They say the best camera is the one you have on you, and if you have the LG V10, you have the most powerful camera phone in your pocket. I’m bummed I haven’t yet reviewed the LG V10 since its debut in early October, but while I may not have time for a full, benchmark-laden rundown, I did bring it with me on a recent trip to try out all the new camera features.
LG’s V10 is essentially a souped-up version of its exceptional counterpart, the G4. It’s slightly bigger and features a few extras, like a gimmicky second screen and rugged build qualities, but it’s the rear- and front-facing camera capabilities that are particularly impressive. The V10 is yet another reminder of how smartphones have managed to negate the need for a separate point-and-shoot, or even a DSLR in some situations.
It offers a wide range of manual camera controls
I’m not too keen on the look and feel of the LG V10 because it’s a bit too bulky for my liking. However, it’s capable of shooting photos like this if you prop it on with a tripod:
The V10’s manual camera controls are, simply put, amazing. LG began offering the most native granular camera controls of any Android phone manufacturer when it launched the G4 earlier this year, and the V10 is another reminder of how powerful they can be. You can crank up the shutter speed to as long as 30 seconds, which—when paired with the right ISO—can turn nighttime shots into daytime ones. Look at this shot I took at 9pm at the coast in Northern California. It looks like it’s mid-afternoon:
And since you can shoot in RAW mode, you can take the original photo file into Adobe Lightroom or similar editing program and spruce it up. The only downside of shooting late at night with the V10 is that there’s no option to focus with the flash so that it’s all appropriately adjusted when you eventually shoot the photo. Thus resulting in many photos like this:
The V10 also has an issue focusing in auto mode, but this can be quickly remedied with its manual focus abilities—if you have the patience for it. I was having fun adjusting the settings as I was snapping photos. It’s easier to do on a smartphone than on a DSLR, and I ended up taking nicer photos than when I left the V10 in automatic shooting mode.
It delivers the best low light performance
To reiterate, the LG V10 beat out the Galaxy S6, OnePlus 2, One M9, and Nexus 6P for best low-light performance in our lab tests.
Photos don’t come out too bright or overexposed, and its low light performance gets even better when you avail yourself of the multitude of manual settings it boasts.
There are manual video controls, too
It’s the manual video controls that really distinguishes the V10 from its competitors. They were especially handy while I was hiking up in Russian Gulch State Park over Thanksgiving break. The lighting in a dense redwood forest tends to change at every angle, so having the ability to adjust the exposure and ISO as I was filming video was particularly helpful—though I’ll admit I’m not very good at it.
The V10 also allows you to adjust individual volume controls, though the options are limited in some regard. You can adjust whether the rear or front microphones pick up sound, or turn up the decibels so that quiet voices can be heard. There’s also a Wind Noise Filter, though it doesn’t work particularly well. I tried it in front of my space heater and I could still hear the fan blowing in the background.
There’s also a Snap video mode, which enables you to make up to a 60-second photo collage to share to the Internet. I used it to make a quick video to share on Instagram. I was hoping it’d work a bit like HTC’s Zoe, in that it pulls from your existing library and concocts a music video of sorts, but it’s not. The other unfortunate downside is that there’s no easy editing trick to get all the videos strung together to make something fun.
Its dual front-facing cameras are actually useful
Samsung’s Galaxy S6 and Note 5 both boast 120-degree front-facing camera sensors. It’s great for bringing in a bunch of friends or family members for a group selfie, but it’s absolutely unnecessary when you’re just trying to take a picture on your own.
The V10’s dual front-facing cameras let you switch between 120- and 80-degrees, so you can switch between the individual selfie and the group selfie. It’s really nice to have that option.
Creative, fun camera modes
The static Instagram photo gets a bit repetitive after a while, which is why I like the idea of the V10’s different camera modes. There is no particular need for them, but they’re fun to use if you’re on vacation or you’re trying to procrastinate at work.
This is ridiculous. There’s absolutely no need for four different video perspectives. But it’s really fun to do and not have to bother with a third-party application to make it happen. There are Panorama and Slow Motion modes, too, as well as Time Lapse, which is neat if you set up the V10 on a tripod.
If you’re a photography or video enthusiast and you need a smartphone that can keep up with your wiley, life-logging ways, the V10 was made for you. LG packed it with a ton of manual features, and even a few fun photography modes, so that you don’t have to spend time customizing the device to do what you want to do. You’ll still have to invest in editing software to get some of the results you’re looking for, but that’s just a fraction of the work involved in producing pretty pictures. The most important part is that you have a smartphone with capable hardware.
I’m curious, too, if LG’s smartphone releases this year and its inclusion of manual controls will continue to inspire manufacturers to make their flagship devices more photography-centric in the next generation. The Galaxy S6 and One M9 both offer manual controls of sorts, but again, they don’t offer as many options as the V10. It’s possible that this will remain a niche category, since not everyone is into the idea of spending the time to adjust settings before snapping a photo, but it’s also nice to know you don’t have to lug around a giant DSLR and an entire briefcase of lenses to take a neat long exposure shot.