Camera Analysis

If there’s anything to be learned in a straight comparison between the Nexus One and Nexus S, it’s again that megapixels don’t matter. I never was a huge fan of the Nexus One camera - there’s a strange undersaturation in some images, and that extra glare from having another layer of plastic between the lens and your object where grime could collect.

The Nexus S is overall much improved, but still not perfect. Again, the obvious analogue here is to the Galaxy S, but side by side quality on the Fascinate looks markedly superior in our lights-on test. With the lights off and the flash set to auto, the Nexus S is much improved. The reason is that the stock camera now correctly illuminates the object while running the autofocus routine - the result is that in the dark shots are now focused properly. Further, you get an idea for whether the flash reaches far enough to actually do any good. Kudos to Google for fixing this.

Even more Kudos, however, for adding some manual focus settings. Tap on the settings button, and you can select from Auto, Infinity, and Macro. Objects beyond hyperfocal distance are essentially in focus when the camera is focused to infinity, so if you’re shooting photos beyond a certain distance and don’t want to bother with wasting time focusing, infinity is super useful. Likewise, macro gets you the closest possible focus.

The back facing camera isn’t the best we’ve seen, but it’s an improvement from the Nexus One. In our lightbox test, there’s still a lot of missing dynamic range and detail in the texture on the Exacta camera, but there’s so much more contrast compared to the Nexus One. 

I took photos in our bench location, in the light box with lights on and off, and then just casually while I carried it around.

There’s also a button along the row of other camera settings buttons for changing to the front facing camera. When you’re in the front facing camera, a few options go away. You can’t change resolution, and focus controls are also obviously gone since the camera is fixed focus. Resolution is VGA. Quality on the front facing camera isn’t spectacular, but then again the aperture diameter on that camera is barely 1 mm. The front facing camera also flips-images horizontally after capture.

What’s odd about the Nexus S is that video encoding is only 720x480, not the HD 720P we’re used to seeing with the Galaxy S. Video is encoded in H.264 with AAC audio, at an average bitrate of 3,664 kilobits/s on the back camera. The front camera records at 640x480 with the same codecs at just over 1 megabit/s.

I noticed that audio doesn’t quite sync up in the front facing camera video, which is a bit unnerving to say the least. The back camera is fine, and seems relatively smooth. Not having 720P is a disappointment, hopefully someone unlocks HD recording on the Nexus S same as was done on the Nexus One. It certainly isn’t a matter of the SoC not being powerful enough if Galaxy S can do it.

I took a video with the front and back facing camera at our usual location:

Rear Camera:


Front Camera: 

And one more video in a different location per some commenters asking for an indoor to outdoor progression for gauging quality.

Contour Display Baseband and Cellular
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  • tipoo - Tuesday, December 14, 2010 - link

    HTC then Samsung, I wonder who will be next to make a Nexus phone...Motorola, maybe? I think they went with Samsung this round because they have the most capable processor right now.
  • blueF - Tuesday, December 14, 2010 - link

    Well the benchmarks show that the current iteration of the snapdragon are on par if not better than hummingbird. I think they chose Samsung for a few reasons, with the most important being they are the OEM of the best amoled screens available. Honestly I would have preferred another HTC nexus due to the superior phone shell. The galaxy phones and their stupid right side lock button is close to a deal breaker for me. Also the head phone jack on the bottom is beyond stupid.
  • vol7ron - Tuesday, December 14, 2010 - link

    This was me during this article:
    "Nexus S... yes, yes.. good stuff. Whoah! Look at that myTouch!"

    Can't wait to see that myTouch review, thanks for putting those figures up there.
  • deputc26 - Wednesday, December 15, 2010 - link

    Hmmm where'd the page load times for popular websites vs. other leading phones go?

    That and battery life are the most relevant benchmarks as to whether or not I buy a phone.
  • tipoo - Tuesday, December 14, 2010 - link

    Yeah, the 1 definitely was constructed better.
  • OscarGoldman - Wednesday, December 15, 2010 - link

    "the head phone jack on the bottom is beyond stupid. "

    Nope, not when the thing lacks an audio line out (which IS stupid). With the jack on the bottom, they can at least make a dock to drop the phone into in your car. That's a lot better than having to plug in a wire that's dangling across your dashboard, every time you want to listen to music.

    Reviews need to call these phone manufacturers out for failing to provide an audio line out on the bottom of every phone. Even with the headphone jack on the bottom, you still have to screw around with two volume controls; the one on the phone, and the car radio. And you're running everything through the crappy headphone amp on the phone.
  • tiredad - Wednesday, December 15, 2010 - link

    I'm a little confused by so many reviews being against the jack placement; usually giving the lame reason that it's not what everybody else does. You think Apple thinks that way?

    I look at my phone to select a track etc. and then i put it in my pocket upside down so the placement is perfect. Not that this is much of a serious matter.

    BTW since this is my first post i have to thank this site for providing the most consistent, unbiased and professional reviews i've found to date. When i read a review i want the facts and opinions separated and i don't want any pro one company or another and that's what you give... so cheers guys.
  • daveloft - Wednesday, December 15, 2010 - link

    I prefer the connectors at top so I can throw my phone in the cup holder and not have to put it in upside down.
  • steven75 - Thursday, December 16, 2010 - link

    Lack of line-out is one of those things that would be hard to give up if I decided to move from iOS to another mobile OS.

    I use my iPhone for audio in the car at least twice daily and having line-out audio and charge capability through a single cable is simply awesome.

    My stock radio even allows adjusting the level of the aux-in (separate from the volume) so that it matches the volume of all the other sources.

    Unfortunately Bluetooth is still a sub-par solution because although you don't need any cables, sound is still inferior quality and you kill your battery on anything but a very short trip.
  • daveloft - Wednesday, December 15, 2010 - link

    Those benchmarks you refer to are probably Quadrant and the reason why a Snapdragon device like the G2 performs better than the Galaxy S was because it had 2.2 while the Galaxy S had 2.1.

    Also Quadrant scores are heavily influenced by file system speed. The file system on the G2 is much better than the Galaxy S. This why you see so many Galaxy S users applying lag fixes which change the file system. When Galaxy S devices use the lag fix to swap the file system for something like EXT4, their Quadrant scores jump by as much as 50%. Throw in 2.2 or 2.3 and you get the highest scoring device available.

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