The LG G4 rear camera consists of a 16-megapixel 1/2.6” Sony IMX234 CMOS sensor with 1.12µm pixels, plus three-axis optical image stabilization (OIS) and an f/1.8 27mm (35mm-equivalent) lens. This camera takes photos as large as 5312 x 2988 at a 16:9 aspect ratio natively. The front camera is an 8-megapixel 1.4” Toshiba T4KA3 sensor with 1.12µm pixels, plus an f/2.0 28mm lens, that captures 3264 x 2448 images natively in 4:3 (though the camera is set to 16:9 by default).
The quality of the G4’s camera is nothing short of awesome. Having switched from the Galaxy S6, also with great camera image quality, to the G4 for this review, I have lost essentially nothing in terms of camera fidelity. In fact in many ways the LG G4 delivers a superior camera experience with even better results, and it might just be the best smartphone camera on the market today.
The G4 is one of those devices where you rarely get a bad shot from the camera. Color quality is simply superb, featuring vibrant, well saturated colors that rival some of the shots I’ve taken with a DSLR. The G4 also keeps accuracy in check thanks to an “RGB spectrum sensor” located below the flash, which monitors the color temperature of a scene so that the corresponding image is perfectly metered. During my testing this worked extremely well: there was never a time where I felt an image I had captured was exposed or toned incorrectly.
16 megapixels of resolution feels perfect for a smartphone camera in 2015, delivering crisp imagery when downscaled to standard resolutions (such as 1440p for the G4’s display) while also giving a bit of headroom for cropping and zooming. Viewing full resolution crops reveals a great amount of detail from this camera, and although there are still some visible post processing artefacts to be found, LG has turned down the aggressiveness of their filters in comparison to the G3 and competing smartphones.
The great thing about the G4’s camera is that it delivers quality shots across a range of lighting conditions. The vast majority of the photos I took indoors or in relatively poor lighting were usable, and many featured great metering and color quality. Of course there will always be some times where lighting is so atrocious that you can’t get a great shot, but the G4 performs well in an area where other flagship cameras have struggled.
In low light, the G4 performs well enough. I say “well enough” because it’s certainly not the best performer in these conditions: it’s handily beaten by smartphone cameras with larger pixels, such as the HTC One M7. However the G4 delivers some of the best shots I’ve seen for a camera sensor with 1.12µm pixels, and that’s down to a generally excellent OIS system. Many shots I took indoors at a shutter speed of 1/20s were blur and shake free, while at night it was possible to get clear images at 1/4s without a tripod, which is pretty impressive.
I was reasonably pleased with the use of an f/1.8 lens on the G4’s camera, as it easily provides the best bokeh I’ve seen from a smartphone camera solution. Many of the close up photos I captured with the G4 had creamy, pleasing background blur, and although we’re still not hitting the same levels of bokeh as DSLR lenses, we’re certainly getting closer.
The f/1.8 lens generally provides crisp imagery that’s not too soft and not too sharp. Occasionally when I was shooting macro images, I found the depth of field was a little narrow, and if I was shooting on a variable-aperture lens I would probably shift up to f/2.0 on those occasions. However the f/1.8 lens is suitable for basically all other situations, and provides a two-thirds-of-a-stop light advantage over the G3’s f/2.2 lens.
I was also pleasantly surprised by the quality of the front-facing camera, which can take some decent 8-megapixel images in the right conditions. Like many selfie cameras, it suffers in low light, and LG’s decision to push for pixel count over pixel size sees it, in dark conditions, fall behind competitors such as HTC that optimized for the latter instead. But generally speaking I think LG did a pretty decent job with the selfie camera on the G4.
Moving on to software, and again LG has done a great job in this area. The capture interface is simple and easy to use, with functionality mostly being split between an auto and manual shooting mode. The auto mode is what I would use most of the time, considering it meters so well and will even enter HDR mode automatically, but there are plenty of reasons to dive into the manual mode on some occasions.
In the manual mode, you get full control over ISO, shutter speed, focus and exposure, which allows you to really optimize the camera’s settings for the shooting conditions. What I really like about this mode, though, is the extra information it provides along the top edge, including white balance, shutter speed and ISO information along with a histogram. You also have the ability to shoot in RAW if you want to have better control over the image for post processing purposes.
There are a few extra shooting modes that can be found while shooting in auto mode, including dual shot (which takes a photo using the front and back cameras simultaneously) and a panorama mode. In selfie mode you can adjust “beauty face” controls via an on-screen slider. If you want to do anything else, you’ll need a third party app, which mightn’t be as fast to access as a mode within the camera app, but it does simplify the camera app’s design.
As for video, the LG G4 can shoot 2160p30 at a surprisingly low bitrate of 30 Mbps, 1080p30 at 18.5 Mbps, 720p30 at 13.5 Mbps, or 720p120 slow motion at 24.9 Mbps. All are recorded in High profile H.264, except 720p recordings which are Baseline profile. All audio is recorded as 156 kbps AAC stereo.
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