There seems to be no shortage of options across LG’s mobile phone range. The KC780 gives you an 8-megapixel camera like the KC910 Renoir, but combines it with a conventional slider handset so you don’t have to deal with touchscreen if you don’t want to. In fact, the KC780 has no touch functionality, which is something of a blessing following the barrage of hybrid devices of late.
The phone isn’t the smallest by any means, measuring 105 x 51 x 13.7mm. There is a distinct bulge at the top end which sports the camera, although not as pronounced as on some cameras, see the Motorola ZN5 for example. The design sees curved edges and large buttons on the top half of the slider, almost taking on a toy-like appearance, which might deter some.
The slide action has a spring towards the top end, but again, doesn’t seem to have been engineered to the same crisp action as you’ll find on something like the Sony Ericsson Xperia X1, it feels softer, closer to the LG Chocolate, which perhaps shouldn’t be surprising.
The top half features the 2.4-inch, 240 x 320 pixel display, which whilst plenty bright enough for everyday tasks, doesn’t really stand up against the higher resolution displays appearing, but fits the profile of the KC780 as a budget handset. It is a shame really, because once you’ve taken a picture, the display doesn’t really do it justice.
Also featured on the top of the slide are a collection of buttons: a four-way controller, centred on an “ok” button and flanked by two buttons which are used to select the options that appear at the bottom of the screen, in normal LG style. Across the bottom of this button cluster are the call accept and reject buttons and the cancel and clock button in the centre.
This central button is worth a mention, because a press when on the home screen pops up a neat little clock and calendar widget, with various themes. This sort of thing is common on smartphones, but the addition here is welcomed. The problem is you can’t really do anything with it, except call it up, or sit and look at it. We’d have liked to set it as a default home page, for example.
Slide open the handset and you are presented with a standard 12-key keypad which is actually very crisp and positive to use: if you are a text monster, then the KC780 will let you really bash out messages at great speed. Given the size of the phone, the keypad is big enough for those that want to get both thumbs onto it.
Down the left-hand side of the KC780 you’ll find the combined headphone and charger socket and the volume controls. As normal the connector is a proprietary LG version, so you are stuck with the headphones they supply, which double as the handsfree kit, but the music quality is shocking, so if music is your biggest concern, consider looking elsewhere.
The right-hand side features an external microSD slot, allowing you to expand the memory from the 140MB internal offering. That expansion might be something you want to do, as the other button on the right-hand side is the shutter button for the 8-megapixel camera.
The Schneider Kreuznach lens sits around the rear of the LC780 on that pronounced lump. Unfortunately it doesn’t feature any sort of lens cover or protection, so likely to get scratched up pretty quickly if it is kicking around in your handbag or packed with your keys and loose change. There is also an LED flash on the back, which can be set to fire on auto, but is not really worth the effort, as it tends to leach all colour out of your subject leaving you with a light blue mess.
You can activate the camera by pressing the shutter button. Within the camera itself you get a whole host of technologies, just like the Renoir. You get image stabilisation, face detection and smile shot as you would on most modern compact cameras and all seem to work relatively well. The proclaimed beauty option didn't seem to make any difference - perhaps we are just too good looking already...
What doesn’t work so well is the shutter. You do get a two-stage shutter, meaning you can focus, then take the picture. Whilst this is good in principle, in practise it doesn’t work out so well, because the final press is too firm so you tend to introduce lots of movement just at the wrong time. There is also a fair degree of shutter lag, so be prepared for your subject to move before you get it. If you want to take another shot, you then have to wait an age whilst it gets ready to take the next shot.
Another thing that doesn’t work well is the digital zoom, which requires you to use the volume controls on the other side of the phone. At any rate, it is worth avoiding the zoom because the results, even in good lighting, are poor.
Talking of landscape modes there is another oddity when it comes to taking portrait aspect photos. If you take a photo you want to use as the wallpaper, it will rotate it so it is in landscape before sticking it on the background as the default option. If you want your portrait picture to appear in portrait aspect as your wallpaper, you have to select “landscape”. Go figure.
We mentioned that the flash tended to leach colour out of everything, so whilst this doesn't really deliver indoors, if you give it plenty of light outdoors, you’ll get some impressive results. Certainly, as a snapper around town, you do get an image out of the KC780 which is worth having – see some of our test shots. One thing that the camera doesn’t deal with is highlights, which just blow out, leaving you with no detail, which is a problem in some high contrast shots.
You can also shoot DixV video at resolutions up to 720 x 480, but there are not so many options to play with here (besides the hilarious slow motion option). The quality isn’t fantastic, better for online use rather than watching back on your TV. You do however get a TV out option, but you’ll need to buy the cable separately to take advantage of this.
Besides that you get a pretty standard LG phone, with intuitive menus which are pretty easy to get around. But this being a budget handset, your communication options are limited. This is a tri-band GSM phone only. You get Bluetooth and PictBridge for those with compatible printers to make the most of those images, but you don’t get the sort of Blogger or Flickr options that you’ll find in other camera phones.
Besides that you get a fairly standard range of games, including the M-Toy motion sensitive games, a media player and FM radio.
Overall the KC780 gives a good showing of itself as a budget handset, giving you the chance to capture reasonable images whilst out and about. There are a few quirks with controls of the camera, but navigation of menus and making calls presents no problem at all. The battery life is fairly average at 240hrs standby or 3hrs talk time.
Where the KC780 fails is in giving you a slick looking high-quality handset. Small details, like the overly large buttons on the front and the lack of lens cover on the back, let the side down. If you are going for a contract mobile, there are plenty of other options which give you better connectivity options and sharper design, such as the Sony Ericsson C902 and C905 models, and unfortunately the LG KC780 doesn’t quite match on quality.