Conclusion

Conclusion - The Good

  • Good detail in bright conditions
  • Good balance between noise reduction and detail retention in low light
  • Good exposure and color across the ISO range
  • HDR+ mode efficient in bright light, visibly improves image quality in low light
  • Good detail in video footage
  • Efficient optical image stabilization
  • Bright and clear screen with lots of resolution
  • Solid build quality and ergonomic shape
  • Snappy overall performance
  • Pure Android version without any manufacturer or carrier "bloatware"
  • DNG Raw support with some third party camera apps
  • Interesting panorama options including Photo Sphere and Fisheye
  • Comprehensive Snapseed-based editing options in the Photos app

Conclusion - The Bad

  • Strong sharpening leads to slightly unnatural look at pixel-level
  • Some softness towards the left edge on the lens of our test unit
  • Lens a little prone to flare
  • Flash exposure slightly inconsistent
  • Red-eye effect visible in some flash exposures
  • "Jittering" in video footage
  • No microSD support

Overall Conclusion

With its 6-inch UHD AMOLED-display the Nexus 6 is no doubt a large device and most suitable for two-handed operation. On the plus side it is a real joy to frame, review and edit images and video clips on the high-resolution screen though. Build-quality is very solid and with its thin bezels, metal frame and slightly wavy shapes the Nexus is pleasant to look at.

Like many smartphones the Nexus struggles a little with flash photography but otherwise image quality is decent across the board and can be further improved by activating the excellent HDR+ mode. The camera captures very good detail and clear sound in video mode as well but occasionally exposes a slight jittering around the edges that hopefully can be reduced or eliminated with a firmware update in the future. Nevertheless, if you can live without a microSD-slot and think you can manage the large dimensions the Google Nexus 6 is an easy recommendation to any mobile photographer.

Features & Operation

All of the Nexus 6 internal components are high-end spec and it's no surprise that in both general operation and image capture and editing the Google device always feels snappy and responsive. The pure version of Android feels pleasantly uncluttered compared to the OS skins of some other manufacturers and also means that Nexus 6 users will be first in line for future Android updates. 

The imaging feature set is concise but offers everything most users need and for those who want more there is plenty of choice in the Google Play store. User control in the Google camera app is limited but the Nexus 6 fully supports Google's Camera2 API which will get you full manual control and even DNG Raw support with third party apps such as Manual Camera or Camera FV-5.

Photo Sphere and the range of panorama modes produce very large and immersive images but are not perfect in terms of stitching, when you look closely. HDR+ mode is truly excellent though, producing great results in both bright light and darker conditions. Unless you really cannot deal with the slight processing delay after capture we would recommend leaving HDR+ on permanently. 

Image Quality

In good light the Nexus 6 images show good detail and exposure with low noise levels. Like most smartphone cameras colors are pretty saturated and sharpening is on the strong side, giving images a slightly processed look when viewed at pixel-level. Highlight clipping in high-contrast scenes is inevitable but in line with the competition in the high-end smartphone class.The lens has a slightly stronger than usual tendency to produce flare with the sun in or just outside the frame.

As you would expect noise levels increase and the effects of noise reduction become more visible as light levels drop and ISO sensitivity increases. However, the engineers have found a good balance between noise reduction and detail detention in low light and images remain usable up to the highest ISOs. The optical image stabilization system does a very job at counteracting camera shake and ensures sharp images at shutter speeds as slow as 1/12 sec.

While the image quality in standard mode is not bad at all in both bright light and darker conditions the Google Camera App's HDR+ mode noticeably improves image results. In bright light it works like most other HDR modes. It recovers some clipped highlight and shadow detail but still produces very natural looking results. In low light it noticeably reduces noise levels and in very dark scenes is capable of achieving brighter exposures than the standard camera mode. It appears the low light mode of HDR+ uses similar technologies to the iPhone 6 Plus. However, on the Apple device the mode is active permanently and cannot be deactivated.

The Final Word

If you are mobile photographer who likes using "phablet-sized" devices you cannot go wrong with the Google Nexus 6. Its large dimensions mean that you have a gorgeous high-resolution screen to frame, view and edit images on and the already-good general image quality can be further improved by using the efficient HDR+ mode. The Nexus' arguably closest rival, the Apple's iPhone 6 Plus is a good choice if you prefer Apple's iOS over Android. It offers slightly better pixel-level image quality and a huge choice of imaging apps but the lower pixel counts means there is less flexibility when cropping. Other alternatives include the Samsung Galaxy Note 4 or Nokia Lumia 1520 but, like the iPhone, the latter comes with with a lower resolution screen.

DXOMark Mobile Score
78

DXOMark Image Quality Assessment

With strong photo performance the Google Nexus 6 can compete with the best in class. The DxOMark team reports that its images show good exposure and color, and detail preservation is among the best. The testers also liked the good flash performance and reliable AF behavior. However, the white balance can produce slightly pink results in cloudy conditions and the lens shows some softness towards the edges of the frame. 

The Nexus 6 video mode cannot quite keep up with the performance in stills mode. The recorded footage shows very good texture and color with low noise levels but the testers found the image stabilization to be inefficient and to introduce rolling shutter artifacts. For a more detailed analysis, visit www.dxomark.com.

Photo Mobile Score 81   Video Mobile Score 74
Exposure and Contrast 85   Exposure and Contrast 84
Color 80   Color 82
Autofocus 83   Autofocus 50
Texture 76   Texture 82
Noise 76   Noise 84
Photo Artifacts 82   Video Artifacts 93
Flash 85   Stabilization 53
Google Nexus 6
Category: Mobile Phone
Camera and Photo Features
Screen Quality
Ergonomics and Handling
Video Quality
Still Image Quality
Speed and Responsiveness
PoorExcellent
Conclusion
The Google Nexus 6 flash performance is a little inconsistent but otherwise the camera delivers good image quality across the board and the HDR+ mode efficiently increases dynamic range in low light and reduces noise levels at high ISOs. The large 6-inch AMOLED UHD screen is a pleasure to work with and ideal for showing off your pictures. The pure version of Android 5.0 is pleasantly uncluttered and means you'll receive Android updates faster than the users of most other Android devices. If you think its large dimensions are right for you the Google Nexus 6 is an easy recommendation for any mobile photographer.
82%
Overall score

Sample Gallery

There are 29 images in our Google Nexus 6 samples 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.