The Nexus 6 camera review

The Achilles heel of every Nexus device has always been the camera. The Nexus 4 housed one of the worst cameras I had ever used. The Nexus 5’s camera was crippled by inconsistent software and shoddy performance hiccups. Android faithful(myself included), excused the inconsistencies due to the price tag the Nexus line has possessed.

This time, Google has stripped away any possibilities to excuse the Nexus 6. The Motorola made device comes with a premium price tag, and with it the expectation of premium performance in every facet. Camera included.

Google is making us cough up a lot of money for the Nexus 6, is their money where their mouth is with the Nexus 6 camera?

SPECS

The Nexus 6 is a beast of a camera on paper. With the Sony EXMOR 214 sensor at the helm of the operation, there is plenty of potential here. That same sensor is found in the OnePlus One’s camera. It also has a maximum aperture of f/2.0, allowing plenty of light into the sensor for photos.

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SPEED

Three seconds. From waking the screen, swiping to the camera, and snapping a photo. Three seconds is the time that it takes for this to happen. Will the shot be very good? Maybe, but nevertheless, the speed of the Nexus 6 camera is okay. Lollipop is likely to blame for the slowdown, which we have seen in other areas of usage. This is without the fantastic HDR+ mode enabled on the Google Camera. Which does take longer to snap a photo.

Digging through the data inside the photo, well lit photos averaged 1/500 of a second for shutter speed.

As the light becomes more trendy and seductive, the shutter speed goes down to an average of 1/15 of a second.

This is important to look at as you compose a shot on your camera. The slower the shutter speed, the likelihood of motion blur increases. It’s something every camera struggles with, especially smartphone cameras. Luckily, Optical Image Stabilization(OIS) is present on the Nexus 6. This reduces motion of your own shaky hands as you take the picture. Allowing for better low light photos.

FOCUSING

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In order for a photo to be considered good, it must be in focus. When it comes to the Nexus 6. Focusing has been incredibly consistent. Autofocus will quickly latch onto focus of what is prominently in the scene. Tapping your finger around the scene will allow you to change the focus and exposure. This helps improve images with large areas of shadow and light difference.

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Depth of field is also quite impressive on the Nexus 6 camera, by smartphone standards. With your subject in the foreground, there is noticeable blur present in the background. This gives you a more professional and portrait photography look to your photos.

QUALITY

Look, you can talk about specs all you want. The Nexus 6 camera has great specs, but that means nothing if the quality of the photos isn’t any good.

Luckily, the Nexus 6 Camera has fantastic quality photos. Details are crisp, colors are vivid and accurate. Now, for my usage, I had HDR+ mode enabled nearly every single time. It takes a moment longer to capture the entire photo, but it is worth it. Look for yourself in some sample photos below:

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LOW LIGHT

The achilles heel of nearly every Android phone I’ve ever used has been low light. When the lighting becomes moody, cameras tend to suffer. Android cameras have tried to compensate by cranking the ISO up or slowing the shutter speed down to nearly ¼ of a second. The result is nearly always blurry, noisy photos, which is gross.

The Nexus 6 performs quite well in low light. It’s not the best, but it’s not the worst. It’s somewhere in between mediocre and good enough to sometimes great. There’s an inconsistency in low light shots that is a little frustrating. My findings show that the inconsistencies are at a software level, not a hardware level. In some of my low light shots, I failed to find consistency in shooting data. ISO and shutter speed had a slight tendency to be all over the place.

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But this is nothing new for Google and their camera app. Low light has always been an issue for Google’s camera, and it does not seem to be getting better anytime soon. It’s not excusable by any means, but it’s something that has been known for some time now.

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There is a dual LED ring flash on the Nexus 6. The flash does a good job at exposing the subject without overexposing. Lighting is equal and well balanced, much like what can be found on the little brother Moto X.

VIDEO

Video on Google’s Nexus 6 is nothing special. Aspiring videographers will find a much better experience on other phones. Google’s Camera preinstalled on the Nexus 6 is immensely under featured. There is no time lapse, no Slo Mo. There is 1080p and 4K video.

For a phone that does a lot of things really well, the video capability is lacking and nothing special.

FRONT FACING CAMERA

Ugh. I hate selfies. You won’t see me taking them any time soon. But I will awkwardly turn my phone around and take a photo with the front facing shooter. The front facing camera is 2 megapixels, nothing like the HTC Desire Eye. But it isn’t awful

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CONCLUSION

The Nexus 6 is an interesting beast. An expensive, interesting beast. The hardware is in the top of it’s class. The software is Stock Android 5.0 Lollipop, so that is fantastic. The camera is really good, but not great due to lackluster video and average low light performance. All of these equate to your run of the mill flagship smartphone. Every smartphone has compromises and the Nexus 6 is no exception. That’s a very good thing. It has earned it’s $650 un-subsidized price tag, if you’re willing to shell out that kind of money.

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The improvements over the Nexus 5 show that Google is clearly come to play with the Samsung Galaxy line, the HTC One line, and the iPhone family. But this also places it in very crowded territory. The Nexus 6 is not the best phone on the market, seeing as that is entirely subjective. But if you want a large phone, Stock Android, and be first in line for updates, look no further, the Nexus 6 is for you. If you have a different set of standards for a smartphone, the Nexus 6 is admirable, but other phones outperform it in certain areas like the camera and battery life.

With a new chapter for Google and Android, the Nexus 6 is a valiant first effort in the mainstream. With a great all around phone, it’s more than enough to warrant the price tag.

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