Friday, May 26, 2017

Thoughts on the LG G6 Camera - Love Manual Mode, Hate The Startup Lag

After nearly two months with an LG G6, here's what I can tell you about the camera:

Pros

Manual mode shows a lot of promise. By default, you can leave all settings as automated and then quickly tweak settings in a controlled way. There's even a little histogram shown for those who want to get especially technical. It's worth noting that you don't have to switch to manual mode to gain both exposure and focus control, as you can lock both of these in automatic mode by long-pressing on an area of the screen. Doing so will give you a screen like this one:

However, manual mode lets you work in terms of ISO and shutter speed, and completely control focus. Along with this, you get Focus peaking. This feature alone makes manual mode worth using. When focus peaking is on, a green halo surrounds the in-focus content of the picture. For example:

In the above photo, the 'H' key is clearly in focus. Consider this cicada pic:

With my Galaxy Note 5, I took plenty of pictures like this where the wrong part of the subject was in focus.

Another feature of manual mode that I like is that it's sticky. If you set some exposure parameters, then closing and re-opening the camera saves them. This bit me in the above photograph, as I had previously set the color temperature manually, forgot about this, and snapped away without thinking. Using Google Photo's filters I was able to sort of recover from this oops.

It might seem safer to have the settings reset every time you load the camera, but that would mean you're constantly having to re-apply your settings. No thank you. If you've got a particular exposure dialed in, clicking the AE-L button will reset things to the camera's best guess. And switching between auto and manual focus and color balance is a button press away.

The other big pro for me has been the dual back camera lenses. Yes, the wide angle lens has a bit of distortion associated with it, but I think that can be used for effect. Consider these two snapshots:

The distortion adds a bit of character to the photo, which I'm happy with. Had I intended to actually publish these photos, I would have taken the time to stage things even more. But you get the idea.

At some point, someone will add a telephoto lens to the mix and I'll be truly happy.

Finally, the quality of the camera seems top notch. I'm able to grab snapshots that I'm happy with from all three lenses, which is essential.

Cons

Due to the last contract I had with T-mobile, I had to give up my Galaxy Note 5 when I got the LG G6. That means that I can't verify my biggest complaint about the LG G6's camera: startup lag. My Galaxy Note 5 seemed to be nearly instant on, letting me snap a photo of what I was seeing. Gone were the painful days of point-and-shoot cameras where you have to wait an excruciating few seconds for the camera to ready itself. It's the difference between capturing the smile of a bride as she walks down the isle, and capturing the back of her head.

While the LG G6 is far faster than any point and shoot camera I've owned, I've still found myself having moments of frustration as I wait for the camera to open, focus and allow me to snap a picture.

This is all very unscientific, and it may have to do with a multitude of outside factors. Perhaps my phone processor happens to be busy, or maybe it's a problem in low light. I just know that I've never felt that a previous generation of phone camera was better than the newest generation; but I find myself having that thought about the Galaxy Note 5.

The only other complaint I have about the LG G6's camera comes from my interacting with the LG V20 for a few days. The V20 has a gimmicky feature where you can snap a single photo that captures all three lenses at once. Here's an example:

Is this effect cheesy? Sure. But it's fun and let's you tell a story in one snapshot. The camera does offer a 'pop out' mode which does something similar, but not quite. Perhaps the bigger question is: why not make all the modes available on the LG V20 on the LG G6?

If anyone from LG is paying attention, please fix the lag issue--I'll survive without my gimmicky multi shot mode.

If your primary goal is to shoot pictures should you buy an LG G6? I'm not sure. The lag issue seems serious to me. On the other hand, if it's the phone you end up with, rejoice - it's awesome and takes mighty fine pics.

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