LG G3 camera

Our first look at the photographic capabilities of LG's flagship G3 smartphone

With 24 hours of LG G3 usage under our belt, we've had just enough time to get to grips with the phone's camera — a 13-megapixel optically-stabilized shooter with a faster laser-powered autofocus. LG is one of the few manufacturers using OIS as a major point of differentiation, and with high-end smartphones increasingly competing on focus times, LG's updated AF system brings something new to the table. A fun aside — according to LG's head of smartphone planning, Dr. Ramchan Woo, the autofocus tech draws on LG's expertise in other areas, having been adapted from laser-based sensors in LG's robot vacuum cleaners.

Enough about lasers and robots for the moment, though. The G3's main camera is a 13-megapixel unit, the same size (and pixel size) as the G2, however LG tells us the sensor itself is more advanced than last year's model. What's more, the G3 has grown "OIS+," and the new stabilization system with a wider angle of compensation than its predecessor. Meanwhile the front-facing camera has been revamped, with larger pixels on its sensor, for better low-light performance.

LG G3 photo sample

An important note before we go any further — all our pictures were taken on a pre-production Korean G3, so bear in mind what you see here might not be representative of image quality from final, production devices when they arrive over the next month. That said, we haven't come across any bugs or glitches in the camera setup so far, and we've been generally impressed by the G3's photographic chops.

LG's push towards a simpler user interface has resulted in a camera UI devoid of options the first time you load it up. Instead, Moto X-style, you simply tap anywhere on the screen to take a picture. But getting back to a more traditional camera UI is easy too — just tap the menu icon in the top left corner, and you'll get the usual array of controls — flash, front/rear switching, mode and settings. By default you'll take 10-megapixel shots in widescreen orientation. If you want to the full benefit of the phone's 13-megapixel shooter you'll need to switch to 4:3. It's also interesting to note the addition of an "auto HDR" mode this time around, and helpfully, it's enabled by default. Like Motorola's Auto HDR setting, the camera will toggle into HDR mode as and when it's needed. You can of course manually toggle HDR on and off in the usual way if you prefer. And HDR exposures themselves look excellent, blending bright skies seamlessly into landscapes, and bringing out highlights in darker areas. As on the Nexus 5, the G3's HDR mode seems to bring out richer colors in what might otherwise be washed-out pictures.

LG G3 photo sample

On the whole, the G3 is shaping up to be a great all-round cameraphone. In daylight, it's pretty close to the quality of Samsung's ISOCELL-toting Galaxy S5, the main difference being slightly softer edges in shots from LG's flagship. Regardless, the G3 produces some enviable daylight shots, with accurate colors and very little noise. As we saw on the G2, LG's camera tends to be a little over-aggressive when it comes to noise reduction, which might be contributing to the slight softness we're seeing in some pictures.

Capture speeds are extremely quick; there's a short but noticeable delay when taking HDR shots, as you'd expect. We've also been impressed with the the camera's laser-based autofocus, which has been extremely quick to lock on in most instances. Should the G3's barrage of lasers be unable to give it a firm fix on its subject, we're told the camera falls back on traditional contrast detection autofocus.

Camera app

In low light, the G3's optical stabilization gives it an edge, compensating somewhat for the relatively small (1.12µm) pixel size. Whereas competitors like the Sony Xperia Z2 tend towards noisy low-light pictures, LG's aggressive noise reduction leaves images a little blotchy, but this effect is nowhere near as bad as night shots on the Samsung Galaxy S5. The GS5's software stabilization also means you'll spend a few seconds holding the camera in place before taking a photo, whereas the G3's optically-stabilized captures are much quicker. Edges in night shots also seemed better defined on the G3 than the GS5 in our casual testing.

Elsewhere in the camera app you've got panorama and dual-capture modes, as well as "Magic Focus" — LG's take on a background defocus effect. And in selfie mode there's a novel way of taking captures without pressing the shutter key — simply hold up your hand, then close it into a fist to trigger a countdown timer.

When it comes to video, there are a few options at your disposal — standard recording at up to 4K resolution, though the app defaults to 1080p. There's also a "fast HD" mode which captures 720p footage at 120fps.

In daylight, the G3 produces great-looking 4K And 1080p video, with bright colors, even exposure and no noticeable artefacts — not to mention smooth panning thanks to the built-in OIS. In low light, the phone seems to boost sensitivity, creating sharper but grainier images than we've seen from rivals, while maintaining a consistent 30 frames per second.

So far the LG G3 is looking like a strong competitor in the Android cameraphone space. We'll have more to say on the phone's imaging performance in our full review. Until then, check out a selection of our sample and comparison shots below.

More: LG G3 hands-on, Win an LG G3!

 

Reader comments

LG G3 camera samples and first impressions

114 Comments

The fact that he has the 1020 and is the absolute best smartphone camera out there's nothing poor about him at all.

I have Lumia 1020 and it has really great camera with great detail that I never seen in any other smartphone camera

I agree at first when the G2 came out I was not a fan of those buttons at all but after using it for a couple mins I fell in love with them if people want these phones with as thin as possible bezels there going to have to put those buttons somewhere :)

The Galaxy s4 had bezels that were the same as the G2, with side buttons. I think if all bezels were like the GS4 and no back buttons needed, that would be ideal.

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S4 has thicker top/bottom bezels definitely, but side bezels were exactly the same, which was my point against the other guy who claimed you needed to place the buttons at the back in order to have thin side bezels.

Look up the GS4 vs G2 review on YouTube by mobiletechreview and see for yourself (the g2 bezels even look thicker there, but I think they're equal)

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Just did some calculations, S4 side bezel is 0.3735cm, G2 side bezel is 0.3065 cm. S4 is only 21.8% thicker (like 0.6mm), but is it worth the stupid button placement?

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Are you kidding, why would you post something like that just because your a samboy! Maybe you better get your eyes checked if you think the S4 had the same bezels as the G2. It never ceased to amaze me the comments that come out of samboys thinking. I learned my lesson almost 2 years ago when I listened to Sammy fans of how powerful and smooth the Note2 was. That might have been the buggiest LAG operating phone I ever owned

Not really, I had the G2 for a month and never got used to it. I am in no way saying it is bad, but it is not something that I found all that easy to adapt to. I am sure that if I used it as a daily driver I would have gotten used to it quicker but I doubt that I would have loved it...

With knock on /off you really don't need them and when you want to adjust the volume you can access the slider from the notification shade.

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I played with the G2 in a Sprint store and got the hang of using the volume rocker in less than a minute. It's easier than fishing around the side and smoother also. Knock on /off is fantastic.

Of course for the fat case fanatics who may also be Samsung excusers, these controls are likely problematic. Physical home and bass acwards go back capacitive buttons, et al. I suppose muscle memory is difficult to reprogram for some.

I hate side located power buttons. I agree with knock on I never use the physical buttons on the back. My phone is on vibrate almost all the time and when I need to change it I cange it in the quick menu in the notification tray. Added plus is I never accidentally hit my power or volume buttons.

Its just ok. They used the same Sony module for the camera that they used last year such a disappointment tho. Still not better than the M8, maybe the camera in well lite areas but over the M8 is still better. I do have to admit I do like the thin bezel...

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Yeah I don't see the m8 being better from samples I have seen. But I don't own either phone. I'll wait for judgement when the production g3 is released and compared shot by shot to the m8.

ಠ益ಠ

LOL that is a good one....

THe M8 is not even in the same state let alone ballpark as the G2/3, Z2, S5 ....

Fortunately, your comment brightly illustrates to all AC forum participants why your grandous self important opinions are irrelevant. Total nonsense.

And you can't sluff it off, again, as a joke or sarcasm or with a half assed make nice follow up.

Nope it is an honest assessment from someone who had had and compared the g2, s5 and m8. I do not get the sony ones because they are not as readily available

Sorry, but many other reviewers concur. If you like it that is great. I speak from experience

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No, just honest. I know that you are a huge fan of HTC and that is great. Just do not let that loyalty blind you. All phones have flaws, it is OK to admit them.

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Is the M8 worse than the M7? Apart from ultimate resolution no phone ive had has produced better pictures.

For me the mechanical Optical Image Stabilization in the M7 produces better pictures. If you have steady hands, the M8 produces as good and with the front facing "selfie" camera the results are better than essentially all others because of the wide angle and greater resolution.

Moreover, the M8 battery lasts a long full day and all functions are instaneous. For some, the SD card not available in the M7 may be useful yet with the music, photos, videos, apps, and attachments et al I've saved I, as well as most others, don't come close to using up the 32 GB internal in either model.

Bottom line for photography. If you cannot hold the phone's camera steady especially when shooting video, mechanical Optical Image Stabilization provided in the M7 is a necessary requirement.

My friend is in love w his M8 - battery life, fastest performance, built quality, etc., but extremely disappointed w camera. He is coming from g2.
I guess people judge by different standards.
G3 might have a winner here, unless Samsung steps up the game and get OIS on note 4 or s5 prime. In low light, Note 3 falls short to G2 for the same reason.
VZW Moto X

On the comparison shots, the G3's look dull compared to the GS5's. I actually like the GS5's better, but that's just me.

REALLY hoping the auto focus is faster on the G3 than on the G2. I had a G2 for about a month and that's the only thing I couldn't tolerate. Almost all of my pictured came out blurry, especially night shots because it would take at least a full second to to focus and fire the flash. I really wanted to keep the G2 but I use the camera too much.

Pictures look nice to me. Still wondering if you can see the screen wearing polarized sunglasses though.

money* its pricey! but i think it will be the smartphone of the year!! the camera is its best asset!! and software has improved a lot!

Please no carrier exclusives LG. I want this bad but I dont want to have to go to Verizon for wireless charging

This phone looks promising! Would love the opportunity to test one out. But, will enter for a chance to win one instead.

Fuckin great phone... Great Pics..... I NEED ONE NOW!!!
I have a LG G Flex and LG is the SHIT.... BULLSHIT ASS SAMSUNG.... GET A JOB BITCHES.... HA HA HA HA!

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LG has finally got serious game. LG is now a top class contender because photo capabilities are extremely important to me as well as vast majority of smartphone users.

If LG comes up with a smaller version (mini?) with the exact same specs and functionality, I may finally abandon my fond relationship with HTC build and the awesome Sense UI. From what I've read LG's new UI may be more than acceptable.

I'm awaiting to see if the HTC Ace has OIS. Sense and Boomsound are second to none. Zoes and Video Highlights are fun to share. And Blinkfeed is a very functional aggregater of my interests.

I'm not using an M8.

My preference is the HTC EVO LTE but since Sprint offered me a free no contract replacement M7, I took it since it has mechanical Optical Image Stabilization I've been able to capture excellent naturally lit indoor videos without the wobble and individual frames can be grabbed as photos. Slow motion video is also excellent. It also has fast focus and rapid fire and reset and produces unique Zoes and Video Highlights. Outdoor daylight shots are good and there are various photo scene modes available such as back-lit, landscape, panorama, macro, night, HDR. I figured if I missed my EVO LTE, I could always buy another one, perhaps on Swappa for $100.

As everyone knows, the HTC One (M7) was overwhelmingly rated best in class by reviewers and received multiple awards in 2013 and early 2014.

Wow, the video is TERRIBLE. It's like they've put surface blur over everything. Am I watching a cartoon?

The video was crisp on my HTC One. Perhaps it's your display. Most computer screens do not have the resolutions even close to smartphones.

I loved the G2 and still using it I would love to get the G3 especially now that u have a removable battery and better camera I love it I hope I win the new one.

Looks good. I still think LG have a thing for making blacks a little crushed, images are just too dark in the dark regions on both the G2 and the N5, its slightly better on the G3, but its still there.

Having said that there are worse problems for a camera phone to have, its easily corrected, whereas blur and colour aberrations aren't, especially when they aren't even across the whole frame.

LG hav always been known for their quality products. I have always been admirer of the quality of their picture.

Why is it always the same with AC articles regarding cameras?

1. No full res samples
2. No original video file.

Is it really SO HARD to upload a few pics full res incl. EXIF and provide a link for the original video file?

You cant judge pics by a down-sampled version nor can you judge video quality after youtube compressed the shit out of it!

The G3 photo samples are impressive. HDR photos are fantastic. The S5 photos have a bit more detail overall. In the plaza photo, the S5 has more contrast and the G3 is underexposed. But the other S5/G3 comparison photos are very close.

So you can fit your DSLR in your pocket? I don't know about you, but when I'm out and about with my kids, I don't always have my DSLR, but I do always have my phone. The better quality pictures I can get out it the better. No one is wanting to replace their DSLR with this phone, but they do want it to take the best pictures possible. The old saying that the best camera is the one you have with you holds true.

I would love to see some camera tests at concerts and such where there's low light contrasted with stage lighting. I'm looking for something to replace my old Canon point and shoot that was only 4mp, but have not been able to find a good point and shoot camera to replace it. I would love to upgrade my phone and get a decent concert photography camera at the same time.

I'm a big fan of what LG is doing these days (since OG/N4), but I have to say I found plenty of those pictures underwhelming. I was thinking it was just caused by the gloomy day until the comparison shot with the GS5. Probably not the finalized software either. Will hold out for more/better reviews and to use one myself.

LG seems better with HDR, very poor with HDR off compared to GS5.
however it looks better in low light which is nice

Because the LG G2 is fantastic, an absolutely amazing device that I fell in love with since day one. And now I want to fall in love with the G3.