A closer look at the LG G5

LG’s newest flagship smartphone is the G5, with its modular accessories—otherwise known as friends—that replace one another by removing the bottom portion of the phone. It’s been a few weeks now since I received the LG G5 so I thought this would be a good time for some comparisons of the smartphone with my iPhone.

A closer look at the LG G5

A closer look at the LG G5

Disclaimer: This LG G5 was generously provided by LG Canada for me to test out their phone and wide angle lens on my landscapes—this blog review was not a requirement for me to receive the phone.

The G5 is LG’s latest flagship model, which comes in a modular format, where the bottom portion of the phone can be removed, and replaced with various accessories. It’s a great concept and I’m looking forward to testing this part out in the coming months.

LG G5 and its home screen.

LG G5 and its home screen.

As this is my very first Android device, I needed some time to get familiar with the operating system. I found it quite easy to learn, and even started using one of LG’s own stock apps, their Health app, which keeps track of how many steps I’ve taken each day. There’s just something fulfilling about learning each day that you’ve surpassed your step goal. As a side note, this just goes to show that presentation makes all the difference—my iPhone has captured my step count since day 1, however, I just never used the Health app on it because it didn’t present the data in any way that was easy to understand in a glance.

The LG G5 (left) is a little narrower than the iPhone 6s Plus (right).

The LG G5 (left) is a little narrower than the iPhone 6s Plus (right).

Likely the most noticeable feature about the LG G5 is its dual lenses on the back of the phone. This is what I’l be concentrating on the most for this blog post. The main lens provides a typical high-end smartphone field of view of about  78 degrees with an aperture of f/1.8, producing 16mp images. The second lens—which is most desirable for me as a landscape photographer— provides a field of view of about 135 degrees at f/2.4, producing 8mp images. The front-facing camera has an aperture of f/2.0 yielding an 8mp image.

The primary rear lens offer optical image stabilization. There’s a dual LED flash located between the rear lenses, and there’s also a laser sensor for auto-focus.

The LG G5 is a little narrower and shorter than the iPhone 6s Plus, making it just about the right size for my hands. It feels comfortable holding it in my hands whereas I have to admit the iPhone 6s Plus can be a bit too large at times to handle with just one hand.

The LG G5 (right) is a little shorter than the iPhone 6s Plus (left).

The LG G5 (right) is a little shorter than the iPhone 6s Plus (left).

The LG G5 with the iPhone 6s Plus in the background.

The LG G5 with the iPhone 6s Plus in the background.

Camera App

The stock camera app that comes installed on the LG G5 has three different modes, allowing beginners and advanced users to fully take advantage of its features. This is a good thing since unless other camera apps allow you to select which lens you want to use on your camera, you’re bound to using this stock app from LG.

These modes are accessed by the three horizontal dots on the top right corner of the (portrait-oriented) screen.

LG G5 camera mode selection.

LG G5 camera mode selection.

The “Simple” mode has just two functional buttons to choose from on the screen—and neither of them are the shutter button: Regular or Wide Angle lens. In this mode, you can press anywhere on the screen for the camera to take the photo.

LG G5 Simple camera UI.

LG G5 Simple camera UI.

The Auto mode, which most users may find useful, gives additional buttons on the screen, allowing users to change from photo to video mode, and has an additional four icons added to the screen. The Gear icon changes many of the settings from on-screen display, activating stabilization, enabling voice-activated shutter release, timer, filters, and crop. The HDR mode is useful, but keep in mind that it is only available in Auto Mode.

LG G5 Auto camera UI.

LG G5 Auto camera UI.

The Mode icon is where you can take advantage of all the lenses at once, with modes like Multi-view and Popout. Your advanced features like Slo-mo, Time-lapse, and Panorama modes are also located in this menu.

LG G5 Mode selections.

LG G5 Mode selections.

The Multi shot view takes a photo from all three cameras, and arranges them in a collage, like below. It’s a neat feature but I don’t know when I would actually use it myself.

LG G5, multi shot mode using all three lenses

LG G5, multi shot mode using all three lenses

The popout effect takes a photo from the regular camera, and puts it against a photo taken from the wide angle camera. You can have the background blurred, vignetted, or in monochrome.

LG G5, popout effect with blurred background

LG G5, popout effect with blurred background

The Flash icon is grayed out in this mode as it will turn on when needed.

The Manual mode, which I find the most useful, is where all of these settings and more, are manually set by yourself. So if you don’t know your aperture from shutter speed and ISO, then it’s best to stick to the Auto mode, unless you love to experiment.

LG G5 Manual camera UI.

LG G5 Manual camera UI.

This mode adds a whole set of new icons on the left side of the screen in portrait mode, and bottom edge in landscape mode. What’s peculiar about this mode is that these new icons (and the status bar that appears on the right side of the screen in portrait mode, and top edge in landscape mode) don’t change orientation when you switch from landscape to portrait mode. They are fixed in their landscape orientation while all other icons on the screen change. One would only assume that LG thinks you will be using the phone in Landscape mode if you’re an Advanced user.

Taking a look at the status bar, there’s a live display of the histogram, which can come in handy. It’s small, but this gives you a great idea of how much shadow and highlight areas there are in your photo at any given point. The exposure meter gives you an idea of an ideal exposure, and all the pertinent exposure details are right there at a glance.

When in landscape mode, the bottom row of icons provide the manual settings for you to change the exposure. When each one is tapped, a dial overlays the screen on the right hand side, as seen above.

Native LG G5 camera app in Manual Mode with thumbnail of photo just taken.

Native LG G5 camera app in Manual Mode with thumbnail of photo just taken.

An interesting addition to this camera (compared to that of my iPhone) is the floating thumbnail of the photo you just took. Tapping that puts you directly inside the Google Photos app, allowing you to edit the photo immediately after.

Normal vs. Wide Angle

The dual lens of this phone is what truly excites me. In the camera app, there are two icons that dictate which lens you would like to use. Switching is as easy as tapping the appropriate icon. The transition between the two is somewhat seamless, as the image on the screen blurs, zooms in, and pops into the image of what you see with the new lens.

While the normal lens offers a typical field of view from most other smartphone cameras, it’s the wide angle that does a great job of differentiating itself from the pack. This lens is so wide that I often get my fingers in the frame! You really have to hold the phone carefully so that your knuckles or fingertips don’t get caught on the edges of your images. There have been many times when this happened testing the wide angle lens out.

My hands in the frame while using the wide angle lens.

My hands in the frame while using the wide angle lens.

And here…

Thumb makes its way into this photo too.

My finger makes its way into this photo too.

And this one too!

My finger makes its way in the picture here too.

My finger makes its way in the picture here too.

To get a better idea of how the two lenses differ, here are some images to compare the two lenses, followed by the same picture taken with my iPhone 6s Plus.

LG G5 Normal Lens, HDR Mode

LG G5 Normal Lens, HDR Mode, 16:9 crop

The unedited JPG image, above, is taken with the normal LG G5 lens. The HDR mode was automatically implemented to brighten up the shadow areas on the bottom right of the frame. The image below shows the picture taken standing in the exact same spot, using the wide angle lens of the LG G5.

LG G5 Wide Lens

LG G5 Wide Lens, 16:9 crop

You can see in the image above that the wide angle brings in much more of the image on the top and bottom. The CN Tower that was visible in the centre of the frame in the initial image is now so far away in the image above. The HDR mode was not used in this image, which can be seen in the foreground shrubs that seem to hide in the shadows.

The same view taken with my iPhone 6s Plus is seen below.

iPhone 6s Plus Camera

iPhone 6s Plus Camera

If you look at the CN Tower in the iPhone 5s Plus camera image, above, and compare that with the LG G5 regular lens photo, then you’ll notice they are the same size. You just see less in the iPhone image since the crop is 4:5. HDR mode was not used in this case either, as the foreground shrubs are quite dark.

Here’s another set of images to compare the LG G5 regular lens, wide angle lens, iPhone regular lens, and with the Moment wide angle lens attachment on the iPhone 6s Plus.

LG G5 Regular Lens

LG G5 Regular lens.

LG G5 Regular lens.

LG G5 Wide Angle Lens

LG G5 wide angle lens.

LG G5 wide angle lens.

iPhone 6s Plus Regular Lens

iPhone Regular lens.

iPhone Regular lens.

iPhone 6s Plus with Moment Wide angle lens.

iPhone 6s Plus with Moment Wide angle lens.

The 16:9 Crop

While my iPhone uses a 4:5 ratio for its image dimensions, the LG G5 has an option of setting which ratio I use for each image. The default is set to 16:9, which is the same ratio as a movie theatre screen. Although I can switch it to a 4:5 ratio, which is what I’m more comfortable with, I leave it at 16:9 because it makes for some sweeping epic landscapes, especially when I use it with the wide angle lens!

LG G5 Wide Angle Lens, 16:9 crop

LG G5 Wide Angle Lens, 16:9 crop

The image above really gives you a sweeping view of the marina. Compare that image with the one on my iPhone 6s Plus, below.

iPhone 6s Plus Camera

iPhone 6s Plus Camera

The difference is quite noticeable, don’t you think? That wide angle lens in a 16:9 crop makes a significant difference in how we take in the image. To further compare, the image below is taken from the same place, but with the regular lens on the LG G5, using a crop of 16:9.

LG G5 Regular Camera, 16:9 crop

LG G5 Regular Camera, 16:9 crop

Even this image manages to engulf the viewer since it contains a lot more of the marina compared to that of the iPhone. The sailboats actually seem a little smaller here than in the iPhone photo, which means the regular lens on the LG G5 is actually slightly wider than the lens on the iPhone 6s Plus.

RAW vs. JPG

The LG G5 has the option of shooting photos in DNG RAW format. This is great for advanced users who wish to edit their images to their own liking, rather than allowing the camera to edit the image. When in RAW mode, the camera will automatically take both a RAW and JPG image and save it to your camera roll. You then later have the ability to edit the RAW image in any app. If you want to transfer this RAW image to your desktop, though, you’ll have to use the File Manager to select the DNG file and upload it to your computer or to the cloud.

The LG File Manager utility.

The LG File Manager utility.

If you enjoy editing photos on your phone, there are a limited number of apps that currently allow editing of RAW files. My go-to app right now is Google’s Snapseed. Adobe’s Lightroom Mobile also allows for RAW editing.

In low light, I find that noise creeps in quite a bit, even in the DNG files. Applying a certain amount of noise degradation will get rid of it, but also lessen the detail in other areas. At the very least, we get this option with the RAW file. To better illustrate the difference, here’s a photo I took during a sunrise. The sun hadn’t risen above the horizon at this point, so you can see chroma noise in the shadow areas, particularly in the rocks in the foreground. This first image is the unedited DNG image.

LG G5 DNG unedited image

LG G5 DNG unedited image

You can see the chroma noise in the rocky beach area. The next image is of the same picture in JPG. The LG G5 automatically takes a JPG and DNG image at the same time, when you use the RAW mode.

LG G5 JPG image

LG G5 JPG image

The rocky beach area has no chroma noise, is much lighter, and the bright yellow in the sky is significantly diminished. To see how much I can get away with, I edited the DNG image using Adobe Camera RAW and came out with the following image.

LG G5 DNG edited image

LG G5 DNG edited image

The above image isn’t a significantly edited image, but I balanced the colours in the sky, and diminished the chroma noise in the shadow areas.

I should also mention that the images coming out of both lenses on the LG G5 tend to be on the sharper side compared to those from my iPhone 6s Plus. This was immediately noticeable—at first, I thought it was a little too aggressively sharpened, but I have since gotten used to the characteristic of the images coming out of the LG G5, and sometimes makes me feel that my iPhone 6s Plus images are not sharp enough.

Conclusion

The LG G5 with its dual lens system provides an excellent way for avid mobile photographers to get the most out of their phones. The added wide angle lens does a great job in capturing the environment, setting itself apart from other high-end mobile phones. The ability to shoot in DNG mode is also a great addition for advanced users who enjoy post-processing. The native camera app on the LG G5 has plenty of features suited for beginners to the more advanced. With its manual capabilities, even allowing for long exposures, it may be the only camera app I need right now. As far as I’m concerned, as of this writing, there are no other camera apps that allow you to change which rear lens you are shooting from, therefore, it’s a good thing the LG stock camera app is fully featured.


Do you have any experience using the LG G5? Let me know in the comments below!

Gallery

Here are some additional photos taken with the LG G5 camera.

LG G5

The wide angle in portrait mode gives the horizon a little curvature.

LG G5

The wide expanse of this wheat field is a perfect place for the wide angle of the LG G5.

LG G5

When you tilt the camera up or down a little, the horizon will curve accordingly.

LG G5

The wide angle gives more focus to the sky than the sailboats.

LG G5

The wide angle right above the water makes the marina look quite large.

LG G5

An evening photo with the wide angle lens of the LG G5. It is a little noisy in the sky.

LG G5

The wide angle works well with many landscapes.

LG G5

The wide angle encompasses an almost 180 degrees here. HDR mode captures a little more detail in the shadows, and doesn’t blow out the highlights.

2 replies
  1. Mike lyne
    Mike lyne says:

    Excellent read! I just picked up an LG G5 myself. Did you notice a lot of over sharpening on images, almost a “painted” look, especially when zoomed in on shots?

  2. Taku Kumabe
    Taku Kumabe says:

    Hi Mike! Thanks for dropping by, and for your comment. Yes, I did notice the aggressive sharpening of images coming out of my LG G5. I thought it was a little too over-sharpened at first, but as I used the camera, I slowly got used to its characteristic. It’s definitely noticeable when you compare it with a photo coming out of my iPhone 6s Plus. I don’t really zoom into my photos afterwards since I already know picture quality won’t be as good, so I’m not sure what you’re referring to when you say “painterly effect.” I edit my photos so that I’m pleased with it at 100 percent zoom, which produces good results so far.

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