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A deeper dive with the LG G Pro 2's camera

Packing a 13-megapixel shooter on its backside, the G Pro 2 features plenty of photo and video tools to keep you shutterbuggin' along.

Now playing: Watch this: LG's ultra-big and powerful, G Pro 2

It's been a month since LG's massive 5.9-inch G Pro 2 launched in Korea, and the device has been slowly gaining traction with further roll outs in other Asian countries including Hong Kong and Taiwan. Although no information has been released about its potential availability in Europe and US, we were able to review the unlocked handset here in our San Francisco offices, and were impressed by its sharp 1080p screen and ultra fast quad-core performance.

But the phone also sports some serious camera chops under its belt as well. Giving the G Pro 2 a 13-megapixel rear-facing camera and 2-megapixel front shooter, LG also introduced new photo and video editing features that weren't seen before in any of its previous high-end devices. Below, we explore four of the handset's camera features, which include a front-facing flash simulator, Magic Focus, slow-motion recording, and its new Qualcomm ChromaFlash.

No more blacked-out selfies

Rarely does a front-facing camera get any love, and there's a reason for that -- they usually take awful photos. While the G Pro 2's 2-megapixel camera essentially isn't any better than what we've seen before, it does come with a faux "flash" for taking selfies. When you tap on the flash icon, the screen displays a small preview window surrounded by a thick white border, which helps to brighten up your portrait.

A regular selfie on the G Pro 2, taken in a dim room. Lynn La/CNET
Another selfie, this time with the flash option. Lynn La/CNET

From the photos above, you can see that pictures still look grainy, with low-resolution and a noticeable amount of digital noise. However, the bottom photo has much more even lighting, and my skin tone looks more natural looking. The white wall behind me is also warmer, and less cold looking.

Adjusting your focus

Another camera feature lets you take a photo and adjust its focus and depth of field. LG calls this "Magic Focus," and we've seen this previously in a number of Nokia Lumia phones (like the 1020, for example). The Samsung Galaxy S5 will also have something similar (called Selective Focus), and it wouldn't surprise me if the next HTC One included it as well, as it is a popular editing tool.

Users will have to select the Magic Focus mode prior to shooting, so you can't go back to all your past pictures in your gallery and start refocusing-away at your leisure. After you snap a picture, the device will take a few seconds to render the image. You can then choose which area to focus by either tapping different objects in the photo itself, or using a meter on the right side of the screen. You can also bring the whole image in focus.

Adjusting the Magic Focus in a photo. Lynn La/CNET

In this animation above, you can see four focus options: One where the closest action figure, Superwoman, is in focus; another where Power Ring in green is in focus; another where Owlman, Johnny Quick, and Ultraman are the sharpest; and lastly, where all objects are in focus. After you make your choice, you can save by tapping the disk icon on the upper right. (Ultimately, we decided to focus all objects to prevent jealousy among these supervillians.)

Focus all the things! Lynn La/CNET

Taking it slow(mo)

In addition to recording 4K Ultra HD video, the 13-megapixel camera can also record in slow-motion video at 120FPS. Video resolution will change to 720p and there won't be any audio with your recording. However, during playback you can choose to view the video at half speed or quarter speed. You can also shoot video at a sped-up rate (I suppose for fun, Yakety Sax-playing Benny Hill home videos).

Now playing: Watch this: LG G Pro 2 slow-motion and fast-forward recording

(Please note that due to our own video processing, we were unable to upload the raw footage files directly from the device. The footage you see above is video playback on the G Pro 2 captured by our own studio cameras.)

Getting a bit more natural

The G Pro 2 is the first LG handset to be equipped with a ChromaFlash from Qualcomm. It promises more natural, even lighting when taking photos in dimmer environments. To compare its effect, I used another top-tier LG phone, the G Flex, which also has a 13-megapixel camera.

A simple still life taken with the G Pro 2 (left) and the G Flex. Lynn La/CNET

In the photo on the left, more details can be seen in the flowers and leaves, as well as the text displayed on the book spines. The flash on the G Flex (right), on the other hand, blows out the lettering and washes away some of the flower petals. (Click here to see the above pictures at their full resolutions on the G Pro 2 and the G Flex.)

CNET editors Sarah Mitroff and Caitlin Petrakovitz smiling for the G Pro 2 (left) and the G Flex. Lynn La/CNET

Of course, sometimes choosing the best photo isn't always clear cut. The flash for the G Pro 2 renders colors, including skin tone, more true-to-life, and it leaves the blue scarf looking more vibrant. The photo on the right, while more yellow, looks a bit warmer. I personally prefer the G Pro 2's picture, but both our photo subjects actually liked the G Flex's rendition better. (Again, click here to see the above pictures at their full resolutions on the G Pro 2 and the G Flex.)

Overall, the LG G Pro 2's camera is very nimble, and these editing features were executed quickly due to the powerful hardware inside. I don't see myself using all these extra tools in my everyday life, but they're easy to access and useful for anyone who wants to take the time to tinker with their cameraphones. Feel free to let us know what you think of the photos, as well as the handset itself, in the reader comments below.