Camera phone offers cool combination of shooting

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August 19, 2004|By Mike Wendland | Mike Wendland,KNIGHT RIDDER/TRIBUNE

Camera phone offers cool combination of shooting still photos and video clips

Remember how cool picture phones were the first time you saw them? You can now double that cool factor with video phones.

I've been playing with one for the past couple of weeks, and I can't decide what's more enjoyable - shooting short videos of people and then watching them react when I show them a playback, or e-mailing the little video clips to friends and family.

Video phones are now widely available from most of the major carriers. I've been testing the VX7000 video/camera telephone from LG Electronics, which works exclusively on the Verizon Wireless network. It costs $179.99 after a $70 rebate on a two-year contract.

It's really a lot of fun - and quite useful.

The camera shoots both still shots and video shots complete with audio.

The unique thing about the still camera function is it comes with a built-in LED flash. If you've used camera phones before, you know how notoriously bad they usually are at taking pictures in anything approaching low-light situations. The VX7000's flash helps immeasurably if you're within about 10 feet of the subject.

The camera uses the same lens for still shots and video. The lens is mounted at the top hinge of the clamshell-shaped phone and rotates so you can hold it at arm's length to shoot yourself. It even has a rudimentary digital zoom. It shoots in several different resolutions, all the way up to 640 by 480 pixels. I found there was too much distortion at the higher resolutions, and prefer to use the 160-by-120-pixel setting. It's a small thumbnail-size image, but at that size, the phone's e-mail function can send it quickly with ease.

To play back a video, the person receiving it needs to have Apple's free QuickTime video player. The e-mail you send automatically has an explanation and a link on how to download a free QuickTime player if it isn't already installed on the person's computer.

You can only capture up to 15 seconds of video and audio at a time, but you can make and store multiple videos.

Right now I have about a dozen little videos stored in the gallery, so in my opinion the storage capacity seems more than adequate.

I expected marginal quality. While the video tends to blur if there's a lot of movement, it's actually quite acceptable.

I'm predicting video will soon be standard fare on most mobile phones.

Information: http://us.lge.com or 800-942-3786.

- Mike Wendland, Knight Ridder/Tribune

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