LG G4 Review
Automatic is great for quick shots, but its manual mode allows for some creative compositions that deliver outstanding results to make it one of the best in its class.
The LG G4 comes with a brand new 16-megapixel 1/2.6” camera sensor with a wide, f/1.8 aperture lens on top of that sensor, improved optical stabilization (OIS 2), and the same lickety-split laser-assisted autofocus, but arguably the most exciting new camera-related feature of the phone might be its new 'color spectrum sensor'.
Situated right below the single LED flash, this new sensor is there to measure the ambient light and its purpose is to determine the source of light – whether it’s artificial or natural, and just what kind of lighting situation you have. Quite importantly, LG claims this sensor can smartly make the difference between light and objects for more accurate readings. Knowing the exact lighting conditions with such a precision allows the phone to select the optimal white point. The result is pretty spot-on, mainly because the sensor perfectly analyzes the scenery and then accurately recreates the color tones we see in real life – so there’s no saturation or something else applied, giving it a very realistic quality.
Beyond the new and exciting camera hardware, LG’s camera app doesn’t deviate from the layout we’ve seen last year with the G3. Offering a decent mixture of shooting modes, such as panorama, dual, and auto, we’re intrigued by the new manual mode it offers, which seemingly targets enthusiast who want a higher degree of control – dishing up options to adjust white balance, focus, exposure compensation, ISO, and shutter speed. The latter option is an intriguing one, just because very few phones can offer long exposure times, which in this case is up to 30 seconds. Additionally, the phone can instantly run the camera app, focus, and take a snapshot in a few seconds by merely double pressing the volume down button.
Although there’s not a drastic change with the layout and handling of the camera interface, the addition of the manual mode is something we’re especially excited about. It’s a good direction they’re going towards, but we’d go further to say that the camera apps from Huawei and Nokia are still one of the most comprehensive and encompassing ones out there.
True to its claim, the LG G4 roars loudly when it comes to snapping photos, composing shots that won’t disappoint. To tell you the truth, it’s definitely one of the best around right now, since it’s great at handling a wide array of shooting conditions. In particular, it’s strongest with its outdoor, macro, and HDR shots – where compositions provide ample crisp details, good handling of dynamic range, and colors that are naturally toned. Quite frankly, its quality rivals that of the Galaxy S6, which most purists would agree to be one of the best out there. However, we sometimes notice that it has trouble when it’s snapping photos with sunlight going against the camera.
We’re particularly impressed with its HDR quality, even though it’s quite noticeable that post processing effects are done to give it that artificial look and boosted color saturation. Regardless of that, high contrast areas are adjusted accordingly so that the entire image offers an evenly balanced exposure, which works really well for some nighttime scenes. In addition, you’ll be astounded by the panoramic photos it’s able to stitch together, rivaling and even eclipsing the quality produced by the iPhone 6 and Galaxy S6. Unlike them, however, the stitching process takes a significantly longer time to complete – though, it’s totally understandable due to the impeccable detail of them.
Using the front-facing 8-megapixel camera, which also features an f/2.0 aperture lens, it captures better looking selfies than its predecessor. Not only is there an incredible amount of detail, but the wide-angle lens ensures that you’ll get more than your face filling up the shot – so friends can join in without being cut out. However, just know that the best results occur when strong lighting is evenly present in the scenery. Under less light, though, details become a bit smeary.
By now, we totally understand that there’s always a diminished quality when it comes to low light photography – that’s just the nature of the game. The more important question, however, is to what degree is the diminished quality? In the case of the LG G4, you can sleep peacefully because it’s a strong performer when lighting in the scenery is insufficient. Using the automatic mode, we’re pretty content with the compositions, which offer details that are slightly smudgy in tone, but still enough to make us believe that it’s a photo we’re looking at – and not a brushed painting!
It’s one thing to use the automatic mode for low lighting situations, but it’s totally another if you switch to manual mode. Carefully adjusting the shutter speed and ISO, you’ll be shocked by how well it’s able to brighten up the scenery to expose details. As you can see in our testing in almost complete darkness, the automatic shot is nothing but more black. Keeping the G4 steady on a tripod mount, while keeping the shutter speed at 30 seconds, we incrementally modify the ISO from 50 all the way to its maximum value of 2700. By the end, the G4 captures the scenery in all of its glory – albeit, somewhat noisy looking.
Meanwhile, hardcore shutterbugs will have fun playing around with its long exposure to compose some cool looking light painting photos. No question, it’s a cool trick to achieve if you’re able to pull it off correctly, but it’s something that other folks might deem as a novelty thing. Whatever the case, the option to do it is nonetheless something we appreciate.
If you love taking all sorts of photos, then you’ll be impressed by how versatile the LG G4 is in various shooting situations. Trust us, the camera is a memory maker!
Furthermore, the LG G4’s video recording quality is also something worth talking about, seeing that the results are quite favorable. Of course, outdoor scenes come out the best, especially when its new optical image stabilization helps to keep things steady – as opposed to shaky like some other phones. Armed with UHD, full-HD, HD, and Slo-mo modes, there’s enough variety for most people to accept, but we’re just irked that continuous focus isn’t something enabled from the onset when recording. Rather, we’re first required to perform touch focus while recording, wherein we’re given an icon on-screen to enable continuous auto-focus.
Its charming qualities include its acceptable level of detail, natural colors, steady capture, and moderate exposure adjustment. However, its audio recording sounds a bit thin and light to our liking. Under low light conditions, we’re thankful that it’s able to keep digital noise at bay, but the expense of doing that is evident in the soft details it produces, which again, is a common expectance with all phones. Unfortunately, the manual mode doesn’t extend into video recording, so it’s pretty much an automatic experience – though, it would’ve been neat to be able to adjust the focus using a manual dial or something.
A visual and audible experience, the G4 impresses in the multimedia department with its punchy display and powerful speaker.
Going through the new Gallery app of the G4, the Snapdragon 808’s processing punch is on full display as we’re able to fluidly scroll through our collection with little to zero evidence of delay. At the same time, too, it’s been rearranged to offer present content in an album, timeline, memories, favorites, and videos view. With the Memories feature, it uses the GPS location attached to each piece of content and organizes them as a collection according to location – similar to the Zoe feature in the HTC One M9. It’s a pleasant addition, but it’s nowhere as close to the customizable aspects given to us with Zoe.
While LG has spent some time retooling the Gallery app, the music player on the other hand, doesn’t see any notable changes – so it’s unchanged from before. Essentially, the visual presentation and function of the LG music player is the same, which favors a conventional approach to its styling, as opposed to the slicker look of other players.
A small notch on the back of the phone tucks away the G4’s internal speaker, which quite frankly, captures our attention for its deafening maximum output of 79 dB – an achievement that’s one of the loudest, but a couple notches below the figure of the G3. Naturally, there’s plenty of ample volume to let music travel far in small and larger spaces, but it lacks that level of vibrancy and robustness with its quality. In fact, it sounds pretty flat unless we adjust its equalizer setting.
By itself, the new 5.5-inch quad-HD IPS Quantum Display is a visual feast to the eyes, but its true potency is experienced by watching videos on it. Obviously, the display comes to life thanks to the brilliant colors and smooth operation of the handset – something that’s accentuated with the addition of a multi-tasking element where a video can be layered on top of everything in the interface.