Low Light Photos: A Moto Showdown

Cell phone cameras are getting better and better, with more advanced hardware and software features available every year. In fact, we have seen an 84% drop in digital camera sales1 since 2010 as more and more people turn to their cell phones for their photography needs. While there is certainly a time and a place for a compact digital camera or DSLR, or even a traditional film camera, there are a number of key benefits to using a smartphone as your primary camera:

  • Convenience – Unless you are a professional photographer, it’s unlikely you bring a compact digital camera or DSLR camera with you every time you leave the house. You will, however, always have your smartphone with you. Having a high-quality camera in your pocket at all times allows you to capture those unexpected and spontaneous moments that you just can’t plan for.
  • Sharing – Whether you share your photos with friends and family on Flickr, Google Photos, Instagram, Facebook, or the myriad other social sharing sites, you can’t beat the ease with which you can do so from your smartphone. Sharing from a digital camera is a lot more challenging. Unless you have a smart camera with WiFi connectivity, you have to transfer your photos from your digital camera to a computer, and then upload them. Sharing from your cell phone happens much more easily and, in the case of Google Photos, can even happen automatically, without any work on your part.
  • Image Editing – With hundreds of apps in the Google Play store dedicated to photography and photo editing, it is easier than ever to edit your photos on-the-go.

If camera quality is important to you when shopping for a cell phone, all the hardware specifications can get incredibly overwhelming. Every manufacturer brags about the number of megapixels in its rear- and front-facing cameras, pixel size, aperture, image stabilization, and more. We’ve found that the best way to evaluate a phone’s camera is to use it ourselves, and, like our friend Eric from Eazy Computer Solutions, agree that it’s even better to test a phone’s performance when taking low light photos and video.

Shooting low light photos can be incredibly challenging. We often find that our low light photos suffer from blur, camera shake, improper focus, and light imbalances. It’s under these extreme conditions that we can really evaluate a phone’s performance.

Moto Performance With Low Light Photos

We decided to hit the streets of Raleigh with two of our favorite Moto phones, the Moto G6 and Moto X4, to test their performance when taking low light photos. We took all of these photos with the rear-facing camera, and have not edited them or added any filters.

Above, you can see a distinct difference in the color of the sky and amount of light reflecting off the building. The photo on the left, taken with the Moto G6, also seems a bit sharper, with better color differentiation. This is due to differences in auto white balance between the two phones, and that the G6 seems to boost saturation a bit more than the X4.

Depending on the type of look you are going for, each of these low light photos of this patio has its benefits and drawbacks. We found that the photo on the left, taken with the Moto G6, is a bit sharper, especially around the market lights. However, the furniture is better lit in the photo on the right, taken with the Moto X4.

The photo on the right, taken with the Moto X4, has more light than the photo on the left, giving you a better picture of the foreground.

The photo on the left, taken with the Moto G6, is much sharper than the photo on the right, which was taken with the Moto X4. The difference between these two low-light photos is especially noticeable if you look in the right half of each photo at one of our favorite downtown Raleigh landmarks, the Shimmer Wall, on the western side of the Raleigh Convention Center. At night, the wall is lit by an LED light that, according to the artist Thomas Sayre, “slowly fades from color to color in an ode to the sunset.” In the photo taken with the Moto G6, you can clearly make out the oak tree in the red-lit wall, whereas the wall is just a blur of LED light in the photo taken with the Moto X4. We have found that the Moto X4 has a bit more trouble than the Moto G6 focusing in low light, and it appears that we took this photo before the X4 had found its focal point.

We think both cameras performed well with this low light photo, with the main difference being the different parts of the photos that are showcased. In the photo on the left, taken with the Moto G6, The Dillon, a new mixed-use development downtown, is sharp and very well lit. Conversely, in the photo on the right, taken with the Moto X4, the foreground, including the street and cars, is better lit.

Low Light Photo Summary

We are impressed with the performance of both the Moto G6 and Moto X4 in low light conditions, one of the trickiest scenarios for taking photos. While, for us, the G6 comes out a bit ahead in sharpness and low light performance, there are a number of photos where it was a toss-up between the two.

Which camera do you think pulled out ahead? What is your favorite phone and technique for shooting low light photos? We’d love to hear your thoughts!

1 https://www.statista.com/chart/5782/digital-camera-shipments/

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Notable Replies

  1. jben says:

    ‘Lost in Translation’ :slight_smile:
    Great article … but unless the forum users scroll to the very bottom (and can read the small print) they will miss the pictures :frowning:

  2. Thanks @jben! Looking into a fix here…

  3. The Pixel 3 and Night Mode, far as I know, is the champ for low light photos.
    Moto cant touch that.

  4. jon_g says:

    Thanks, Eric. That was really nicely done. I already have the X4, and am very happy with the X4 cameras and their output, and, especially, with what you can do with post-processing, on the camera. I do have to say, however, in your tests, the G6 did a better job of focusing quickly, at distance, in low light. That said, my low light photos do seem to be in focus. I really liked the X4’s motion stabilization in the comparison videos. Bottom line – I don’t think that anyone will be disappointed with either camera.
    Jon

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