A Nexus 5 just arrived and joined the family. 🙂
From left to right, Nexus 4, 5, and 7 (2012). All we need is a 6. 😀
Anyway, Nexus 5 is running the latest Android OS, 4.4, aka KitKat. The logo kinda shows the obvious brand connection. Yeah, no more flinging jelly beans around.
The most controversial thing about the Nexus 5 among reviewers is the camera. Well known tech bloggers are disappointed with the camera. As an armchair analyst/critic, I did another non-scientific comparison, similar to what I did previously for the HTC One. The contenders were the Nexus 5, Nexus 4, iPhone 5, HTC One, and the Sony RX100 as a reference. Settings were all auto, and JPEG were resized to lower res by iPhoto. Why not upload the full size? I don’t want to waste the free space I have on WordPress. 😛 Also, let’s be realistic. Most of the pictures taken with smartphones are posted on social networks that will resize them anyway. Normal people don’t pixel peep their digital photos.
Okay, let’s cut to the chase. First was indoor fluorescent lighting, featuring Momotaros and Urataros.
The Nexus 4 did okay. I did have a hard time tying to get proper focus for some reason. Android’s stock camera app just sucks. The Nexus 5 is a definite improvement over the Nexus 4. White balance is better, and thanks to optical image stabilization, it can take the picture with slower shutter speed and lower ISO, resulting in lower noise compared to the Nexus 4. Image is sharper too, but it’s the same camera app. Yes, the one that has an ADHD focusing system. It loses the area you want to focus easily, and always wants to go back to the center focus. The iPhone 5 is a bit in between, being definitely better than the Nexus 4, but since it lacks optical IS, it has to find a balance between shutter speed and higher ISO. The result is still great, with decent white balance. What makes the iPhone 5 much better is the shooting experience. It focuses quickly without fuss and I was done in a snap, while I had to take time composing and focusing using either Nexus phones. The HTC One fares okay too. The taller picture is because the HTC One captures in 16:9 ratio natively. Switching to other aspect ratio will result in less resolution. Image is sharp and white balance is good. As long as you don’t pixel peep, you won’t notice that it’s only 4MP, smaller than the rest. And lastly, the RX100 obviously took the cake, with a definite blurring of the background, sharp picture, and low noise. It performed even better when I manually adjusted the white balance.
Okay, so within indoor lighting, everybody did fine, although you can already see the limitation of the Nexus 4. Next, I turned off the light, leaving ambient light coming from an adjacent room.
Okay, Nexus 4 is toast. 😀 It’s useless, period. The Nexus 5 is a huge improvement over the Nexus 4. However, again, you are dealing with the sucky stock camera app, and focus hunting is often. Noise creeps in due to higher ISO. Same thing with the iPhone 5. The Nexus 5 does have an advantage of optical image stabilization, thus using a slower shutter speed to get more light, while the iPhone 5 has to find a balance between shutter speed and ISO. In the end, the Nexus 5 still used a higher ISO than the iPhone 5, 1624 vs 1600, but you can see the image itself is a tad brighter. Again, what makes the iPhone 5 better is the shooting experience. Even at low light, it still managed to get focus quickly, and I was done in a snap. Apple just nailed the user experience down. The HTC One continues to surprise me, as it managed to get such bright image. Sure, details were lost and whatnot, but once you post that into Facebook or whatnot, your friends would prefer being able to see a less detailed something than a dark blob of darkness. Its camera app is not as snappy as the iPhone’s, but it’s more usable than Android’s stock camera app. The RX100 produced a dark image, but its noise reduction is better than the smartphones, and considering it can shoot in RAW, you can probably extract and post process a better picture in the end.
How about flash? I don’t like using flash as straight on flash just does not work in most situations. Let’s take a look.
LOL, the Nexus 4 is just useless. The Nexus 5 is much better, but again, the problem with straight on flash is the major overblown highlights. The iPhone 5 offers similar image. Okay but overblown. The HTC One, surprisingly, is very good! I don’t know if it’s due to its wider lens, but the resulting picture is not as overexposed as the others. The RX100 also has overblown highlights, but not that bad and seems like you can get a good image after some post processing. Note its depth of field advantage too. 🙂
When you read/watch/listen to reviews from the tech bloggers, you probably heard about the Nexus 5 not being able to focus properly, or that it took blurry pictures. Alas, I can confirm that it is an issue. Take a look at this.
Yes, a blurry mess. The Nexus 5 thought that Momotaros’ head was in focus. Seems like this happened when I set it to either use flash or auto-flash, ie. it fired the LED flash while trying to get a focus lock, but while it seemed that it got proper focus when the flash is on, its focus was off afterwards. Worse, once it got this out-of-focus lock, it didn’t seem to want to refocus. I tried to touch different areas and move the composition to reset the auto-focus, but it seemed that it’s locked. Very annoying. If I disabled the flash, it didn’t seem to have this issue. I could be wrong though. Google has said that it’s a software issue, and I think that is correct. Yes Google, your Android stock camera app is trash. Can’t you just ask HTC or Samsung to help you? Seriously.
There you go, my personal non-scientific and completely subjective impression of the Nexus 5 camera. Is it better than the Nexus 4? Hell yeah. I can argue that it can rival the iPhone 5’s image quality. However, the shooting experience is not great. This is where the iPhone just wins. Apple just nailed everything down. It may not have fancy things like optical image stabilization, nor the super best image quality, but Apple managed to find that balance where things just work and the result is fine, so people like to shoot with their iPhones more. Meanwhile, the HTC One continues to surprise me. It performs very well, despite the naysayers bashing its 4MP camera. Sure, it has its quirks, but I find shooting with the HTC One to be more enjoyable than the Nexus 4. A high end compact like the Sony RX100 still offers more, especially when you want more control of depth of field. But then again it costs as much as an iPhone 5s. 😀
Speaking of cost, it is important to remember that the Nexus 5 costs US $349 for the 16GB model, which is less expensive than anything else here, other than the Nexus 4. Still, it’s no excuse for Google to not bother with the crappy camera app. Hopefully the promised update from Google can improve the Nexus 5. If you are buying or have bought the Nexus 5, don’t be disheartened. If you are upgrading from a Nexus 4, you are getting a much better camera. If you are already on an iPhone 5 and up or higher end Android phones, you are not missing much though, other than having the latest Android OS.
So, in short, the Nexus 5 camera can produce images that may rival the iPhone 5, but it is hindered by the crappy Android stock camera app and usability.