When Lenovo recently launched the Moto G5 Plus, one of the aspects that the company highlighted in a big way was its rear camera. Although Lenovo hasn’t revealed the details of the image sensor that powers the 12-megapixel camera in the phone, all signs point to it being the Sony-made IMX 362 or the IMX 260. In other words, on paper the camera of the Moto G5 Plus seems very good.
Not all of it is because of the sensor. There are other features. The sensor that Motorola has used can do phase-detect auto focus, which the company says makes it easier for the users to click moving subjects like pets. On a side note, the Moto G5 Plus camera is faster compared to cameras in other phones in this price bracket. But no, that speed is not enough to defy the laws of physics. When you want to shoot a moving subject, go grab a DSLR, don’t rely on a phone. Then, there is the lens. The Moto G5 Plus has a F1.7 lens. This is very wide lens and this too, according to Lenovo, should help the Moto G5 Plus click awesome low light photos.
In fact, the camera hardware in the Moto G5 Plus seems very close to what Samsung has used in the IMX 260-powered Galaxy S7. And we know the Galaxy S7 can click some fantastic images. So what about the Moto G5 Plus? In our review we found that it too can click some good images, but it can’t match the Galaxy S7, which, by the way, sells for above Rs 40,000.
Also Read: Moto G5 Plus review: Pure Android, good camera make it best phone under Rs 20,000
The reason is that performance of the camera depends on several factors. Hardware is one part. But then the quality of hardware too plays a role. There might be two phones with F1.7 lens with five elements. But the quality of lens matters. One of them might have better glass, better lens design and that will make a lot of difference.
The other part is how the data that camera captures is processed. This is an area where all companies, including camera companies, are different. For example, photographers note that colours Canon cameras produce are slightly warmer, giving then a nice hue that appeals to a lot of consumers. The Nikon colours are slightly colder. Similarly, Fujifilm cameras offer different results and so do Sony cameras. Similar differences exist in other areas like metering, ISO use and data processing.
Moto G5 Plus low light problem
This brings us to the one problem that most Moto G5 Plus reviews have reported: the low light problem. Although the Moto G5 Plus camera works very well in decent light, even indoors, in extreme low light it falters, especially if the scene has lots of dark areas. While reviewing the phone, I too noticed this problem with the Moto G5 Plus camera. This is somewhat unexpected from the camera of the Moto G5 Plus because the hardware powering this camera looks good.
Here is what I found after just some casual observations: The Moto G5 Plus clicks awful photos in extreme low light because its auto mode apparently loves ISO and is probably too generous with the shutter speed. The results needless to say are terrible. But the same phone clicks aesthetically better photos if you go into the manual mode and dial down ISO to 200 or 400. Here is an example:
This image was clicked on the auto mode
this image was clicked on the manual mode with ISO changed but everything else kept on auto
In the first image you see there is too much blur. This is due to low shutter speed that the auto mode is using. Low shutter speed is always a problem in a phone, especially when it also lacks optical image stabilisation. The second big problem is that the image is full of noise. It’s terrible, and the noise has destroyed all the texture and colour.
There is a reason why photographers call ISO a double-edged sword. It can help you click a usable photo in low light but not always. In fact, when left unchecked, which is what happens with the Moto G5 Plus camera’s auto mode, it usually destroys photos. The problem is even more severe in smartphones and small cameras because they have small image sensor that just can’t deal with the noise that ISO generates.
So, even though the first photo has more light, the second photo is more usable from aesthetic point of view. Unfortunately, there are no free lunches. It is all about trade-off and the product teams within Lenovo must have decided that they need to prioritise light and exposure over the ISO noise in a photo for some reason.
But I think this choice actually leads to a poorer low-light performance from Moto G5 Plus, which is a pity because the camera hardware in the phone is surely capable of producing slightly better results.
No, the Moto G5 Plus, even with manual mode, won’t match the Galaxy S7 or the Google Pixel, which is an absolute beast when it comes to photograph, but I feel that with a tweaked image processing Moto G5 Plus camera can produce better images in low light. And that would be swell given the price of the Moto G5 Plus. For its price, this is already a good shooter. It’s just that it can be even better.
Also Read: February guide: OnePlus 3T is best phone overall
Software is very important in any camera. But it is also not easy to always get it right. Even cameras companies like Canon and Nikon struggle occasionally to get the right balance of colours, tint, exposure, noise and white balance. For phone companies it can be even harder. But there are companies that have managed to do it. Google has improved a lot in the last couple of years and its HDR+ mode is fantastic in Pixel and Nexus phones. Samsung has always mostly got it right. OnePlus has managed to get it spot on with the OnePlus 3T and OnePlus 3. Apple always gets it right and manages to produce very nice photos (although low light can be a problem for iPhone) despite a competitively smaller sensor size. Here is hoping that Lenovo gets it right too, and hopefully for even G5 Plus because overall this is a good camera.
So G5 Plus camera good or bad?
As we noted in our review, the G5 Plus can click very good photos (see our review for large size image samples). It is just that in low light, which all reviews have noted as its weakness, the performance could have been better. Or in other words, the Moto G5 Plus camera suffers from the problem that it probably doesn’t have. Its low-light performance seems shabby not because of the camera but probably how the image data that camera captures is processed.
In good light, the G5 Plus camera captures excellent colours, lots of detail and is great at handling dynamic light.
In fact, even in the low light, if you take some care while shooting the photo, it can surprise you. For example, see the photo above. In this scene the amount of artificial light is more than what is there in the images posted earlier in this article. This probably keeps the auto mode in the Moto G5 Plus camera in check. So the ISO noise is not outrageously high, shadows are clean – or as clean as they can be in this instance – colours are nice and the dynamic light is captured well.