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Pick a Pic: Nextbit Robin camera test

Published on Sep 7, 2017

This past month or so, my latest and greatest phone, Google’s Nexus 6P, started having battery issues. It’s lasted me about two years, so this wasn’t too distressing. Unfortunately, this is just the lifespan of a smartphone in my experience.

But every smartphone death is an opportunity for positive change, and in my case, I used that opportunity to snag my dream phone: The Nextbit Robin.

I’ve been an avid follower of all things tech for years now, and so I first became aware of the Robin’s existence when it launched on Kickstarter in 2015. The company behind it, Nextbit, was made up of some really talented designers from companies like HTC, who was fizzling at the time. Anyway, it was love at first sight. It became my Dream Phone.

Long story short: I didn’t need a phone when this one came out, when I did need a phone I went with the Nexus 6P, Nextbit got bought by Razer, the Robin went WAY down in price, and now here we are.

Now you know how my love and I found our way into each other’s arms. And that’s where my struggle begins: the camera.

The Nexbit Robin’s camera isn’t stellar. It isn’t total garbage, but coming from the Nexus 6P, it’s a downgrade. But I’m not about to drop a grand on a NEW new phone, and this is my DREAM PHONE in case I hadn’t mentioned it.

The first step in fixing my camera woes was easy: ditch the Nextbit camera app, which IS total garbage. There are plenty of other camera apps out there.

And here’s my question: Which do I choose?

I’ve run through a few and decided I’m not willing to pay for features like unlimited video recording because that is a human right and you deserve to go to prison.

I’ve essentially landed where I figured I would: Between the stock Google Camera, and Open Camera, an open source camera app.

The appeal of Open Camera, at first, was that unlike other camera apps that run on Robin, it has a baked-in HDR mode. HDR (High Dynamic Range) is something I swore by on my Nexus 6P. I left it on all the time, because everything it shot looked great. But Robin was not built with HDR in mind. Camera apps that feature HDR on other phones do not feature HDR on Robin.

Open Camera uses some software trickery to force its own kind of HDR, and it’s…pretty hit or miss. You’ll see what I mean.

At this point, I’m pretty sure I’m going with the stock Google Camera, it’s just more stable. Open Camera runs slow and has crashed on me a few times. But some of its HDR photos really do it for me. Let’s go to the tape…

This is with HDR...

...and this is without.

See, this is good. A little grainy, but a nicer range from light to shadow than the pic on the right. Let’s move on…

With HDR...

...and without.

Aaaaaaaaand here we see the problem. Open Camera may have a solution for HDR, but its noise reduction for the resulting image is lacking, if anything. Let’s take a look at a few more in a row…





In some instances, Open Camera’s HDR adds a nice little something, or even completely elevates the photo. In some instances, the two photos are nearly identical. And in some instances, Open Camera’s HDR photos are a muddy, noisy, overexposed mess.

I don’t really want to keep SEVERAL camera apps around for different shots. I’d rather have one go-to camera that I can whip out when I need to take a photo. And I don’t want to worry about the different ways the apps operate.

Maybe I’ll just shoot with VSCO or Lightroom…

What do you think?