LG Optimus G for AT&T and Sprint review: Double impact
13 or 8 megapixel camera to choose from
The Sprint LG Optimus G comes with a 13 megapixel camera, capable of producing still shots with a resolution of 4208 x 3120 pixels. Its AT&T relative does away with an 8MP snapper, whose stills have a resolution of 3264 x 2448 pixels. There is a single LED flash on both handsets, but it won't be of much help in most low-light situations.
We found the camera user interface, which consists of two bars of shortcuts to be quite convenient. At the right you get the usual still camera/camcorder switch, the virtual shutter key and the gallery shortcut, which lets you quickly preview your recently captured images.
If using the onscreen shutter isn't your cup of tea, you can use the volume rocker to snap a photo. It lacks the half press to focus functionality, but then again, so does the virtual control.
Alternatively, you can capture shots using only your voice. There's a dedicated entry in the settings to activate the voice shutter and once you have done so, you can use one of five words to trigger it. "Cheese" and "Smile" were to be expected, but "LG", "Kimchi" and "Whisky" work too.
The left bar of the camera interface holds five shortcuts, four of which you can customize to your liking. The last one is the extended settings menu, which holds the option to edit the bar, along with the options that didn't make it to the bar.
The Optimus G camera interface lets you set the resolution, ISO, white balance, focus mode (auto, face-tracking), shot mode (normal, continuous shot, panorama or HDR), geo-tagging on/off, preset scenes, color effects and brightness.
There's also a cool time machine option, which allows the Optimus G to capture shots before you have pressed the shutter key. This comes in handy for those cases when the action is too quick and you are worried you might miss the moment.
When viewing the camera stills from both cameras downsized on your computer screen, they look equally nice. The colors are nice, with only the 13MP shots having a slightly better contrast.
Here are a few 13MP shots we've taken with the LG Optimus G for Sprint.
And here go the 8MP samples from the AT&T version.
Zooming at 100% reveals the advantage of the higher resolution sensor. This one is clearly visible in our 100% crop. For this comparison we upsized the 8MP still to 13MP as this is more fair to the high-res sensor.
Cameras compared: 100% still crops
In terms of dynamic range both still cameras produce the same results. The color rendering of the 13MP snapper however, is slightly more laid back and more natural.
Finally, the higher res sensor produces slightly more noise in photos, but if you downsize those to 8MP, the noise decreases to the levels exhibited by the AT&T version.
Overall, in terms of image quality the 13MP Optimus G doesn't have any substantial advantages over its 8MP sibling besides the higher resolution. If you frequently crop your photos or use digital zooming, then by all means the Optimus G by Sprint is the better choice.
However, if you view them on your computer screen without zooming or you upload them online for sharing, where they all get downsized anyway, then the 8MP Optimus G camera would suffice just as well.
There's 1080p video recording, too
The cameras of both US LG Optimus G models are capable of shooting 1080p videos at 30fps. The camcorder shares its interface with the still camera, but offers fewer settings.
You can adjust the exposure and the white balance, add a color effect or toggle audio recording. The video recording resolution can also be lowered to 720p, 480p or even as low as QCIF if you need to conserve space.
There is still no way to change the focus mode - it's always set to continuous, but unlike the Optimus 4X HD, the Optimus G has no issues with that. Given that LG already addressed the issue on its former flagship with a firmware update, the lack of problems here is hardly a surprise.
The option to capture still shots while recording video is present here as well, though its implementation isn't as good as we hoped. Instead of capturing full-res still (or at least ones cropped to match the 16:9 aspect of the video), the Optimus G does 1920 x 1080 shots, which renders the feature pretty useless. After all you already have such images as frames in your videos, so having them as separate images is hardly giving you much extra.
The quality of the videos is good overall, but their dynamic range is rather limited and the resolved detail isn't all that impressive. You might want to keep the exposure compensation to -0.3 or -0.7EV in scenes where wider dynamic range is required to prevent the highlights from clipping.
Here go a couple of 1080p samples from the LG Optimus G for Sprint and AT&T respectively.
In terms of video recording, the capabilities of the two Optimus G models are somewhat equal. Both phones record nice 1080p videos at 30 fps. The video bitrate is around 10Mbits and the video sound is stereo. The videos from both phones turn out equally sharp and look pretty much identical with one important difference.
When recording video, the 13MP Sprint model has a wider optical field of view. The resulting video captures slightly less detail since the camera simply fits more stuff in a frame of the same resolution.
As you'll notice in our 100% crop, the difference in sharpness is not big, but it's there. Still, having a wider field of view has its own advantages, too, so we'll call this one a tie.