Camera: Heavy on the Tech
If LG has deliberately gone easy on the CPU side, it hasn’t held back with the camera hardware. This is one of the most technically impressive phone cameras there’s ever been.
The roll-call of awesome is pretty long. First, there’s the sensor. Not only does it have 16 megapixels under its belt, the sensor is 1/2.6 inch in size just like the Samsung Galaxy S6. Heck, it might even be the same Sony IMX240 sensor judging by the results.
Next up is the lens. It’s an f/1.8 lens. This is an incredibly fast lens that’ll take in loads of light compared even to the F/2.2 lens of the HTC One M9. That’s even quicker than the Galaxy S6’s F/1.9 one.
LG sure is going for it.
That’s not the end either. The LG G4 has a laser focusing module on the back, for one. What this does is fire off an IR beam, which is reflected back to the sensor, telling the phone how far away the object in question is. It lets the autofocus jump to that point, before using standard contrast detection focusing to finish the job.
The optical image stabilisation has been improved, too. It’ll handle more judder than the LG G3, and takes on another axis for even better performance.
Bored yet? There’s one more bit to shout about. Next to the flash is something called a colour spectrum sensor. It’s the first of its kind in a phone. This takes a look at the scene and judges what sort of flash shade is needed to avoid your friends’ faces becoming all white and ghostly.
Camera: the weigh-in
So does having more tech than Inspector Gadget pay off? It really does, especially the basics of the sensor and lens.
The LG G4 produces cracking shots in just about all conditions. Give it good light and you’ll get fantastic detail. In situations where you’re shooting into the sun the HDR mode can deal with the high light contrast incredibly well.
And at night time the LG G4 can eke out even more detail than the Galaxy S6. Just a smidgen more, but still more. Is it down to the OIS or the faster lens? Who knows, but the results are fabulous.
Virtually none of my shots have been duds. This really is one of the best phone cameras yet.
But is it the very best, the numero-uno of smartphone snappers? Actually, there are a few little issues.
First, It’s a fair bit slower than something like the Galaxy S6. There’s a bit more shutter lag, and more of a delay before it lets you take the next shot. It’s not outright slow, but it is the slowest of the 2015 flagships so far. When you’re actually out there on the street shooting, the HTC and Samsung alternatives feel a bit more limber.
The images are also a bit over-sharpened. Right down at pixel level fine details can look overstressed, especially when you’re dealing with macro photos. The Galaxy S6’s macro shots look a bit softer right down at pixel level, but also a bit more natural.
The camera app gives you more control than most, though. Unless you look deeper, it’s as simple as anything. And with the ‘Auto’ HDR mode set as standard, there’s really little need to do anything but press the shutter button. But there’s more if you look for it.
The LG G4’s manual mode is incredibly powerful, giving you almost as much control as a DSLR camera. All that’s missing is aperture control, because like 99.5 per cent of phones this one has a fixed-aperture lens.
You can still do an awful lot with it. Incredible control over ISO sensitivity, shutter speed, focusing and more unlocks bags of creative potential. We also found that the great optical image stabilisation means you can shoot handheld at up to 1/4 exposure settings without ending up with a blurry mess. You’ll need to keep dead still, of course. No shaky hands.
At night and indoors, though, the manual mode can be crazy-slow. It seems to take a while for the poor little thing’s brains to decide what settings to use other than the ones you specify.
And, another biggie is that throughout the camera app the LG G4 doesn’t accurately show what your photos will end up like in the preview screen. They’ll be as good or better than what you see, but Samsung does much better here, showing you a pretty accurate preview.
What about all the other modes? LG has cut out the guff this year. There’s a dual shot mode that takes pics with both the back and front cameras, plus panorama. Everything else has been dumped. We had expected a Light Trail mode that lets you shoot longer exposures to make lights look like lines drawn in the air, but in the software I’ve been testing you have to do this with the manual mode. Pro tip: you’ll need to use a long exposure time.
LG G4 does battle with the Galaxy S6 right at the top of the smartphone camera game. But where it gets an obvious advantage is the selfie camera. It has an 8-megapixel sensor.
Sure, we’ve this sort of high-res front camera before, and an even more pixel-packed one in the 13MP HTC Desire Eye.
It can produce great selfies, especially as it applies HDR smarts as standard. As usual with an LG phone, there’s also a slider that messes around with your face, smoothing out your wrinkly bits and pores. Just like the main camera, you can get top shots with no fuss.
There’s nothing all that next-gen about the front camera, though, as it can’t use any of the fancy tech you get in the rear camera. No OIS, no flash.