The G4 applies much more aggressive noise reduction than the other two phones, which usually makes for a blurry disaster. But it actually holds up pretty well against the S6 and iPhone. Where the G4 falters is accuracy of colour. You can see the shadows and low midtones shift slightly purple. The iPhone has the best colour balance of the three, which you can see most clearly in the white lettering on the beer bottle. But I would still call the G4 a decent performer in low light.
LG made a big ado about its selfie camera being great, and not a compromise like it is on most phones. I put on my best creepy/frightened/cool guy face and snapped a shot. Unfortunately reality didn't align with LG's claim. The G4's front-facing camera produced a far blurrier image than what the Galaxy S6 and the iPhone 6 produced. It also made my skin sickly orange which I didn't appreciate.
From these limited tests, you can see that the G4 camera is a mixed bag, but really shines in some of the most common situations. Daylight photos absolutely sing, and low light photos are not bad! I didn't document it, but when comparing auto-focus speeds, the G4 was on par with the S6, both of which were clearly faster than the iPhone. And surely you could do other tests, gauging things like flash and stabilisation.
But for us pixel-peepers, it's great to see such nice detail from a camera phone. I would say it's hard to do much better unless you go for a Nokia Lumia phone. But let's face it, that's not an attractive proposition to most. For Android fans, the G4 will get you great photos. Good job, LG.