I've been taking pictures with a Nexus 4 for a few days now, and noticed that the colors are off on many pictures. Finally today, I decided to do a Nexus 4 vs. iPhone comparison, with the same scenes, and it seems to me that:

  1. The auto white balance on the Nexus 4 / Android 4.2 isn't always working; in particular, with incandescent lights, in Auto mode, at times whites are greenish. Forcing the incandescent light mode fixes this.
  2. In all cases (incandescent or fluorescent, Auto mode or correct mode specified), the image lacks contrasts: whites are grayish and dark areas lack details.

Just walking around with a Nexus 4 and an iPhone while pointing are things around makes this very clear. Is there a way to improve this, or should I just resign myself to the iPhone camera (lens, sensor, DSP, software?) being overall better than the of the Nexus 4? (And my apologies if this sounds a bit provocative, as I seriously hope this is not the case!)

  • I've read on here recently that the app used affects the image, perhaps try using a different camera app and comparing the results?
    – Peanut
    Dec 11 '12 at 13:09
  • Are you comparing the images on the phone's screen or on a proper monitor? The black levels are not as deep on the Nexus 4 as on the iPhone and the contrast ratio is lower as well, so the display might affect the results at least partially.
    – onik
    Dec 11 '12 at 18:51
  • @onik Great suggestion. That might be part of the story indeed. I only compared the pictured as displayed on the iPhone and Nexus. I will try to the same picture with both phones and upload the pictures somewhere so we can compare.
    – avernet
    Dec 12 '12 at 0:40
  • @onik I added side-by-side comparisons to my initial question. I have the feeling that, unfortunately, the Nexus 4 doesn't compare favorably to the iPhone 5. On the Nexus 4, pictures tend to lack details (particularly visible in the second shot), colors are washed out, and images lack contrast with both white and black leaning towards the grey.
    – avernet
    Dec 12 '12 at 2:42
  • @avernet: did you change the camera's default settings? IIRC, for some reason, the default camera setting on my Galaxy Nexus was set to moderate size and quality when I just got it, which had to be changed to get the best image the camera could take.
    – Lie Ryan
    Dec 12 '12 at 10:51

This isn't a miracle solution, but:

  1. When taking pictures indoor, keep in mind that Android's auto white-balance might make the wrong choice. Look at the image on the screen, and if it feels unnatural, try manually selecting the incandescent or fluorescent settings.

  2. Be aware that, at least currently, the Nexus 4 camera doesn't compare favorably to the iPhone 5 camera: on the Nexus 4, pictures tend to lack details, colors are washed out, and images lack contrast with both white and black leaning towards the grey.

    If you own a Nexus 4 and find this disappointing, let me try to reassure you: first, it isn't as bad as it sounds; second, there is still a chance this can be improved with software; third, don't forget your unlocked Nexus 4 costs almost half the price of an unlocked iPhone 5.

Below are some pictures of the same scene I took with an iPhone 5 and Nexus 4, so we can compare them side-by-side. This first shot was done indoor, in a low light, without a flash. Left: iPhone 5 (original), right: Nexus 4 (original).

Low light

This second shot was done outdoor. Top: iPhone 5 (original), bottom: Nexus 4 (original).


  • I see a lot more noise on the Nexus images. What is the ISO set to? There is a possibility that it is set too high or that the cameras are making different decisions if it is set to auto. Dec 13 '12 at 4:22
  • @ChinmayKanchi True: the indoor shot was done as ISO 800 on the iPhone and 1700 on the Nexus; the outdoor shot was done at ISO 320 on the iPhone, ISO 600 on the Nexus (you can see this for yourself by looking at the EXIF data on the linked originals). Now however, I don't see a way to manually set what the ISO is set to with the Camera app on the Nexus.
    – avernet
    Dec 13 '12 at 17:31
  • @avernet there are 3rd party camera apps that provide more control including ISO and other settings
    – Ken Liu
    Dec 17 '12 at 17:10
  • @KenLiu Good point. Doing a quick search, I see there are. It would be worth testing some of those, and see if one can get better results than with the standard camera app.
    – avernet
    Dec 17 '12 at 22:21

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