Camera review: LG's G2 smartphone is first 13MP Android with OIS
11 Conclusion & Gallery
Conclusion - The Good
- Good exposure in most light situations
- Sharp lens across the frame, no chromatic aberrations
- Snappy performance
- Volume buttons offer quick access to camera app from lock screen
- Camera app intuitively structured
- HDR mode produces natural results without ghosting artifacts
- Decent imaging feature set
- Large and bright screen (but see cons below)
- Manual focus mode can be helpful in certain circumstances
- 1080p/60fps video offers smooth motion when viewed in a compatible player
- Good battery life
Conclusion - The Bad
- Smearing of low-contrast detail and some processing artifacts, even at low ISOs
- Very strong noise reduction at higher ISOs results in soft output
- Very pronounced focus pumping in video mode
- Flash exposures use very high ISO
- Very slow shutter speeds in low light inevitably leads to motion blur in non-static scenes
- Screen very difficult to view in bright light
- Body materials feel a little cheap
- Panorama mode produces comparatively small, low-quality output
- Access to exposure compensation requires two taps
- High levels of noise and noise reduction in low light video
- Exposure cannot be linked to focus point
The first thing that you notice when holding the LG G2 in your hand is its very large and bright 5.2-inch screen that is great for framing your images. Unfortunately, in bright light it's more difficult to view than the screens of some competing models which makes it less ideal for shooting outdoors on a sunny day.
There's no doubt the G2 looks very sleek and arguably offers the best screen size/overall size ratio we have seen so far, but the rounded edges work less well for holding the device like a camera than more angular designs and the plastic material of the shell doesn't quite match the premium feel of competitors such as the Sony Xperia Z1, HTC One or iPhone 5s.
Overall the LG G2 is a very well specified Android smartphone with a decent imaging feature set and very responsive performance, but in terms of both image quality and camera ergonomics it's not quite up there with the best. The LG G2 is by no means a bad camera phone. It is indeed capable of capturing very decent images, but if mobile photography is the focus of your smartphone buying decision there are currently better alternatives around.
Features & Operation
The G2 provides quick access to its camera app from sleep mode or the lock screen via a long-press of the volume button. The latter also works as a shutter button in the camera app but no half-press functionality means it's less useful for mobile photography purposes than the dedicated shutter buttons on the Sony Xperia Z1, HTC One or the Nokia Lumia series.
The camera app itself is very intuitively structured and easy to navigate but we would prefer quicker access to key parameters such as exposure compensation or ISO. As it stands the G2's camera app is best suited for full auto point-and-shoot operation. In our opinion the unusual position of the power and volume buttons does not have too much impact on the device's ergonomics, especially for mobile photographers. When shooting in portrait orientation the volume rocker can be a good alternative to the on-screen shutter button but in landscape orientation it's awkward to reach and will most likely remain unused.
The G2 comes with a good imaging feature set but most of the modes are a little gimmicky and we've seen them before on other devices. Unfortunately one of the more useful functions, Panorama Mode, produces images that are smaller and less detailed than the best in class. The inclusion of VR Panorama, LG's equivalent to Google's Photosphere, is a nice touch though.
In terms of image quality the LG G2 is a bit of a double-edged sword. In good light and at low sensitivities the G2 captures decent detail, helped by the lens which is sharp pretty much all across the frame and free of chromatic aberrations. At a 100% view the images look a tad overprocessed with some noise reduction blurring and a little softer than some of the competition.
As soon as the light gets dimmer and in the ISO starts to increase the G2 applies very heavy-handed noise reduction which results in visible softness. Detail starts to suffer as soon as you go higher than base ISO and by ISO 400 most low-contrast detail is gone. At even higher sensitivities edge definition decreases as well and the entire image looks soft. On the upside the G2's high ISO output is pretty clean but personally I prefer the noise reduction approach that some other manufacturers have taken: tolerate some grain and focus on the visually much more unpleasant chroma noise.
On the upside thanks to the optical image stabilization exposure is good down to very low light, although shutter speeds as low as 1/10th of a second mean some motion blur is almost unavoidable with living subjects. The OIS also helps keeping things steady when shooting video but focus pumping is a real problem in video mode. If you would like to see the G2's image quality next to some of its competitors we recommend you also have a look at our most recent smartphone shootout.
The Final Word
The LG G2 offers top-end specs all around and does not disappoint as a camera phone. It comes with an intuitively structured camera app, a comprehensive imaging feature set and decent image quality. Its only real problems are the focus pumping in video mode and that some of the current competition is even better.
The Sony Xperia Z1 arguably offers better camera ergonomics. So does the Nokia Lumia 1020 while throwing class-leading image quality into the mix as well. The Samsung Galaxy S4 offers better pixel-level image quality and a feature sets that is at least as comprehensive as the G2's. Apple's iPhone 5s is of course always worth a look for mobile photographers who prefer iOS over Android and did very well in our recent review.
Many users will love the G2 for its big screen and snappy performance but if your emphasis is on mobile photography you should have a close look at some of the models mentioned above before you hit the buy button.
DXOMark Image Quality AssessmentWith an overall score of 73 the LG G2 takes the number six spot in the DxO Mark smartphone ranking. It produces "very good detail outdoors, good edge preservation in low light and good overall exposure." Images are well-exposed in very low light, thanks to the LG's optical image stabilization system, and the autofocus is "very fast and mostly repeatable."
Category: Mobile Phone
Camera and Photo Features
Ergonomics and Handling
Still Image Quality
Speed and Responsiveness
The The LG G2 comes with top-end specs all around and offers an intuitively structured camera app, a comprehensive imaging feature set and decent image quality. Its only real problems are the focus pumping in video mode and that some of its closest rivals are even better. Many users will love the G2 for its big screen and the snappy performance but if your emphasis is on mobile photography you should have a close look at some of the alternatives before making your buying decision.
There are 35 images in our LG G2 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.
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