Two in one: LG G5 camera review
In terms of special features, the LG G5 comes with a good variety. All the essentials, such as panorama and HDR modes are on board but the the G5 also offers features for those photographers who like maximum control over the image making process, such as full manual control and the option to record DNG Raw Files. In addition, there are a few new modes that make use of the G5's dual-cam setup by recording images or video on more than one camera at the same time. You also have access to a range of slightly uninspiring film simulation modes, as well as time-lapse and slow-motion video features. We take a closer look at the latter on the video page of this review. Most of the other features are covered in this section.
The G5's standout feature is its dual-cam setup. We have seen dual-cams implemented in different ways but on the G5 the secondary 8MP module simply acts as a super-wide angle with a 135 degree angle of view. The main 16MP module has slightly narrower field of view than most other current smartphones but works well as an all-day shoot-around lens and makes a good combination with the wide-angle. After having used the G5 for a few weeks now I can say the dual-cam is a great feature. It simply allows you to squeeze more of a scene into your frame when necessary, without the need to carry an add-on lens.
The sensor resolution and level of captured detail is noticeably lower on the wide-angle module than it is on the main camera, but for most users that should not be much of a problem as you are unlikely to crop from the wide angle. If you are using the digital zoom the G5 switches automatically between both modules. This means if you are using the wide-angle lens and zoom into your scene, digital zoom is applied to the wide-angle image until the angle of view of the 16MP lens is reached. At this point the camera app switches modules. That said, as usual digital zoom decreases image quality rapidly and is best avoided. If necessary you can always crop in editing to zoom in on a detail in your image.
Dual-camera special features
The G5's built-in wide-angle lens is seriously useful, but it seems LG thought for some consumers the dual focal length might not be enough. Hence, you'll find a couple more features that make use of the two rear cameras. Both Popout and Multi-view are accessible by hitting the Mode button in Auto mode, and are of a rather gimmicky nature.
In Multi-view you can create collages and select different layouts using two to four images that can be taken with either one of the rear cameras or the front unit. One image is taken after the other, so you can change framing after each capture and even take all images with the same camera if that's what you want to do. A swipe across an image in the preview screen changes the source camera for that particular frame.
Popout combines images from the two rear cameras by placing the standard image on top of the wide-angle capture. Again, you can choose from a range of frame layouts. In a second step you can apply fisheye, vignette or blur filters to the wide-angle image or convert it to black and white. Those effects can also be combined. When you hit the shutter button the two images are captured simultaneously and digitally combined.
The G5's panorama mode works pretty much in the same way as it does on the G4. Like most other special modes, it is only accessible in Auto mode and a panorama image is captured by slowly panning the camera and staying within the framing target that appears on the screen. The mode captures full 360-degree panoramas, but you can stop anytime by hitting the shutter button.
At over 20,000 pixels wide when shot with the main camera, the G5 panoramas are very large and show good detail. There is some very noticeable luminance noise in the sky but overall image quality is good and the exposure system deals very well with the difficult high-contrast light situation in our sample scene below. If you look very closely you'll find some minor stitching errors and ghosting on moving subjects, but most of the time this remains within acceptable limits.
Overall, the G5 panoramas are very good but not quite on the same level as iPhone and current Samsung devices in terms of stitching and moving subjects. You can also capture panoramas with the wide-angle camera module but image output is smaller and the image is much more prone to distortion artifacts.
The G5's HDR mode is accessed in Auto mode via the settings menu, which can be a little cumbersome. Those who frequently use this mode would arguably prefer a button the camera app's main screen. Nevertheless, the mode works efficiently. As you can see in the samples below it recovers some clipped highlight detail and slightly lifts the shadows, without giving the scene an unnatural look.
Of course HDR mode is also available with the 8MP wide-angle module, with very similar results to those of the main camera, as you can see in the sample scene below.
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