Just on the software side the Galaxy Nexus has a great camera. You get support for panorama shots and time-lapse videos, instant video effects, face detection, unlock to camera and quick sharing, not to mention the zero-shutter lag. As I mentioned in the Android 4.0 review, you can take a shot from a locked Nexus in around 1-2 seconds thanks to the combination of unlock to camera and zero-shutter lag.
Zero-shutter lag is actually really amazing to use. In the very instant that you press the shutter button the image is captured; no delays and no wait for focusing as that is done quickly before you take the shot. The only time zero-shutter lag doesn’t fully work is when using the flash, as there is a tiny delay as the flash has to fire, but it’s still very quick.
Depth of field imagery and close-focus shots are amazing on the Galaxy Nexus as the device can focus quickly and closely to objects. I managed to take a shot as close as 4 cm from the subject, and text appears very crisp and sharp when the correct focus point has been achieved. I was actually surprised at how well some of the focus test images I took turned out when I viewed them on my computer.
Color quality is also very close to reality, especially with outside shots. Images that feature a predominant color, such as of flowers and the sky, appear vivid and vibrant, while contrast and balance still remains solid on mixed-color shots. White balance indoors is somewhat off and can lead to washing out when the lighting isn’t correct, but this isn’t a show-stopper.
When it came to taking wide shots I was surprised again at how well they turn out. Often an issue with smartphone cameras is that they don’t handle contrast between light and dark areas very well, leading to over- or under-saturated shots in some areas. This didn’t seem to be an issue with the Galaxy Nexus; the shot of the car park below accurately portrays the scene, and 100% crop crispness is good for a small sensor.
The Galaxy Nexus also has a flash to accompany the camera, which as you would expect from a LED flash doesn’t spread light out very well at short range. It does illuminate mid-range targets well and prevents grain where there is not enough light, but it definitely won’t replace a point and shoot with a proper flash for dark indoor shots.
I was a bit disappointed with video recording on the Galaxy Nexus after such a fantastic experience with still shots. For some reason the picture appears very unstable and somewhat warped, as if there is no anti-shake or stability processing occurring; to make matters worse you don’t notice the issue on the device’s video preview. The picture at 1080p is also not particularly crisp, however it captures color and audio quite well along with good results from continuous autofocus.