Saturday, October 23, 2010

Comparing Xenon Flash and dual LED - N8, N82, N900 Low Light Showdown - Part 2!

After two years, and much to the delight of Nokia euthusiasts, Nokia has finally brought back Xenon flash to its camera-centric phones. The only two other Nokia devices with Xenon are the N82 and 6220 classic.

As most people know, Xenon flash provides brighter and faster flash than dual LEDs which are popular for phones. Some reviewers have tried to say dual LEDs is a good compromise for phones but my comparison between the N82, N86, and N79 nicely showed off the ability of the N82's Xenon flash to light up a room and stop objects in motion and put the dual LED N86 to shame.

Nokia N8, Nokia N82, Nokia N900

It's been almost a year since my last review and Nokia has put out a lot of impressive devices so it's time to do another Xenon flash and dual LED showdown. This time I'm pitting the venerable N82 against Nokia's latest superstar, the N8, and the powerful N900.

According to Nokia program manager, Damian Dinning, the "N8 has virtually the same flash power as the N82" (source). So we should expect similar flash results from the N8 but, hopefully, better details with the N8's larger sensor and higher resolution.

The N900 did really well against the N82 in outdoor daylight shots but I have a strong feeling the dual LED is going to put the N900 out of the contest.

Finally, the N82, Nokia's night photo champion for a whole 2 years. Will it finally lose its crown to the sleek stylish N8? Let's find out!

Friday, October 15, 2010

The Nokia N8: Day 2

Last night I popped the SIM card out of my trusty Nokia N900 and stuck it into the N8. Different than most Nokia phones, the SIM card slot is at the side of the N8. Before you stick your SIM card in, be sure to read the manual first (you do read manuals, right?). When you do insert the SIM card into the slot, make sure the gold contacts are facting downwards towards the back of the phone with the diagonal edge going in first. I didn't hear a click like the manual says so my SIM card is stuck inside. I'm going to need tweezers to pull it out. I really hate this SIM card design. Although you can access the SIM card without removing the battery, you cannot hotswap a SIM card - so when you pop out a SIM card, you can't go online until you restart the phone.

Now, I need to get my contacts onto the phone. If your old device is a Nokia, you can use the N8 to automatically pull contacts, notes, and calendar entries from it. First turn on Bluetooth on your old phone then, on your N8, go to Settings > Connectivity > Data Transfer > Phone switch. Really straightforward and now I'm ready to go out with my N8.

I'm not one to walk around the pond but I figure it was a good opportunity to test the N8 in outdoor photography (all untouched photos):

I also took some indoor photos:

Not bad. As you know, the N8 doesn't include a mechanical cover like the N82 or N900 so there's nothing you can slide to get quick access to the camera. If you like mechanical covers, I'm with you on that. But, sliding the unlock key, holding the camera key to pull up the camera app, auto locking, and taking a photo actually takes less time than the N82 to do the same with a mechanical cover. And it's because the autofocus and photo capture is light years ahead of the N82 and significantly improved over the N900 as well. Plus, if you're expecting to take a lot of photos soon and just need to save battery between shots, I'd recommend just keeping the camera application open and just lock the phone - locking the phone will close the camera shutter.

A major improvement that sets the N8 camera apart from other camera phones is the camera locking to the exposure at focus lock. This allows better control of the exposure just like a real point and shoot camera.

The camera application is similar to previous S60 5th edition camera applications like the one found on the N97. It gives you control over white balance, exposure, ISO, contrast, and sharpness. But for users from Blackberry or iPhone, there's a simple camera icon in the center that automatically focusses on what's in the center and takes a photo.

By default the camera is set to take wide photos at 9MP so go to Options > Settings > Image quality to get the maximum quality photos at 12MP.

I also took a HD video:

It's even better than the videos I take with my Canon SD850i. An added bonus is the stereo microphone.

Overall a good day with the camera... I mean N8 smartphone.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

The Nokia N8: Day 1

I just got the Nokia N8 in the mail today. Now this blue box is sitting on my desk just waiting to be opened.

The Nokia N8 box is thinner than previous Nokia phone boxes. It's about 2/3rds the thickness of the N900 box

Similar to you, I've read a fair share of articles and blog posts about the Nokia N8, Nokia's upcoming flagship smartphone. With a long list of features such as the Xenon flash (which hasn't been seen on a Nokia since the Nokia N82 and Nokia 6220 Classic), HDMI output, and Dolby Digital output, who could not be excited in such a super phone? Not me for sure. So now it's in front of me, what do I do?

Obviously, open it!

This is such a tease. Show me the phone already!

Here lies the Nokia N8

It's longer than the N900 so at first glance it looked big. Stacking my E71 on top of the N8 shows that the dimensions are almost the same.

Picking up the N8, it felt light. It's lighter than my N900 but a long shot and it's a tad lighter than my E71. But it felt really solid - really hard aluminum and no creaks to mention.

In my hands, the N8 feels really thin compared to what I'm used to

For a few seconds, I looked in the package for the battery to insert but quickly remembered that the N8 battery is built-in, can't be removed, and doesn't need me to put it in. So I power it on and feel that little vibration to let me know that I've turned it on.

Once the screen was lit, my first impression was: This screen is so small. Maybe I was used to the N900. Maybe it was too many hours of Solitaire on my iPad. But my E71 screen was smaller. With my finger on the screen too, it didn't feel like there was much room for anything else on the screen. It was an odd feeling that I never got when I first turned on the N97 or N900. Maybe it was the surrounding black bezel that makes it feel smaller than it really is.

Just like any Nokia recent Nokia device, I'm welcomed to my phone with setting up the date followed by the phone wizard to guide me through setting up the device - as most power users would, I chose to skip it.

Up comes the familiar Symbian^3 / S60 5th edition homescreen of clock/date/profile and 5 customizable widget areas. The main selling point of the N8 is the much hyped 12MP so I click and hold the camera button to pull up the camera application. The camera application looks just like the N97's camera application, which isn't a bad thing. It just needs a little too many clicks to get into Scene mode. Since I was just testing around I snap a few photos with just auto (click for full image):

I wasn't amazed by the results like I did when I first got my SE W810i. I was taking the photos a dimly lit interior so I figure I had shaky hands.

I had to run to dinner with friends so I left the N8 and stuck to my N900: