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LG X Cam review: is one big feature enough?

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LG hasn’t always had the easiest time in the smartphone space. Consistently overshadowed by Samsung, its chief Korean rival, the company just hasn’t managed to build a device that truly excites the market. While its latest mid-range offering — the LG X Cam — is very good, it’s unlikely to change that.

Then again, that probably isn’t the idea. Instead, the LG X Cam is part of the wider X Series. This is an LG strategy which involves betting that as long as the rest of the device works as desired, people will be sold on an individual feature.

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In the case of the LG X Cam, it’s the ability to take wide-angle photos, while the others focus on screen-size, performance, and battery life.

It’s a neat idea, especially for sections of the market that can’t necessarily afford to pay top dollar for a premium device that purports to do everything. But if you’re highlighting one feature, does it come at the cost of all the others?

The basics

Well, in the case of the LG X Cam, there are two things you definitely aren’t sacrificing: weight and thickness. The LG X Cam weighs just 118g and, at 6.9mm thick, is actually thinner than LG’s premium G5.

The octa-core 1.14GHz CPU and 2GB of RAM are also more than adequate for day-to-day use.

There are, however, a couple of areas where you do lose out. The 2500mAh battery for instance, does pretty well in standby mode, but if you’re a heavy user, it’s definitely going to need a charge at the end of the work day.

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It’s also obvious that there have been some design compromises. While the LG X Cam is by no means ugly, the bezels around the screen are wider than you’d expect for a contemporary phone and the body betrays its mid-range aspirations as soon as you pick it up.

You’re also not going to get all that much internal memory — 16GB — so it’s probably worth investing in an SD card.

The Main Attraction

That SD card will be especially necessary if you’re going to be taking lots of photos. Considering that’s pretty much the whole point of the X Cam, we’re going to take a wild swing and say that you’ll need one sooner than later.

But what of the cameras taking those pictures? Are they all they’re cracked up to be? Well, at 8MP, the front-facing camera is pretty decent. While it’s unlikely to leave you weeping tears of joy, it does what it’s supposed to.

Normal (left) vs Wide-angle (right)

The real selling point of the LG X Cam is its two rear-facing cameras, which allow you to take 120-degree wide-angle photos.

While this a feature you probably wouldn’t realise could be useful until you used it, there is something to be said for including it in the overall package.

Being able to get that little bit more into a photo without stepping back really does make a difference to the way you think about photo compositions.

It also helps that, in good light at least, the cameras perform pretty damn well for an upper mid-range device.

Unfortunately, when the lighting conditions aren’t that great things tend to get a little noisy.

Those cameras are also a clear indicator that LG is trying to be “on-trend” with this phone, given the proliferation of 360-degree and panoramic shots that we’re faced with in our daily lives.

When it comes to panoramic shots, the LG X Cam has a neat trick up its sleeve

When it comes to the latter, the LG X Cam has a neat trick up its sleeve too. Once you’ve taken a panoramic shot, which will be wider and longer than standard ones, you can preview it in full screen mode with the phone moving in sequence “through the shot” as it were.

Alongside the standard camera app, LG’s shipped another fun little plaything. Called Popout, it allows you take include a variety of different effects in your shots. The background can, for instance, be black and white while the subject is in colour, or even animated.

Of course, there’s no getting around the fact that, while these features are nice, they are by no means must-haves. But could they be enough to give the X Cam an edge over the competition?

Considering the competition

I’m not so sure.

A browse through the Orange Store suggests that at around R5 500, the LG X Cam might be slightly over-priced. For a similar price, you can pick up a 32GB Nexus 5X. Sure it’s a little bit older and the cameras have slightly lower specs, but you’re getting double the internal memory, a fingerprint reader, and the guarantee that you’ll always have the latest version of Android.

And for even less money, you can get the Huawei P9 Lite or Moto G4 Play, both of which have fairly comparable specs. It has to be said however that neither look as good as the LG X Cam.

Verdict: Despite some drawbacks, the X Cam has plenty going in its favour: it’s thinner, faster, and lighter than many top-end phones; it doesn’t look half bad; and it uses a single feature to target a particular market niche. It is, in many ways, the embodiment of the maxim that good phones are now cheap and cheap phones are now good. But LG’s own market positioning may mean that it’s just not cheap enough given the other options on the market.

Score: 7/10

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