LG G5 Review – Design Covers up Excellent, Excellent Cameras

Three things mar the otherwise impeccably performing LG G5 and its utterly excellent stills (front and rear) and videos (FHD and 4K) – the design and tactile feel (the curved look of previous LG phones are gone), the small battery (7-8 hours of use), and the bannered modular feature (which we are not fans of). But after months of use, we are loving the LG G5 and its cameras (and the non-saturated images and crisp videos), its size is just right and comfy in your hand, and it can’t hurt that its price has gone down since launch. Two more things: the G5 has one of the loudest, yet audio-clear speaker we’ve ever heard in a flagship phone; and it’s the first to offer a 135-degree wide angle field of view secondary rear camera, which makes your landscape and indoor shots more awesome (more people in the frame, no need to step back).  

Fan Disclosure

We’ve been fans of the LG flagships – both its design and its cameras – from the LG Optimus G to the LG G4. Until late last 2015, we’ve been using the LG G3 for event coverages and product reviews; and the year before that, the LG G2 for similar needs. So we know what LG can do in terms of looks and tactile elegance and camera UI and image quality.

The First Wide Angle Lens in a Sea of Bokeh and Zoom Dual Cameras

The only way to showcase the LG G5’s awesome wide angle lens is to show if off. Here we go.

Above is the normal 78-degree FOV main rear camera, shooting under a gray afternoon sky.

Now we switch to the 135-degree FOV secondary rear camera, to show you (1) how much more space is captured without even stepping back, and (2) that a fisheye lens effect is noticeable and looks cool (as though taken from a GoPro camera.)

But that’s not all. The wide angle camera can be zoomed in a bit to remove the fisheye effect, so you can get a more even and symmetrical image (see second image below).

Normal.

Wide angle, but zoomed in a bit.

Wide angle, but fully zoomed out.

 

A Quick Look Around the LG G5

  • Contents unboxed - the phone, charger, charging cable, earphones in small white box, pamphlets.
  • These are some good-looking, good-sounding earphones. The cable is also threaded.
  • If you miss the app drawer, you can bring it back in the Settings.
  • The rear's texture is close to plastic, but is actually a coating. Underneath is metal. The fingerprint sensor under the dual cameras is also the power button.
  • Volume rocker and battery release button.
  • Hybrid SIM tray: either 2 nano SIMs or 1 nano SIM and 1 micro SD card.
  • Display has great viewing angles, no color shifts or contrast loss.
  • Speaker and Type C charging port on the bottom. So your old male micro USB chargers won't work on this.
  • If you find the G5 slippery, by all means get a protective case.
  • Yup. A headphone jack.
  • The selfie camera is actually a great one. See images below.
  • Those dual cameras - normal FOV and wide angle FOV - are the bomb!
  • Android 7 Nougat adds this clean notification panel, among other features.
  • You can change the font of the G5 via LG SmartWorld app, without installing third party launchers.
  • The default keyboard is easy to like. We forgot about SwiftKey because of it.
  • That awesome screen and great sound deserves to be abused. Here's an idea.
  • And here's what that modular thing is about - pull out the base and battery and plug in LG G5 Friends, like a camera grip with added battery and physical buttons, or HiFi audio.
  • While you can buy a separate battery, it can only be of the 2,800 mAh capacity. It's probably cheaper to buy a slim power bank and a Type C cable for charing on the go.

You can browse the specs below before we check out more sample images (normal and wide and selfies) and videos.

LG G5 Full Specs

5.3-inch QHD (1440 x 2560 pixels) IPS Quantum dot display (554 ppi)
Corning Gorilla Glass 4, Always-On Display
Qualcomm Snapdragon 820 processor | Adreno 530 | 4GB of RAM
32GB internal storage, up to 256GB via micro SD slot
16MP F1.8 rear camera, 78-degree FOV, 1/2.5″ sensor size, laser AF, OIS
8MP F2.4 rear camera, 135 degree FOV
8MP F2.0 front camera | On-screen Flash
Hybrid Dual Nano SIM (2 SIMs or 1 SIM + 1 microSD), 3G, LTE
WiFi, Bluetooth, GPS, A-GPS, USB Type-C, NFC
Removable 2800mAh Lithium Ion battery | Quick Charge 3.0 (60% in 30 mins)
Ships with Android 6.0 Marshmallow, upgradeable to Android 7.0 Nougat
LG Optimus UX 5.0 UI | LG SmartWorld app lets you download themes, wallpapers, fonts
Colors: Silver, Titan, Gold, Pink
149.4 x 73.9 x 7.7mm | 159 grams
Price at Launch: P34990, down to P30k 
Price as of this writing: around P20,000 on the gray market

Dual Rear Camera and Front Camera Performance, Video Quality

While the secondary 8MP 175-degree wide angle camera is a wonder on its own (you’ve seen the shots above), the main 16MP rear one is awesome in its own right: low light shooting is great, white balance is spot on, capture speed is near-instantaneous, and bokeh shots (blurred background) are great.

Low Light Shot 1. Simple Mode (tap to focus and capture) used here. No manual mode needed.

Low Light Shot 2. Flash or more direct lighting would have ruined the scene.

The rear wide angle camera is useful for capturing landscapes, indoor cramped shots, and moments when you want to fit more people into the frame but can’t step back.

  • Wide, medium to low light.
  • I don't think a 23mm lens camera, which is common in smartphones, can take in the scene like this.
  • Black and white and in action.
  • Taken right in front of the stage. While others were trying to step back, I didn't have to. Wide angle, baby.
  • No, attaching a wide angle lens clip on your phone won't get you something like this.
  • The entire exhibit area without walking too far back.
  • Globe CEO Ernest Cu delivers a speech.
  • Hey, it's Friday. Stolen shot in medium to low light and in wide angle.
  • Believer or not, this is a low light shot, with HDR on.

Handheld videos in Full HD look like they were taken with an attached stabilizer, and 4K offers more detail (but eats up battery and storage so get a big micro SD card).

The camera UI is intuitive and yet has room for the pros (manual mode). We took selfies in dim lighting and were still proud to share them on social media. The G5, take note pro and enthusiast photographers, can shoot RAW.

  • When your against-the-light groufie works out so well that even your photobomber friend looks great.
  • Outdoor windy day, gray skies. Beauty mode off.
  • Indoor against-the-light. That's Cat Trivino, Marketing Manager at Jollibee Philippines.
  • Everyone in the groups get a complexion upgrade, via beauty mode.
  • Against the morning light selfie, with dim lighting on our faces. Cathy is not complaining.
  • Outdoor evening selfie with low yellowish light, and yet Hannah and I look great.
  • Near pitch-black scene, with on-screen flash on. Impossible is nothing.
  • Shaky hand (it was so cold in the venue) and indoor dim lighting.
  • Red Hogar, Creative Director at ABS-CBN Mobile, tries out beauty mode cranked up to 6 with on-screen flash activated. Dim indoor lighting at Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf.

LG remains one of the best when it comes to the selfie camera, as you can see in the sample shots. Against the light, under low light, even when the on-screen flash was needed (because the dim and uneven lights were unforgiving), the output was great.

Video Samples

The Full HD video below is amazing. It’s of a house razed by fire near where we live. Shot during an overcast late afternoon, with a slightly shaky hand, and with sounds blaring from all directions, the LG G5’s camera was able to keep up with the shifting focus (slight panning around) while providing great dynamic range and a “realistic” audio quality. The output isn’t even that shaky. If you pause the video (make sure to choose 1080p quality), you can marvel at the details captured: the side of the fire truck, the cloth of the uniforms of the police, the greenery of the trees, the depressing scene of the smoking house. If you listen with good speakers (or with earphones), you can tell that the audio recorded is far from flat – it’s the surrounding sounds of the scene. Videographers will appreciate this.

In the Full HD video below, a typical dimly lit, small venue concert setting, we capture the first three minutes of James Reid and Nadine Lustre’s duet, before arm fatigue set in (it was a long day of events we were covering) and the footage had to be stopped. But the shifting colors and dark and lighted spots and echo-like music were all captured smoothly. Again, all this was recorded hand-held. No separate stabilizing device, not even a selfie tick or monopod.

Below is a short continuous video using both the normal 80 degree field of view (FOV) rear camera and the 185 degree wide angle rear one. The recording shifts from one camera to other and back, showing how much of the scene is captured by both rear cameras.

 

Multitasking, Games, Videos, Call Quality, Fingerprint Sensor

Gaming presented no lags, videos were clear and highly detailed (awesome QHD display), launching and swtiching between apps were smooth, the speaker was impressively loud and full coming from such a small body and the audio was rarely strained. Even if it’s a tiny phone, typing on the G5 was comfy. And we liked holding a small phone to our ears during calls, which were clear. WiFI reception was also excellent, even if we were two rooms away from our router, we could still watch Netflix. The rear-mounted fingerprint sensor was spot on and accurate every single time (the phone unlocks as soon as your finger touches the sensor, no need to deep-press to click). If you’re the hand-sweaty type, you may want a grippy case for the G5, to avoid slips.

The always-on display, which we initially thought of as ornamental, turned out to be actually useful: it saved us the time it would have taken to wake the display up and check the time. The clicky power on button is also integrated with the fingerprint sensor, which is a nice touch. The display is not AMOLED but is sufficiently useful outdoors under bright sunlight. But we are somewhat bothered by the display’s need to keep lowering the brightness now and again, but only because we like the display to be bright and vivid.

The G5 runs any game you throw at it, so why not abuse it? Above: me, dying, in Modern Combat 5: Blackout.

 

Last Four Pictures, Promise

Food. Carefully framed, despite a grumbling stomach.

Pet. When you come back from the bathroom to discover that Senor Fluffy has taken over your bed.

Friends. We love our friends, we support their dreams, and we’re honest about it.

Digital Zoom. With enough lighting, digital zoom or cropping post-shot is almost as good as optical zoom.

 

The Verdict 

So, let’s recap.

Incredible front and rear cameras, questionable design decision. Awesome multitasking and gaming performance, poorly implemented modular feature. Unquestionably crisp, vivid, and vibrant display; average battery life. Priced like a premium flagship phone at launch, non-premium look and tactile feel. Despite these, we’re giving the LG G5 FOUR STARS. It’s spec’d to the teeth (except for the small 2800mAh battery) and no one can say the cameras are not superb.

We also cannot stop raving about the close-to-natural colors, tons of details captured, reliability in all lighting conditions, fast auto-focusing, capture speed, great dynamic range, and spot on white balance adjustment of the rear cameras. Not to mention the highly detailed videos in both Full HD and 4K. That super wide angle camera is superb and so useful. The front camera can match or exceed even the best front cameras out there (even though that’s a feature not often discussed in G5 reviews). And we don’t care that the G5 isn’t water resistant. We just wish the battery could hang in there a bit longer.

Liked this post? Follow SwirlingOverCoffee on Facebook, YouTube, and Instagram.

OVERALL
Incredible front and rear cameras, questionable design. Awesome multitasking and gaming performance, poorly implemented modular feature. Unquestionably crisp, vivid, and vibrant display; average battery life. Priced like a premium flagship phone at launch, non-premium look and tactile feel. Despite these, we're giving the LG G5 FOUR STARS. It's spec'd to the teeth (except for the small 2800mAh battery) and no one can say the cameras are not superb. We also cannot stop raving about the close-to-natural colors, tons of details captured, reliability in all lighting conditions, fast auto-focusing, capture speed, great dynamic range, and spot on white balance adjustment of the rear cameras. That super wide angle camera is superb and so useful. Not to mention the highly detailed videos in both Full HD and 4K. The front camera can match or exceed even the best front cameras out there (even though that's a feature not often discussed in G5 reviews). And we don't care that the G5 isn't water resistant. We just wish the battery could hang in there a bit longer.

Author

Irwin Allen Rivera loves his wife's cooking so much he's now twice the man he used to be. His English essay won a Don Carlos Palanca Memorial Award for Literature in 2012. His philosophical-horror story appeared in Philippine Speculative Fiction 8 (2013). He was managing editor and lead writer of Sites and Symbols 2 (2005), a coffee-table book about buildings in UP Diliman - his alma mater (BA Philosophy; MA Creative Writing continuing). He worked at the UP Diliman Information Office before shifting to web content writing. His sudden fiction, "Notwithstanding Pigs," initially a Friendster testimonial, appeared in Philippines Graphic (2006) and in Very Short Stories for Harried Readers (2007). He used to write for www.technoodling.net.