While the 8.0 Megapixel camera phone range is hardly under populated, the notable absentee has undoubtedly been Nokia. Still happy to launch top of the range phones with 5.0 Megapixel snappers and responsible for one of the best camera phones in its class with the Nokia N82, it’s perhaps an understatement to say that people have been keen to see what Nokia can do with an 8.0 Megapixel sensor. But with the Nokia N86 8MP still over a month away, is it worth the wait? Don’t worry, Mobiles.co.uk are on hand once again. We have managed to get our hands on the upcoming Nokia N86 8MP, Nokia’s first 8.0 Megapixel camera phone, and are here to put it through its paces. Read on for our thoughts on Nokia’s most powerful camera phone ever made…
First things first, lets take a quick look at the design. As the model number suggests, the N86 8MP is the successor to the N85 and therefore features almost identical dimensions though the new N86 does come in slightly heavier at 149g compared to the 128g’s of its predecessor. Aesthetically the N86 also bears a striking resemblance to the N85 with the dual slide mechanism making a return. Where the N86 does differ is in the keypad which marks a return for more traditional keypads where each key is an individual button. The N86 also features a kick stand, longer than that found on the N96, offering a great viewing platform for movies. The final place the N86 differs from the N85 is in the build quality. If the weight doesn’t give it away, the N86 8MP is a premium handset and the combination of high quality plastics and metallic detailing really illustrate this fact. The buttons on the outside are comprised of a transparent plastic which light up when the phone is active with the exception of the menu button which is metallic, In terms of build quality, the N86 8MP is the phone the N96 should have been.
As the companies first 8.0 Megapixel camera, the N86 has a lot of weight on its shoulders but, with some manufacturers already announcing their 12 Megapixel successors (OK, just Sony Ericsson), is it too little too late for Nokia? The 8.0 Megapixel camera is complimented by a Carl Zeiss lens, dual LED flash, and a nice gloss plastic lens cover which should protect from unwanted dust and scratches. Good start but hardly ground breaking stuff. Thankfully Nokia do have a few tricks up their sleeve. Where Nokia do claim to be breaking new ground so to speak, is in the user customisation options available. The N86 features variable aperture levels (the first camera phone to do so) which basically let you change the amount of light the lens lets in. Shooting in bright daylight? Switch to a higher aperture value and the lens will compensate by letting less light in. While this kind of technology is old news in digital SLR cameras, the fact that mobile phone manufacturers are starting to incorporate it in their own cameras is exciting stuff. As you can see by the sample image to the right, this does an excellent job in delivering natural colours without looking washed out. Choosing the right aperture for the light conditions helps to improve image quality in several areas most notably improving image sharpness.
For low light conditions, as well as variable aperture, the dual LED flash also comes into its own. The flash found on the N86 is the most powerful of its type found on a phone and comes close to matching a Xenon flash commonly found on stand alone digital cameras. The multitude of scene modes available on the N86 mean you can select the right settings for the style and conditions of your photo. These range from the excellent Macro mode (seen in the sample image on the left), portrait which gets the best out of portrait photos, landscape which is optimized for shooting distant scenery and skylines enhancing sharpness, sport which helps to focus on fast moving objects and night mode which enhances detail in low light conditions when you can’t or don’t want to use the flash. For those really keen on tinkering to get the most out of the camera, the N86 also allows users to alter white balance, exposure level, sharpness, contrast and brightness. The inclusion of A-GPS lets you Geo-tag photos so friends can see where you got that precious shot and, as with most Nseries phones, you can also upload your photos to your blog with ease.
Another feature of the N86 8MP’s camera that Nokia claim sets it apart from its rival 8.0 Megapixel snappers is its 28 mm wide angle lens. The inclusion of a wide angle lens lets you get even more in to a photo without compromising at all on quality. Below are two images, one captured with the N86 8MP and one with a Nokia N82. No prizes for guessing which belongs to the N86 as the top photo clearly captures a wider range than the N82.
The final feature that i came across in the N86 whilst putting the camera through its paces was the Panorama mode which takes the 28mm wide angle lens to the next level. Best used for scenery shots and showing off vast landscapes, clicking on the panorama icon opens up the traditional viewfinder with something resembling a film strip at the bottom of the display. Take a photo and your captured image will appear in the film strip with an empty red square next to it. Move the camera round till the viewfinder lines up with the square and the N86 will automatically take the next picture. Keep doing this then once all the images have been captured, the N86 stitches them together to create one long panoramic shot. The results are great (as seen in the sample below, click for a larger image) and works perfectly for serious landscape shots but you can also have alot of fun getting your friends to move around while the N86 captures images so they appear several times in the same photo. Sort of like living comic strip!
So after seeing what the camera has to offer, what should you take from this review? On first impressions, the Nokia N86 8MP is hardly a revelation. Featuring a borrowed design and a camera that on paper isn’t as stunning as it would have been 6 months ago, not to mention an underwhelming official unveiling at MWC 2009, the N86 certainly had its work cut out. So were Nokia too late to the 8.0 Megapixel party? Well in short, no. The N86 features an incredible camera that doesn’t just hide behind the Megapixel count. The inclusion of variable aperture levels means you don’t have to make do with the auto settings and can take an active role in customising your camera to get the best pictures possible. What’s more, the wide angle lens really does put the N86 in a league with stand alone digital cameras letting you cram even more detail into each photo and for those who were disappointed to see an LED flash used over a Xenon, don’t be; the Dual LED flash is the most powerful seen on a phone and illuminates even the darkest conditions.
While the camera on the Nokia N86 8MP is just as good for those who just want to pick up and shoot, the depth of customisation options on offer means that for those who dig deep enough, the N86 will deliver the best photos of all the 8.0 Megapixel camera phones currently on the market. Set to launch next month, click here to register for updates and check back on the blog for our full review of the N86 to see what else it has to offer.