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Did Motorola finally deliver a great camera in the Moto X Pure Edition?

Derek Walter | Sept. 24, 2015
We put Motorola's newest smartphone to the test, comparing it to last year's Moto X and the Galaxy Note 5.

moto x camera
Credit: Derek Walter

A good camera has always been the missing ingredient in the Moto X series.

Motorola promised to fix it for good with this year’s Moto X Pure Edition. Along with bumping up the screen to 5.7 inches and Quad HD resolution, Motorola paid a lot of attention to the camera, packing in a 21MP shooter with an f/2.0 aperture. It’s a good bump from the 2014 model, which had a 13-megapixel camera with an f/2.2 aperture.

However, specs never tell the whole story. Consider that the iPhone 6, with its 8 megapixel f/2.2 camera, takes stunning photos, far superior to those of the 2014 Moto X. Given that the lackluster camera on the 2014 Moto X was a sore spot holding back an otherwise fantastic phone, we decided to pay special attention to the camera on this year's model.

The test parameters

For comparison we're using three phones: a freshly-arrived Moto X Pure Edition, 2014 Verizon-branded Moto X, and a Galaxy Note 5 (arguably the best camera on an Android phone today). 

While there is a certain amount of subjectivity in what makes for a great photo, there are some common principles we can use to determine picture quality. A good camera is able to balance out the light, reproduce the color accurately, and work well in a variety of situations.

The following were all taken with each phone’s default settings, with no post-production editing. Certainly the right tweaks may improve your experience, but for comparison purposes we wanted a flat line to start with.

Cat pictures

It wouldn’t be a true photo test without a cat picture. I was able to get my cat, Sherlock, to (mostly) stay in one place for a series of pictures with all three phones. These were taken from my home office, which has a lot of light and neutral, beige walls.

moto x camera test kitty
In this case the Moto X Pure Edtion held up rather well in comparison to the Note 5 and 2014 Moto X. Credit: Derek Walter

With the Moto X Pure Edition, you get a good picture that captures most of the color in the room accurately. It’s much better than the 2014 Moto X, which loses too many details in the shadows, especially on Sherlock’s body.

However, I still found the Galaxy Note 5 to be the top choice here. Notice Sherlock’s fur - it’s an accurate gray that looks just as he does in real life. The Note also balances the rest of the light well on the lower portions of the cat tree, and provides more detail in all the fur and carpet. The Pure Edition does a respectable job, but the Note 5 is still tops.


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