Nexus 5 vs Nexus 4 camera comparison shows big differences in low-light conditions

by: Bogdan PetrovanNovember 4, 2013

nexus 5 nexus 4 camera comp

One of the central features of the Nexus 5 is the 8MP camera that everyone hopes will erase the bad memories left by the cameras of earlier Nexus smartphones. While the first Nexus 5 impressions point to an inconsistent behavior (supposedly due to software, so potentially solvable), one thing’s for sure: the new Nexus 5 is way above the Nexus 4 in terms of image quality, especially in low-lighting conditions.

One of the reasons the Nexus 5 handles low-light photography so much better than the 2012 Nexus is the presence of optical image stabilization (OIS), a technology that cancels the small movements of the camera by slightly tilting the lens. Thanks to OIS, the camera’s shutter can stay open a little longer without suffering the effects of unwanted movement such as that caused by shaking hands, thus allowing more light to reach the sensor, and ultimately improving the quality of the image.

But how big is the difference between the Nexus 4 and the Nexus 5 when it comes to low-light photography? Redditor zenith66 put the two devices through their paces, and the results speak for themselves.

The difference is clearly in favor of the new Nexus. However, even the new Nexus 5 is a far cry from the low-light performance of some other devices, like the Xperia Z1 or the HTC One. One of the most obvious issues is the purplish haze in some of the shots, which seems to be similar to the problem that some HTC One users have been having with low-light images. We’ll be keeping an eye on the problem as part of our upcoming review.

For more comparison shots, head over to zenith66’s Google Plus gallery or to this thread on Reddit.

  • Michael Rankin

    Looking a big improvement over last generations camera. Would Like to see this put up against other android phones (HTC One, S4, Xperia Z1, One X) and maybe a few Windows 8 phones and or iPhones as well.

    • Aflan

      There is some comparing on Supersaftv where it was put to the test against Iphone 5s and GS4, and Iphone 5s and Galasy S4 was having hard time competing with nexus 5. :)

    • Jesus

      You forgot the LG G2… which I say has the best Android camera for any situation, as well as the Xperia Z1.

  • Tony T.

    Much better. Still not great, but it’s a phone camera and at a great price, so really, no one should be complaining. I’m excited because I currently have a Galaxy Nexus which has an atrocious camera.

    • Oli72

      Totally agree. For the price of nexus 5 its steal if u get its overall value.

    • Peter

      Having simply used the word “atrocious” in your post deserves an up-vote. :)

    • n0obpr0

      I owned a Galaxy Nexus before and I was more than happy with the hideous camera everyone else seems to hate. =)

      • OMGNO

        I totally agree my N4 takes better photos than the GS3 my wife has yet every review would say different. On a side note I would love to see the Lumia 1020 in android but thats dream land ;-)

      • Simon Belmont

        I own a G’Nex right now and I feel the same way. I haven’t had a chance to compare my G’Nex’s pictures to my N5’s yet, but I do assume there will be a jump in quality.

        That being said, I was happy with my G’Nex’s camera. It got the job done and was good for 2011 camera technology.

  • SKerr

    I’m confused by the statement in the article “While the first Nexus 5 impressions point to an inconsistent behavior (supposedly due to software, so potentially solvable),”
    Did I miss a story somewhere about the N5 having inconsistent behavior? Just
    ordered one, so that statement concerns me a little.

    • Dexter

      I saw the review of the nexus 5 on the verge where they pointed out this. Also the reviewer said he contacted Google about this and they acknowledged the situation and said they are working for an update about this

    • filaos

      See The Verge’s review.

  • doarpetrolul

    That is Bucharest !

    • Alex Buga

      I was thinking the same, until I’ve read “Cocor” :)

  • aaron

    Any ideas how it compares to the moto x?

  • joser116

    It will soon get a software update.

  • Bobby Wright

    Anyone think Google will issue a camera update? Some shots ive seen show the N5 can take really solid pics and in others very poor ones. :-/

    • Adi

      The Verge said it will, but no one knows when and how good it will be.

  • sakagoka

    This is the Central part of the Bucharest, Romania, Est Europe, Terra. BTW, good phone for the money!

  • Greg Nelson

    Nexus 5 is probably better than the last still cam 8MP I purchased back in 2008…..good enough for me.

  • noone2

    Jesus Christ. You have $16B cash flow and you can’t spend a few bucks to implement the camera well? Unbelievable. The Nexus camera software is some of the most garbage there is. It’s slow as molasses to focus, if it does at all, and the interface is terrible. They have all the time and money in the world and still can’t create something that even borders on good? No excuses. It’s incompetence. There are tons of companies hurting for cash that you could easily license or buy some IP from.

    The idea that it’s a good phone for the money is irrelevant because they don’t sell many of them. If Nexus phones were good phones for the money, they’d actually sell. 3 million Nexus 4 — big deal. Clearly no one wants good phones for the money. The only reason I buy it is because it’s stock Android and it gets updates quicker.

    Can I get a hand raised for everyone on here who’d rather have a $600-700 Nexus device that was perfection instead of a ‘good for the money phone’ that’s not?

    • thartist

      There’s no perfection, only hope.

      • noone2

        Allow me to rephrase. Can I get a hand raised for everyone who’d rather have a no-compromise flagship for $600-700 than a ‘good for the money’ with some significant compromises?

        It would be one thing if there was demand for such a phone, but there isn’t. People who want good phones are willing to spend the money, so why not give them what they want? Why try to sell a phone to a group of people who don’t really care in the first place?

        It’s like on the car forums. Trying to convince Lamborghini owners that Corvettes and GTRs are great or better value. It’s a waste of time. They can afford and want the best. They aren’t really interested in value, and this reality it would be like Lamborghinis selling better than Corvettes anyway.

        The flagship phone from Google should have no compromises or excuses.

        I’m still going to buy a Nexus 5, but if using the camera turns out as bad as the others, I’m just jumping ship to Apple. I thought Google just needed time to catch up to iOS, but they just don’t deliver. No phone or system is perfect, but Google has a lot of ridiculous problems that are unacceptable.

        I can’t even access the US Play Store content from overseas, even though I bought it in the US, my account is in the US, and my billing and CC are in the US. My friend can log into iTunes just fine, whereas I have to remove my sim card, connect to a VPN, and clear the cache and cookies in all my applications because I don’t know which one has me showing as overseas.

        Apple has short comings too, but they aren’t even remotely as frustrating as Android, even in stock form.

        • bobby

          They’re not selling to Lamborghini owners though. They’re selling to corvette owners. If its not for you then why buy it? Plenty of other great phones out their.

          • Bobby


          • noone2

            That’s the thing though — there aren’t any Corvette owners that are interested and/or care what a Nexus device is.

            I know tons of people that wouldn’t buy a $600-700 phone, but fortunately for them, they never have to. You can get those phones subsidized at even less than the cost of a Nexus 5. Sure, they are locked and tied to a contract, but most people are in that boat anyway, so they don’t really care.

            So what you’re really left with are, a) people who do need a phone for a low price and without a carrier, and b) Android enthusiasts.

            The former don’t really even care about the quality of their phone for the most part, and the latter would have no problem paying $600-700 for a phone without compromises.

            They only sold 3 millions N4s. If the phone was a great bargain with a large market, it would have sold more. Instead, high-end, high-cost phones sell by the 10s of millions quarter after quarter. It’s proof that the market doesn’t want a good-for-the-price Nexus. People would be buying it if it did.

        • Peter Sommerfeld

          I want a $350 phone AND a good camera. I don’t see why Google couldn’t do that. After they gushed about how amazing the camera was going to be, everyone was expecting that. Why couldn’t they make it work well in low light. Why???

  • Sambath Kumar

    good to pick

  • Biba Nishima

    Nice report, N5 ones look better (except for the church), it ‘s good news few hours before mine is shipped :)

  • Tessoro Desoto

    Which one is which? They are both poor picture takers. Great phone forr the money though.

  • cee

    Pretty poor test, you need the same fixed position to test any camera, just a millimetre difference is an issue. These camera/phones sets aperture, exposure and ISO based on what light is reflected back, if one camera sees a slightly different amount of black, white or something in-between, then the camera will adjust to suit what it sees as a good balance of the three, so pointing the lens at a slightly different scenes will make the camera adjust and the test is a waste.

    If you want proper tests, contact me. I am more than happy to do this test again, with consistent light, view angles. My prices are reasonable and consistent.

  • Pratik Doshi