LG KC550 review

Is a five megapixel cameraphone always a good bet?

TechRadar Verdict

A good looking but cheap feeling device with a better than average specified camera that doesn't really deliver on its promises


  • +

    Stylish looking design

  • +

    5 megapixel camera

  • +

    Great music player and FM radio

  • +

    Motion sensor for games and gallery

  • +

    Better than average video capture


  • -

    Cheap casing

  • -

    No 3G or Wi-Fi

  • -

    Quirky motion sensor accelerometer

  • -

    No 3.5mm headphone jack

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    Pictures weren't as good as expected

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When it comes to cameraphones, 5 megapixels sounds like a lot, and usually, it is. They tend to be reserved for high-end, do-everything devices with high-end prices to match.

But LG has taken the unusual step of putting a 5-megapixel camera into a phone that in other respects is really a low-to-midrange handset.

It makes sense when you think about it, if you're particularly interested in getting a camera with your phone, do you necessarily care about GPS, Wi-Fi, touchscreens or 3G?

If not, it's just as well, 'cos the KC550 has none of those.

Skindeep beauty

What it does have however, is a neat look. It's a glossy black slider with a large 2.4in 320x240 pixel screen - and that long lens cover on the back tells you that it's got something special hidden under it.

Pick it up however and the classy impression soon dissipates as it feels a bit cheap, with creaky plastic casing and a slide that rattles when you move it.

The keypad feels a bit spongily unresponsive too and the flush keys aren't particularly easy to find with your thumb. So that's where some of the savings have come from then.

The screen itself however is quite good – bright and clear with a useful numeric menu system that allows you to choose options by pressing a key rather than scrolling with the cheap and clicky D-pad.

Speedy snaps

And speaking of menus, the first item you're likely to click on is that 5-megapixel camera.

You can also get into it simply by sliding back the outsize lens cover (it's about three-quarters of the length of the phone) exposing the Schneider-Kreuznach 'certified' lens.

Happily, unlike some other fancy cameras on phones, the KC550's is a practical affair, up and running from a standing start in less than three seconds – so quick snaps are feasible.

The navigation D-pad takes on a different role in camera mode, offering four shortcuts to macro mode, anti-shake, flash and picture gallery – all very useful to have at your thumbtip.

The volume controls on the side switch to zoom controls, which feels natural, and there's an LED photolight rather than a proper xenon flash, and as usual this only really works if you're very close to your subject.

Disappointing picture quality

Photos were okay, but to be honest not as good as we'd hoped from a 5-megapixel camera.

The colour balance often needed some playing with rather than relying on the auto settings and the level of detail didn't match up to the results we've encountered on other cameraphones with a similar spec.

It may have the megapixels, it may have a fancy name on the lens, but it's definitely not in the same league as Nokia's Nseries or Sony Ericsson's Cyber-shot lovelies.

Camera features

There are at least plenty of settings to play with. There's a self-timer and burst mode which will take up to nine pics in quick succession, and a range of ISO (light sensitivity) settings ranging from 800 for dark situations up to 80 for good light. There's no face detection though.

After you've taken your pics there's a range of editing options including rotate, resize, crop, add frames and text plus the Muvee application that turns your pics into a spinning, morphing slideshow.

Video, however, turned out to be better than we expected, offering 30 frames per second at 720x480 pixels.

Most cameraphones seem to treat video as an afterthought, with 15fps and 320x240 pixels the norm, so the extra resolution is welcome - though we found our films could be a little jerkier than we'd have liked, despite the presence of an image stabiliser on board.

Basic browsing

The music player is functional but is clearly not seen as a selling point. There's no 3.5mm jack plug to upgrade the cheapie supplied headphones (unless you go with the wireless Bluetooth option) though there is an FM radio with nine presets and autosearch, but no RDS.

The web browser too seems to be something LG felt had to be on there, but has made little effort to distinguish.

There are none of the zoom or resizing options available with the better browsers but then again, with no 3G or Wi-Fi you're probably better off sticking to WAP rather than struggling with full web pages.

Choice of games

There's a host of games on the KC550, including half a dozen which come under the umbrella M-Toy and make use of the phone's built-in accelerometer.

You can throw darts or hammers, as well as go fishing, play baseball, navigate a marble through a maze and roll a future-telling ball around the screen. But though the accelerometer seemed to work fine with the games, it didn't seem to be fully integrated into other aspects of the phone.

It didn't switch the orientation of web pages for example, and when we tried to view pictures in the gallery, it became positively quirky, cramming pics that had been taken in landscape mode into portrait and vice versa.

It's possible that this was an early sample, but LG told us it was a final version, so try before you buy.

Decent battery performance

The battery life did well overall giving us a good three days of moderate use before we had to recharge. There's not much onboard memory with just 12MB though you can add up to 4GB with a microSD card (not supplied).

Though it's quite a coup to get a better than average camera into a low-to-midrange phone, we weren't overly impressed by the results, and tend to think that if photography is important to you, it's probably worth paying a bit extra for a better one.

And if photography isn't that important to you, the LG KC550 doesn't have a huge amount else to offer.

Network availability: Virgin Mobile, T-Mobile

Looks: 3.5/6
Ease of use: 3.5/5
Features: 3/5
Call quality: 4/5
Value: 3/5