In Depth

Galaxy Note 5 vs. Moto X Pure Edition: A head-to-head camera comparison

Wondering how the new Moto X really stacks up with the Galaxy Note 5 when it comes to camera quality? Check out these side-by-side photo comparisons.

Galaxy Note 5 vs Moto X Pure Edition Camera Comparison

Following my review of the Moto X Pure Edition, I've heard from a lot of folks asking for more comparisons between it and the similarly sized Galaxy Note 5.

Specifically, many readers are wondering just how much better the Note's camera really is compared to Motorola's latest effort.

Rather than offer more rambling words on the matter, I thought I'd let you see for yourself. Here's a handful of shots taken side by side with the Moto X Pure Edition and the Galaxy Note 5. Except where noted, all images were taken with the phones' default settings. None of the images had any post-capture processing or editing (aside from being sized down and occasionally rotated to fit on this page).

You can click on any image to view it in its full-size, full-resolution form.

Galaxy Note 5 c1

Moto X Pure Edition c1

Galaxy Note 5 on top; Moto X Pure Edition on bottom. Pay close attention to the amount of detail (noticeable especially when you zoom into the full-resolution images) as well as the warmth and coloring.

Galaxy Note 5 c2

Moto X Pure Edition c2

Galaxy Note 5 on top; Moto X Pure Edition on bottom. Note the amount of light along with the differences in coloring and vibrancy in this set.

Galaxy Note 5 c3

Moto X Pure Edition c3

Galaxy Note 5 on top; Moto X Pure Edition on bottom. Two HDR samples. This image, interestingly, is an exception to the "default settings" rule: While the Moto X automatically knew to activate its HDR mode for the scene, the Note 5 didn't -- and its original image was disappointing as a result. The image you're seeing here was taken after I manually activated its HDR mode on my own.

Galaxy Note 5 c4

Moto X Pure Edition c4

Galaxy Note 5 on top; Moto X Pure Edition on bottom. Low light, in a dim garage. These sorts of conditions are where the Note's advantages are most apparent.

Galaxy Note 5 c5

Moto X Pure Edition c5

Galaxy Note 5 on top; Moto X Pure Edition on bottom. Indoors with one overhead light and natural light coming in from a nearby window. Major differences in composition here. I'd say in reality -- to the naked eye -- the real scene was somewhere between the two in coloring. 

Galaxy Note 5 c6

Moto X Pure Edition c6

Galaxy Note 5 on top; Moto X Pure Edition on bottom. The two phones are actually pretty comparable when it comes to capturing a rapidly moving (and oh-so-gorgeous!) subject.

(Just like with this same comparison in my Moto X Pure vs. Moto X 2014 camera comparison, by the way, there was no way to make these shots completely consistent -- but I took several photos of the same sort of movement with both phones and then picked the clearest one of each bunch (i.e. the one with the least amount of motion blur) to use here.)

Galaxy Note 5 c7

Moto X Pure Edition c7

Galaxy Note 5 on top; Moto X Pure Edition on bottom. Limited movement in relatively dim indoor lighting -- no lights on and just a touch of natural light coming in through partially closed blinds/curtains across the room. Two respectable images; the Moto X's might actually be closer to reality in coloring here (this stunning creature is pretty pale, just like her papa), but the Note's looks quite good -- a bit warmer -- and actually does a better job at capturing fine detail (most noticeable if you zoom into the full-res images).

Galaxy Note 5 c8

Moto X Pure Edition c8

Galaxy Note 5 on top; Moto X Pure Edition on bottom. Extreme low light -- at night, with just super-dimmed lamps on across the room. Quite a dramatic difference (even more so here than in the last low-light example, where the environment was a bit less dim).

The big picture

Generally speaking, I'd say the new Moto X has a good camera while the Note 5 has an exceptionally great camera -- with more consistency and vastly superior low-light performance. As for how significant that difference is and how much it really matters, that's something you'll have to decide for yourself. Everyone's priorities vary, and there's certainly more to consider about a phone than just its photo-taking prowess.

Photography aside, the Note has the better display of the two phones (again, the Moto X's screen is good while the Note's is superb). It also has a fingerprint sensor and a stylus, if either of those elements matters to you, while the Moto X does not.

The Moto X, meanwhile, has the superior software and overall user experience. It also has much better speakers -- two that are both front-facing -- along with a less awkward button setup (virtual vs. a physical/capacitive hybrid) that fits more naturally with the current state of the Android platform.

As for form, both devices are distinctive and appealing in different ways. The Note has the more sleek and sophisticated vibe of the two, with its glass-and-metal body, whereas the Moto X allows you to custom-build your own device with a variety of different colors and materials (a choice of "soft grip" plastic, real leather, and real wood) as well as an optional custom engraving. The Moto X is a bit more ergonomic, with its warmer materials and curvier back, but it's also somewhat less striking than the shiny and luxurious-looking Note.

One thing's for sure: For two phones that are practically the same size, these devices have some very significant differences. Perhaps most significant is the price: The new Moto X starts at $400, unlocked and compatible with any U.S. carrier, while the Note 5 costs $700 to $800 and is sold only via carriers and in carrier-specific models here in the States.

The question you have to ask yourself is which factors are most important to you -- and whether the Note's advantages in certain areas are worth the hefty premium in price.

With a difference of $300 to $400 in cost, it's a question that'll take some careful consideration.

FULL REVIEWS:
Galaxy Note 5 review: A big phone finally grows up
Moto X Pure Edition review: A clever phone with a killer price

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