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Our first Nexus 5X camera samples

We've had a great year for cameras in Android phones, but a Nexus phone with a great camera is basically unheard of. It's the one major weakness every Nexus phone has had, and this year Google promised a truly stellar mobile photography experience with its new phones. We've all heard this song before though, so it was hard to get excited until we had the Nexus 5X in hand to see what it was really capable of.

After a few days of snapping photos and video, we've got some samples to show for you to judge. All of the photos here are available in their full size form at the bottom of the article.

Full auto on a tripod

The first few samples are what you can expect in perfect conditions. The tripod keeps shaky hands out of the equation, and full auto is what Google thinks the camera should be doing in order to take a photo. No tap to focus or anything. This is all about what Google's new camera app can do on its own.

As you can see, in full daylight the results are fantastic. Colors are great, clarity is amazing especially when you zoom in and look at the detail, and HDR not only happened where it should but looks nice in the process. These are all great photos.

Full auto without a tripod

You aren't likely to wander around with a tripod at all times, and a lack of hardware-based Optical Image Stabilization has left a lot of people curious about photo quality when just pulling the camera out to take a photo. Here's what we captured.

Each of these photos was taken with a single hand holding the phone, and a thumb on the shutter button. You can see a little blurring in the first image as the wind caught the flowers, but it's not bad. The second photo is taken fully zoomed in to capture the Heron on the other side of the lake, and while the photo isn't going to win any awards you can clearly see the bird and the photo looks nice. The final shot was in a dark movie theater, and as you can see there's very little blurring around the lines and not a lot of grain considering the lighting.

HDR

There's a time and a place for HDR mode on your camera, and sunrises over water absolutely qualifies. While mounted on a tripod, here's what we captured.

For these photos, a specific point was chosen for focus on each. In the first photo, the focus point was the horizon, right where the sun was rising. In the second photo, the bricks along the harbor in the foreground were chosen. The first photo came out great, but you don't really see a lot of the foreground. The second photo came out much better, and didn't do anything to blow out the background in an attempt to better expose the foreground. Both photos are great, but the way Google Camera handled the second photo is exceptional.

Low Light with a tripod

A big part of what Google says makes these cameras great is the ability to capture more light, which not only makes daytime photos great but should make low light photos noticeably better than most other smartphone cameras.

For the first photo, a single outdoor lightbulb was casting light in the dark from 15 feet away. The camera captured a reasonable mount of detail, but you can see plenty of grain when you zoom in. The second photo was supposed to be with a flash. The flash fired like it was supposed to, but the camera didn't capture the image until the flash had almost entirely stopped producing light. This doesn't happen every time, but it does happen every once in a while. The final show was with the background light turned off, and while it's hard to see there's still enough light to make out the figurines without any strange colored tints or harsh grain to compensate for the lack of light. The purpose here was to show off how well Google handles showing blacks at night, which is something a lot of smartphone cameras struggle with in an attempt to show more than nothing.

4K Video

The Nexus 5X handles 4K video without a problem, and aside from some tripod-based jerking around in the video the quality is great.

Slow Motion video

Unlike the Nexus 6P, the Nexus 5X is only capable of 120fps slow motion, which means things don't get quite as slow on the 5X as they do on the 6P. Still, as you see in this video it works well and the audio coupled with it isn't bad. You can hear the motor in the Darkside Ollie without issue, and even though the video was captured without a tripod the motion didn't impact the video much.

As you can see, the camera on the Nexus 5X is quite capable. It's not perfect, and we're going to need to see some of these photos against other smartphone cameras to get a good idea of just how good these photos are, but the days of Nexus meaning you had to sacrifice camera quality have clearly passed, and that's good for everyone.

Russell is a Contributing Editor at Android Central. He's a former server admin who has been using Android since the HTC G1, and quite literally wrote the book on Android tablets. You can usually find him chasing the next tech trend, much to the pain of his wallet. Find him on Facebook and Twitter

24 Comments
  • This is all great news... but I have to ask: Why put it on a tripod? 99.9 percent of all the photos ever taken with this phone will NEVER be taken with a tripod. Who cares how well they look from being on a tripod? We want to see what it's like in hand more than anything!
  • Using a tripod makes it easier to ensure I'm getting the same shot for side by side compares. If you take a look at the 6P shots next to these, you'll see they are nearly identical.
  • Careful though. The last thing we want is for manufacturers optimizing for photos taken with a tripod. Posted via the Android Central App
  • Apple triPod - integrated DRM chip to ensure full proprietary compatibility! $399 MSRP.
  • That's nice to prove the cameras are the same but in every day use the nexus 6p will take better photos because it has image stabilization and the 5x doesn't.
  • Um, I believe the 6P lacks ois also.
  • Nevermind. Reading helps. 6P got electronic image stabilization.
  • Yea, it's why I'm likely to get the Note 5 instead. There's no way to get decent stabilization without cropping into 1080p video on these phones since they don't have OIS.
  • GS6 and 5X costs same here, just why google??
  • so is there a problem with the flash? why did it do that?? Posted via AC app on my X 14
  • Yes, very odd. If you look at the EXIF data for that photo it says the flash did NOT fire. In fact, the tree behind the figures does seem relatively well exposed. I'd expect the image to be pretty dark all around if the pic was snapped after the flash turned off but was expecting it to still be on.
  • The synchronization problem between camera and flash is an old bug unresolved. This bug was introduced when Google Camera was updated from version 2.4 to 2.5 and was reported to Google. As workaround, you should tap in the screen to focus before take the photo.
  • Nice shots, phone camera will suffice in a pinch Posted via the Android Central App
    2015 Moto X Pure
  • the camera focus in the slomo vid was terrible
  • I'm seriously seeing if I could get one for my dad to replace his stupid Redmi Note.
  • @Russell, it would be nice to see a non-slow motion video on this and the 6p videos to have a comparison of how fast that toy is really spinning.
  • The link to "full sized, unedited shots" doesn't work. It just takes me to the 5p photo page. Joe
    Kalispell, MT
    Verizon, 64g galaxy s6
  • I never cared for cameras in my phone until I started using the Moto G3 and notice a huge difference between it and Moto X 2nd. It is a huge difference in quality and the shooter is faster. Now I want a phone with a nice camera. Posted via the Android Central App on Moto X 2014/Moto G3/Moto G1/Lenovo Tab S8/ Lenovo Yoga 11 on $35 Cricket wireless plan.
  • Lol. G3 is better than X2? Moto seriously put crappy cameras till last year.
  • I thought the camera module was the same from the 6p? I didn't look at full resolution, but off hand the 5x appears to be a little inferior in high contrast and very low light. Posted via the Android Central App
  • The 5X doesn't have the EIS that the 6P does. So the 6P is able to produce better photos quicker.
  • Russell, thank you for the review! Everyone is anxious to hear more on the new nexi. Since this is a camera review could you tell me if the camera is fast in your opinion. I'm currently on the old nexus 5 and the camera seems painfully slow by today's standard and shameful next to my wife's one+2. Is the camera slow and should I look at a different phone?
  • Thanks for the review.. What about the speed? How fast is it? Coming from Nexus 5.
  • Hi Russell, recently got a Nexus 5X. Just now saw your review of the 5X camera and noticed the mention of a 120 fps limit on the video record rate. I found that the FlickStart app is able to drive the back camera at 240 fps in sizes up 1280x720. The front camera does indeed appear to be limited to a max 120 fps. Perhaps even more remarkable, the 5X can run the front and back cameras at the same time at up to 120 fps! Take a look at the video "FlickStart, Nexus 5X, Two Cameras" at https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCtASE30oEDGXFLWRM0BQfiQ for an example.