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New Moto X vs. the original: Smartphone camera shootout!

New Moto X vs. Original: Camera Shootout

How good is the new Moto X's camera -- and how does it compare to the first-gen model? See for yourself in this head-to-head photo face-off.

The new Moto X packs plenty of improvements -- but is its camera actually any better than the original's? 

Last year's Moto X, after all, had lots of good things going for it -- but image quality wasn't its greatest strength. The new device comes with a higher-megapixel shooter and plenty of lofty claims, but the real test is how it delivers in the real world.

I took the new Moto X and the first-gen model out and about to find out. A few quick notes before we begin:

  • The photos in each of the following sets were taken seconds apart, with as close to identical framing and positioning as I could manage. I took two back-to-back photos with each phone to compensate for any incidental issues like my hand moving; if I saw any difference between the two, I selected the better image to show here.
  • I set the new Moto X to use its highest possible resolution -- 13 megapixels, which produces a 4:3 image (as opposed to the 16:9 image generated if you opt for the 9.7-megapixel setting). That aside, I left both phones on their default image settings, which means each was in auto-HDR mode and decided on its own when HDR was or wasn't appropriate.
  • All of the photos shown here are the original images captured by the phones, with no editing or modifications (aside from being scaled down to fit on this page). You can click on any image to view it in its full resolution.

All right -- enough chit-chat. Let's get to the photos:

New Moto X Camera
Original Moto X Camera

New Moto X on top; original Moto X on bottom. The images pretty much speak for themselves; the new Moto X captured a dramatically better-looking and more realistic photo.

New Moto X Camera
Original Moto X Camera

New Moto X on top; original Moto X on bottom. Less of an enormous difference between the two here, though the new Moto X captured more light and has the slightly superior photo to my eye. (Also: I like turtles.)

New Moto X Camera
Original Moto X Camera

New Moto X on top; original Moto X on bottom. Really a nice-looking image from the new Moto X here; the old Moto X, in comparison, looks washed out and dull and has lots of detail loss, noticeable especially if you zoom into the full-res version and look at the tops of the trees. (Also look at the sky in the two images -- what a night and day difference.)

New Moto X Camera
Original Moto X Camera

New Moto X on top; original Moto X on bottom. Neither picture is particularly great or awful; the new Moto X's image is a bit on the overexposed side, while the old Moto X's photo is a little dark.

New Moto X Camera
Original Moto X Camera

New Moto X on top; original Moto X on bottom. One of my standard comparison shots. The new Moto X is far more accurate with its coloring and has a stronger-looking image all around.

New Moto X Camera
Original Moto X Camera

New Moto X on top; original Moto X on bottom. Another good example of the improvements in the new Moto X's coloring and composition (look closely at the top of the image, with the green and the trees).

New Moto X Camera
Original Moto X Camera

New Moto X on top; original Moto X on bottom. Are you starting to see a pattern? Once again, far more true-to-life coloring from the new Moto X; the old model's image gives the mailbox a slightly blueish tint that isn't actually there.

New Moto X Camera
Original Moto X Camera

New Moto X on top; original Moto X on bottom. A decent (though certainly not perfect) shot from the new phone; a dark and grungy-looking image from the old.

New Moto X Camera
Original Moto X Camera

New Moto X on top; original Moto X on bottom. Look closely at the purple flowers, in particular -- especially zoomed in on the full-res versions -- and you'll clearly see the difference in the two phones' capabilities.

New Moto X Camera
Original Moto X Camera

New Moto X on top; original Moto X on bottom. Much better coloring and detail from the new Moto X, even if it did lose some quality in the white stickers.

New Moto X Camera
Original Moto X Camera

New Moto X on top; original Moto X on bottom. Both phones' images have problems if you look closely at full resolution, but in more typical viewing sizes, both are passable enough. Pretty close call.

New Moto X Camera
Original Moto X Camera

New Moto X on top; original Moto X on bottom. Lighter, sharper, more accurate coloring, and just a better all-around image from the new model's camera (this is another, though, where you really have to look at the images in their larger size to get the full scope of the differences).

New Moto X Camera
Original Moto X Camera

New Moto X on top; original Moto X on bottom. In low light, both devices struggle. Surprisingly, the old Moto X actually did a bit better in this scenario.

New Moto X Camera
Original Moto X Camera

New Moto X on top; original Moto X on bottom. When the lighting got even more dim, the old Moto X lost its mojo and couldn't focus on the illuminated watch in front of it. The new Moto X didn't capture as much light as it should have (there was actually a soft lamp on behind me here, believe it or not), but it at least managed to find and focus on the subject.

So all in all, it's clear the new Moto X delivers some noticeable improvements over its predecessor when it comes to image quality. The phone's camera still isn't outstanding -- with low light, in particular, it has a tough time performing well -- but it's also by no means awful. It's certainly capable of capturing some great-looking photos, and all in all, it seems to have moved from "so-so" with last year's model to "pretty good" in this latest generation.

Camera quality is only one factor to consider, of course -- and we have a lot left to discuss about the new Moto X and what it's like to use.

I've been living with the phone for a while to get the full picture. My full real-world review will be online soon.

UPDATE: Moto X (2014) deep-dive review: Android done right -- again

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