It's never easy to call one smartphone camera 'the best' but we can get a reasonable idea of how the new Moto X Pure Edition behaves.
When taking a a look at the OnePlus 2 earlier this year, one of the big questions asked repeatedly was how the phone would stack up against the Moto X Pure Edition. Specifically, many of you wanted to know how the camera and battery held up in day to day use. Motorola hasn't been known for having spectacular cameras in their phones, and OnePlus has been non-stop talking about how great the camera and software in this year's offering is, so there's not much in the way of expectations when heading into this compare.
Here's a detailed look at what you can expect from the Moto X Pure Edition and the OnePlus 2. For each of these samples, the Moto X Pure Edition is on the left, and the OnePlus 2 is on the right. If you want to take a deeper look at these photos, a link to the uncompressed version straight off the cameras is available at the bottom of the article.
This bunch of flowers was hanging out in a steady breeze in broad daylight, and both the Moto X Pure Edition and the OnePlus 2 were set in front of it to see how the autofocus would handle capturing a moving target. While the OnePlus 2 camera is noticeably slower than the Moto X Pure Edition when it comes to focusing and capturing an image, it's clear Motorola's camera captured less detail and appears slightly washed out when compared to the OnePlus 2.
Details are important for a shot like this, and the Moto X Pure Edition clearly stumbled when trying to capture a gently moving target.
Full Auto HDR
Hiking out to the Annapolis harbor at sunrise is always worth it for shots like this. Each camera was set to full auto with HDR on, and while both photos are a pleasure to look at there are some clear quality differences. The OnePlus 2 is punchy, but way darker than the Moto X Pure Edition. The oversaturation of color and the lack of light makes the photo a lot less enjoyable, especially when trying to make out detail on the boats to the right.
Neither photo is bad, but it's clear the Moto X Pure Edition did a better job here.
For this shot, we got down under a tree and focused on the patch of yellow leaves roughly 15 feet away. You can see Motorola's blown out background continues here, but if you zoom in you see the Moto X did a much better job getting detail out of the yellow leaves. The OnePlus 2 is the most visually pleasing of the two photos, but the Moto X Pure Edition captured the parts of the photo that were the most important for this test.
It's clear Motorola's camera is capable of doing all of the individual things you'd want a nice smartphone camera to do, but it seems to be incapable of pulling all of those things together to make a single great image in these conditions.
Specific focus detail shot
For this photo, the center of the tree was chosen as the specific focus point. This lets us see how well the camera captures detail, but also what you can expect in the background for shots like this. Neither camera produced a particularly great shot when looking at the details around the tree, but they failed in different and unique ways. The OnePlus 2 got overly saturated again and produced some unusually strong colors, but the Moto X Pure Edition is completely blown out in the background.
If you look at the detail on the tree, you'll see the OnePlus 2 captured more detail than the Moto X Pure Edition. This becomes especially cleat when following the bark on the tree, there's detail in one photo that simple doesn't exist in the other.
Poor light outdoors
Occasionally, you go to take a photo of a harbor at sunrise and instead you get a whole lot of fog. Fortunately, there's still a lot we can learn from this kind of photo. The lighting isn't particularly great, and visibility is poor enough that driving has to be done with caution, but the cameras on the Moto X Pure Edition and the OnePlus 2 handled it reasonably well.
At first glance, it looks as though the OnePlus 2 took the better shot here because it's the brighter of the two images. In fact, when you zoom in on the two shots you'll see the OnePlus 2 is so grainy you can barely make out the name of the boat on the far right. The Moto X Pure Edition, on the other hand, managed to keep things nice and clear even in these poor conditions.
Low light indoors
It's never easy to quantify "low light" in compare shots, but for this shot all the windows were covered and the lights in the room dimmed to 20 percent. These photos were taken in full auto with no specific focus. Both cameras focused adequately, and the image looks reasonably well lit despite the environment thanks to the quality of the image here. A closer look will reveal the OnePlus 2 isn't nearly as color accurate as the Moto X Pure Edition, and when you get in close there's a fair bit of graininess to the OnePlus photo that doesn't exist in the Moto X Photo.
Motorola's camera app does include a Night Mode that is supposed to be used for low light environments, but in our tests it didn't seem to improve the quality of the image any. In fact, there's some grainyness in the Night Mode shot you don't see in the full auto shot, despite being a hair brighter in night mode. The Night Mode shot was also half the size of the normal photo.
While the camera on the Moto X Pure Edition has come a long way from the weirdness of its predecessors, you're still going to have to work a little to get the shot that you want. The good news is when you get the shot you want it looks really great, potentially even blowing away some of the top cameras on the market, but in most outdoor situations that quick draw photo will be slightly less than the photo you'd get from the OnePlus 2. If you're an indoor type, the low light performance on this camera is admirable and you'll find a lot of your photos will come out great.
Ultimately Motorola has delivered a camera worthy of a $400 phone, and it competes well with the other $400 Android phones out there today.
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