Testmodo Challenge #2: Four Readers Put the LG G Flex2's Camera to the Test

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The LG G Flex2 Testmodo season is well and truly underway! Last week, our plucky team of four readers (Jassen Payen, Tom Price, Suzanne Atkins and Samuel Hudson) explored the LG G Flex2's uniquely curved design. This week, we asked them to do their best David Bailey impressions, and give the smartphone's camera a workout.

With its OIS+ (optical image stabilisation) and 13MP rear sensor, they went to work putting all the snap-happy features through their paces. Interestingly, they each had quite varied things to say about the very same features...

‘Cheese!’ It’s time to talk about the LG G Flex 2’s camera – starting off in particular with the phone’s voice control feature to take photos, making selfies that tiny bit easier!

Though this isn’t the most unique feature, in this time where Kim Kardashian has a book entitled after the trend – it’s certainly incredibly helpful, especially with the 5.5 inch screen size that could see you really stretching your fingers to click.

If you’d rather not be shouting ‘Cheese’ or ‘Whisky’ though, you could also use the phone’s gesture shot – and make a fist with your hand to take the picture. These controls, coupled with the range of fifteen different ‘style’ filters and many other editing techniques including tilt shift and image tuning, means that the camera seems targeted mainly at the Instagram youth of today who can fine tune every detail before uploading online.

For those who want a more professional camera, I took a look deeper into the details. So it was time for a night out with the LG G Flex2 to see how it performs at a gig – specifically Sunset Sons at Scala. Whilst the pictures are deep in colour, and the quality is undeniable – the camera seemed to let you down on a broader focus across the entire picture, with some people being in focus and others being out of it. It also seemed quite affected with glare, which meant that my attempt at gig photography (captured up top) wasn’t as good as I’d hoped it could be.

It’s in daylight where the camera manages to excel, with the laser auto focus really managing to click onto every last detail in the picture. Whether it’s in panoramas or standard pictures, the phone’s optical image stabilisation really works wonders. When taking pictures with people in shot, the end results end up looking slightly edited -- the quality is that good, with the dual LED flash working as well as you’d expect.

So whilst the LG G Flex2’s camera seems mainly orientated at selfie obsessed social media users, it still packs a punch if you’re looking for something a bit more serious.

A staple of every good smartphone is a dependable camera on the rear to capture those random, treasured and embarrassing moments others would rather forget. Also common now is the front facing camera which is primarily intended for video chat functionality, but since we have now entered the era of the ‘selfie’, more concerted efforts are being made to cater for the teenie-boppers and narcissist out there.

The LG G Flex2 caters for all with a 13MP rear camera, and a 2.1MP front facing camera. Unlike other similarly specced smartphones, the LG G Flex2 camera comes with a few features that sets itself apart from convention. The camera software has a simple interface with an on-screen shutter button, and one for video recording with a few modes tucked behind another menu. It remains uncomplicated, but doesn't give you any fine controls for white balance, ISO settings etc.

The rear camera has Optical Image Stabilisation (OIS+) which prevents your pictures becoming a blurry mess when taking unsteady shots. With video recording, the G Flex2 has really benefitted from OIS+ which keeps recordings steady and sharp, even with the shakiest of hands. You can record up to 4K, and also 120fps at 720p which is a lot of fun when capturing those action shots for slo-mo playback. The phone also has Laser Auto Focus which uses a laser guided sensor on the back to get shots in focus very quickly. In my tests I've found both features combined help to create consistently sharp images in both outdoor and indoor shots.

I had fun with a couple of features from the camera software. One of my favourite functions of the camera is the Dual Camera mode, which allows you to use the front and rear cameras at the same time. I spent a rather long time superimposing my head on my wife's body! The other feature that tickled me was the Beauty Shot, where anyone can bring out their inner narcissism when taking selfies, using a slider that controls how aggressively the software applies ‘smoothing’ to ‘beautify’ faces, sometimes to hilarious effect.

Another useful mode is the Cheese Shutter, which allows you to say keywords like ‘cheese’ to activate the shutter. This works surprisingly fast, and can be activated quite far away from the camera; great for automatic pictures you want to be a part of with family and friends.

I had the opportunity to compare the LG G Flex2 against the iPhone 6 and OnePlus One cameras in a couple of environments. I generally found that all phones performed well outdoors, taking shots that were clear and vibrant. The LG G Flex2 looks like it has as much detail in photos as the OnePlus One, however they were a slightly blue tinged and darker, whereas the OnePlus One pictures were overly contrasted and yellow hued. Shots from the iPhone 6 appeared colour correct, however lacked the same level of detail and looked softer than the LG and OnePlus phones. It's a matter of personal taste then.

The benefits of LG’s Laser Auto Focus really comes into play indoors and in low light. I've personally found Android devices take an age to focus in low light, and once a shot has been cued up, it tends to be noisy and soft. This issue is less apparent with iPhones but there is still an issue with noise. Indoors, the LG G Flex2 was able to take surprisingly detailed and sharp shots very quickly. The OnePlus One took a while to focus but took good shots that had more saturated colour, but were softer and less detailed. The iPhone 6 faired better than the OnePlus One with great colour reproduction, with less detail than the G Flex2, but able to focus just as fast.

To summarise, as a lesser feature of the phone the LG G Flex2 does a truly admirable job as a replacement to your snapshot camera, with a consistently clear picture in both stills and video.

Despite not being the defining feature of the G Flex2, the 13MP camera can hold its own a lot of the time. However, there are definite pros and cons to the camera.

The pictures are sharp. It takes exceptionally clear images in daylight. As a lazy amateur photographer I’m delighted with the depth of colour and shade. Bright colours are bright, and the shadows stay dark. The camera seems to pick up blue saturations particularly well, and the HDR option brightens up the shadows without increasing the highlights. The G Flex2’s OIS+ works well to steady the viewfinder, creating a lovely collection of images.

However, there is a delay between touching the screen and the photo actually taking, which can be a little longer than acceptable if you're hoping to take a quick snap. This delay extends if you’re using the ‘HDR’ function. The auto focus doesn’t always focus correctly, which means for a longer time needed to construct the photo.

You can opt to either use the ‘shutter’ button at the bottom of the screen to take a photo, or remove all the options and you can then touch anywhere on the screen. The second option is useful if you’re holding the phone in your non-dominant hand (which, if you’re like me, gives prone to camera-shake if I’m trying to reach the shutter button). This option doesn’t allow for burst-shots, though.

I attempted to use my kittens as models for testing the camera. However, they are quick animals and the camera couldn’t always keep up with their movements. By pressing and holding the shutter button, the camera will take up to 30 photos in burst mode, giving you a higher chance of securing an in-focus picture of a moving subject.

I can be a bit of a macro fiend, and so I’m pleased to find the G Flex2 handles macro-shots well. It focuses on subjects as close as 8cm away to provide clear shots. For low-lighting, the duel LED flash has you covered, brightening the scene without over-exposing it. Without the flash, however, low-light shots become grainier.

For the Selfie Generation, there is the Gesture Shot. Working with the front facing 2.1MP camera, you are able to hold up a fist, which provides a 3-second delay on the shutter. Gesture View then allows the user to lower the phone, giving them a preview of the image. They can either accept or reject the image, giving them the option to re-take their selfie without saving multiple dud photos to the memory. Enjoying the occasional selfie as much as the next person, this is quite a useful addition.

Overall, I’m pleased with the G Flex2 camera. It’s clear and precise, and takes lovely landscape pictures.

However, if somebody could tell me how to permanently turn off the shutter sound, other than manually changing the whole phone to ‘do not disturb’, I would be eternally grateful.

The world of smartphone cameras is one of technical specifications and big numbers, which can often cause confusion amongst consumers. The G Flex2 sounds good on paper: 13MP rear camera with optical image stabilisation and laser auto focus… Im in!

LG keeps its simple-to-use design principles present within the camera app, which I personally think works well, whilst still providing a multitude of different settings. These include panorama and dual shot modes, that latter of which allows both the front and rear cameras to be used at the same time (though unlike some of the other Testmodoers, I am yet to discover a time that I would need this). The video options are good too, with options to shoot at HD, full HD or ultra HD and slow motion at 120fps. While the other modes are fine, the 120fps mode performed less well.

As a little side note, the camera’s default setting is the W10MP setting, which gives you 10MP with an aspect ration of 16:9 rather than the 4:3 of the 13MP option. You also get a 3 and a 9MP option, but I rarely found these were necessary.

Without HDR mode activated

With HDR mode switched on

The rear camera is good, but contrary to Suzanne's opinion, only really when using HDR (High dynamic range). It's gets the most from contrast and backlighting, with the standard mode otherwise making pictures look washed out. Where the phone does excel is the laser autofocus and OIS+. This allows photos to be taken quickly, and well… in focus, which is most likely when you’re trying to use your phone. You can whip it out just in time to capture the rampaging bull through the streets of London, or to take that awkward snap at the family reunion, where the camera man is taking six hours to take the picture, in which time your jaw has started to fall off due to the overly-enthusiastic smile you've painted on your face.

Editing options are good with a good selection of filters you can apply, but usually photos are good enough to not require this. I find the only time a filter is used would be on Instagram anyway, to make everyone jealous of your tarte du citron.

Now, the front 2MP camera. Frankly, it is disappointing, as you'd imagine from a 2MP sensor. Image quality isn’t great and the “beauty” filter seems to only create problems when used in apps, such as Snapchat, which is really the only situation in which I would take a selfie.

The gesture controls, whilst a nice idea, seem slightly irrelevant due to the fact the camera buttons are so easily located, either by tapping the screen or by pressing the volume down button on the rear of the phone. The voice activation has the same downfall and, to be honest, I can’t imagine many people wanting to shout “cheese” at their phone when they are already trying to disguise the fact they are taking a selfie.

A quick summary… Normal photos? Great. Selfies? Not so great.

Previously on the LG G Flex2 Testmodo Challenge…

Testmodo Challenge #1: Four Readers Put the LG G Flex2's Curved Design to the Test
Our four plucky Testmodo winners get to grips with LG's curvy handset. Read More >>

Check back for the next Testmodo challenge on May 22nd, and follow our Testmodo winners' tweets using the hashtag #testmodoGFlex2.