Three is the magic number: LG V40 ThinQ sample gallery
When the V40 ThinQ was launched back in October it wasn't the first triple-camera phone (that honor goes to the Huawei P20 Pro which combines a main camera with a tele and monochrome sensor), but it was the first to offer three different focal lengths.
Since then more triple-focal-length phones have arrived on the scene, such as the Samsung Galaxy Note 9 and Huawei's 2018 flagship, the Mate 20 Pro, but you're still looking at a pretty exclusive list if you're after focal length flexibility.
LG V40 ThinQ sample gallery
The V40 ThinQ's camera combines a primary 27mm equiv. module, a super-wide-angle with 16mm equivalent focal length and a 'tele' lens that offers a 52mm equivalent focal length.
So does the triple-cam really offer a noticeable advantage over a phone with one or two lenses? In my experience using the phone on a week-long hiking trip and a few other occasions, I indeed found the added flexibility in terms of focal length to be a real benefit.
- Triple camera
- 16MP Super Wide (1/3.1"-type, F1.9 / 16mm equiv, no AF)
- 12MP Standard (1/2.6"-type F1.5 / 27mm equiv, OIS, dual-pixal PDAF)
- 12MP Telephoto (1/3.4"-type F2.4 / 52mm equiv, OIS, PDAF)
- Dual front-camera with 8MP Standard (1/4"-type F1.9 / 26mm equiv) and
5MP Wide (1/5"-type F2.2 / 22mm equiv)
- Qualcomm Snapdragon 845 chipset
- 6.4-inch QHD+ OLED display (3120 x 1440 pixels)
- 6GB RAM / 64GB or 128GB internal memory / microSD slot
- 3300mAh battery
Using the V40 ThinQ is not to dissimilar to shooting with a DSLR and three prime lenses, but without the bulk. It is possible to zoom to intermediate positions between the native focal lengths but image quality suffers as digital zoom is applied and it's simply more convenient to tap on the zoom icon of your choice than worry about pinch-zooming or using the zoom slider.
But even if you stick with the native equivalent focal lengths – 16, 27 and 52mm – they offer a higher level of creative freedom than we've ever seen on smartphones. At the press of a button you now have the ability to completely modify the way a scene is captured.
The three images below were captured from the same location, but the change in angle of view makes for very different image results between the three available focal lengths.
|Landscape shot, 16mm equivalent|
|Landscape shot, 27mm equivalent|
|Landscape shot, 52mm equivalent|
The ability to choose between focal lengths is also very useful when shooting portraits. In the past mobile photographers had to get used to being limited to wide-angle portraits when shooting people pictures.
With devices like the V40 ThinQ you now have the option to go super-wide and capture even more of the background and the subject-surrounding scenery, or use the phone's tele-lens and produce something more similar to a 'traditional' portrait.
Unfortunately even at the LG's longest focal length and relatively short subject distances there isn't much bokeh to speak of, though, and the background is still almost entirely in focus.
The background-blurring Portrait Mode can produce nice results with very good background-segmentation but it uses the main camera's 27mm equivalent focal length, so you can't combine the DSLR-like background blur with the camera's longest focal length. That's a shame, since it would arguably be the lens most suited to portrait photography.
|Portrait, 16mm equivalent|
|Portrait, 52mm equivalent|
|Portrait, 27mm equivalent, Portrait Mode|
In low light the usefulness of the triple-cam is unfortunately a little more limited than in bright conditions. In low light both the super-wide-angle and wide-angle show noise increases and the levels of detail are reduced. That's only really noticeable when zooming in to a 100% view, however. Color and exposure remain solid down to very low light levels. The 27mm equiv camera, with its bigger sensor and brighter aperture is the stronger option as the light levels drop.
The tele-lens on the other hand is completely deactivated in dim conditions. Instead, the camera uses the main sensor to capture the image and applies digital zoom to keep the exposure bright enough and control noise to some degree. The resulting images show very low levels of detail.
The LG is not the only device doing this – we've seen the same behavior on the first iPhones with tele-lens and some other Android devices. It means however that low-light tele shots are best avoided if you are planning to view or display them at larger sizes.
|Night Shot, 16mm equivalent|
|Night shot, 27mm equivalent|
|Night shot, tele setting (shot with 27mm equivalent camera and with digital zoom)|
The different image output sizes (16MP for the super-wide-angle, 12MP for the other two cameras) are slightly unusual but not really a problem. The same can be said for the fixed focus of the super-wide-angle camera. With virtually unlimited depth-of-field there isn't really a need for an autofocus system.
On all three cameras image detail capture is only average and many images show pretty strong chromatic aberration but again, these flaws are only visible at larger magnifications and most smartphone images are never viewed at full size. Other than that there isn't much to criticize about the V40 ThinQ's triple-cam general image quality. Color and exposure tend to be very good in most shooting conditions.
Did I like shooting with the LG V40 ThinQ triple-cam then? The answer is a resounding yes! The iPhone 7 Plus was my first tele-cam-equipped smartphone and I remember how incredibly useful I found that longer lens while shooting on a tourist trip to New York, despite its shortcomings in low light.
The LG V40 ThinQ takes things one step further by adding a super-wide-angle to the mix. Gone are the days of difficult decisions between longer reach or a wider angle of view when buying a new smartphone. Now you can have it all in one device that easily fits into your pocket, and also gives you the ability to instantly edit and share.
Triple-cam-smartphones really are the final nail in the compact camera's coffin
Is there still room for improvement? Of course there is. The tele-lens could perform better in low light and an even longer focal length would be nice (the Huawei Mate 20 Pro already offers a 3x optical zoom) but the additional creative freedom offered by the V40 ThinQ and similar devices is already a huge leap forward when compared to conventional single-lens smartphones.
If we still needed one, triple-cam-smartphones really are the final nail in the compact camera's coffin, and we can be pretty certain device manufacturers won't stop here. New hardware developments in combination with computational imaging techniques are likely to lead to even longer focal lengths and wider zoom ranges on smartphones in the very near future.
There are 52 images in our LG V40 ThinQ sample gallery. Please do not reproduce any of these images on a website or any newsletter / magazine without prior permission (see our copyright page). We make the originals available for private users to download to their own machines for personal examination or printing (in conjunction with this review), we do so in good faith, please don't abuse it.
Unless otherwise noted images taken with no particular settings at full resolution.
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