Sep 12th, 2016

Every year smartphone manufacturers pour countless hours of R&D into upgrading both the camera hardware and software on their devices. Whether it’s the lens itself, sensors with bigger pixels, or just a new kind of focusing technology, every year it’s something different. Something better. Well, mostly.

A solid performing 16MP camera

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With LG, they’ve kind of been sticking to the philosophy of “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” Although the V20’s front facing camera now features a single 5MP 120-degree f/1.9 lens (vs the LG V10’s dual camera setup), the phone appears to be using the same primary camera hardware as the LG G5 and LG G4 before it. This tried-and-true 16MP shooter features an f/1.8 aperture lens and 3-axis OIS — a perfect combo for low light snapshots. When recording video, the V20 gains the added benefit of both electronic image stabilization and digital image stabilization for extremely smooth video.

Wide angle camera for versatility

Of course, the other big new addition is the inclusion of a second 8MP 135-degree wide-angle camera (f/2.4) on the back, just like on the LG G5. It’s pretty much the opposite of the new iPhone 7 Plus camera, which gives users optical zooming capabilities. The V20’s secondary camera kicks in whenever you want to zoom way out and capture more of the world around you. We’re not sure which one we’d prefer, but perhaps next year we’ll see LG moving to a 3 lens system with added zooming capabilities.

Improved auto focus

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Auto focus has been improved as well, with the V20 using an improved hybrid auto focus system to that of the G5. Not only is there laser AF and contrast AF, but they’ve thrown in phase detection AF as well (which often times works more reliably than other methods). Using the 3 different auto focus types, the V20 picks analyzes the scene you’re shooting and switches to whichever method will work the best in that situation.

Camera software

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Of course, hardware is only half of the equation.The LG V20’s camera software is pretty robust as well, and despite LG pitching the V20 as a unique smartphone for content creators, that’s not to say regular folk wont appreciate some of the more advanced tools at their disposal. Not only can you shoot video in full manual mode — tweaking settings like ISO, white balance, shutter speed, and FPS — you can even fine tune audio settings like gain, LCF (Low Cut Filter), LMT (Limiter) or microphone direction as well.

With the inclusion of manual shooting modes for both photo and video, the LG V20 is picking up the slack in an area where Android has typically fallen flat. Sure, it can be a little daunting and although not everyone will take advantage of every one of these features, it’s what everyone should expect from a premium, high-end smartphone.

Take away

The LG V20 — like the V10, G5, and G4 before it — is a well-rounded camera performer. You can expect clear, vibrant, color accurate photos, even in some of the more challenging of lighting conditions. Video is bright, stable, and true to LG’s word, sounds great with Hi-Fi audio quality — an area most manufacturers tend to neglect. The auto focus was smooth and locked on quick, although it wasn’t anywhere near as quick as the Galaxy S7 which excels in this area.

When compared against other shooters, the LG V20 almost always had a much more accurate white balance, one that perfectly captures the scene (devices like the iPhone or Galaxy S7 tended to make everything much more warm). Contrast was great and the V20 rarely blew out images by overexposing, something that can’t be said for most other devices.

While video looks great, the quality takes a big dip when using the electronic image stabilization (a given since the software has to zoom in on video to smooth out shakes). It doesn’t help that there was some noticeable artifacting we noticed while shooting in 4K, even when choosing the highest quality video setting.

In the end, the result of the LG V20’s camera hardware is a more versatile and reliable shooting experience than what most other manufacturers are offering. Those curious to see how well these features translate to the real world can find sample photos/video from the LG V20 down below. Let us know what you think.

Disclaimer: These photos/video were taken with a pre-production unit of the device. Camera software and processing are subject to change.

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