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Nexus 6P review: This is the way Android phones should be

Florence Ion | Oct. 23, 2015
Look out Samsung and LG. The best premium Android phone on the market is Google's own.

Let’s talk about the camera

In my experience, Nexus devices have typically shown lackluster camera performance. They’ve either shot photos that appeared blown-out or, in the case of last year’s Nexus 6, lacked the ability to take a decent photo in low light environments. Fortunately, the Nexus 6P’s camera is exponentially better than those of its predecessors. 

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Bored, lazy cat indoors.

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Pumpkins indoors.

2015 10 17 18.55.59
My backyard after sunset. I like that this photo didn’t come out grainy and used the patio lighting to set the scene.

The 12.3-megapixel rear-facing camera sensor on the Nexus 6P is manufactured by Sony, which also supplies camera sensors for plenty of other OEMs. However, this particular sensor differs in that it features 1.55 micron pixels, which are about four times the size of normal pixels in other camera sensors. This is supposed to help the 6P capture more light in darker environments, though it still falls short compared to Samsung and LG’s 16-megapixel camera sensors.

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In our bright light lab tests, the Nexus 6P performed better than the Nexus 6, and even the G4. Click on image to enlarge.

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In our low light lab tests, the Nexus 6P struggled to keep up with Samsung and LG’s camera sensors, which have the best low-light performance on the market right now. Click on image to enlarge.

There are a couple of caveats with this new and improved camera sensor. For one, the Nexus 6P’s rear-facing camera does not support optical image stabilization (OIS), so you’re going to shoot some slightly blurry photos in low light without it, which happened to me a few times. Check out these pumpkins, for instance: 

2015 10 17 23.41.30

These pumpkins came out blurry because, as I quickly snapped them in low light, the long exposure allowed my shaky hands to move phone a little while the shutter was open. Optical image stabilization would have helped here, if the Nexus 6P had it. 

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On the left is a shot taken without HDR, and on the right is a shot taken with HDR. Dang that’s a difference. 

I’m also a bit bothered by the fact that the rear-facing camera is on auto HDR by default—it’s as if Google’s cheating its way into better photos. That doesn’t mean I didn’t love the photos it produced, but I wish there were a live view of it, like on the Galaxy S6 and G4’s camera apps, so I can decide whether I want to use it. If you do shoot in HDR, you won’t see the end result until the app is done processing, which can take a few seconds.

 

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