The first 5 megapixel cameraphone by LG, the KG920, failed to impress us with its camera performance. Now that we have our hands on KU990 Viewty, we are quite amazed from the very start.
The camera uses almost the whole display as a viewfinder in standard ratio, while in fullscreen it fascinates even more. It takes pictures at a maximum resolution of 2592 x 1944 pixels.
There are four hardware keys, that command the camera - the first one is a slider on the righthand side, that sets the camera mode: photo, video, and gallery - just as on a regular digicam (mind you, Sony Ericsson K850 has the same switch on its side). The gallery application launched by this switch is really wonderful - all your images and videos are shown as a shuffled deck of pictures. A touch on any of the images brings it to the front; a second touch on the image corner displays image info.
LG KU990 gallery in action
Back to the camera now… The second key, that has anything to do with the camera is the mechanical jog wheel on the back. It is used for zooming in and out (digitally, of course). The shutter key on the right side is the third dedicated key. The fourth, and last one of them, is the lock/unlock key, which also starts the digital image stabilization mode of the camera. Sounds exciting, but it isn't that much of a deal. It zooms in a bit and uses the spare pixels to compensate for the camera shake. We didn't see much use in it, as it simply cannot compete with mechanical optical stabilization used even in low-end digital cameras.
The camera is equipped with a strobe flash, which ranks somewhere between a regular LED and the xenon flash, used in the Sony Ericsson K800 and the like. Beside the flash, there is also a focus assist beam as the one seen in a regular camera. It does a great job to only fail in macro shots. There it doesn't really help the autofocus, since it doesn't light up the subject in the center but a tad to the side.
|The first 5 megapixel cameraphone by LG, the KG920, failed to impress us with its camera performance. Now that we have our hands on KU990 Viewty, we are quite amazed from the very start. The camera uses almost the whole display as a viewfinder in standard ratio, while in fullscreen it fascinates even more.|
The camera interface has extensive settings. You can use several preset scene modes (landscape, beach, party, portrait, night, sport, high sensitive), plus there are some special shooting modes (continuous shot, panorama and frames). The Continuous shot mode resembles much the BestPic mode seen in Sony Ericsson Cyber-shot handsets, while the Panorama mode makes panorama images out of several consequent shots - many Sony Ericsson mobiles have that mode, but the LG makes higher resolution images (each individual shot is made with a 1-megapixel resolution, while with Sony Ericsson each shot is made at 640x480 pixels). The Sony Ericsson handsets also make panorama images out of only three consecutive shots.
The LG KU990 is also equipped with a timer and you can use manual focus to capture those hard-to-get situations. The white balance is a standard setting in cameraphones but the Viewty has also a Color tone option, that you can use to make the colors of your pictures more vivid (besides black and white, sepia, and negative). You can also manually adjust the ISO (100-800). Unfortunately, in our unit the shutter sound couldn't be turned off. Allegedly, the camera should have also come with a face recognition feature, but as we managed to find out the feature was removed in the pre-production phase.
We had our taste of two pre-production versions of the LG KU990 Viewty - that is why some of the images lack EXIF information. Other than that, the images are really likeable. Their dynamic range is high, so the highlights are not easily clipped. The high-res detail is all there and the noise is kept under control. There aren't any traces of chromatic aberrations, which speaks highly of the Scheider-Kreuznach optics used. In some situations, they easily beat the Sony Ericsson K850, which we reviewed recently.
In terms of performance and speed, the LG KU990 also managed to please us. The shot-to-shot time at full 5 megapixel resolution is around 4 seconds - the same as with Sony Ericsson K850.
We decided to downsample several of our shots, since probably most of you will end up using resized versions of the original photos, plus its somewhat harder to judge picture quality when you look at a picture online at 100%. The LG KU990 photos look really great downsampled at 1024 x 768 pixels.
The camera has some downsides, of course. The noise levels are sometimes high in the shadows and in some cases we observed strange color dithering instances. We do however expect this to be fixed in the final retail version.