When Google’s Vic Gundotra promised “insanely great cameras” on upcoming Nexus devices, we took his statement to heart. Now, with the release of the Nexus 5, early reviews of the camera are decidedly mixed. It’s for this reason that I’ve decided to take a pass on the newest Nexus device, and will continue to focus on Android devices where the camera doesn’t appear to be an afterthought. I had hoped that we might see something that truly lived up to Vic’s “vision” for the Nexus line of smartphone cameras, needless to say, “insanely great” doesn’t seem to apply.
Now, I grant you, some of the pictures I’ve seen from the Nexus are good—some are very good—but the consensus seems to be for every “very good,” there’s “not so good.” As a new-ish parent, a smartphone camera is one of the most important aspects of my life, as the best camera I have is the one I have with me. I want to love the Nexus, the large display and quick updates and all the sunshine and rainbows that comes from owning Google’s flagship device. Still, the real-world tests don’t give me much hope that is the right Android device for me:
The Verge: The 8-megapixel camera on the back of the Nexus 5 is certainly capable of taking rather beautiful photos in the perfect setting. Unfortunately for us, life is not filled with perfect settings — and when you’re faced with real-world picture-taking, the camera underperforms constantly and consistently.
Android Central: We finally have a Nexus with a pretty good camera. It’s not barnstormingly awesome, but it’s above average, and you can take good pictures with it in most conditions…the Nexus 5 has a fine camera for regular use.
Gizmodo: In the normal shooting mode the camera is fast, but the photos are decidedly lackluster. However, when you use KitKat’s new HDR+ mode, that all changes. Not only is the dynamic range boosted (so highlights don’t blow out and shadows don’t get lost), but colors are enhanced and you get a lot more detail. That last note is somewhat surprising as HDR photos are typically associated with blurriness—since they’re actually an amalgam of several images— but the proof is in the pudding.
TechCrunch: The camera seems above average, but not mind blowing. I’ll save the example shots until I’ve had a chance to pit it head-to-head with a few comparable devices. The camera is also a bit crashy, though that might be my specific unit; three times now, the camera has just stayed at a black screen when I tried to open it.
TechRadar: The camera, an 8MP option on the Nexus 5, is a move forward again compared to the Nexus 4, with sharper images, faster processing and a wider gamut of options to help improve your snaps. We only had a few minutes to test, but the lower light images seemed impressive enough, and the video was shake free compared to that on the Nexus 4. We’re not going to celebrate the feature too much, as there are many better handsets out there that will give you good images on the go that far surpass this handset. However, they’ll cost nearly double what you’ll be able to get the Nexus 5 for, so if a top-quality snapper isn’t the most important thing to you, this will be more than good enough.
Look, don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying or advocating that the Nexus 5 camera is horrible, and I especially can’t say when I haven’t had a chance to play with one. My concern that these snapshot reviews of the camera from various tech blogs show a camera that’s “good enough” isn’t reason enough for me to rush out and pick up the device. I want to buy it; I want to get my KitKat on, but I just can’t swallow stock Android in lieu of a half-way decent camera. I’d much rather invest if the Galaxy S4 or HTC One, devices I know put forth some of the best camera experiences the platform has to offer. Given the ROMs that surround both devices, it seems like a decent tradeoff.
Perhaps I’m wrong and you’ll tell me I’m crazy, or stupid, or somewhere in-between for making a judgement like this before truly trying the camera out. You may not even be wrong in hurling insults at me. But for now, I’m passing on the Nexus 5, and it’ll take a lot to convince me I made the wrong decision.