LG X Cam – Two ways to look at the world

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LG has been camera-happy since the LG G4 was the hot new phone on the market — so since about 2015 or so its opted to wander off the trail being blazed by Samsung and create somewhat quirky flagships. This year its also reinvented some of its mid-tier product lineup, with the first of these devices, the LG X Cam, finally appearing in South Africa.

The question is: Does the X Cam, which borrows one specific element from LG’s G5 and runs with it, justify being a standalone device. After all, we’ve previously seen what happens when Korean smartphone makers decide to implement some oddball ideas for a camera-focused phone. Is LG going to have any better luck?

Making light of it

X Cam HeadDoes the Pope wear a funny hat? Yes. Yes, he does. And LG’s going to have much better luck than Samsung’s older efforts (which were only pointed out because of their humorous potential — we’re sure the company has learned its lesson. Right?). That’s because the dual-cam LG X Cam actually looks the part, being one of the thinner and lighter handsets we’ve ever encountered.

No, really, it’s a little sliver of lightweight grey plastic that feels as though it’s attached to a helium balloon. It’s got almost no presence in your hands and you’d be forgiven for thinking that it’ll just waft to the ground like a feather if you drop it. Light and skinny — good. Unfortunately the plastic build, as well as the accompanying buttons (power on the right, volume rocker and camera — which are the same thing — on the left), doesn’t exactly scream premium. The buttons are also too close to the body of the phone, almost flush, making quick control something of a chore. But it looks good, so there’s that.

They put it… where?

X Cam LogoThe LG X Cam is no G5 in the specs department, even if you’re accounting for the pedigree. But that doesn’t mean that it’s a complete slouch either. You can expect LG’s Android 6.0 mid-ranger to arrive packing a 1.30GHz octa-core processor from Mediatek — the MT6753. It’s backed up by a Mali T720 GPU, 2GB of RAM and 16GB of storage. The actual space available is in the region of 10GB and the lack of storage is an odd choice for a smartphone designed to take a whole library of pictures. At least LG has seen fit to include microSD support, so you’re going to be able to Instagram yourself to death with just a minor upgrade.

The dual-camera arrangement on the rear is the really noteworthy item on the list of specs, so we’re going to deal with the 13MP/5MP rear cameras and the 8MP front-facer a little later. What is remarkable is how LG has packed the phone’s internals, the bright and punchy 5.2-inch 1080 x 1920 display, and the camera sensors into a body that measures 6.9mm at its thickest point. The 118 gram weight (the same as an unladen swallow) doesn’t seem like it should be possible, you know?

A quick performance

X Cam EdgeReal-world use shows that the camera app likes to load up quickly. You’d expect that from a device like the LG X Cam but most other apps also pop open just fine. We noticed some lag, oddly, when loading the benchmarking programs that we typically use to add some numbers to the speed test. That octa-core is quick enough off the mark but it’s not omnipotent.

On to the tests themselves, we hammered the X Cam with Geekbench 3 and AnTuTu (with a brief stop in CPU-Z for a peek at the specs and sensor data). Business as usual, in other words. Geekbench took longer to complete than we’ve seen of late but we’ve grown very used to the highest of the high (-end models, that is). Final score? 532 for single-core performance and 2474 for multi-core. We’ve seen better but we’ve definitely seen worse — the X Cam runs a little quicker than the Galaxy S4, but lags behind our favourite chipset from 2014, the Snapdragon 800.

AnTuTu battled with 3D video rendering, an outcome that we were always expecting as the X Cam is designed for photography first and foremost. The resulting slide-show did show off just what the 5.2-inch display is capable of — the onscreen images were clear and vivid. Final score? 35,012. We’ll take it.

Three for two (camera sensors, that is)

X Cam CameraThe LG X Cam is all about the camera. It’s right there in the name, for crying out loud. The front-facing 8MP camera is in keeping with camera-centric phones. Filters to make you look pretty, gesture control, enough megapixels to make certain that your surroundings are clear enough to be posted online — it’s for selfies, okay.

But it’s at the back that all the action takes place. There’s a 13MP sensor, which is quite conventional as far as smartphone cameras go. It’s not alone, though. The X Cam’s 13MP sensor with its normal field of view is joined by a second 5MP wide-angle sensor with a 120-degree field of view. The upshot is that you can take an image using the 5MP sensor which encompasses more of the scene in front of you, vertically and horizontally. You wouldn’t think it’d be that useful until you’re packed into a booth in a bar with about 15 people and can’t get everyone into the shot…

Users can switch between the wider 5MP cam and the 13MP shooter with a touch of an onscreen icon. The wide-angle sensor does have its faults — there’s some grain when you’re zooming on images and the occasional bit of distortion at the outer edges — but having a wide-angle and conventional cam in one unit (without paying for the LG G5) will make you forgive those faults at least a little.

Verdict

At R4,500 the LG X Cam isn’t incredibly cheap, but you’re not buying an incredibly cheap handset. You’re getting a trimmed-down version of the G5’s camera, with the wide-angle lens that we’re quite fond of in the flagship, in a responsive and stylish-looking shell. The build could be better and we’re really not fond of all that plastic, but the average Stuff reviewer isn’t the target for this smartphone. LG is hoping that people who spend more time looking through a lens and Instagram streams are going to pick this one up, and it may have nailed it for that market. Android 6.0, a responsive UI and decent screen with some camera innovation will go a long way with the heavy user social media crew.

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