I was about to go for my staycation at Sentosa when I thought it would be a great opportunity to get hold of a 360-degree camera for some memorable capture of the holiday. So I asked LG if it was possible to review the LG 360 CAM. Though there were no units available, they offered the LG G5, CAM Plus module and Hi-Fi Plus module.
The LG G5 (LG-H860) is LG’s flagship smartphone announced early this year. It is the first smartphone with modular attachments for camera shutter and 32-bit digital audio playback, as well as companion hardware devices like LG 360 CAM, LG 360 VR goggle, LG Rolling Bot.
Most Android smartphones work the same, and sometimes the lack of real differentiation makes purchase decision difficult. But there is one feature that no other smartphone has. And this one feature is good enough to win my vote for the LG G5 over other smartphones.
Ultra Wide Angle Lens
The L5 G5 has 2 rear camera lenses. And unlike other smartphones, both lenses are used for photography, not just for depth data or other supplementary purpose. The normal lens capture field of view equivalent of 28mm at 16MP, while the other wide angle lens capture 10mm (135-degree field of view) at 8MP.
As a photographer myself, I love wide angle lenses, because it allows me to capture so much more details in landscape shots. I took a lot of photos during my staycation and while I would love to have a 360 camera, the LG G5 works just as great because of the wide angle.
In fact, I probably took more photos on the LG G5 than any other smartphones I have reviewed (my own smartphones not counted, obviously), simply because the ultra wide angle provides a different perspective that makes every scene interesting to capture. The LG G5 makes a really great smartphone for travel and event photography.
If a smartphone comes only with one lens and it’s wide-angle, it is good for general shots but not portraits or close-ups. The LG G5 has 2 lenses, and the “normal” lens is a quality 16MP f1.8 lens that delivers great photos too. Images appear sharp and detailed edge to edge, with minor chromatic aberrations under certain extreme light conditions but not obvious when viewed normally.
Imaging purists might gawk at the heavy distortion of the wide angle lens, but you cannot expect a smartphone to beat the professional UWA lens. I dare say it is the best ultra-wide angle smartphone camera in the market now.
Besides, if you truly abhor the wide angle lens, stick to the “normal” lens, which captures distortion-free images.
What LG G5 offers me is choice, just like how a DSLR photographer would bring multiple lenses and switch. So, rather than building an optical zoom smartphone like ASUS Zenfone Zoom, the multiple-lens approach is an attractive proposition to me.
LG CAM Plus Module
The LG CAM Plus Module has a bulge to give me a good grip just like a compact camera. There is a dedicated 2-step shutter, a small video recording button, a smooth dial for zoom, and a spring switch to start the camera. Reminds fondly of the Nokia Lumia 1020.
Many people might not like the grip for it increases the bulk, but I love it because it gives me an added confidence in handling the smartphone. Personally, I do not fancy ultra-thin phones because the only contact points you have on the phone are the thin sides which increases the risk of slippage. When I use the LG G5 as a phone, the CAM Plus module sits on my palm ergonomically.
I’d wish I could start the camera from sleep by press-holding the shutter button, but even without the CAM Plus module, you can start the camera by double-clicking the volume-down button. The shutter button to activate camera app only works if the screen is on.
I found that the LG charging logic is to charge the LG G5 removable battery until full before it proceeds to charge the CAM Plus battery till full, instead of simultaneously. As a result, if you often stop the charge once the main battery is full, the CAM Plus module will not get its full charge. I do hope that I can have visibility of the CAM Plus battery level or control the charge priority.
I read that the G5 camera app is similar to G4, but there are a few features that I will discuss. Firstly, the shooting modes:
– Panorama: I can capture panorama with either rear cameras, allowing me to shoot an amazingly wide view. The stitching seems pretty natural: while there are stitch marks at the distorted portions, the middle portion of the image looks good.
– Snap: This mode lets me capture video clips in multiple takes of up to 1 minute. Think Instagram video, but I can close the camera app or go to other camera modes, and return back to Snap and the previous sessions will still remain. I can also delete the clips and re-shoot. Once I am happy, I will save the video.
The below video uses the Snap mode, post-edited within LG G5.
What I get at #toastboxsg with S$2 when I pay with #androidpay. Offer ends 31 Jul. #goldenlavafrenchtoast #LGG5 has this Snap Video mode to let me capture multiple snippets. Think Instagram video mode but this lets me capture then use other camera functions and later go back to continue shooting more clips. I then edited the video using the built-in video editing app to complete the video. So simple! I was not paid to do this post, but with this, I simultaneously promoted Toast Box, Android Pay, and LG G5. #lgsingapore @lgsingapore @toastboxsg #influencer #sgblogger #techblogger #notafoodblogger
– Multi-View: This mode lets me capture a collage of images or video. I can choose whether to shoot single frame at a time or shoot all frames at the same time. For the single-frame shot, I can choose any of the 3 cameras on the LG G5 to capture for each frame. It can be a combination of image or 2-second video. The final file will either be a still image collage or a 3-sec video. For the multiple-frame shot, the camera uses all 3 camera modules to record at the same time to create a video at any length. I thought that was a brilliant way to utilise all the 3 cameras.
– Popout: This mode is like picture-in-picture, where the main frame is using the 16MP normal lens while the background frame is using the 8MP wide lens. You can set the effect of the background frame, e.g. vignette, B/W, fish-eye.
– Auto: The normal mode to shoot.
– Time-lapse: This mode captures video in fast motion, from 10x to 60x.
– Slow-mo: This mode captures video in slow motion, but has the option to play back at normal speed.
The camera also offers 3 shooting options:
– Simple: With minimal icons on display, you simply capture images by tapping on the screen. There is no option for video recording.
– Auto: This is the normal mode.
– Manual: This mode offers advanced shooting options, including manual adjustment of focus, white balance, shutter, ISO, exposure. Interesting note is that when I attempt to adjust ISO or shutter, the AE-L will be activated. If I disable AE-L, ISO and shutter will revert to auto. What this means is that you must decide the scene that you want to capture before you adjust the ISO or shutter.
Another feature I love about the LG G5 is the video editing. Through the pre-installed Gallery, you can choose a video and generate a 15-second auto edit automatically, or apply a theme. There are 4 themes for you to apply: Dreamy, Slow, Vintage, Drama. Each theme comes with a preset background music which can be replaced with your own music. You can enter a title which will appear briefly in the beginning of the video. You can enter the “author” which appears at the bottom right throughout the video. There is also an edit option to change the speed at selected start-end points of the video clip.
While the editing options aren’t aplenty compared to other third-party apps, I find it very easy to use, and most importantly, it works for me. For samples, check out the Instagram videos I posted above.
After raving about the camera functions, I better move on to talk about other areas of the smartphone.
Design and Build
The G5 rear and side body is encased in aluminium while the front is Gorilla glass with slide curve at the top. The body is coated hence it does not feel cold. Unlike the current 2.5D trend, the sides are not curved. The volume button is located at the left side of the phone, which is not common but feels natural for me, as I prefer to use my thumb on my left hand to control. The power button located at the back of the phone below the camera doubles as fingerprint sensor. It works very fast: I place my finger on the sensor without clicking the button, and the phone unlocks very quickly.
LG retains the infra-red port on the G5 which allows you to replicate your existing remote controls. I personally do not use this feature very often, but it might come in handy in public areas.
The G5 takes a bold step in using the new USB Type-C port, which is somewhat inconvenient. I had to bring the cable wherever I go just in case I need to charge or connect to other devices. LG should consider throwing in an inexpensive converter to ease the pain.
On the other hand, LG is throwing an additional battery for consumers who still appreciate the ability to swap batteries when one runs flat. Given the G5 supports Qualcomm Quick Charge 3.0, there is really no need for extra batteries since the phone can be fully charged in a little more than an hour. The included charger supports only QC2.0, so you need to purchase a separate QC3.0 charger to enjoy the super charging speed. Having said that, QC2.0 is already pretty fast for me. The trick is to start charging when the phone battery drops below half, and within 20 minutes, the phone will attain about 80% battery capacity, which is good enough for 6 hours of heavy usage.
LG G5 home launcher from the factory setting comes without the app drawer, just like Apple iOS. LG has since provided the alternate launcher with app drawer for consumer choice, and I choose the latter.
The G5 should be easy to use for Android users, with a few features to mention. Firstly, the buttons on the bottom screen can be re-arranged and you can insert up to 5 buttons, including notification drawer, Capture+, QSlide, and SIM Switch.
The QSlide is another unique LG feature, where you can run specific apps as a floating window, or minimise into a floating icon. It is rather useful when you can pull up the calendar or calculator without leaving the current screen.
Finally, you can enable Always On Display during standby. The screen will show you time, date and icons of unread notifications. I don’t find it very useful except when driving, as the icons give me an idea of what notifications I have missed. In other situations, the phone would be in my pocket and when I take out the phone, I would unlock using the fingerprint sensor, which works so well that other unlock methods – even the Knock Code – becomes painfully slow.
Battery and Display
I notice that the phone consumes very little battery when left alone, but when I use it frequently, the battery will consume quite fast. Probably something to do with the QHD LCD display. My average consumption is about 13 hours, which is just about a work day, so if I have after-work events, I must charge up the G5 before leaving office.
The display is not the brightest compared to many other smartphones, but I don’t use the phone at super bright settings anyway. The warm tones are comfortable to the eyes.
LG Hi-Fi Plus Module
The LG G5 supports 24-bit Hi-Fi audio which delights me that I loaded some of my favourite DSD tracks into the G5 for portable enjoyment. The built-in speaker’s audio quality is warm and detailed, without sounding too bright and jarring, so the trade-off is lack of big volume.
The Hi-Fi Plus Module (ES9028C2M + Sabre9602C) by B&O PLAY improves the headphones audio quality further with slightly more transparent highs and stronger bass response. It consumes 220mAh when active, and drives demanding headphones well, even the beyerdynamic T1 g2 headphones with 600 ohms plays with sufficient volume.
You can also connect the Hi-Fi Plus to any computer as an external sound card, which improves the audio quality many fold, especially if your current computer uses a normal audio chipset. Plug it using the data cable provided in the LG G5 and install the hardware PC driver manually (link here). The PC will only detect the hardware when headphone is plugged into the DAC.
The 32-bit DAC module is coated with a matt material similar to the Beoplay H3 ANC. It comes with a hard leather slip-in case – upkeeping the B&O style – and a short OTG cable to connect the standalone Hi-Fi Plus to most smartphones to deliver consistent-quality audio (not all smartphones support USB audio).
If I put aside the cameras and the swappable modules, the LG G5 would be just another smartphone with nothing particularly outstanding. For me, the wide-angle camera is the biggest reason why I would pick this up among all my other smartphones I have on hand. The swappable modules is an extension of an otherwise closed product without expansion capabilities. It offers options for the consumers to get something that he or she likes and install it into the smartphone. Between the modules, I prefer the CAM Plus as it is more practical for my usage behaviour.
What do I not like about the LG G5? My biggest dislike would be the battery life, but it is not a big deal, because the CAM Plus offers a little more juice, and I charge the phone regularly and quickly with QC charger. No fear of damaging the battery since I can easily replace the battery. Other than that, the phone runs brilliantly to meet my usage needs. The other dislike is the use of USB Type C plug, but that is also a minor issue since I can buy new cables or adapters.
The LG G5 retails for S$988 in Singapore, available in silver, pink, gold and titan (black). Official product page: http://www.lg.com/sg/g5/lgg5.jsp
Chipset: Qualcomm Snapdragon 820 (Quad-core 2.15 GHz)
Software: Android™ 6.0.1 Marshmallow
Display: 5.3″ QHD IPS 2560 x 1440
Battery: 2,800 mAh
Memory: 4 GB RAM (LPDDR4) / 32 GB ROM (UFS) / microSD up to 2TB
Network: Dual SIM LTE/3G/2G
Connectivity: USB Type-C, Wif-Fi 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac, Bluetooth 4.2 BLE, Infra-red, NFC
Size (mm): 149.4 x 73.9 x 7.3 mm