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Samsung Galaxy Nexus - Camera and Video Capture

Andrew Williams

By Andrew Williams

Reviewed:

Summary

Our Score:

9

User Score:

The Samsung Galaxy Nexus's camera specs are not class-leading. It has a 5-megapixel main sensor, where many top-tier phones have eight, and the single-LED flash isn't as powerful as dual-LED and Xenon types. Galaxy Nexus 2

However, the Android camera experience is much improved thanks to the new Ice Cream Sandwich photography app. The way it approaches taking photos has changed, supplying some of the immediacy of Windows Phone 7 handsets and the iPhone 4S.

Focusing is entirely touch-controlled. You can tap anywhere on the preview window and the Galaxy Nexus will attempt to hone-in on whatever object is there. There's no physical shutter button, but as soon as you hit the virtual shutter button, a photo is taken - whether the scene is as blurry as a drunkard at 2am or fully in-focus. It's a recipe for plenty of out-of-focus images, but is more in-keeping with the way many mobile snappers take photos than Android 2.x's camera app - fast is the way.

The basic photo mechanic aside, the new camera interface also adds a fab panorama mode. You simply slowly pan the phone from left to right and the phone does the rest, prompting you to slow down if you move too quickly. The results depend on how steadily you move, and at best are too low-res to print out, but it's a fun addition nevertheless.

Panorama

Panorama - the full-size version is captured at 3,450 x 674 pixels

Standard photos produce sharp images given the power of the 5-megapixel sensor, but can't compete with the best phones out there - such as the iPhone 4S. Zoomed-in to pixel level, you can see there's some fairly heavy processing going on to smooth images out, but in good light you can reap shots worth printing out. Most importantly, there's no distracting colour cast to photos, just a little extra warmth. The fairly natural look continues in low-light too, although predictably most detail is lost.

Galaxy Nexus 2

Galaxy Nexus 5

Image customisation is otherwise unremarkable. There are scene modes, white balance settings, exposure compensation options and a digital zoom, but nothing else - omitting a burst mode, manual ISO, face detection and effects. After Honeycomb's threadbare camera app, this is an improvement, but there's still work to be done here.

Galaxy Nexus 6

It's also not a macro photography star. It'll focus in on subjects around 10cm away in good lighting conditions, but the level of detail captured is not hugely impressive, with clear signs of heavy processing visible when zoomed-in to pixel level.

Galaxy Nexus 4

Galaxy Nexus 3

The Galaxy Nexus had no trouble focusing-in on this tinsel, close-up

The video side is a different story - it's great. You can record video in 480p, 720p 1080p and there's a whole raft of impressive active effects to play with. These are surprisingly ambitious for a smartphone, distorting people's faces and facial features on-the-fly using face detection tech.

Face

If the active video effects had a like button, we'd press it

There are also green screen-style modes, which paste people onto pre-determined backgrounds. Continuous autofocus is enabled too, although at present its performance is very unpredictable. It's occasionally extremely slow to focus on new subjects, although this feels like a software bug rather than a deficiency in the camera's hardware so will hopefully be fixed soon.

Galaxy Nexus 1

The Galaxy Nexus camera copes fairly well with tricky light sources

The single-LED flash is nothing special, with the uneven throw and unnatural look that are things you have to accept when using a fairly low-powered LED solution. But it's much better than nowt', making those low-light party photos possible (and any outside photos after about 3:30pm at this time of year.) There's also a 1.3-megapixel user-facing camera for video calling and checking yourself out when no mirror is handy.

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Dark of Day

December 15, 2011, 11:55 pm

Sorry to be a dork but you refer to the "gorilla glass" screen; I understand it's been confirmed that it doesn't use the trademarked Corning Gorilla Glass. In the performance section you mention "dual core phones running honeycomb" did you mean tablets or gingerbread? Android 4.0 looks fantastic but software aside the phones hardware is hardly much of a step forward from a Galaxy S2. To me it feels like the last phone of 2011 tech not the first of 2012. Will be languishing in quad core dust before we know it..I'm bitter you see because I want to buy a nexus they just wont build one I'd pay for.

MilleM

December 16, 2011, 4:45 am

I don't follow the smartphone market closely, but I assume the Nexus is competing with; amongst others, the new iPhone 4S. Your review states that at the same GBP 499, the iPhone comes with 64GB of storage compared to 16GB in the Nexus. Despite your very positive review, I still come away with the feeling that the Galaxy Nexus is a bit pricy.

Dark of Day

December 16, 2011, 7:25 am

I should have sourced https://twitter.com/#!/Corning/status/128803261749805056

Andrew_TR

December 16, 2011, 1:39 pm

@Dark of Day Mixing up the terms Honeycomb and Gingerbread is something I've done more times than I care to admit - a bug I hope will get fixed once I get a firmware update. I'd say you certainly don't have to upgrade from the S2 - better screen but the S2 still holds up very well. Just won our phone of the year award too. A problem with Android is that because power upgrades mean much less than they do on iOS, thanks to the less tenacious dev scene, it can feel as though we've hit a plateau. I personally still question what meaningful improvements quad core processors will add in phones.

Andrew_TR

December 16, 2011, 3:31 pm

Unfortunately the iPhone 4S is not that cheap. The 16GB 4S costs 𧺫, while the 64GB version is a whopping 𧽳.

Glenn Gore

December 16, 2011, 3:40 pm

So what I'm getting from the review is that you're getting a 16 GB phone for the price of a 32 GB iPhone 4S, with a worse camera, while in the interest of thinness, it sacrifices a battery adequate to power the phone for more than one day, actually much less I am sure if you are using the 4G version. Best have several spare batteries on hand and charged up. I think I'll pass.

Andrew_TR

December 16, 2011, 3:53 pm

It's actually the same price as a 16GB iPhone 4S, rather than the 32GB edition. The camera is worse, but the buyer's comparison between an iPhone or Android device needs to be about much more than just hardware. They are completely different experiences.

Jawad Mateen

December 16, 2011, 9:50 pm

@MilleM I didn't read the whole review but if it says the 16GB Nexus Prime costs the same (𧺫) as 64GB iPhone, no, not in this world... The 64GB iPhone is... wait for it... 𧽳 from Apple store. So yeah, in it's own right the Nexus Prime maybe pricey, or not but compared with the iPhone it's the same for the same amount of storage...

ort3

December 24, 2011, 5:40 am

So as an owner of a Galaxy Nexus, I have to admit that I am somewhat underwhelmed. I'm not sure what all the hype of Android is all about. Whilst the device is really light, the gentle curved display is gorgeous, the specs are insane and this is Android as Google intended, the package lacks in the spit and polish that Cupertino offers. ICS is not very intuitive with the "menu" options appearing in inconsistent places and the multi-tasking soft key being visible within the browser - I've often tapped it thinking that it will show the open tabs. Some elements of the OS are great - I do think that the multi-tasking aspect works very well and widgets are inspired. The browser is super quick and the support for Adobe Flash is a bonus (though I've actually yet to make use of it). However, my main gripes so far are that the so called "freemium" apps are littered with adverts which are so very annoying; the battery life is not so good either - I don't think I've been able to go a day without having to reach for the charger. The camera quality is severely lacking with images appearing heavily pixelated (1080p - that's a joke, right?). A case of specs over substance. Oh and 16GB - puh-lease! Google Music does work wonderfully with all of the equaliser settings in the right place and the management of music is so much easier than having to be chained to iTunes. Video playback quality is pretty good too. I could go on, but in short, what I've found here is that the Galaxy Nexus is not greater than the sum of its parts which is disappointing. Ultimately, I'm worried that Android will go down the path of Windows Mobile / Pocket PC: highly customisable but massively fragmented with inconsistent implementations. I hope I prove to be wrong. I think will have a look at Android at the next point release. For now, I'll be listing my Galaxy Nexus (any takers?!), I think I'll give Windows Phone 7 a go or head back to my old 32GB 3GS and the iOS walled garden. ort3~rating = 7/10

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