As for the 5-megapixel camera with two lenses, shooting in 2D offers a greater variety of options. The rear-facing 2D camera has autofocus, touch focus, a flash, face tracking, geotagging, a timer, and continuous shooting. It also has a digital zoom and exposure meter; five image sizes; five scene modes (normal, portrait, landscape, sunset, night); five white-balance modes (auto, incandescent, sunny, fluorescent, cloudy); and four color effects (none, black and white, sepia, negative).
Recording options consist of the same digital zoom and exposure meter, flash, audio muting, six video sizes (ranging from full HD 1080p to QCIF), a stabilizer, two recording durations (one for normal recording and one for sending over MMS), and the same white-balance and color effects.
The front-facing camera offers the same exposure meter, white-balance modes, color effects, timer, and geotagging feature for the camera, but only two scene modes (normal, night). Recording with the VGA camera lends no options save for audio muting.
Putting the camera in 3D mode brings fewer options, but there are still plenty of editing features left to work with. For photos, there is an exposure meter, as well as another meter that lets you customize where you want the depth of the 3D image to appear (either somewhere "behind" the display or "in front" of it). Again you have flash; two 3D focus modes (border, center); three different image sizes (from 1 to 3 megapixels); a timer; geotagging; and the same color effects and white-balance choices.
When shooting video in 3D, all previously mentioned features are included, save for the addition of a stabilizer and different video sizes (ranging from VGA to 720p HD).
I tested the unlocked LG Optimus 3D Max in San Francisco first with a T-Mobile SIM card. Because the Optimus 3D Max is not optimized for T-Mobile's 3G or HSPA+ networks, I had to test the handset on EDGE. Stay tuned, as I will test this product on AT&T's network later on.
Signal quality on T-Mobile was perfectly adequate; I didn't experience any dropped calls, extraneous buzzing, or audio clipping in and out. Sound quality, however, was mediocre. Voices were audible but muffled. Though turning up the volume helped a bit, my friends still sounded like they were talking underneath a thin sheet. Likewise, I was told I sounded a little stifled as well.
The output speakerphone quality performed much better. Calls still sounded muffled, but music videos and games played loud and crisp. When the volume was cranked all the way up, though, sounds did come off as too harsh or sharp, but they were clear regardless.
Listen now: LG Optimus 3D Max call quality sample
The 5-megapixel 2D camera's photo quality was perfectly decent. Shutter speed was quick and images taken indoors and outdoors appeared well-defined and sharp. Photos only looked grainy after zooming. Colors were bright and didn't bleed into one another, though they weren't as vivid as they were in real life.
Video recording quality was also satisfactory. Audio was picked up well and feedback followed quickly behind my moving the camera. Colors were rich and images were cleanly recorded with little graininess or pixelation.
The front-facing VGA camera understandably had a lower photo quality. Shades of white were washed out and other colors were muted. Since there is no focusing feature, objects came out blurry as well.
With all my gripes about the 3D feature on this device, I did get a kick out of recording and taking pictures in 3D. Although you can't view the photos in 3D outside the handset (they're exported as two separate images and are saved at 3 megapixels), colors are still rich and accurate, though bright lights do get washed out from time to time. The 3D effect is impressively apparent, especially if you take a picture that has many objects spaced out at different depths.
Video recording yielded similar results. When I recorded oncoming traffic, cars looked as if they could be driving right off the screen. Outlines of images were visibly defined and colors were accurate. Sound was picked up clearly as well.
Keep in mind that since my first tests were on T-Mobile's EDGE network, data speeds won't be representative of how the Optimus 3D Max could on a 3G network. When the 3D Max is connected to a weak data network, don't expect apps like 3D YouTube to run smoothly. Oftentimes, video rendered as two 2D videos playing side by side or the app, as previously mentioned, just quit altogether. It was only when I connected to a strong Wi-Fi network that videos played correctly and smoothly.
During our battery drain tests the 3D Max lasted 9.35 hours. It had poor battery life when many 3D features were activated. After spending a few hours playing and recording 3D videos and running 3D games, the battery drained significantly as expected. When sticking to activities like making calls and text-messaging, I got a good handful of hours in without much loss of charge. According to ICNIRP radiation standards, the device has a digital SAR rating of 0.69W/kg.
As a standalone product, the LG Optimus 3D Max is a reliable handset. The camera quality is satisfactory, the swift dual-core CPU makes it a breeze to handle, and the NFC-enabled chip is a welcome new technology on any phone.
But if you're looking for an outstanding user experience from the device's 3D feature, it may help to wait for the technology's bumps to get smoothed out. Although the 3D camera works well, the apps are buggy, the viewing angle is too narrow, and if you're on a slow data network, you can forget about accessing 3D features on the Web altogether.
Through the idea of a great 3D screen on a mobile handset sounds promising, my most pleasant experiences with the 3D Max came when it wasn't in 3D mode. And, if we're going by the European unsubsidized sticker price of $635, the price may be too steep for what some see as just another party trick.