Nexus 5 camera

A quick overview of the new Nexus's photographic capabilities

Google's Nexus smartphones don't have the best reputation when it comes to photography. The Galaxy Nexus's rear camera was a pretty big disappointment, and the Nexus 4's was little more than adequate, despite the introduction of new features like Photosphere. So will this year be any different? Google certainly seems to thinks so — the LG-built Nexus 5 is pitched as a device for capturing "the everyday and the epic," boasting a new HDR+ mode and optical image stabilization (OIS) while maintaining megapixel parity with the last-gen Nexus, with its 8MP rear shooter. It also boasts a larger 1/3.2-inch sensor and f/2.4 aperture.

But is it any good in the real world? Let's find out after the break.

General pho​tography with the Nexus 5

Spoiler alert: We finally have a Nexus phone with a good camera!

We'll talk at length about the Nexus 5's camera in our full review, but the short condensed version, based on a couple of days' use, is this: We finally have a Nexus with a pretty good camera. It's not barnstormingly awesome, but it's above average, and you can take good pictures with it in most conditions. In particular we've been impressed with the N5's performance in darker scenes and with the new HDR+ mode, which we'll discuss later. We've also been impressed with how little noise makes it into our shots — either Google has a fancy new noise-reduction algorithm, or it's just using a much higher-quality sensor in the Nexus 5 — either way, 100 percent crops reveal almost no visible noise, and that's great to see.

Areas of weakness include the stock camera app itself — the menu ring is pretty fiddly, and many of the controls lack the immediacy of "skinned" rivals like Samsung's TouchWiz camera app. There's also a tendency to slightly grey-out black areas in some shots, particularly in overcast conditions. That's nothing you can't fix in ten seconds with Snapseed or Photoshop, but it's something we've noticed consistently, and a point worth noting. Nevertheless, the Nexus 5 has a fine camera for regular use.

To get an idea of what we're talking about, check our short gallery of shots below. (These are a mix of regular and HDR+ shots.)

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HDR+ mode on the Nexus 5

Replacing the regular HDR mode from the Nexus 4, the N5's HDR+ mode combines high dynamic range photography with sharpening algorithms with the aim to produce clear and sharp photos even with very dark and very bright areas visible. Curiously, HDR+ shots seem to come out a little smaller than regular photos, likely due to the software leaving some wiggle room for camera movement.

We've seen HDR modes come and go on Android cameras over the years. On recent devices like the Galaxy S4 and Xperia Z1 they've gotten pretty good. And Google's HDR+ mode certainly delivers. Like all good HDR modes, it successfully picks out detail in bright and dark areas, but the selective sharpening that's applied to photos is what makes it truly impressive. Edges in HDR+ shots are extremely sharp, almost unnaturally so. And this is all done (for the vast majority of cases) without adding any appreciable visual noise.

Like other HDR modes, HDR+ takes a little longer to shoot and process, due to the fact that it combines photos of different exposures. The processing part is done in the background, though, meaning you don't have to deal with any progress bars.

HDR+ can run into issues with movement, however, as you'll see in the second set of comparison images below. The people in the foreground are blurred and obscured by noise. Not surprising — as the phone has to have time to take multiple exposures.

HDR+ photo sample

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Auto mode HDR mode

Left images: Auto mode; Right images: HDR+ mode

Auto mode HDR mode

100 percent crops

These 680-by-383 snapshots are taken from full-resolution versions of some of the shots above. The first two are HDR+ shots — and as you can see, the sharpening algorithm used in this mode does an excellent job of sharpening edges without adding noise in elsewhere in the image.

100 percent crop

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Quick comparison: General performance versus the Galaxy Note 3

The Samsung Galaxy Note 3 is one of the leading Android phones of the moment, featuring the same 13-megapixel camera found on the Galaxy S4, backed up by new software. For that reason it's a good candidate to compare against the Nexus 5 in regular daylight and HDR shots.

Nexus 5 shots on the left, Galaxy Note 3 on the right

Nexus 5 Galaxy Note 3

In a well-lit daylight scene there's not much to set the two phones apart besides peculiarities of color balance.

Nexus 5 Galaxy Note 3

Same in this close-up shot of a pillar box, though the Nexus 5's tendency to wash-out darker areas is visible in the shaded area on the left. On the Note it's more true-to-life.

Nexus 5 Galaxy Note 3

Next a side-by-side comparison of the Nexus 5's HDR+ (left) and the Galaxy Note 3's "Rich Tone HDR" (right). The Note 3 captures more detail in the darker areas of the shot, but the Nexus 5 produces a more realistic image with sharper edges.

Nexus 5 Galaxy Note 3

Finally, a shot taken in less than ideal conditions on an overcast day, approaching dusk. Neither image is great and both capture a about the same level of fine detail, however the Note loses some color detail around the leaves on the right.

Quick Comparison: Night shots versus the HTC One

The HTC One, with its "Ultrapixel" sensor, has been the king of low-light photography in the Android space for most of this year. We should note that in all these shots the HTC One benefits from its wide-angle lens, which captures a wider scene than the Nexus 5's camera.

Nexus 5 shots on the left, HTC One on the right

Nexus 5 HTC One

First up, a standard low-light shot taken under streetlights. The HTC One clearly captures more light than the Nexus 5, however the Nexus produces a slightly sharper image.

Nexus 5 HTC One

Next is an HDR shot of a brightly-lit building against a dark background. Though the Nexus 5 produces a crisper image, we have to hand this one to the HTC One — though the photo it produces is softer, the wider angle lens lets us get more in shot, and there's more detail captured in darker areas, such as the clouds in the night sky.

Nexus 5 HTC One

Finally, an even darker street scene. We'll call this one a tie — there's very little difference between the images captured on the Nexus and the One.

So overall the Nexus 5 doesn't have the HTC One beaten on low-light performance, but it's surprisingly close. And considering just how good the One is in this area, Google and LG deserve credit where credit's due.

Video sample from the Nexus 5

The Nexus 5 records video at up to 1080p resolution at 30 frames per second, and it does so reasonably well. Recording conditions weren't ideal during our tests, with dark, overcast skies, but the Nexus 5 fared no worse than most high-end Android cameras in these conditions. The optical image stabilization is also evident in our quick reel of sample footage, stabilizing motion and avoiding the "shaky-cam" effect seen on some phone cameras without OIS.

View at 720p resolution or higher for best results.

More to come​

We'll have more to share in our full review of the Nexus 5, coming soon. Until then we can say we've come away pleasantly surprised. It's a pretty good camera with a couple of outstanding features — HDR+ is its greatest strength, while the weird wash-out of dark areas is a notable weakness. OIS probably benefits most shots more than we realize, eliminating shaking from hand motion, however it's most evident in video, where it provides silky-smooth motion.

Be sure to share you thoughts in the comments — and if you've already got your hands on a Nexus 5 let us know how you're getting on with the camera.

 

Reader comments

Nexus 5 camera samples and first impressions

223 Comments

I'll start off by saying that I hate Alex Dobie right now, since he has a Nexus 5, and mine hasn't shipped! :-)

Mine has shipped but won't be here until Monday... is it wrong that I'm thinking of taking off work so that I can be home when it arrives???

Anyway, concerning the camera... I am ABSOLUTELY impressed! This was an aspect of the phone that I was totally prepared to be disappointed with based on early rumors/stories. But as far as I can tell, this phone can go toe to toe with pretty much any of the high end smartphones except the Nokia's and Xperia Z1, and produce some pretty good pictures.

It's not perfect, but it's good... and that's a great step up from the Nexus 4.

I was pleased to receive a"Your device has shipped " email, crossing fingers that this will mean a Monday morning delivery.
A camera has never been the most important feature of any smartphone for me personally as I tend to only take candid shots. But this has proved to be a bonus. Thanks for sharing Alex

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My phone which was suppose to leave the warehouse by November 8 (ordered at 3:10pm central time Thursday) shipped this morning.

I have an Android enthusiasts website as well but wouldn't dare shamelessly plug my website on another websites comment section come on man that's just bad taste and doesn't make you look good to others at all.

I get mine Monday as well. Its at my local UPS store but they're not open on Saturday so I have to wait in agony until Monday. Camera does look good though. Super excited about testing it out

Mine comes Monday as well. It's currently sitting in the UPS depot 5 miles from my home, but I can't go pick it up. (I called UPS and asked.)

Monday night is going to be a nerd party, yo!

Transmitted via sheer force of will.

Even worse... mine is at my local UPS and they ARE open. But when I called to ask if I could just come pick it up. They looked up the tracking number and said it's currently packed in a trailer that will not be opened until Monday morning :-(...

"It also boasts a larger 1/3.2-inch sensor" I dont know what size the Nexus 4 sensor was but 1/3.2 is small. I think apple moved back to 1/3 in the iPhone S.

They're all pretty small sensors, 90% of compact cameras (and a few phones) use 1/2.3" sensors and that's still pretty small... Hell, advanced compact cameras (the sort that can shoot RAW and often pack lenses that start at least at f/1.8 or 2.0) usually have 1/1.7" sensors and that's only considered a mild improvement over the more typical 1/2.3" sensor...

It's not until you move up to something like a Nikon 1's or Sony RX100's 1" sensor that you'll see a big gap develop IMO, or something like micro four thirds which will rival APS-C sized DSLR sensors in many cases. Something like a Panasonic GM1 with a 20mm f/1.7 lens will blow the pants off any phone and it'll probably be smaller too, tho bulkier because of the attached lens (1" tall) and certainly not cheap.

Not saying it's pointless to increase sensor size in phones, it just isn't gonna lead to any miracles unless someone dedicates a whole lot more space to it than usual... I actually use my phone's camera a fair deal, tho mostly to remember stuff I've spotted while shopping etc or take totally spur of the moment shots.

If I'm going out I take an advanced compact that easily fits in my other pocket, currently the Panasonic LF1 (1/1.7" 12MP sensor, 7x zoom 28-200mm f/2.0-5.6 lens). If I'm sightseeing, on vacation, or just going out with good friends I take a M4/3 camera either hanging from my shoulder by itself or in a fanny pack over my shoulder (DSLR quality at like a third of the size, size-wise my 3 lens are between a yoyo and a small bottle of baby food).

This notion that smartphones can genuinely replace compact cameras only took root because camera manufacturers got complacent and 90% of compact cameras are crap... There's still a lot a camera can bring tho. Just ignore anything with a 1/2.3" sensor unless you're looking for more than 200mm of reach, decent cameras are upwards of $350 tho (ILC or otherwise).

Much thanks for these pics Alex. I grew to dislike my Nexus 4 because the camera was such a letdown on pictures and video. I already ordered the Nexus 5, but it is nice to see that the camera will be ok since these pics are more than adequate.

I've tried both N5 and N4 side by side today and improvement in the camera performance is great.

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1/3.2"? I didn't know you could put decimals in with fractions... What's the size in metric?

Posted via Glade Air Freshener

You're right, I don't know why you're getting so much stick for this-it isn't the correct way to denote a fraction in mathematics. A decimal is a different way of representing a fraction so it is illogical to combine them.

Rather than using 1/3.2, the correct fraction would be 5/16. I did get explained to me once, that the system they use to denote camera sensor size came from the old days and something to do with old TV cameras using vacuum tubes. But it still doesnt really make sense to me.

It is a shit system, but it does have the benefit of being able to easily compare sensor sizes without having to work out any fractions, as the numerator is the same.

I don't know much about cameras so I can't help you understand it. But I thought I'd confirm that your maths teacher was right-you shouldn't use decimals in fractions.

Good report, Alex. Shots look much better than any past Nexus device. This is a game changer for Google. I have a Note 3 now but the wife really likes it. Thinking about giving it to her and getting a Nexus 5 for myself.

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Not bad. Better than the 4. Look very similar to my Samsung Focus S circa 2011, but that is not really a bad thing. I use a real camera for photography but this should be fine for quick candid snaps.

That'll do pig... that'll do.

I'm glad you rid yourself of your obnoxious S-Pen signature thus rendering the forum a more pleasant experience.

Thanks!

It looks good but all of those shots look like they were taken by someone who is a good photographer. Thats not what I need to see. I need so see how pictures the average schmuck takes come out. For example this pic taken in afternoon light http://patentlystupid.com/sw/2013-10-05%2014.40.21.jpg indoors. Take a close look at how much noise their is on the dogs head. Its horrible. That photo was with the phone stabilized on the arm of my chair. I took 5 others and all are worse than this one. Mid-low light response with the galaxy S4 is abysmal. Good light is fine, great even. Especially Macro, but anything other than a bloody spotlight and things start going south and I dont know if its the JPG algo or just crappy camera.

So you're complaining because these photos are too good, so you want him to post some crappy photos so you can have something to complain about. That's a new one.

You can take the most mediocre camera in the world, put it in a setting with perfect lighting and composition and create wonderful shots that look terrific under perfect circumstances in the hands of an expert.

Hand it to Joe average who isnt an expert in composition, and you will get very different results. Thats partly what I would like to see. This person who is doing these shots is above average in capability. Thats all I am asking for, have him turn to the person beside him and have them take a couple shots. And yes his nightime shots arent what I would consider low light. Thats all. He is showing how great it can be under great circumstances. Lets see how it behaves when he whips it out of a pocket and takes a quick shot without much thought.

Likewise you can take the best camera and sensor combo in the world, put it in the hands of an idiot and yield terrible photos. Is that the fault of the hardware? Of course not so you just made an excellent case against your own point.

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Thanks for saving me the trouble of typing this very point. Talentless people blame their tools. This is why people buy $500 drivers to play golf when someone like Tiger Woods could do better with a tin can nailed to a broom handle.

Transmitted via sheer force of will.

Try that same shot with HDR mode. That large, weak, backlight-only illumination is killing you.

So yeah you can't be a complete idiot but you're never going to change photographic principles with better sensors.

That's not how you test things. You want to give a product to someone that is skilled in using it so it eliminates all the variables out of the equation and you can evaluate the results on technical merits alone.

Dont get me wrong I love to see that the camera can do extremely well. But its roughly equivalent to handing a indy car driver the keys to your car, having him drive 5 laps as best he can, and expecting to be able to replicate it yourself. Not every person would be able to handle the vehicle the same way. Let see something more average.

With all due respect to Alex, I don't think you can really assume he's the pro indy car driver of photographers. I'm fairly confident he wasn't walking around with an army of assistants setting up 10's of thousands of dollars worth of professional lighting for each shot. He almost certainly just went around taking photos of interesting things. Good framing makes for a good photo, but it doesn't materially effect the quality of the pixels output by the sensor.

Asking for shitty photos with which to evaluate a camera is silly. Clearly, in the hands of someone who simply knows how to take a good photo, this camera can take really good photos. If you're unsatisfied with the quality of the photos you take, you should simply learn how to take better photos, because as was said, a bad photographer will take bad photos even with the best camera.

So, if you want to know how good a car is, you would be interested to see how someone without a driver's license can drive it?

That's not the way it works, you want to have an indication of how well it CAN perform. If I can't match that standard I'm doing something wrong, but that's not the cameras fault. You would have a point if Alex had taken studio shots with perfect lighting, but these seem like normal everyday environments...

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Before I buy that Corvette, I need to know how my Grandma would drive it.

Wait. I already know. She's a bat out of hell.

With all due respect to Alex, these photos do not look like they were taken by a good photographer. They look like photos of someone trying to demonstrate the technical capabilities of the camera in use, and nothing more. Mission accomplished. It seems the N5 has a good camera. Can't wait for mine to arrive!

And yes, I'm sure Alex is capable of more if he really tries.

So much this.

Alex obviously has an eye for what makes an interesting image (and lives in area with lots of photographic potential). I am sure there are plenty of duds too, that aren't interesting, or are not good at using for evaluation purposes.

I've always thought his camera evaluations are top notch. And it has nothing to with the images themselves (which are great). It's because he finds situations which are fairly challenging to take good photos (high contrast, difficult lighting). Takes the shot and evaluates the results fairly.

I assume he's just making a fair attempt at holding the phone steady in his hands (always the biggest problem with casual users), and not putting these phones on a tripod and using a remote trigger or timer or anything.

Everyone seems to knock the N4 camera, and I'll admit it may not be the absolute best shooter ever, but I don't find it nearly as terrible as it's made out. After a whopping 20 seconds of post processing I have been able to capture and produce rather stunning shots that have more than impressed strangers. Even my SLRs require some bit of touchup, so I'm not as critical of the n4 camera.

That said, I'm liking the n5 shots!

Posted via Android Central App on my white Nexus 4 with StraightTalk

Wow! Great upgrade from the Nexus 4. The photos look outstanding, especially for the price point. Really excited for mine to come in on Monday!

Thanks for the images :) The comparison shots are nice to see. Really, IMHO though I think the Note 3 shots are a difference of saturation/contrast vs the Nexus being washed out. The low-light does seem to fall short in comparison to the One. I for one, do have a nice point and shoot camera and DSLR and do not completely depend on my phone for pictures. Having a solid camera is great but having one that completely replaces a secondary piece of equipment is not necessary. I think I'm most impressed with the video. The OIS seems to make a tremendous improvement!

That's how I am mostly. I don't want a garbage camera on my phone but at the same time it's not the most important feature since it's just for lazy snaps and location scouting.

I have ordered a 32 gig to active on Sprint. This is great news Alex. I ordered this phone before even knowing if the camera would break out of the Nexus let down in this critical area. I currently use a Galaxy S4 which has the best camera on an android phone (maybe the note 3 takes the cake?)

I have been searching reviews on the camera and saw someone else note that you should use HDR+ outdoors and use Auto mode indoors for the best shots. All photos above were outdoors and it seems to support using HDR+ outdoors.

Anyone else seen anything else on this?

Actually, most people seem to think the Xperia Z1 has the best camera on an Android phone.

As for the comparison shots against the Note 3 - are we sure the Nexus is washed out, and it's not that the Note pics are over-saturated? Because that sky is REALLY blue. Almost too blue. But I wasn't there, so I can't be sure...

They look oversaturated and also more contrasted. It's a trick to produce more 'punchy' and attractive pictures. N5 pictures looks more natural, I don't see the wash out effect Alex is talking about.
But saturation and contrast are that kind of features that are subject to personal taste.

I have a G2 now and I also like the camera. I never thought that low light was a strong spot with this camera. The photos I see here with the Nexus 5 look much better to me in low light. I don't care for the flash photos in low light but they again seem more balanced in lighting than my G2. Some side by side images would be nice.

I love the comparison to the note 3 and the one. The Note 3 is the other phone I am looking at.

Well, less megapixels on an identical size sensor usually means less noise (and less detail)... Hence why DSLR were mostly siting at 16-18MP for years (until he recent 24MP Sony sensor). Advanced compacts are almost all 12MP, outside of the 20MP RX100 (that has a larger sensor than most). Those all have sensors 2-10x bigger than a phone, the rush for more MP on phones was a silly as it was on compacts a decade ago.

Just speculation on my part tho, at the end of the day you CAN increase MP without a huge noise penalty, it just isn't the norm (specially on cheap sensors). I'd be very curious about a direct comparison with the G2.

what this review is failing to show is how effectively the OIS is helping to take good shots, for example it can improve very much night shots.
With low light there are 2 ways to take a well exposed showt,
1) increase ISO
2) increase the time the shutter is open.

1) High ISO means noisy photos
2) Longer times means shaken and blurry photos.

With OIS you can compensate the shakes, so you are able to use long (not so long anyway) shutter times without raising to much ISO ... so you get better photos (unless you are trying to catch moving subject ;) ).

I have the G2 and the wife has an Htc one, I really like the improvement of the G2 camera over last year's Optimus G it's a big difference I can honestly say that The G2 has the best camera overall on android right now with its balance of good low light and awesome daylight photos and videos, The HTC One indoor / lowlight photos just can't be beat.

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That being said I'm happy with the photos off the Nexus 5 they look pretty darn close to the G2.

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I appreciate the example pics as well but can we please get some indoor shots with low to average lighting. That is where my Galaxy Nexus fails. Outdoors I can get great shots but just trying to take a pic of my Nexus 7 inside (with lighting) so I could sell it was an exercise in frustration.

Basically can you just take pics around your house at night with normal lighting. I want to know if they are all grainy or not.

I had a Gnex, also.

This thing absolutely destroys it, just based on these previews. Can't wait until mine ships!

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Great to see! I'd like to see some snap shots of people like kids playing and people ouside and inside with flash. I think that replicates real world use for a lot of people.

I'm sold, I was able to take more than adequate shots most of the time with my gnex for the year I had it so this should be fine. Heck I loved the camera on my DROID X2. Does this mean I'm not a photo phile?

Posted via Android Central App

I think the camera on my N7 isn't too bad and other people say its awful. I guess it all depends on the user.

Posted from the awesome new Nexus 7

Thanks for the good work Alex. Hope you didn't have to wait too long for that overcast day shot.

Posted via Android Central App

I wouldn't say the note is true-to-life, the nexus 5 seems more realistic and the notes looks saturated

Posted via Android central app on my rooted LG Google Nexus 4

Can the optical image stabilizer be turned off at all, or even just for video? In the video, it appeared the stabilizer was trying a little too hard to stabilize the intended camera movement (pan) causing it to stutter quite a bit. Good stabilizers can detect (or be set) to only stabilize in one axis so as not to interfere with an intended panning movement. Not that I expect a stabilizer in a phone to be too high-end, but hopefully it can be disabled for the times when it would do more harm than good.

This is pretty great! If it can run that close to the Note 3, it deserves a lot of credit. And the OIS seems to be doing a great job too.. pretty evident in the video. I'm happy :-)

On another note, the Nexus 4's camera isn't that bad. It falls off a cliff in low light, but otherwise it does a pretty passable job. You just have to know how to get the best out of it. Not ideal for the average user but perhaps that's where a good camera app and good processing make the difference. Having done photography for over 5 years now, I know even the best shots from my D7k need some touching up. So, for a mobile phone camera, with a relatively tiny sensor, the Nexus 4 isn't that terrible.

The Nexus 5, however, looks to be a massive improvement. Thumbs up to Google and LG indeed!

I don't understand the aspect ratio for these photographs. They all look like they're approximately 4:3. Yet, the phone's display is 16:9 (I think). When the article shows a picture of the phone with a photograph on it, that photo fills the 16:9 screen. Where are those "sides" of the pictures in the shots in the article? Is this a function of how the photos are added to the site? Is the photo being cropped somewhere? Or, does the camera display a 16:9 image and then only take a 4:3 picture of the center portion?

That's something we'll go into more detail about in the review. It crops the image you see while you're shooting, which makes framing difficult.

It's somewhat common, sadly, and it's also horrible UI design (specially if there's no option to change it)... I'll be using a 3rd party camera for the first time ever if the phone forces you to compose at 16:9, which practically makes proper composition impossible unless you shoot in a 16:9 crop mode (in which case you're literally throwing a chunk of sensor size/resolution away).

Edit: The 16:9 image the camera app displays is more than likely a crop of the full sensor size btw, not the other way around. It's not a 16:9 sensor AFAIK (few phone/photo camera sensors are, almost none, 99% are 4:3 or 3:2).

this is a android camera app issue. they have yet to fix the viewfinder issue. Apple fixed theirs in iOS 7 but for some reason google has yet do anything with the camera app except add HDR+

That would be my area of interest as well. How good is the focusing element, especially in challenging lighting conditions when it has to hunt for focus. How many shots can it fire in a second and can the focus adjust for quickly moving subject. Hopefully this would be captured in review

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I am happy with these results. Much much better than the camera in the N4 and GNex and actually competitive with some of the big boys in terms of optics. Solid purchase for me :)

Need to compare to iPhone 5S, which has arguable the best phone camera (except maybe some of those crazy Nokias).

I was just watching The Verge podcast and they did a very quick 5S/N5 picture comparison (right in the studio during podcast) and complained that N5 always looks fuzzy and takes much longer to capture a picture. Then they tried Moto X right away and said that it's much better than N5.

I surely hope they got a defective phone. If not, then my next hope is that Google will address it with a SW fix. Otherwise, I'm still very hesitant to buy N5... phone camera is very important to me and I'm baffled Google just can't get it right. WHYYYY??

"WHYYYY??"

Maybe because it is a $350 phone. They had to make a decision somewhere to get the price under control.

Maybe because most people don't prioritize absolute image quality above other aspects of their smartphone. If you do prioritize image quality, there are other options you should consider.

Or, maybe Google just doesn't care.

iPhone replacement camera goes for $20 on eBay, etc. This means that Foxconn is paying probably half if not less (let's say $10). Are you telling me that Google decided to save few $$$ by installing a cheaper camera? LOL. Here's an idea.... don't include OIS (gyro+motor) and instead invest all this money into a better camera.
In any case, we are talking about couple of dollars difference here, literally. Google could certainly add this to the price or just swallow it since they just want people to use their services. It's just absolutely stupid to ruin a perfect phone with a so-so camera

Like you said, Google just doesn't care and it's sad.

I don't like any other options besides Moto X and I guess I will go with X if the comparison reviews keep coming in short.

OIS probably doesn't add a ton to the cost and it helps a ton with low light shots... Stabilization allows you to use longer shutter speeds without blur, which allows you to capture more light. Also, there's a lot more to building a great camera than just picking the right $20 sensor (even on a phone where the lens element are relatively simple).

On a smartphone a big part of the equation is actually software and the image processor used, compression etc. Big camera makers have been doing that part a lot longer and they STILL don't get it perfect... There's still debates about Canon's/Olympus' more punchy JPEGs vs Nikon/Panasonic, etc (or you rise above that, shoot RAW, and do your own post processing on a computer).

Sony, Nikon, and Pentax are all using the same Sony 24MP APS-C sensor across a huge range of cameras, from nearly pocketable NEX models at $350-750 to $1500 DSLRs... Are you gonna tell me they're all the same thing? Just picking the "right" sensor makes them all excellent?

There's still a lot of R&D that goes into properly implementing it, but maybe your years of engineering experience can help Google (but really, LG) since they're cleanly clueless.

That's partially because Josh didn't know what he was doing and left HDR on (which is completely useless in a studio) so of course it took longer to capture. I wouldn't go by the Verge when it comes to comparing the Nexus 5's camera objectively.

I know, this was just their unofficial "play time".
I will wait for the official review. But still, fact remains that he picked up N5 and camera didn't perform well (even if he had to adjust settings). Picked up 5S and it worked flawlessly right away. Why can't Nexus camera just work?

Dude, if the guy had the camera in the wrong mode, you seriously can't blame the phone. If he had it set to panorama or video to take a still, and just left it there, would you still complain that the phone doesn't "just work"? Operator error, especially such an obvious one, is on the operator, not the phone.

As for the photos, they look great, certainly for a $350 phone with otherwise stellar specs. If you're so enamored with the iPhone, go buy one and enjoy spending double what the N5 costs.

If picture quality was *that* important to you, you wouldn't even be talking about cell phone cameras. If I need a high quality photo, I'll use one of my DSLRs, otherwise I expect cell phone quality out of cell phone photos.

My opinion:
The tomato shots look off somehow. Maybe oversaturated?
The indoor shots make it look like it's on a fake movie set. I'm not sure if it looks like that in real life though.
The cropped shots look like there's a bit of compression causing a loss of the finer details.
The rest look pretty good if viewed at a size made for websites which I find good enough, but I'm also coming from an iPhone 4 so pretty much anything is an upgrade.

The indoor shots *are* of a movie set type environment. They're clearly outdoor, alley type buildings and structure built indoors somewhere. Maybe it's not an actual movie set, but it's the same basic thing.

Optical stabilization allows for slower shutter speeds (better low light performance), and there's nothing wrong with that unless you're trying to shoot action shots.

I can't wait to get my phone on Monday and try out the camera! :-)

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I really don't get why people are freaking out about nexus phone cameras, it is a freaking phone camera, I do not expect much of it apart from capturing things on the fly because I do not have a real one at my disposal. Maybe I'm just too easy to please.

The only reason I'm "freaking out" is because it's absolutely possible to have a phone camera pretty close to a decent point/shoot dedicated camera. It's evident with iPhone 5S and even GS4.
Google just can't get this for some reason

How about spending over $600, or locking yourself into a 2 year contract if you want a super camera on your phone.

This is $350. It is better than my Nexus 4. Good enough for me.

How about Google spending an extra $5 to install a top of the line camera? What does $600 and 2 year contract have to do with spending couple of bucks on a better camera?

The phone is top notch otherwise, it makes no sense not to polish it off with the best camera for lunch money.

How about not assuming it would have only cost $5 to put a better sensor in the phone, considering the sensor that's in it is part of a mechanically stabilized lens assembly which, by the way, your beloved iPhone lacks.

We know these phones cost in the neighborhood of $250-$300 to manufacture, so by selling the 5 at the price they are, Google is already accepting *way* less profit than anyone else ever would. That being the case, even an extra $5 is actually asking quite a lot. And it's similarly unrealistic to increase the cost of the phone for the tiny number of people who aren't going to be happy with anything less than DSLR quality from their $350 cell phone.

And finally, why don't we wait until people have more than 2-3 days to really evaluate the phone before we pass judgement, huh?

1. I hate iPhone (for various reasons) but I can respect the components.
2. iPhone camera is $20... go look it up. If it's $20 for you, it's a fraction of that to Apple/Foxxcon. Obviously Nexus 5 camera doesn't cost $0, so it's most likely just lunch money cheaper than iPhone camera. It's simple math.

OIS is nice but how often do one needs OIS vs. great quality photo every time?

It's ludicrous to say that only a "tiny number of people" want the best camera possible on a phone. Vast majority is using phone camera and obviously they want the best picture possible. Unfortunately people just have to settle for what they are offered (again, for various reasons). People settle for Nexus 4 because it offered other benefits. But to say that most people wouldn't buy it if it was lunch money more is laughable.

Lastly, why is Google advertising Nexus 5 as a "camera phone" if it's not such a big deal and they decided to "save money"?

OK, no, it *is* ludicrous to say that the vast majority of people want to have the best possible components in their phones, be it the camera, the processor, the screen, the battery, etc. For the vast majority of cell phone photographers, this looks to be a perfectly acceptable camera - better than acceptable, actually, virtually unmatched in a phone of this price. Would people be *happiER* with a great camera? Sure, but the vast majority will still be perfectly *happy* with this one.

You want a better camera (based, I might add, on a first few sample photos from someone who's had 2-3 days with the phone, and another reviewer who didn't know enough to put the dawn thing in the correct mode for the environment it was being used in). That's fine. But if Google should cater to your specific desires, then they should also have catered to the person who wanted the best possible 4K screen, the one who wanted a 5.5 or 6 inch screen, the one who wanted 512 gigs of storage, the one who wanted a 4000 mah battery, the one who wanted the thinnest possible phone, the one who wanted the lightest possible phone, etc.

When building a phone to be sold at a fraction of the profit margin everyone else is, they have to draw some lines. So the camera is an apparent disappointment to you, fine, this isn't the phone for you. Stop crying and buy something else. Personally, I don't like that it's so damn big, but I've accepted that if I want high end specs, the vast majority of high-end phone buyers want big screens. So it's something I have to live with, and the price makes it easy to do just that. If I was uncompromising on a particular feature, then I accept that my options will be limited and, most likely, expensive.

Not trying to sound like an ass, but given how little time the phone has had to really be evaluated, the level of your dissatisfaction is really unjustified.

And lastly, Google is advertising it as a camera phone because it's a phone that has a pretty damn good camera in it. What, unless a phone's camera can match or exceed the current best on the market, a manufacturer can't advertise that it has a camera at all? Seriously man, you need to chill out.

I am not saying these are as good as the camera on the S4 or the iPhone 5S, but these still look very good. FAR superior to what we saw on the Nexus 4.

I guess it depends on your definition of a decent P&S or dedicated camera... To me a decent P&S starts at $350 and must include a lens that at least starts off with a large aperture at the wide end (f/2.0 or better)... Most of those shoot RAW and have a control ring around the lens etc.

Canon S110/120 and Panasonic LF1 are two decent models at $350-450, something like the Sony RX100 would be top in class but also significantly more expensive at $600+. Those are cameras that any photography enthusiast would recommend if you absolutely wanted something pocketable.

If size isn't an overriding concern you can do significantly better with something like an LX7 (f1.4-2.3 lens) or an older DSLR or M4/3 model. A $300 GX1 (it's like two years old) will probably still blow any phone out of the water three to five years from now.

Phones aren't anywhere near any of those cameras, period, not even Nokia's. Maybe within throwing distance in ideal conditions (middle of a bight sunny day) but that's about it. The problem is that the camera market is flooded with cheap P&S and a lot of people got used to the results they got from those.

It's very similar to the phone market... To me a good phone camera is about as adequate for truly keepsake moments as a Galaxy S2 (two, no typo) would be as a daily driver to the average AC reader, meaning it'll do in a pinch but it's hardly ideal. Yet the phone market is flooded with cheap phones that aren't any better than a year and a half old SGS3.

I gotta say, this is one of the best articles you've written Alex. Especially considering it was an afternoon/evening/night of shooting with a pocket full of Droids. I was very impressed by your analysis of the pics. Thanks!

Great review Alex! The in-camera crop doesn't sound good at all but I'll wait for your complete review. I have an N4 and would really like to see an N5 vs. N4 camera comparison. A better camera is probably the only thing that would make me sell the N4 and buy the N5.

Thanks for the post! I will be choosing between Nexus 5 and my current HTC One GPe primarily based on camera capability. Looks like there might be some competition. Can't wait to get my hands on it in a few days.

Posted via AC App on HTC One GPe

For those who don't want to do the math, 1/3.2" is the same as .3125" or 5/16" or 7.9375mm. Why sensor manufacturers like to mislead with decimal fractions based on 1/x.x is beyond me.

No, it's not, it's the same as 0.22362" (5.68mm). 1/3.2" in sensor language refers to the diameter of the equivalent vacuum tube. The vacuum tube is between 1.4 and 1.6 times larger than the equivalent CCD/CMOS sensor, depending on sensor size. 1/3.2" describes is a 4.536mm x 3.416mm (5.680mm diagonal) sensor.

Very nice preview. Can't wait until the full review is ready. About those washed out dark areas - would this be something that can be addressed later via software update or is it a sensor limitation?

On another topic I really hope you would address how camera behaves in action shots - lots of movement, rapid firing, trying to catch just the right moment. Think kids playing at the playground or puppies chasing each other on the lawn. I've seen some very impressive results by latest iPhone in this area and so far none of the android phones can really match it.

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I had a deja vu with those pics. I think I've seen them before with the camera review of another device...could be when the S4 came out. Weird

Same ultra-wide angle shots with buildings leaning away from you and anything close hopelessly distorted. So sick of these cameras that weren't designed by anybody who has a clue about photography.

Alex,

Thanks for your candid review. As a current GNex owner the camera & video capture were the only things that made me nervous about pulling the trigger on this purchase within 3 minutes of the announcement. I finished the review thinking that the camera for photos is arguably (as of November 1, 2013) a top tier smartphone camera in various lighting situations. The video capture was pretty impressive too. I can't wait to unbox mine at work on Monday. Keep up the great work!

WHAT A RELIEF! Also checkout Myriam Joire pictures in G+, #nexus5 hashtag. It confirms this baby is no slouch!

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not too shabby, I bet using a 3rd party camera will get even better results since Software can make a difference.

Look at their quick hands on by deiter bohn and you'll see they're fairly apple biased. He says things like "not holding out much hope for the camera, seeing as most android cameras are average".

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As a photographer i will pick Nexus 5 every day over the Htc One! Yes the One does capture more detail in the dark but at a cost of horrible smudge effect. The images are soft and you can see that the software tries to hide the noise. I pick noise over smudge any day to.

I have been very impressed with my shots so far. I am coming from the G2 which had the best Android camera I had used to this point - and coming from Nokias including the 808, so I have the bar set high.

In anyway decent light it takes super detailed shots with good colours, and the flash is surprisingly usable. It has the same delayed flash as the G2 and works really well. Objects are not anywhere near as blown out.

Nice job Alex - some familiar scenes from West Didsbury! I can get decent pictures from my N4, but the Nexus 5 looks to be a huge improvement. Just got to find the cash from somewhere.....

Looking forward to the full review, but it looks like Google have taken a huge step in the right direction.

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I got my nexus 5 yesterday and although I really rate the video quality, I've gotta say that the camera shot quality on anything less than a 'still' leaves a lot to be desired. I'm a bit disappointed; I've got a seven month old son and we're taking alot of pictures. I'm finding the camera just isn't focusing and snapping the shots quickly enough, leaving alot of blurry images. Even my Nexus 4 seemed better in this area. Maybe I just haven't got to grips with the camera and phone yet, but my first impressions aren't that amazing. However, to end on some positives though:- GREAT VIDEO RECORDING, amazing 'still' photo's and overall the HDR+ is mega. You people who haven't received your phone yet, are overall, in for a treat. The Nexus 5 is an awesome and blisteringly fast, slick handset.

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I know most people who are taking kid shots with a phone are doing so because it's quick and simple, but if you haven't ventured outside of full Auto you might wanna try it... No phone's gonna do great with action IMO, but if you're constantly taking shots of a fidgety baby or toddler you should try an action mode or something that prioritizes shutter speed over aperture.

The auto mode might be a bit biased towards stills and low light situations so it's probably forcing a slower shutter and relying on stabilization. Focus speed really shouldn't be a big deal on most phones unless you're trying to capture moving subjects in low light, in which case I'd just get a real camera. Tiny Canon S110 for $300 (previous year model) will work wonders.

Holy Dolly! That is surprisingly awesome pics for half the price of S4! Oh my goodness! Thats not bad AT ALL!
But you have to compare it with iPhone 5s pleeeeease! Please please do a thorough review n comparison with all other comparable smartphones. Looking ofrward to it!
I am so considering buying Nexus 5 now.
Btw, I have tried htc one's camera and it is disappointing. It is blurry indoor (artificial light) and pics are not sharp at all. Worrisome to me.

At one point I had an LG Optimus LTE (or also called Nitro HD) and it had a fantastic camera, however when upgrading to ICS from GB it rendered the phone unstable (it rebooted randomly and got hot often) so I was able to switch to an HTC One X and the camera on that is somewhat dismal, decent photos at 1x but anything else looked subpar, zoomed photos became distorted. It's usually the camera software that makes all the difference, now that I have the Moto X it had a dodgy camera app for a while but now that they've updated it, it's quite a bit better.

Uhh, digital zoom is literally the same thing as cropping, not sure how cropping can distort something... Digital zoom's never really worth using anyway, just crop later if you want. Why crop in the moment and waste time and a chunk of the sensor. The One X was generally regarded as having a pretty good camera, f/2.0 optics IIRC and it was the first phone with HTC's dedicated image processor...

To me, it doesn't look like the best camera, but it looks like a camera that can hang!

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For the price point of £295 for 16gb or £339 for 32gb which many will opt for the latter its exeptional value.

The Camera doesnt produce the best images that said its a far cry from dismal.

I have posted on different threads and although my points have been valid, I have never knocked what is im sure a fine device.

I may even be contemplating a purchase, although my Note 3 will always be my primary device for many many reasons.

Well done to google and the Nexus 5.

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I love my HTC One, but the wife has hated her Note II since she got it. Thinking about putting it up for sale and picking this up for myself and giving her the HTC One. (she loves it)

Decisions, decisions...hmmm

Looks like a decent camera, but the Note beats it in some areas. I wonder how it compares to my Moto X's since they improved the camera app.

And are those pictures around Boston? Some of it looks familiar.

Hey Alex, how do I turn off the purple filter that seems to be on all the time on my HTC One when I take night shots??? Still love my One thou!

I'm relieved to know my nexus that is coming has a good camera that was the one reservation I had since I'm trading my s4 for the nexus 5

Good job Google and lg :)

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One important point worth mention is the google+ photo auto improvement functionality.
For months now, i've set the google+ app on my nexus 4 to autoupload every picture i take. Later i download and share the improved images from google+ to facebook. The algorithms improve shitty nexus4 images a lot - and will probably boost nexus 5 image quality even more.

Thanks for the post. Mine is supposed to be delivered tomorrow. I'm a bit bummed that there is no support for slow motion, it is a neat feature on my GS4, but I think the stock Android experience will make up for it.

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So far evry blogger, who has done a in depth review of N5 camera has liked it, and that makes me like it :-)

Thanks for an excellent article, Alex. I even enjoyed the content -- as in the pictures themselves.

I think I'm getting a Nexus 5 but still want to read more about it.

There appears to be a definite lack of noise cancellation in video mode. Noise as in wind, not the video itself. Wonder if that's also the case when actually talking on the phone?

David

My Nokia Lumia 920 much better, as I see. Still better. And it costs now same 400$ for 32GB. Yeah, Nexus 5 have a good price for Full HD display, but that's all it advantage in this compare (OS - a matter of taste). Lumia 920 have AMAZING photo apps, f/2.0 vs 2.4, back-illuminated sensor, Carl Zeiss Tessar lens... Even megapixels! :D

Google just do the same(?) OIS, nearest image sensor and the same price. No doubt, Nexus 5 is a very good choice for android fan, yes, but camera (and many other spec's) not so good, as could be. It is a pity.

At this point, as a Nexus 4 owner, I'd just be happy with a DECENT camera. Having it be a GOOD camera is just icing on the cake. Just hope this article isn't getting my hopes too high.

Lovely shots of Manchester there (I live in Sale)!

The new camera is nice. I always felt as though it was the one thing that let the N4 down (only just though).
Can't wait to grab a N5!

Sorry to disagree but the G2 holds an edge over the Note 3. Why did you not compare it to the G2? Is it because the cameras are similar as both designed by LG? Or is it to just compare against the popularity of the Note 3?

I got the G2 because I thought it took the best pictures out of all the other android phones. It does have a hard time focusing in low light but I can just switch to manual focus which works great. The next best cameras are on the Note3 and S4.

Looking at the HTC One (and owning one) compared to the Nexus 5s night shots, i'd have to say that the Nexus wins. The quality of the picture is better, I don't know anyone know likes a blurry picture, even if it lets in slightly more light.

I like that the camera is better but I think the camera app needs to get better. I know they go for minimum style but I was hoping for a easier interface. A la Moto X type.

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I'm not totally clear on what "washed out" would mean for dark areas. Washed out usually refers to overexposed, and the problem is that you lose detail in the brighter areas of the picture. Looking at the photo of the pillar box, the nexus decided to go for a brighter image.
n5n3-sample-05_0.jpg (nexus 5)
f/2.4
1/213
iso 100

n5n3-sample-06.jpg
samsung
f/2.2
1/300
iso 50
It looks to me like the Note 3 preserved the high end of the reds better and got a nice rich image, while the nexus decided to capture the shadow detail. So IMHO the nexus picture is better for the dark areas of this photo, but the Note 3 has a nicer picture overall.

Judging by these pictures I'd have to say that the G2 and S4 probably still have better cameras. These pictures look really noisy in low light. But they look a lot better than the N4 and for an off-contract price of $350 it's a great camera. At least it has OIS now.

Based on these samples I'd say that the camera is not bad but not great either. White balance appears to be a little off in many of the shots and sorry, but those 100% crops of HDR pictures look horrid...

haha, I was looking at the samples thinking "Wow, the camera is pretty good" and then I got further into the samples and started thinking "Oh wait, I think it's the photographer"... oh well. Hopefully OIS will help me out with my inabilities. At least I know now that the potential is there when my N5 arrives Wed.

So this article says the camera is good. The verge (ya I know) lengthy hands on video says the camera isn't that much better than the 4, they ask Google what's up and they reply its not hardware but software issue and they will update it at some point. I don't take alot of pictures but when I do id like them to look good without a whole lot of effort.

I got my new Nexus 5 this week and as an ex iPhone 4s user, I am impressed with most things. The camera is generally good, however I would say it's slower than my iPhone 4s camera.

I have a little girl and I've tried several times to take her photo, but she moves too quick, whereas on the iPhone 4s I have plenty of 'action shots' that seem fine.

Maybe they can improve the performance in software or maybe there's a better camera app out there?

Loving the photo's of Manchester by the way, my home City and one that can be photographed beautifully.

While the N5 takes good pictures of still items the shutter lag is unacceptable. Impossible to get a good picture of anything that has the ability to move. You can only capture the moment of a building or a flower with this thing. Hopefully Google is listening and will fix the terrible lag of the camera so we can actually capture the moment before the moment is no longer there!

Everything else about the N5 is fantastic.

I've always been disappointed with the picture quality on the Nexus devices. At least they remain constant with their crappy camera. In this day and age, there's no reason this should STILL be a problem.

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I've always been disappointed with the picture quality on the Nexus devices. At least they remain constant with their crappy camera. In this day and age, there's no reason this should STILL be a problem.

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