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Google Nexus 6 Review

Camera Performance And Photo Quality

Noisy low-light pictures are a problem for the OnePlus One, which uses the same image sensor and f/2.0 aperture as the Nexus 6. Will the addition of OIS improve the Nexus 6's low-light performance?

All images were taken using the Auto mode unless noted. Also, you can view the full-sized image for each photo by clicking the text links below the images that are within a slideshow album.

Outdoors

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Full Size Images: [Nexus 6: outdoor daylight], [iPhone 6 Plus: outdoor daylight], [LG G3: outdoor daylight], [Galaxy S5: outdoor daylight], [Nexus 6: flower stand], [iPhone 6 Plus: flower stand], [LG G3: flower stand], [Galaxy S5: flower stand]

In the first series of images, both the LG G3 and Galaxy S5 hold the shutter open a little longer and produce images that are slightly overexposed. The Nexus 6 does better with its exposure, but the color balance is too cool. The reddish paver bricks on the ground and the green leaves look washed out and the concrete is too gray, not reflecting any hint of yellow from the afternoon sun. All three higher-megapixel sensors deliver better detail than the iPhone 6 Plus, which is easily seen by examining the buildings in the background.

The Nexus 6 does a nice job handling the partly shaded flower stand; both exposure and white balance are set well. In fact, it's the only phone that doesn't overexpose the white roses on the back-left side, clearly displaying the $12 price sign, which gets lost in a white glow in the other images.

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Full Size Images: [Nexus 6: outdoor night Yoda], [iPhone 6 Plus: outdoor night Yoda], [LG G3: outdoor night Yoda], [Galaxy S5: outdoor night Yoda], [Nexus 6: outdoor night building], [iPhone 6 Plus: outdoor night building], [LG G3: outdoor night building], [Galaxy S5: outdoor night building]

I found this homage to Yoda on my last trip to Coruscant. Compared to the iPhone 6 Plus, the Nexus 6 shows significantly more noise and the same shift to cooler colors as before. It's missing the yellow tint on the streetlights and yellow writing on the heart. Greens are also undersaturated, although the iPhone seems to emphasize green a bit too much.

The G3 and Galaxy S5 both have long exposure modes that auto engage in low-light conditions, and neither report Exif data in this mode. Both phones produce much brighter images, but are susceptible to motion blur. This is apparent in the G3 image, where we see ghosted pedestrians and blurry leaves. The S5's long exposure mode performs much better, arguably producing the best image of the group.

The iPhone 6 Plus effectively leverages its OIS by leaving the shutter open three times longer than the Nexus 6, allowing it to keep ISO, and thus noise, low. With a faster shutter speed, the Nexus 6 needs to drive ISO to almost 1200 to achieve about the same light sensitivity. These shutter speed and ISO values are what I would expect from a camera that does not have OIS. It's almost like the Nexus 6 is not using OIS at all here.

In the second set of low-light pictures, the Nexus 6 does well with exposure and has excellent color. The iPhone, in contrast, is too yellow, while the G3 is overexposed. Again we see the Galaxy S5's long exposure mode outperform the G3, producing a nicely lit building with only a little too much glow from light sources.

Once again we see the iPhone hold its shutter open three times longer than the Nexus 6 and with a significantly lower ISO too. OIS seems to be MIA on the Nexus 6.

HDR

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Full Size Images: [Nexus 6: HDR off], [Nexus 6: HDR on], [LG G3: HDR off], [LG G3: HDR on], [Galaxy S5: HDR off], [Galaxy S5: HDR on]

HDR mode on the Galaxy S5 is extremely impressive, basically eliminating the heavy shadows without overexposing the much lighter overcast sky. The Nexus 6's HDR mode is not nearly as effective. It does reduce shadowing, but the image still looks rather dark and dreary, similar to the G3.

Indoors

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Full Size Images: [Nexus 6: indoor bright], [iPhone 6 Plus: indoor bright], [LG G3: indoor bright], [Galaxy S5: indoor bright]

In this well-lit indoor shot, the Nexus 6 image has a slight purple tint. There's little noise, but the image is a bit blurry overall. It's difficult to tell if this is due to the noise reduction algorithm or if it's just a little out of focus. Both the G3 and S5 have noticeably more noise than the Nexus 6. We've noticed that the S5 struggles with noise in lower-light shots that are not dark enough to engage its long exposure mode.

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Full Size Images: [Nexus 6: indoor dark], [iPhone 6 Plus: indoor dark], [LG G3: indoor dark], [Galaxy S5: indoor dark]

The Nexus 6 does not handle this dimly lit hallway well. It produces the darkest image of the group and its colors again appear too cool. This scene is dark enough that both the G3 and S5 engage their long exposure modes, which produce much brighter images.

Again we see the iPhone hold its shutter open three times longer than the Nexus 6 and achieve a much lower ISO setting. This results in less noise creeping into the iPhone image. I took several other low-light images (some of which can be seen below) and they all followed this trend. Either OIS is completely disabled on the Nexus 6, or the camera software has not been tuned to use it.

Additional Sample Images

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Full Size Images: [Nexus 6: construction], [Nexus 6: flowers], [Nexus 6: building], [Nexus 6: toys], [Nexus 6: building at night], [Nexus 6: stairs]