One of the elements of the Moto G that has been cut down a little to save costs is the main, rear camera. It has a 5-megapixel sensor and an f/2.4 lens. Both of these are mid-range at best.
The camera app is also one of the few parts of the Moto G’s software that is Motorola-made. The phone shares its camera interface with the Moto X, whose camera app was apparently lauded stateside (so Motorola says).
We found its mode selection style to be more intuitive than that of the Nexus 5, which uses the standard Android 4.4 camera app. You flick from the left of the screen to bring up the menu dial, or from the right to access the gallery.
The menu limits what settings you have access to in order to make it simpler to use. You can switch the HDR mode and the flash on and off, switch between widescreen and normal photos, turn on Slo mo video , take a panorama, control geotagging and turn on silent mode. There’s no talk of ISO and exposure compensation here.
It’s a simple-to-use photo app, but one that’s not necessarily all that well-suited to those with significant camera experience. That's because the Moto G takes a rather unusual approach to focus control.
By default, the Moto G behaves like a fixed focus camera. You don’t select your focal point at all, just tap the screen to take a picture and hope that the phone knows what it’s doing.
To get any sort of control you need to switch on the Control Focus & Exposure option in the menu. This brings up a green reticule that you drag around the screen in order to pick your focal point. The Moto G then continually holds focus on that part of the image, and you tap elsewhere on the screen to take a shot.
This focusing system does work, but it gives little feedback about whether your shot is in focus or not, and doesn’t necessarily adequately signpost – visually – that focusing is even taking place. We found we had to actually use the preview screen to judge whether the shot was in focus or not, which becomes particularly annoying outdoors (like every phone, the Moto G’s screen is highly reflective). It's also happy to take photos before the focus has been locked, which will often result in blurry images.
For a £130 phone, the Motorola Moto G’s image quality is decent, but looking at phone camera capabilities more generally, this is a mediocre camera. It’s an area in which the Moto G doesn’t excel in quite the jaw-dropping fashion we’ve seen elsewhere.
The camera tends to slightly undersaturate colours, leading to slightly glum-looking photos. It also has issues with strong light sources, causing light bleed and seriously washed-out photos in certain lighting conditions.
The Lumia offers punchier colours, but otherwise the Moto G performs well
As this autumnal leaf shows, the Moto G's shots aren't always undersaturated
In real-world use most of the issues we have relate to the autofocus engine. The Moto G is happy to take out of focus pictures if you don’t wait for the thing to lock on, and it becomes pretty annoying when you’re trying to take macro-style shots.
At the best times, the Moto G’s focus distance is actually very good – around 8cm. However, too often the focus reticule chooses the object behind what you’re trying to lock onto, when the object you’re trying to pap is small. You’re not going to be snapping ladybirds with this phone.
This was the best we could do. Sorry, ladybird fans.
The best cameras would struggle with this scene, but it highlights the Moto G's issue with intense light sources. The shot is almost completely desaturated and riddled with chromatic aberrations up close.
Part of the autofocus issue is about learning to work with Motorola’s chosen camera interface, though. Focusing speed isn’t too bad, and while shooting speed isn’t super-fast, it is a bit quicker than the Nexus 5. There's a gap of about 1.5 seconds between shots, but the camera also features a clever, seamlessly integrated burst mode.
You hold down your finger on the screen and the Moto G carries on snapping until you run out of memory. It takes shots at about 3.5fps, making it handy for action shooting. Move the phone and you'll naturally get blurred shots, but the camera does continually refocus throughout, making the burst mode very handy indeed - perhaps the most accessible we've seen. Photos are also captured at full resolution, making it even better.
The Motorola Moto G captures video from its main camera at 720p resolution. It's not Full HD, but it's common for lower-cost phones to stick to 720p or even 480p or VGA in the cheapest mobiles.
You don't get touch re-focusing during capture but the camera does automatically refocus throughout. And screen taps make the phone capture a still while continuing video'ing. This feature is usually only seen in more expensive phones (although that's likely to change over the next year).
You also get a 1.3-megapixel front camera with the Moto G. It's a pretty decent one too, without the halo'ing around lights that you get with a low-end video chat camera. Like the rear camera, it also lets you shoot video, and capture stills while taking video. Both are 720p.
For its audience the Moto G's camera performance is more than good enough, and anyone who says otherwise is simply asking too much of a £135 phone. Looking among its classmates, though, we think the LG L7 II has a slightly better camera in terms of pure image quality, and the Nokia Lumia cameras require a bit less getting used to.
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