Conclusion

Conclusion - The Good

  • Excellent image detail and good dynamic range in bright light
  • Good balance between noise reduction and detail retention in low light
  • Usable exposures in very low light
  • Decent LED-flash performance
  • Very large panorama output (but some stitching errors and ghosting) 
  • Efficient HDR mode (but some ghosting on moving subjects)
  • Very good front camera with 'flash' mode
  • Full manual control over exposure parameters
  • Raw mode allows for increased flexibility in post processing
  • Efficient optical image stabilization reduces risk of camera shake
  • Removable battery
  • MicroSD support

Conclusion - The Bad

  • High levels of luminance noise and some chroma noise in some base ISO images
  • Edge softness in some images
  • Occasionally unreliable focus in Auto mode
  • Low quality slow motion video and no way to export
  • Pronounced rolling shutter effect in video footage
  • Very limited editing options in gallery app
  • Very small output size in Dual mode
  • Only average battery life

Overall Conclusion

In terms of 'premium feel' and camera special modes the LG G4 cannot quite keep up with some of its closest competitors but its Raw capture capability and full manual shooting parameters should still make it a favorite of those photographers who want a maximum amount of control over the picture taking and digital development process. Volume shooters will also appreciate the MicroSD slot and removable battery. The latter especially has almost become a stand-out feature these days. 

In terms of image quality the G4 captures excellent detail across the ISO range but this is paid for with higher noise levels in some situations. We also found the autofocus to be less than 100% reliable with occasional edge softness, presumably caused by the optical image stabilization. In video a strong tendency to create a 'jello effect' means fast panning is best avoided and the slow-motion mode trails far behind its Apple and Samsung equivalents. Nevertheless, if your focus is on stills and you want to take advantage of the flexibility of Raw capture, the LG G4 is currently a top option for mobile photographers.

Features & Operation

Compared to some of its rivals the LG G4 comes with only a small number of special modes. Panorama and HDR modes produce good results but are not on quite on the same level as on the iPhone 6 or the Samsung Galaxy S6. The same is true for the slow-motion video mode. The only other special mode, Dual mode, won't be of much use to most more serious mobile photographers and captures very small images. For anything else, including filter effects or a decent image editor, you'll have to hit the Google Play Store which luckily offers an enormous selection of imaging apps.

While special modes aren't the G4's strength the full manual control is great for those photographers who prefer to set shutter speeds manually and allows for proper long exposures. The stand-out feature, however, is the Raw capture ability. It allows for a lot of flexibility in post processing and at this point isn't available on most of the G4's competitors, including the iPhone and Galaxy S6.

Unfortunately the G4 does not come with a proper two-stage shutter button but the camera app can still be opened quickly via the volume-down button. We're not big fans of the LG button layout on the back of the device but once you get used to it it works well enough. The camera app itself works great in Manual mode but is not without its quirks. Panorama and Dual modes can only be accessed while you are in Auto mode and you can't choose an exposure mode or lock the AF. That said, overall the app works great for photographers who want more control over shooting than you usually get from a smartphone. 

Image Quality

In bright light the G4 captures class-leading detail. Well-balanced sharpening and low levels of noise reduction mean that you get less of the 'processed' look that can be seen on many smartphones. However, there is a price to pay. Luminance noise levels at base ISO are noticeably higher than we've seen on the best in class and occasionally we've even found some traces of chroma noise. Sharpness is generally good across the frame but some images show noticeable blur towards the edges of the frame which we would attribute to the otherwise very efficient image stabilization system.

In lower light the G4 maintains decent detail and edge definition up to very high sensitivity levels. It's also capable of capturing usable exposures down to very low light levels and overall is one of the best smartphones for night photography we have tested so far. The flash has the same limitations in terms of power as the LED units on most smartphones but overall produces good exposures with natural colors, making it a useful emergency tool in very dark scenes. 

Unfortunately we did not find the autofocus to be 100% reliable. We found various images within our several hundred samples, usually portraits, for which the camera had focused on the background despite the main subject being located right in the middle of the frame. Hopefully this is something that can be improved with a software update. The standard video mode generally produces good quality footage but has a pronounced tendency to produce a so-called jello effect when panning. Overall it's fair to say that in terms of image quality the G4 is one the currently best smartphone cameras with conventional sensors but there is still room for improvement in some areas. 

The Final Word

So should you get one? As always this depends on your personal preferences and shooting style. The G4's arguably closest rivals, the iPhone 6 Plus and Samsung Galaxy S6 both have more of a premium look and feel to them and offer better special shooting modes and video. However, the G4 is the only one out of the three to offer Raw capture, a MicroSD slot and a removable battery, all of which are useful to more serious shooters. With the S6's current software, the G4 also has the advantage of full manual camera control.

The G4 images show excellent detail and the camera is capable of exposing even very dark scenes, making the LG a great tool for mobile night photography. If you can live with the issues described in the image quality section above, none of which are deal-breakers, and feel the G4's 'serious photography' feature set is right for you it's tough to go wrong with the latest LG flagship. 

DXOMark Mobile Score
83

DXOMark Image Quality Assessment

With 83 points, the LG G4 achieves the same score as the Samsung Galaxy Note 4 and Motorola Moto X Style, putting it into second place in the DxOMark smartphone rankings. The DxOMark team found the LG's AF to be very fast and precise and images showed good detail and noise reduction. On the downside, G4 pictures suffer from artifacts, such as blue sky saturation, moiré and fringing and the auto white balance system is not always reliable.  

Video footage shows good exposure and color and bright light detail is very good. However, DxO found video stabilization to be ineffective and generating a "jello effect". In low artificial light some video clips also show color casts. For a more detailed analysis, visit www.dxomark.com.

Photo Mobile Score 86   Video Mobile Score 79
Exposure and Contrast 86   Exposure and Contrast 89
Color 80   Color 76
Autofocus 94   Autofocus 76
Texture 90   Texture 84
Noise 84   Noise 92
Photo Artifacts 76   Video Artifacts 80
Flash 81   Stabilization 65
LG G4
Category: Mobile Phone
Camera and Photo Features
Screen Quality
Ergonomics and Handling
Video Quality
Still Image Quality
Speed and Responsiveness
PoorExcellent
Conclusion
The LG G4 might not have the full metal body or comprehensive imaging feature set of some of its rivals. It also comes with some minor image quality issues and a video mode that is slightly degraded by a pronounced jello effect and low-quality slow-motion footage. However, if your focus is on image detail, Raw capture and full manual control it's hard to go wrong with the LG. Many photographers will also appreciate the MicroSD slot and removable battery.
82%
Overall score

There are 48 images in our LG G4 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.