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LG G5 review: Dual-lens camera makes company's latest flagship phone unique

By Adam Swimmer, Postmedia Network

A model poses for photographs with LG Electronics' new smartphone G5 during its launch event in Taipei, Taiwan March 24, 2016. REUTERS/Tyrone Siu

A model poses for photographs with LG Electronics' new smartphone G5 during its launch event in Taipei, Taiwan March 24, 2016. REUTERS/Tyrone Siu

Entertainment Review

LG G5

Available at most wireless providers, including Bell, Telus, Rogers, Fido, Wind Mobile, Eastlink, MTS, SaskTel, Videotron

3.5 stars

With LG's newest entry in the smartphone market, the focus is on the rear camera – which has two lenses.

The LG G5's dual-lens camera features a standard smartphone lens, with a 16 MP sensor, and an 8 MP wide-angle one, which has a viewing angle of 135 degrees, to capture landscapes and other picturesque views that span across a larger area – without the need to stand far off in the distance to take the shot.

A “normal” lens theoretically replicates what one would see with the naked eye – and has a viewing angle of about 53 degrees. Wide-angle lenses, on the other hand, create a greater perception of distance between objects in the foreground and background of the shot. So you can have a person stand, say, in front of a castle, or mountain, and get both in the frame without turning the person into a tiny speck.

Technically, almost all smartphone cameras have wide-angle lenses. Anyone who has, for example, tried to take a photo at a concert will likely have noticed that the performers look even farther away than they actually are.

The G5's “standard” lens has a viewing angle of 78 degrees. However, there is a still distinct difference between images taken with the two lenses as you can see in the photos below.

In the first pair, you can see a church in Toronto's Allan Gardens park – taken from the same position using the two lenses: The standard 16 MP lens barely gets the church in the frame while the wide-angle one shows the entire church as well as part of the buildings on both sides.


Grace Toronto Church in Allan Gardens is seen in two photos taken the LG G5's dual-lens rear camera. The top photo was taken with the standard lens and the bottom photo was taken with the wide-angle one. (Adam Swimmer/Postmedia Network)

Despite the difference in image size, both lenses offer a crisp picture with rich colour and balance of light and shadow. But one thing that sticks out is the tower on the left side of the screen. The building's curved exterior is not the result of faulty construction or a developer cutting corners, but is caused by the lens itself.

The problem with a 135-degree viewing angle is that it starts to encroach on fisheye territory (lenses 180 degrees and above) which give images a through-a-keyhole, spherical look. It can be a fun effect but probably not something you want to use with all your photos.

Granted, the curve the lens create is slight and isn't always perceptible – such as is the case with the flowers photos below.


Two photos of flowers taken with the LG G5's dual-lens rear camera in Allan Gardens Conservatory - the top with the standard lens, the bottom with the wide-angle one. (Adam Swimmer/Postmedia Network)

Both lenses can also be used to shoot video – and you can even switch back and forth between them while recording.

There's also a feature called Snap that lets you create short compilation videos. You shoot three-second clips by tapping the record button (or longer if you it hold down) throughout the day and it will automatically edits the footage into a montage of up to a minute long. (It's cute, but mostly pointless.)

But for shutterbugs, the real draw will be the dual lens camera's manual controls. While the f-stop is fixed (f/1.8 for 16 MP lens and f/2.4 for the 8 MP one), you can play around with the camera's focus, shutter speed, “film” speed and white balance. While it won't rival a DSLR, it offers far greater control over your photos than an average smartphone camera does.

(However, the phone's front-facing camera, which also has an 8 MP sensor, does not include manual features.)

The dual-lens camera is great but it leaves you wanting more. In the future, it would be nice to see LG add even more lenses (a normal or telephoto) to its camera. Or perhaps build a smartphone camera that has an optical zoom (so you are not distorting your zoomed-in concert video of Kanye West talking about how he's revolutionizing music).

SPECS, DESIGN AND INTERFACE

At first glance, LG's G5 looks similar to its predecessor, but there are a few key differences. The G5 is 149.4 mm x 73.9 mm x 7.7 mm, making it slightly longer, thicker but narrower than the G4. The screen is also a bit smaller at 5.3 inches. The 159-gram phone has an aluminum alloy back and a protective Gorilla Glass screen, which appears to be a unibody design. However, the design is more of a shell as you slide the battery out the bottom to replace it.

You can also add what LG calls “Friends” - battery holders that provide additional functionality to the phone, such as a camera grip with physical buttons, a 360-degree camera add-on that can shoot 3D photos and video compatible with LG's upcoming VR device and a hi-fi audio speaker. (Unfortunately, I didn't get to play with any of those.)

The G5 runs on a quad-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 820 processor. It has 4 GB of RAM, with 32 GB of storage, with a microSD slot to allow for up to 2 TB of additional storage. It runs on a 2,800 mAh battery and comes with a USB-C quick charger which allows for an 80% charge in about 30 minutes when plugged into the wall.

The phone's Quad HD IPS Quantum display, with a resolution of 2,560x1,440 pixels, offers beautiful video playback. The colours are accurate and the animations are smooth. It has good-quality built-in speakers and comes with full aptX HD: 24-bit hi-fi wireless audio support. This offers a rich, clean sound for music and video. Phone calls sound equally clear on both ends of the conversation.

Like the last couple of phones in this line, the power button is on the back of the G5, but this time LG has added a fingerprint scanner to it, capable of storing up to five different prints. The scanner works most of the time but as a backup, you have to program a second lock code, either a PIN, password, swipe, knock code or pattern. The power button's placement might strange, but you can turn on the device quickly this way. (The volume buttons, on the other hand, have been moved to the side as you would find on most smartphones.)

Running on Marshmallow (Android 6.0), the G5 features a pretty simple graphical user interface – perhaps a little too simple. In an attempt to clean things up, LG has removed the app drawer – the screen that shows all the apps installed on the phone. Or more accurately, it has basically merged the app drawer with the home screen. The intent is to allow you to create folders on the phone's home screen and arrange apps as you see fit. You can also uninstall apps directly from here instead of just deleting the shortcuts.

This is all well and good if you're an organized person, but if you're a digital slob like myself, the apps will just clutter up the phone's desktop – spreading across an indefinite number of home screens. You can't organize them alphabetically either, so it can sometimes take awhile to find the app you want.

The G5 uses an “always-on” display – a lock screen that displays the date, time and notifications so you don't have to waste the battery by turning the screen on and off. The low-light screen uses only 0.3% of the battery life. It's a good idea but, unfortunately, the notifications aren't configurable. You can only choose to have notifications appear on this screen or not. So this screen will alert you to your e-mails, Facebook likes, Tinder matches and so on – perhaps more than you would want to see here.

Overall, the LG G5 is a solid device and a good option if you're looking to buy a new phone. It is available at most wireless providers, including Bell, Rogers and Telus. Most are advertising the phone for around $300 on a two-year plan and some providers include the LG CAM Plus camera grip friend for free.  Though, Videotron currently has the best price ($179.95) on its a two-year 5 GB data plan. For no contract, the best deal is Bell, which is offering the phone for $749.99.