Camera shootout: Google Nexus 5 vs Nexus 4 vs Apple iPhone 5c

Let's put the Nexus 5's camera to the test against some of its rivals.


There’s been a lot of hue and cry about the Nexus 5’s sub-par camera performance and we felt it’s about time we took matters into our own hands and settled this once and for all. Instead of pitting it against hardcore camera phones like the Sony Xperia Z1 or the Lumia 1020, we decided to compare it with other 8MP shooters in the market which we felt were relevant comparisons. For fun, we also threw in the Gionee Elife E6 to see how it fares against shooters that are priced much higher. Granted, the E6 has a 13MP sensor compared to the other 8MP sensors but the more expensive phones are supposed to have multi-element lenses, OIS and other fancy marketing wizardry so technically they have nothing to be worried about from a cheap Chinese droid. 

For this test, we pitted the Nexus 5, the Nexus 4 for obvious reasons, iPhone 5c as it’s the most expensive 8MP shooter (that we had) and finally the Elife E6. All camera settings were set to ‘Auto’, HDR mode was off the whole time and the highest possible resolution was chosen. The comparison images are all 100 percent crops of the original image. The reason we do this is to show the amount of detail the sensor is actually able to capture. The crop for the Gionee was adjusted a bit so as to get the same frame like the rest of the phones.

Indoors
This was taken in our labs with just a couple of tubelights illuminating the room. We put together a couple of items to highlight how well the cameras could pick up detail like text, texture, colour accuracy, shadows – all in a typical indoor setting. The focus point was set to the spool of threads.

Camera shootout: Google Nexus 5 vs Nexus 4 vs Apple iPhone 5c

Original image

 

 

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100% crop

 

The Nexus 5 easily has the best picture here. The strands of thread are highly detailed and the colour reproduction is the most accurate. The text is also very clear on the bottle and there’s very little noise. The Nexus 4 performs the worse with a heavy yellow tinge and lots of noise. The 5c manages good colours but there’s a lot of noise in the image and the details aren’t great. Finally, the Gionee produces heavily saturated colours but details go for a toss.

Outdoor portrait
Here, we wanted to see how the phones handled skin tones under natural light. This was taken in a garage with ample sunlight pouring in through slits in the roof. The focus point here was on the woman’s face. It’s a close tie between the Nexus 5 and the E6 here. The Nexus 5 captures the best detail but the E6 has a sharper and punchier image. The iPhone 5c has a much softer image while the Nexus 4 one again come in last.

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Original image

 

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100% crop

 


Outdoor macro
The focus point for this shot was the pollen in the flower. The Nexus 5 manages punchy colours but there’s plenty of noise which is more visible in the background. The 5c redeems itself with very good detail on the pollen and delivers more natural colours. The E6 has slightly exaggerated colours but otherwise, it’s not too bad.

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Original image

 

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100% crop

 

Depth of Field test
Here, our focus point was on Ryuk but the real aim was to check how well the cameras handled depth of field (DOF) and details and colours in the background. The Nexus 5 does a pretty decent job here but the detail on the tree is about average. The Nexus 4 once again fails quite miserably here. The 5c has more accurate colour reproduction here but the Gionee surprised us all with stunning detail on Ryuk, the tree and good DOF with accurate colours.

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Original image

 

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100% crop

 

Landscape
In our landscape test, the sun was beating down pretty hard and the Nexus 5 comes closest to accurately capturing this. It also exhibits good detail on distant objects. The Nexus 4 produces a cooler tone which was highly inaccurate and very weak details. The 5c overexposes the image too much burning out parts of the poster and the sky. The Gionee delivers punchy colours but oversharpens the image a bit too much.

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Original image

 

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100% crop

 

The bottom line
While we still have the low-light testing to do, the Nexus 5’s camera is a big improvement over the Nexus 4 despite having the same sensor resolution. Getting the camera to focus however was a real pain in the backside and it takes forever for the app to start, which is surprising considering the hardware its packing. Compared to a much more expensive 8MP camera phone (the 5c), the Nexus 5 is quite a bit better and if Google can speed up the focusing, that’s a deadly combo. In daytime and indoors it’s safe to say that the Nexus 5 has an above average camera, once you get it to focus where you want to. We still have to cover low-light so we’ll try and get cracking at that over the weekend.

In case you missed it, here are our first Impressions of the Google Nexus 5.