I was finally able to get the new firmware update V21b for the LG Optimus 3D smartphone that brings new and improved stereo 3D features for the device as well as other non-3D related ones and also updates the OS to Android 2.3.5. So after updating the firmware to V21b (dated 13th December) I tried the new features such as the ability to use the light and image stabilization when shooting in 3D mode, the new video editor, the updated 3D Game Converter, improved 2D to 3D conversion… so here are my first impressions.
I’m starting with the camera application and the new things regarding the ability to record still photos in 3D and 3D videos as this is one of the things with most improvements. The most important thing here is the improvement of the bitrate of the 3D video recording, previously the device recorded 720p (half horizontal resolution) 3D video with 6 Megabits bitrate and now it uses double that bitrate, so 12 Mbps. This means more data and details get captured and 12 megabits for 1280×720 frame size is very good bitrate actually, maybe in later firmware updates we could also see improved resolution as well. You can now also also use the digital video stabilization in 3D mode, something that Optimus 3D previously had only available for 2D video recording, do not expect wonders from it, but it can help improve things a bit, especially if you have shaky hands. Another thing that was previously only available in 2D mode is now available for 3D as well, both photo and video recording, and that is the LED light that can be used as a kind of flash for photos and constant illumination light when recording videos. Now I was a bit skeptical about that, as having only a single light source in between the two camera sensors (and not in the center even) is usually a bad thing to use for recording 3D photos or videos as it casts different shadows in the left and right eye images and the resulting 3D image seems weird as a result. But since the Optimus 3D does not use a typical flash you can find on cameras, but instead uses a LED light the results when using the light for capturing 3D in darker conditions aren’t that bad actually. The key thing here is that the LED light isn’t that powerful and as long as you are not shooting something very close to the camera sensors you will barely notice the different shadows (in the left/right image) or not notice them at all. And using the LED light can help you get a bit better results in darker conditions compared to shooting without the light, just have in mind that you should not use it for macro or very close shots and you should be Ok.
Next up is the new mobile video editor that the firmware update introduces for the LG Optimus 3D smartphone, a video editor that supports working with both 2D and 3D material. The video editor looks and works surprisingly good, but there is more work to be done in order to improve it further and make it a bit more functional than it already is. The interface is quite intuitive, although it took me a while to figure out how to export the finished edit and not just to save the project I’ve created. You can easily import 3D videos and create 3D edits, but unfortunately, you cannot use 3D photos or import 2D photos when you are working with 3D videos. Simple text functionality would also be good to have as a feature in the next update. After all this is the initial release of the software and it only offers some basic functionality when you need to quickly stitch multiple videos, or trim a clip and add some background music and then send it to someone or upload it online. Another thing that I’m kind of missing as a feature is the preview in stereo 3D mode of the 3D edits, instead of seeing them in Side by Side format.
Regarding the 3D Game Converter software, something that was actually introduced in the previous firmware update, for converting non stereo 3D games into stereoscopic 3D format for viewing on the autostereoscopic 3D display of the smartphone there are some improvements, but nothing that serious. It is more of an interface redesign in order to make the software easier for use and more intuitive, but there appears to be no new game profiles introduced in it with settings for new games. At the first run of the 3D Game Converter after the firmware update was applied I got a message that there is new version of the software available, but that one probably had some minor fixes.
As for the improved 2D to 3D conversion, it is hard to say if it is working any better than before, the depth effect in 2D photos converted to 3D seems a bit better, but for videos it is hard to say… don’t forget that the result from the conversion depends a lot on what is in the photo or video as well. What is still missing though is the ability to convert 2D videos from YouTube in stereo 3D format on the fly, so you are stuck to only watching 3D videos on YouTube for now. All in all LG have done a good job in improving the capabilities of their 3D smartphone further with just a software update, but there is more work needed to be done and hopefully they will take the time to make the Optimus 3D even better in the future…
I need some time to see if the battery life has been improved with the new firmware and OS version. What I did not like after applying the update is that the issue with delay in taking stereoscopic 3D photos has not been addressed at all. If you are trying to shoot a moving object in a 3D photo you still need to follow it with the smartphone while focusing and continue after you press the photo button for a second or two in order to capture it correctly. This however makes it nearly impossible to compose a 3D photo and take it the way you want it to be, you just have to hope that it turns out well enough and while this may provide you with some nice unexpected results at times, it could be more problematic for getting the results you want.