So how do the two XL contenders compare when it comes to camera quality? I took them out into the world together to find out.
Just 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.
- Except where noted, both phones were on their default camera settings -- which are the settings the vast majority of people will use most of the time when taking photos.
- 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 pictures:
Nexus 6 on top; Note 4 on bottom. Neither photo is particularly great; they're both overexposed in the upper-left area, and while the Nexus veers a bit too far into reddish terrain, the Note goes too far in the other direction and looks dull and washed out compared to the real-life coloring. Luckily, this one is an outlier -- and things get much better from here.
Nexus 6 on top; Note 4 on bottom. I used HDR on both phones for this one. The Nexus 6's image looks really good to my eye -- crisp and detailed with vibrant coloring and excellent contrast. The Note's image, meanwhile, is lighter but also more washed out and less detailed. Look at the brown-roofed house in the distance (near the center of the image), the bare tree overlapping it on the left, and the sky above it. Major differences in how the two phones captured this scene, and the Nexus pulls ahead in overall composition quality.
Nexus 6 on top; Note 4 on bottom. Pretty close call on this one, but I'd probably give the win to the Note, largely for the better light and detail it picked up in the background of the shot (zoom into full-res and look at the tree on the right).
Nexus 6 on top; Note 4 on bottom. Another HDR comparison. The Note 4's image is a bit lighter and looks slightly better to my eye, but they're both pretty decent.
Nexus 6 on top; Note 4 on bottom. Close call again -- both solid images.
Nexus 6 on top; Note 4 on bottom. Two good shots; the Note might be a hair ahead with a slightly higher contrast, but the images are pretty closed matched.
Nexus 6 on top; Note 4 on bottom. With HDR. The Note's image is brighter once again, but it might actually be too bright in some parts -- to the point where it looks a little washed out (zoom into the full-res version and look at some of the brightly colored leaves, for example). The Nexus actually did a better job at capturing detail, noticeable especially if you zoom in closely.
Nexus 6 on top; Note 4 on bottom. Up close and personal. Two respectable images, though again here the Note verges on being too bright and losing some of the fine detail (look closely at the leaves).
Nexus 6 on top; Note 4 on bottom. Nexus 6 nails it with the coloring while the Note 4 goes a little yellowy on the siding.
Nexus 6 on top; Note 4 on bottom. Both decent, but the Nexus does a bit better with coloring and detail. Zoom into the full-res photos and look at things like leaves on the closest tree, the playground set, and the bare tree with all the branches in the background -- and you'll see what I mean.
Nexus 6 on top; Note 4 on bottom. More realistic coloring of the rock from the Nexus, but we're talking a very subtle difference here. Both phones did well.
Nexus 6 on top; Note 4 on bottom. The Nexus's image has better coloring and is less washed out (look at the blue surface of the court in particular)
Nexus 6 on top; Note 4 on bottom. Both phones do respectably well in low-light conditions, but the Note has the clear upper edge in that type of environment.
Nexus 6 on top; Note 4 on bottom. Indoors with natural light and an overhead fixture. The Note's image looks a bit more crisp, but the Nexus's has more realistic coloring (the paper on that shelf is blue, not green).
Nexus 6 on top; Note 4 on bottom. Mmm....Lollipop. Crisp, clear, and nice-looking shot from the Nexus. The Note seemed to have trouble achieving a sharp focus here.
All in all, we're looking at two very capable phones when it comes to photography. The Nexus outshines the Note by a small margin overall, but each device has its strengths -- and either should be more than sufficient for most casual on-the-go photo-taking.
Camera quality is only one factor to consider, of course. For a detailed look at what the Nexus 6 and Note 4 are like to use in the real world, check out my in-depth reviews:
- Nexus 6 deep-dive review: A supersized smartphone that shines
- Note 4 deep-dive review: A familiar phone with a few new twists
And for a broader comparison of the two devices, see my detailed guide:
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