Nexus S and Android 2.3 Review: Gingerbread for the Holidaysby Brian Klug on December 14, 2010 4:08 PM EST
If there’s anything to be learned in a straight comparison between the Nexus One and Nexus S, it’s again that megapixels don’t matter. I never was a huge fan of the Nexus One camera - there’s a strange undersaturation in some images, and that extra glare from having another layer of plastic between the lens and your object where grime could collect.
The Nexus S is overall much improved, but still not perfect. Again, the obvious analogue here is to the Galaxy S, but side by side quality on the Fascinate looks markedly superior in our lights-on test. With the lights off and the flash set to auto, the Nexus S is much improved. The reason is that the stock camera now correctly illuminates the object while running the autofocus routine - the result is that in the dark shots are now focused properly. Further, you get an idea for whether the flash reaches far enough to actually do any good. Kudos to Google for fixing this.
Even more Kudos, however, for adding some manual focus settings. Tap on the settings button, and you can select from Auto, Infinity, and Macro. Objects beyond hyperfocal distance are essentially in focus when the camera is focused to infinity, so if you’re shooting photos beyond a certain distance and don’t want to bother with wasting time focusing, infinity is super useful. Likewise, macro gets you the closest possible focus.
The back facing camera isn’t the best we’ve seen, but it’s an improvement from the Nexus One. In our lightbox test, there’s still a lot of missing dynamic range and detail in the texture on the Exacta camera, but there’s so much more contrast compared to the Nexus One.
I took photos in our bench location, in the light box with lights on and off, and then just casually while I carried it around.
There’s also a button along the row of other camera settings buttons for changing to the front facing camera. When you’re in the front facing camera, a few options go away. You can’t change resolution, and focus controls are also obviously gone since the camera is fixed focus. Resolution is VGA. Quality on the front facing camera isn’t spectacular, but then again the aperture diameter on that camera is barely 1 mm. The front facing camera also flips-images horizontally after capture.
What’s odd about the Nexus S is that video encoding is only 720x480, not the HD 720P we’re used to seeing with the Galaxy S. Video is encoded in H.264 with AAC audio, at an average bitrate of 3,664 kilobits/s on the back camera. The front camera records at 640x480 with the same codecs at just over 1 megabit/s.
I noticed that audio doesn’t quite sync up in the front facing camera video, which is a bit unnerving to say the least. The back camera is fine, and seems relatively smooth. Not having 720P is a disappointment, hopefully someone unlocks HD recording on the Nexus S same as was done on the Nexus One. It certainly isn’t a matter of the SoC not being powerful enough if Galaxy S can do it.
I took a video with the front and back facing camera at our usual location:
And one more video in a different location per some commenters asking for an indoor to outdoor progression for gauging quality.