Tuesday, July 26, 2011

LG Optimus 2X (P990) - camera and sample photos

Based on the incoming search keywords that bring people to my blog, it appears that people searching for phone reviews are most interested to know about a phone’s camera performance and picture quality. Only a handful search for comments/reviews about the web browser and other aspects of a phone. 

Therefore, in this entry, I’ll be sharing my thoughts about the LG Optimus 2X’s camera and photo quality. It’s the first dual-core smartphone to hit the Malaysian market and is still fairly new (at time of writing).

I’ll post sample photos but I won’t be uploading the orginal files as my line’s just too slow for that!

LG Optimus 2X P990 and Sony Xperia X10 Mini Pro
The LG Optimus 2X (aka LG-P990) next to my Sony Ericsson X10 Mini Pro

Today’s smartphones are more than just tools to make calls. They’re powerful mini computers that also function as go-everywhere pocket cameras. Everything in a smartphone works well together, allowing you to take photos, geotag them, upload to the internet or send to friends etc. You can also tap out quick blog entries or emails anytime, anywhere as long as you have a working data connection.

While it’s great to be able to take photos and share them almost instantly with friends, not all camera phones take photos worth sharing! Some fail completely, producing images that are extremely blurry or are out of focus. Send such photos to your friends and they’d probably just delete them. Seriously, don’t send your friends a photo and ask them to “check out my new car!” when your car is just a dark blur and the only thing in-focus is the house gate behind it!

So, has the LG’s camera managed to impress me? Yes and no. Mostly no.

Please take a look at the professional reviews posted online if you’d like to know in detail about the controls available in camera mode (try engadget.com or techradar.com).

First, let’s take a look at what I consider to be a serious design flaw. For camera specifications, please check LG’s site, the specs are also available from various phone sites such as gsmarena.com.

The 2X sports two cameras, the front one is a 1.3 megapixel camera mainly used for video calls while the main shooter on the rear takes 8 megapixel photos.

LG Optimus 2X P990 camera
The rear camera on LG 2X. Note that it is slightly raised, a design flaw IMO.

Look at the photo above. As you can see, the lens and LED flash are located on a raised rectangle. What do you think the phone rests on when it is placed on a table, face up? That’s right, the camera! Not only does this increase the likelihood of the lens protective glass being damaged or scratched, your fingers are also likely to rest over the lens each time you pick up your phone. Worst part is, you probably won’t realize you’ve gotten greasy fingerprints all over the protective glass till you’ve taken some shots and viewed them on your computer.

This was exactly what happened when I took the LG to the night market last week. I snapped lots of photos only to be disappointed when I got home and they all turned out like this:


And here’s more (click on each thumbnail to view larger picture):

Night shots

Keep in mind that the night shots above were all taken under poor lighting conditions. The last photo of that Bulbophyllum orchid was taken with the LED flash on. Blur in the photos is caused by slow shutter speeds and bad lighting, something I had expected. It’s not that that I’m disappointed about, it’s how easy it is to smudge the lens because of the raised design and not realize it until it’s too late! If one decides to buy this phone and take quick snaps with it, be sure to ALWAYS check that the lens area is free of fingerprints before you start snapping.

The fact that the LG 2X produces very soft photos straight out of camera only makes the photos worse.

In very bright conditions, the camera performs better but still, when compared to other shooters in its price range (or even to my now out-dated SE X10 Mini Pro), the photos are only “just okay.” Take a look at this set of photos shot in bright daylight:


Day shots

The camera handles high contrast scenes decently compared to my little SE X10 Mini Pro but as one can see from the photos above, they do tend to come out on the soft side. The photos were taken using the “Fine” setting and uploaded using the “Automatic” setting on Picasa (which supposedly preserves the original file quality).

Here’s another set of samples taken during the day, this time at the beach, conditions slightly overcast but still very bright:


Food photos
What do you guys use your camera phones for besides making phone calls and sending messages? If you’re like me, you probably like to take food photos, right? Whenever I’m at the kopitiam with friends, or at a restaurant or at a dinner party, I like to whip out my camphone and take quick snaps of the things we eat to share with friends who weren’t able to make the party. So any cameraphone I buy must be able to take decent close-ups of food. Here are some samples taken with the LG:


Rather poor, wouldn’t you say? Fine if the phone costs only RM300 but this is an RM1800 flagship smartphone from LG we’re talking about.

Just for fun, here’s a pair of photos of the same subject, one taken with the LG and another with my “out-dated” Sony-Ericsson Xperia X10 Mini Pro (only thing I really hate about my little SE is the long name!) for comparison. Can you guess which one’s taken with the Sony?


And here’s another pair:


Made your guess?

In the first pair, the first photo’s taken with the LG 2X. LED flash is utilized in both photos. In the second pair, the first is also taken with the LG, both shot around the same time, only different angles.

Indoor shots
So what about indoor shots? I haven’t taken many indoor shots to be honest, but here’s a few:


Now, I wrote this earlier: “So, has the LG’s camera managed to impress me? Yes and no. Mostly no.”

So, what impresses me? Take a look at the pair of photos below. One is shot with the LG 2X and the other with the Sony X10 Mini:

The LG wins this one. The photo on the left is both sharper and more detailed with better colour reproduction compared to the Sony photo on the right. This is about the only thing that I like about the LG’s camera.

Do keep in mind, these photos are simple quick snaps using default settings. Other factors such as hand shake etc. also affect the outcome. I take them as I would with any other camera phone, take out of pocket, switch on, frame and focus, snap. No over-thinking or fretting over settings. I do not know of anyone who uses a camera phone like an SLR. Camera phones are used to take quick snaps but the days of crappy photo quality should be well behind us. These expensive do-it-all phones boasting top-of-the-range specs really need to produce very good results on the go and I’m afraid the LG’s failed in this area.

Well, that’s it for this entry. I’ve got some shots taken at the Kuching Aquarium (with both the LG and the Sony) which I’d like to share but perhaps in a separate entry. When I’ve the time, I’ll upload those.

See also:
My Sony-Ericsson X10 Mini Pro review:

Monday, July 25, 2011

test post 2

This photo was captured with the LG 2X and posted with blogger-droid. Text entry is tedious as mentioned in previous test post.
Published with Blogger-droid v1.7.4

test post sent from LG 2x (p990)

I use Blogger-droid when posting from my mobile. So this is just a test post to see how fast and how smooth I can post from the LG 2x. Verdict? Painfully slow and tedious when compared to my tiny Sony x10 mini pro with its built-in physical keyboard. Even without using the keyboard on the x10 its still a lot easier to blog from it thanks to it's more intuitive text entry interface and controls. I think i must have spent about 20 minutes composing this short entry on the LG. It would not have taken more than 10 on the SE. Note: immediately after posting this i downloaded the post to bloggerdroid for editing. Unfortunately it is not possible to insert a new photo when editing but that's a bloggerdroid limitation not the phone's. Resubmitting now...
Published with Blogger-droid v1.7.4

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Google plus mobile app not available…

…in all geographic locations, apparently. Not yet, anyway.

I’ve been trying out G+ for about a week now. Like it so far even though it’s still very new and many friends have yet to sign on. But I grew weary of the non-stop updates I was getting on Facebook (especially from the “what’s happening now” ticker panel) so the peace and quiet on G+ is a nice change!

I’ve heard so much good about the G+ app for mobile phones that I just had to try it out myself; so I tried to install it from the Android Market but couldn’t find it! Also tried to download and install it from the website version of AM but got this error:

android_market google plus error message

“This item cannot be installed in your device’s country” :(

A little bit of googling led me to this forum thread which explains the reason why the app’s missing from the AM…


Hmm, wonder what legal “restrictions” they’re talking about? Whatever they are, hope they’ll sort things out and release it in Malaysia soon!

The web version of G+ mobile is really sleek. It looks something like this:

As viewed on LG Optimus 2X (photo snapped with SE X10 Mini Pro)

Note the top “bar” which provides easy access to the search engine and Gmail. And right at the bottom of the page is a link to the desktop version of G+.

The mobile site is so much better than Facebook’s IMHO. My only complaint is the tiny, tiny font size used when entering text.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Using a phone shouldn’t be this frustrating…

Spent a couple hours this evening trying to get the LG Optimus 2X (P990) to work with my Windows Vista laptop…

It was so frustrating! LG PC Suite IV just would not recognize the phone at all! And the manual that comes with the unit was of absolutely no help. It is so out-dated that it points to items that do not exist on the phone.

It was by a stroke of luck that i chanced upon a forum posting by someone who had the same problem. Solutions suggested by other forum users all didn’t work. Poor guy finally had some success after some trial and error.

I did the same as he. I switched off the phone, then switched it on again while it was still connected via USB to my laptop (manual tells you not to do this). This caused windows vista to re-detect and re-install the phone’s drivers. Then I restarted my laptop and voila, PC Suite picked up the phone this time.

So after spending about 2.5 hours just to get this phone to work on my laptop, I finally managed to upgrade the phone’s software to the latest version via PC Suite IV.

Not very impressed with this phone, so far. It’s not the OS (I like Android), it’s the phone itself. It’s LG. Been using it for just a day and already it’s given me a few problems such as shutting down on its own and refusing to start up again no matter what.

To be fair, I’ll use it a bit more before posting my review.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

a day after…

i clicked that blue button (quit facebook), surprisingly no FB withdrawal! :)

but last night, i did feel a bit sad. no, not cause i couldn’t see what my friends was up to every minute every second (my account was one of the unfortunate ones that got that “what’s happening now” ticker panel forced onto it), but rather, i got a reply from zynga confirming that once my fb account was deleted, i would no longer be able to play farmville.

yeah. i played farmville. i spammed the feed. i raised sheep. i sent gifts. and i had strangers for neighbours (some of whom i eventually befriended which is the only positive thing i got out of fv, really ha!).

i got to level 49 then quit for about a year and only just a month ago started playing again. the fact that i went from level 49 to level 79 in just one month or so is proof that i was spending way too much time on fb. xD

other blogs
i follow a few blogs on blogger. today, i actually visited a few of them and read their posts! i almost never did that before while i was on fb. it’s certainly a nice change from just reading status updates and stories written in 420 words or less.

i love reading about people’s travel experiences to places i too would love to visit (or have visited). i don’t just like looking at photos, i like to know about what’s going on in the photo too. who’s this, what’s that, where’s this etc.

on fb… while i definitely enjoyed waking up to new photos uploaded by friends, most photos never had any description whatsoever. except for a handful who would take time to include a description, most friends who uploaded photos seldom captioned them. beautifully taken photos are always nice. but even nicer if one knew what was going on. a simple description goes a long way. still, i don’t blame them. who has time to caption hundreds of photos uploaded in a single day?

with the blogs i read however, photos come with explanations. i love that. like when i was planning mulu trip, i googled and read several blogs about climbing Gunung Mulu and the Mulu Pinnacles. enjoyed reading those. they were also very helpful in helping me decide what to pack, what not to bring and what i’d need during the long trek to the summit.

other entries
speaking of travel experiences… i have many to share which are long overdue. like my Ba’kelalan and Mount Murud trip, for example. just now, i succeeded in uploading 5 sets of photos in 5 drafts without much trouble (usually it takes forever or the process would stall and i have to start over again). so i’ll be working on those drafts soon. they’re of a trip i took with friends to Bako where we trekked on foot from Teluk Limau to Teluk Kruin. been meaning to write about that one since last year!

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Bye-bye Facebook - “Delete My Account”

facebook delete my account

About a year ago, I posted this entry:

Well, guess what? Not long after that, I logged back in again and my account was automatically reactivated. Between then and now, I deactivated my account once or twice more when I felt like it was too much of a distraction. Today, I’ve decided to make it permanent.

Did you know that you can delete your FB account permanently if you wanted to? Just follow this link:

Once you have submitted your request, your account will be deleted within 14 days. Should you change your mind within this period, you can log back in again with your registered email and password and cancel the request.

I do not remember when I signed onto Facebook. Think it was about 2 years ago. Maybe 3? *shrug* Not important. But I do know I signed up because my friends whom I go hiking with were all sharing photos on FB and they persuaded me to create an account so that I too can share photos as well as view, tag and comment on theirs.

I also managed to find a few long lost friends on FB; people whom I used to work with years ago, ex schoolmates and university friends… but most they did was to add me, say “hey, long time no see!!” then disappear again like we never reconnected. LOL But of course, there were also a few long lost friends whom I continued to interact with regularly but those friends I do not need FB to keep in touch with.

I must say I liked FB. I liked how I was able to stay up to date with friends, real life friends, not “fb” friends! I could shoot off a quick message to friends in a private group, update my status and let all friends know what I was up to and get everyone together for a dinner party or pot luck with just a few clicks. I also liked how I was able to meet new friends through existing ones and interact with cool people from all walks of life from all over the world. People whom I shared the same interests and hobbies with. It was a wonderfully new experience for me.

Till it started usurping every little bit of free time I had. Worse, it started eating up my work time too. Time I set aside to finish my articles, just take a look at my blog, it’s been abandoned for a while now! Used to update it frequently, now it’s just one photo a week, or an entry a month… sometimes nothing at all for weeks.

It’s not that I was away from the Internet, it’s because I’ve been posting to FB instead. Initially, I often would make double entries and upload two sets of photos to the internet, once to FB and another time to this blog. This was because I would upload only a handful of selected photos to my public blog but a few hundred to friends-only albums on FB. This took a lot of my time and eventually, this blog just got less and less attention…

Before FB, I was meeting new people through my Flickr account. I’d post photos and I’d get comments from people everywhere. People with the same interests in plants, orchids, nepenthes. The botany community on Flickr is huge! Met some nice people this way, some of whom have become my friends in real life as well. But once FB took over, I’ve not been keeping in touch with the Flickr community anymore. Haven’t posted much there either and I have tens of thousands of photos uploaded there (not accessible anymore cause my Flickr account’s expired).

It also struck me just how much FB was changing the way friends interact with each other when on a recent trip, all of us were updating our status messages and getting notified about what each other had typed even though we were right there next to each other! LOL

And have you noticed how your real life FB friends, when you go makan or limteh together, they’re always on FB doing something? LOL I was sitting right across another friend recently having breakfast and instead of chatting normally, we were both looking at our touch screen phones and tapping away, smiling to nobody like a couple of crazies. But almost everyone with a touch screen smartphone does that now, have you noticed? ha-ha it’s quite funny really.

I notified my friends just so they know I was leaving voluntarily, not cause I was banned or kicked off. Some friends did that in the past (leave FB) without warning us and we were all left wondering what happened to them.

Already, I’m feeling quite liberated… like I've been unshackled. Har har. I prepared a “bye bye FB” message before I signed off permanently - “Goodbye Facebook (but not goodbye friends!). FB was like a demon which had its claws sunk into me but now I’ve thrown it back into the fiery flames of hell.” ha-ha but I decided it was too dramatic and didn’t post it. Besides, it’s not like the message would still be visible once I hit the “delete” button. ;)

By the way, in case you’re wondering, yes, I am on Google+. It’s still very new and going through growing pains so I don’t log into it much. But I don’t think of it as another FB-like social network. If you use Gmail, you’ll be quite familiar with the email chat feature, right? I like the “circles” feature on G+ which allows me to stay in touch with friends almost the same way we did with group email. So, rather than “another FB”, I see G+ as an extension to Gmail and Picasa, both of which I already use regularly.

So ya, I’m now off FB. So hopefully I’ll be posting a lot more to this blog now and give it the attention I used to give it. The friends I have, those that matter, I shall continue to keep in touch with the same way we kept in touch with before we all got onto Facebook. Good ol’ phone calls, emails and text messages (and Google+) :)

Update: Well, I’ve received confirmation from Zynga that if I permanently delete my FB account, my high level Farmville account will be permanently deleted too. That bites! I don’t mind never being able to retrieve my FB account again once deleted but I do mind losing my high level farmville account (even though I do not intend to play regularly). So until Zynga lets users access their accounts independent of FB, I shall have to keep my FB account. I’ve already emptied it. It’s got nothing on it, not even a profile photo. Only a few farmville neighbours remain.

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