Camera review: LG's G2 smartphone is first 13MP Android with OIS
Image Quality and Performance
Like most of its contemporary high-end Android competitors the LG G2 is powered by a combination of Qualcomm's Snapdragon 800 processor, 2GB RAM and version 4.2 of the Google mobile OS. These specifications provide a very snappy overall performance, with smooth scrolling and quick start-up of pretty much any app. The 3000mAh battery means you should easily get through the day, even with heavy use, but it's probably a good idea to charge the device fully overnight if you want to do the same thing again the next day.
The G2 preps for picture taking pretty quickly. Whether you long-press the volume rocker from sleep mode or from the lock screen or after tap the camera icon it takes approximately two seconds until you can hit the shutter button and snap an image.
Shot-to-shot times are not the fastest but approximately 0.6 of a second in good light still does the job in most situations and if you need more speed you can always switch to the burst mode which captures 20 frames in approximately two seconds. At around 0.7 of a second focus speed is pretty much in line with the competition but can increase to longer than a second in lower light. We also noticed pronounced focus pumping when shooting video in low light.
Daylight, Low ISO
Like most smartphones the G2's camera module comes with a 1/3-inch CMOS sensor and in good light the image quality is pretty much in line with what you would expect from such smartphone tech specs. The G2 resolves decent detail but upon close inspection you may find the images to look a little overprocessed, with quite heavy sharpening and some luminance noise visible even at low sensitivities. Noise reduction is smearing some low-contrast detail even in good light, but the G2 is not notably worse in that respect than most of its competitors with 1/3-inch sensors.
The G2's F2.4 lens offers good sharpness across the frame and there aren't any visible chromatic aberrations, even in challenging high-contrast situations. We suspect that CA is removed by software algorithms but in any case the end result is better than what we've seen on many other devices.
Exposure tends to be spot-on, even in difficult light situations, but like most smartphones the G2's dynamic range is limited and in high-contrast situations you inevitably will end up with some blown highlights. The color rendition of the LG's auto white balance mode tends to be a little on the cool side.
Low Light, High ISO
In lower light the G2 maintains good exposure down to very dim conditions. The maximum ISO you can set manually is 800 but in Auto Mode we've seen the G2 go as high as 1800. Thanks to its fast lens and optical image stabilization system the G2 can keep the ISO low, even when light starts to fade. Shutter speeds can go as low as 1/10th of a second, though this will inevitably result in motion blur on any moving subjects in the frame.
As soon as the ISO starts to increase a loss of fine detail sets in and is already quite noticeable at ISO 300. From there on things get worse and the images get softer and softer as you climb the sensitivity scale. While some of the G2's competitors deploy a noise reduction strategy that allows some grain and while focusing on the elimination of the more visually unpleasing chroma noise, the G2 appears to battle both types of noise with equal strength. The end results are relatively clean but quite soft high-ISO images. Personally I am happy to accept a little more luminance noise if I get better edge contrast and detail at high ISOs in return.
Like on most smartphones you have very little control over the LED flash on the G2. You can only switch it on or off of set it to auto mode. Really it should be viewed more as an emergency solution rather than a substitute for a proper flash. Due to the weak illumination the G2 has to crank up the ISO a lot when taking flash images in dark conditions. The end results show the same loss of detail as the high ISO images we've looked at above. If you move more than few feet away from your subject ISO increases further and the G2 struggles to expose the scene bright enough. The LED's reach is simply too limited.
If you are close enough to your subject though exposure and white balance tend to be good. Nevertheless, if you are planning to capture many flash images with your smartphones you are far better off with a device that offers a Xenon flash, such as Nokia's Lumia 1020.
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