Both the LG GT400 Viewty Smile and the GM360 Viewty Snap feature a 5 megapixel auto-focus camera for a maximum image resolution of 2592x1944 pixels. The Snap adds a Schneider-Kreuznach certified lens and a LED flash to the mix.
The camera interface is identical on both and the same as on other LG phones (the only difference is the flash toggle). You can access all camera settings via a toolbar in the viewfinder. There you get virtual buttons for zooming, exposure, macro mode, resolution along with an advanced settings key.
On the right hand-side of the viewfinder is another bar with a virtual shutter key and a slider to switch between still camera and camcorder. Alongside are the exit and gallery buttons.
The left toolbar can be hidden and brought back with a tap on the screen. It leaves an empty black stripe when hidden, unless you choose the fullscreen viewfinder option (which crops parts of the scene).
Both Viewty phones have the basic settings – ISO, exposure compensation, macro and a few color effects. There’s no face or smile detection, blink detection, geotagging or any other high-end features. The LED flash on the Snap gives it an edge over the Smile although the Smile has scenes presets.
Sure enough, the LG GM360 Viewty Snap is the better performer of the two – as it should, with that Schneider-Kreuznach label. It’s among the generally good 5MP cameraphones, with pleasing colors and contrast, but it could use some more tweaking before launch.
There’s a fair amount of digital noise and while the software processing does a very good job of keeping it down, it does take its toll on the fine detail. Sharpening is overdone and creates some artifacts.
The LG GT400 Viewty Smile doesn’t do as well as its counterpart. Depending on how LG fine-tunes the camera software before launch, things might improve though. Right now, there’s a pretty strong yellow tint. It doesn’t get close to the level of resolved detail of the Snap either.
The oversharpening isn’t as strong and the noise is at the same levels as the Snap – we’ll have to wait for the final version to see if software tweaks can bring the Viewty Smile within shouting distance of the Snap.
Both the Viewty Snap and the Viewty Smile shoot video in QVGA resolution. That alone is enough to file it under “hopeless”. The Smile managed 20 frames per second, while the Snap maxed out at just over 10. This probably means they are not quite ready for primetime yet, so we’ll reserve final judgment until we get our hands on retail units.
The LG GM360 Viewty Snap has one neat trick though. LG Marketing calls it Optic-all zoom, which allows the Snap to do digital zoom (up to 2x) without loss in image quality.
Traditional digital zoom takes a part of the frame by cropping it and then upsizes it by using interpolation to artificially increase the resolution to the advertised output. This results in blurriness and no actual added detail.
Instead, Optic-all zoom for still pictures works by simply cropping the image without the interpolation part. That's not bad really, as that way you crop the scene straight in the camera, and you don't need to do it on a computer or via the clumsy on-board image editor.
Anyway, cropped still images aren't something that can excite geeks like us. The place where the Optic-all zoom shebang gets really interesting is in the video camcorder.
Zooming while shooting video still produces the nominal video resolution but it has the benefit of not losing any quality or details.
The way they probably do it is via technology known as pixel binning. We have the same thing in the high-end Nokia N8, for instance. This is how it works.
You've got a 5 megapixel sensor inside the Viewty Snap, while the video resolution is only a fraction of that. So when they use the whole surface of the sensor to shoot those videos, they've got a lot more pixels on information than they can use. The processing algorithm combines the information of adjacent pixels so you end up with the resulting lower resolution video.
When you zoom in, the camera starts using only the central portion of the sensor effectively magnifying the image you see but still getting proper resolution since the number of pixels in the center of the sensor is still more or equal to the resolution of the video.
This is a great idea overall - however it is wasted on the LG Viewty Snap. Sure, its camcorder doesn't lose resolution when zooming in, but the QVGA video resolution is already pretty low. Throw in the heavy compression and the low frame rate and the point of optic-all zoom becomes almost nil.
Check out the video sample and keep an eye on the fence - as you zoom in you can actually see more detail. If you can see through the compression artifacts that is.
And here's a still image from that video demonstrating the difference between Optic-all zoom and regular digital zoom used elsewhere.
It’s too early for any definitive conclusions just yet. The LG GM360 Viewty Snap has the better camera, offers social networking support and the convenience of a standard 3.5mm audio jack. For the younger crowd, this is the better combo of the two.
But it dwells in the slow world of EDGE. If you’re thinking of some serious browsing or USB tethering, the LG GT400 Viewty Smile obviously has the upper hand. The matte, fingerprint-resistant plastic and easily accessible microSD card are points in its favor too.
Both the Snap and the Smile give a satisfying touch phone experience – there’s widgets, a good enough browser, easy email setup, office document viewing and multitasking. They won’t replace the LG GC900 Viewty Smart, but on the affordable touch phone front they are a good step up from the Cookie and an alternative to the KM570 Cookie Gig.