Announced on Feb 24, the LG G8 ThinQ is the new flagship smartphone (high-end, mainstream) from LG. Designed to be a high-volume product, the camera performance is of paramount importance to prospect buyers, despite a relatively affordable price of $620 (T-Mobile, no contract). Let’s take a look at the LG G8 camera performance through the prism of our four photography pillars.
Key Camera Specifications and Uber HW Camera Score
- Rear Camera System (2 cameras)
- Primary: 25mm 12-MP f/1.5 wide (Primary) +OIS
- Ultrawide: 16mm 16-MP f/1.9 ultrawide
From a hardware perspective, the LG G8 camera modules (25 and 16mm) are only slightly more powerful than the LG V40’s. On the surface, they look nearly identical, but more detailed analysis reveals a small increase in light sensitivity.
Image Quality Analysis
Important: let’s clarify some terminology we’ll be using:
- “image processing”: software work that improves the image data quality
- “image filtering”: software work that changes the style (aesthetic) of the photo.
- “context photo”: a great approximation of what we see
- Including how dark the scene actually is
- Only to provide the context of the shot.
- Not a quality benchmark
A note about the Uber IQ Camera benchmark: our camera scoring system is based on four “Pillars” or sub-scores that provides much-needed nuance: day, night, zoom and ultrawide photography.
Daylight Photography: 185
The daylight camera color tuning of the LG G8 reminds us of the Google Pixel 3, which has a more pronounced image-filtering style that increases contrast and saturation slightly above normal levels, but not to the point that people are disturbed by it.
Above: Both the LG G8 and the Pixel 3 increase contrast of the shadowed areas, like the mulch near the table. The G8 has extra sharpening filtering that seems superfluous given the quality of the photos in daylight.
Below: the Galaxy S10 series has a more natural HDR tuning and capture the shadowed area more like the way you see it, and closer to our context photo.
The LG G8 is tuned to capture more natural-looking shots than the LG V40 camera which tends to over-saturate and over-contrast a bit. Some people may prefer more saturated colors, but saturation is very easy to add after the facts.
Increasing saturation by default may “turn off” many users who want to capture “what they see”. Sticking to Reality is always a safe bet.
Galaxy S10 uses as much sharpening as the LG G8, while the Pixel 3 and the iPhone Xs don’t use nearly as much, it’s evident on the crop photos below. It’s partially why the iPhone XS can preserve texture (how materials look) better. When not applied smartly, excess sharpening introduces artifacts that can interfere with small details.
Above: as you can see, the “texture” of the roof, among other things, is better preserved by the iPhone Xs.
Below: in this photo, both the LG G8 and Galaxy S10 do very well, but the G8 makes shaded parts darker and has a slight blue tint across the image. The S10 has a better color capture and HDR management.
LG has made much progress over V40 in daylight photography and now has a score to quantify it.
Night Photography: 191
The LG G8’s primary 25mm camera has better low-light performance than the LG V40 in all situations. A side-by-side comparison is enough to reveal that fact and explain the higher Night Photo score, but let’s dig deeper with a first scene.
Above: off the bat, you can see that LG G8 does a better job at keeping the general mood and lighting of the scene when compared to LG V40. Capturing proper color hues is very difficult in low-light because data is much more scarce than in daylight. This stresses camera equipment to their limits.
Below, you can see the Pixel 3 heavily modifying the saturation and contrast of the scene. The Huawei P30 Pro does it even more as part of its camera image filtering tuning.
And the Galaxy S10 captures the most realistic colors hues of the group, with the LG G8 following right behind.
The LG G8 does not have the P30 Pro’s extraordinary “night vision” capability, and you can take a closer look to these on our P30 Pro Low-Light Test, but it does quite well when your eyes can see.
The G8 captures slightly fuzzier photos than Galaxy S10 and P30 Pro because it often relies on slow aperture speed as low as 1/5 sec (vs. Huawei’s 1/15 sec) to gather more light during the photo capture.
Beyond the color hues, a cropped photo will highlight what happens with noise and details. First we compare LG V40 and LG G8. You can see significant differences in noise. For details, look at the tree bark, the tree shadow on the house and the street sign.
Above: the Pixel 3 noise level is quite high when brightness becomes low enough, like here with street lighting. It’s also true in other situations. The Pixel 3 photo may appear more pleasing because of the extra saturation, but it’s an easy tweak.
Below: the Huawei P30 Pro brightens the scene artificially, but filters so much that it makes the scene look a bit harsh. That, along with aggressive noise-filtering and the 10 Megapixel capture leads to some detail loss.
Above: As you can see, LG G8 is pretty close from Galaxy which has just slightly better details and contrast. S10 remains the go-to low-light phone in “normal” conditions as low as 0.5 LUX (this is a ~7 LUX scene). Below 0.5 LUX, the performance breaks down and you need night-vision.
The LG G8 could use a bit more contrast to have even more life-like photos, and that’s easy enough that we can hope a future software update improves this some day. In the meantime, a simple filter in the photo editor can remedy it. We didn’t know what to expect with the G8 low-light performance, but are pleased with it, especially given the handset’s price (~699 as of publication).
In daylight, the ultrawide photos are better than LG V40, which was the best Ultrawide camera of 2018. The G8 noise is noticeably lower, colors are more life-like and the HDR of G8 performance has improved as well.
If you compare ultrawide daylight shots with the Galaxy S10’s, the LG G8 has slightly lower noise-levels and fewer lens distortions (more below), but the Galaxy S10 has a bit better HDR which preserves contrast and shadows more naturally.
Overall, the G8 has an advantage in ultrawide daylight, unless the 14mm focal length of the S10 is particularly important to you (vs. 16mm for G8).
The Galaxy S10 already scores higher than The Huawei P30 Pro in ultrawide photography, and If you compare the LG G8 with the P30 Pro ultrawide shots, it’s clear that the G8 wins in colors, noise, and distortion — it’s clear as day.
Above: on the surface both shots are really good, with the G8 Ultrawide cameras applying more HDR than needed, so we end up losing a bit of contrast/shadows. The S10 land very close to the context shot which is a proxy for “reality”.
Below, the Huawei P30 changes the mood of the scene dramatically and gets a good amount of chromatic aberrations in the upper right (look for the purple glow in the branches).
Below, you can also look at how the camera handles tricky details like a mix of grass and weeds. The LG G8 does a better job at it than the Galaxy S10. At the same time, you can notice that the G8 ultrawide photo is less noisy.
In ultrawide low-light, the LG G8 also outperforms all Huawei phones on the market, just like LG V40 did. The LG G8 ultrawide camera does not suffer as much from vignetting (light decreasing away from the center) as much as S10 and P30 Pro. However, the improvements over LG V40 at night are not entirely perfect.
On the other hand, there’s a loss of image clarity because again LG’s camera capture at shutter speeds as low as 1/5 sec, which makes the photo blurrier. Again, the Galaxy S10 captures better colors and retains an advantage at night.
Thanks to its daylight ultrawide performance, the aggregate score for the LG G8 Ultrawide is high enough to make it the new Ultrawide champion!
As we have pointed out earlier, the zoom capabilities of the LG G8 are more limited than the LG V40 camera system as LG switched hardware priorities to the ToF camera in the front and back of the phones. There is no optical zoom lens at all, so zoom photos use a digitally magnified photo from the primary camera.
This choice is costing the LG G8 some points in our Camera IQ score, but OEMs must make a delicate balancing act to provide an optimal “experience for the price.”
Above: the LG G8 overall zoom IQ is above the Google Pixel 2. There are some differences in style and the G8 uses more filtering, but the Pixel 2 is quite noisy.
Above: the Google Pixel 3 shows the upper-limit of a regular 25-27mm lens in a zoom situation, when using the smartest algorithms. Although impressive technically, it becomes hard to push quality higher, without a better sensor or a dedicated zoom lens.
This final comparison with the Huawei P30 Pro shows the impact of having a 135mm lens for optical when compared to a 25 mm with digital zoom.
Conclusion and Uber IQ Camera Score
|Uber IQ Camera||Sub-scores|
Overall, LG’s camera strategy with the LG G8 does work. By focusing the camera resources on the two most prominent use cases (Wide and Ultrawide), LG gives users a great camera experience even if it does not cover more exotic use cases such as extreme zoom and night vision.
In fact, with a street price of ~$620 at publishing time, the LG G8 provides an excellent Camera IQ (Image Quality) value, which is precisely what it is designed for. LG’s next high-end camera comes later this year to compete, and perhaps dethrone today’s top handsets.
From a mobile camera standpoint, the Samsung Galaxy S10e is the real danger for the LG G8 as it has a slightly better Camera IQ and (read our Galaxy S10e Camera Review) and sells in the same market segment. That said, as a complete smartphone, the LG G8 has a few tricks that can help it differentiate from the Galaxy S10e.
In the meantime, the LG G8 looks like another iPhone XR killer, at least, when it comes to Camera performance.