Did Motorola finally deliver a great camera in the Moto X re ition?

BY GreenBot Staff

Published 23 Sep 2015

A good camera has always been the missing ingredient in the Moto X series.

Motorola promised to fix it for good with this year’s Moto X re ition. ong with bumping up the screen to 5.7 inches Quad HD resolution, Motorola paid a lot of attention to the camera, packing in a 21Mshooter with an f/2.0 aperture. It’s a good bump from the 2014 model, which had a 13-megapixel camera with an f/2.2 aperture.

However, specs never tell the whole story. Consider that the ione 6, with its 8 megapixel f/2.2 camera, takes stunning photos, far superior to those of the 2014 Moto X. Given that the lackluster camera on the 2014 Moto X was a sore spot holding back an otherwise fantastic phone, we decided to pay special attention to the camera on this year’s model.

The test parameters

For comparison we’re using three phones: a freshly-arrived Moto X re ition, 2014 Verizon-bred Moto X, a Galaxy Note 5 (arguably the best camera on an Android phone today). 

ile there is a certain amount of subjectivity in what makes for a great photo, there are some common principles we can use to determine picture quality. A good camera is able to balance out the light, reproduce the color accurately, work well in a variety of situations.

The following were all taken with each phone’s default settings, with no post-production editing. Certainly the right tweaks may improve your experience, but for comparison purposes we wanted a flat line to start with.

Cat pictures

It wouldn’t be a true photo test without a cat picture. I was able to get my cat, Sherlock, to (mostly) stay in one place for a series of pictures with all three phones. These were taken from my home office, which has a lot of light neutral, beige walls.

moto x camera test kitty

In this case the Moto X re tion held up rather well in comparison to the Note 5 2014 Moto X.

th the Moto X re ition, you get a good picture that captures most of the color in the room accurately. It’s much better than the 2014 Moto X, which loses too many details in the shadows, especially on Sherlock’s body.

However, I still found the Galaxy Note 5 to be the top choice here. Notice Sherlock’s fur – it’s an accurate gray that looks just as he does in real life. The Note also balances the rest of the light well on the lower portions of the cat tree, provides more detail in all the fur carpet. The re ition does a respectable job, but the Note 5 is still tops.

Indoors, without the felines

Here’s another comparison of the three with indoor shots less stark lighting. It makes for a good chance to compare how the cameras perform in a setting that shouldn’t be too challenging for any decent camera. 

The Moto X re ition performed rather well, producing a great shot of the fall critters sitting atop the table.  

moto x pure critters

The Moto X re ition camera reproduces the color well provides good detail in a well-lit room.

The light is balanced well you can clearly see all the colors on the friendly animals. Even though the light is coming in from an angle, it’s not bleeding over to other parts of the photo.

moto x fall criters

Even in good conditions, the Moto X (2014) still would produce a photo with a weird filter.

The 2014 Moto X looks like it has a filter over it—notice the beak of the crow. It’s washed out. so, at the sides of the table the darkness kinds of bleeds over, there’s considerable noise in the tabletop.

note 5 fall

The Galaxy Note 5 delivers crisp photos with good lighting in conditions like this.

Again, I still feel the best picture here belongs to the Galaxy Note 5. The beak the feet tell the tale—this has the best “pop” creates a brighter all-around photo. But it’s only a smidgen better than the Moto X re ition.

Improved outdoor performance

The Moto X camera shines best when it comes to outdoor performance. Even last year’s phone would struggle at times, but I found the images from the new model to be of great quality.

moto x pure flowers

The Moto X re ition does a good job at realistic outdoor photos.

If you look at the flowers you’ll see their color is reproduced well. You can also distinguish the different colors on the pot, porch, leaves, wood chips without problems.

moto x 2014 flowers

Even in good light, the Moto X (2014) just doesn’t get a lot of colors right.

Again, the previous Moto X looks like it’s washed out with a bad Instagram filter. The leaves are not as realistically green, though the flowers turn out decent enough.

note 5 flowers

The Galaxy Note 5 really captures the true-to-life colors of the plant other elements in the photo.

I found the Note 5 marginally better at reproducing the details of the flowers. There’s an ever-so-slight focus problem with the Moto X re ition, but none here with the Note 5. It could be a case where the Optical Image Stabilization, something absent in the new Moto X, really pays off, but in bright outdoor light the shutter speed should be so fast it shouldn’t make a difference.

A low-light test with a snake on a chair

The Achilles’ heel of the 2014 Moto X was the camera’s underperformance in low light settings. The situation has vastly improved with the Moto X re ition. But as you’ll see, you’re still more than likely not going to turn out with a great picture.  

The Moto X re ition still struggles in a moderately dark room.  

moto x pure snake on a chair

Check out how noisy the wall is behind the chair.

The background is entirely too noisy, the camera doesn’t replicate the color well. Unfortunately, you’ll have to rely on flash or super powered editing skills to improve a photo like this 

moto x 2014 snake in a chair

The Moto X (2014) just isn’t any good in low light.

However, last year’s phone is even worse. It’s dark, lacks detail, is so full of digital noise that it looks like its covered in ants.

note 5 snake on a chair

The back wall isn’t nearly as busy with the Galaxy Note 5. The chair snake also pop much better.

It’s no contest: the Note 5 actually pulls off a decent photo in a less-than-ideal setting. The snake actually pops thanks to how well the camera catches the different color schemes, there’s drastically less noise throughout. 

The verdict

The Moto X re ition has the best camera Motorola’s ever produced. It should suffice for most situations, save for very low light settings. As the photos indicate it’s also a substantial improvement over 2014’s Moto X. If you want to explore a few more pictures from the Moto X re ition, here’s a gallery of some that I took during a recent weekend in San Francisco. 

If you want the absolutely best Android camera available you’re still best to go with one of the flagship Galaxy phones (Note 5, S6, S6 ge, or S6 ge+) or the G4. The optical image stabilization years of smartphone camera know-how still put them at the top.

Yet for a phone that costs $300 less than Samsung’s devices, Motorola is punching above its weight. You won’t get the number one camera, but you’ll get a rather good one in a highly customizable package without any bloatware.