The LG G4 is LG’s 2015 flagship Android smartphone. It’s based around a Qualcomm Snapdragon 808 processor backed up by 3 GB of RAM, has a 5.5-inch 1440p (that’s super high resolution) screen and a lot of features and functions including a 16MP main camera and an 8MP rear camera. And don’t get me wrong, for many of our website readers the technical specification and nitty-gritty of the device are interesting. However, for many customers – or potential customers – one burning question might be “how good is the G4’s camera?” and “can it replace my existing camera?” You see, we should be expecting the LG G4’s camera to be poorer than a dedicated camera, even one that’s half a decade old. The question is how much poorer is the G4 and will it suffice to replace a compact point and shoot? We’ve been sent a G4 from Vodafone and we put its camera through its paces.
There’s a big caveat here, though: this article is written from the perspective of somebody not especially interested in photography as a hobby but simply as a means of capturing the moment. I used a 2009-vintage Sony bridge camera, model DSC-HX1, and the LG G4. Each device was used in full automatic mode for the pictures. I let the device figure out how best to capture the image and I simply composed the shot and clicked the button. In some cases I used the focus lock. I deliberately picked shots in difficult lighting conditions and with difficult subjects. I also took two pictures of each subject on each camera and discarded the poorer one, although in most cases both images looked almost the exact same. I didn’t use the optical zoom on the Sony camera so for more distant objects, it’ll have a significant advantage.
In terms of the camera specification, the LG G4’s camera uses a 16MP sensor with a size of 1/2.6-inch and an aperture of f/1.8, which compared with the Sony DSC-HX1’s 9.1MP Sony Exmor 1/2.4-inch sensor with an aperture of between f/2.8-f/8.0. Both cameras have optical image stabilization but the Sony camera features up to 20X optical zoom and a pop-up flash. The LG G4 can set the ISO as low as 50 compared with 125 for the Sony camera – essentially, the G4 has a better sensor but far more restrictive optics, which is exactly what we would expect given that the G4’s camera assembly has to fit inside a smartphone whereas the Sony bridge camera’s optics are the whole point of the device. The key differences between the devices include the optics and the software behind the image.
I’ve put a gallery at the bottom of the article showing the two cameras back to back and for the most part, there’s not so much difference between the two. One or two pictures show that the dedicated Sony camera has quite the advantage, such as the roses in the corner of the shot. For many other images, there is very little in it. In some of the detailing, the Sony has an advantage – the shot through the dark tunnel looking into sunlight shows that the Sony camera is able to detect more detail the other side. In terms of color reproduction, and apart from when I used the focus lock on the Sony with the roses in the bottom corner of the shot, there is very little in it.
There are some other differences that don’t come out in the pictures, around speed. The G4 takes pictures significantly quicker than the Sony. With both cameras ready, the G4 is around three times as quick as the Sony camera. With both devices in standby, I can open the G4’s camera and take a couple of shots before the Sony camera is ready to take an image. For catching an image at that moment, the G4 carries a big advantage. When it’s time to do something useful with the images, the G4’s MicroSD card is also faster when pulling images off, whereas the Sony’s Memory Stick Pro Duo is much slower. Plus images can be uploaded to cloud services directly on the G4 whereas with the Sony, these images must be put onto another device first. This issue is mitigated with some of the later cameras available, but to answer the question, “can the G4 replace a compact camera?” my response is for me, a cautious yes. Most of the time, most of the photographs between these two are very similar.