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!

Firmwarev011.012.00.01v31.0.016PR1.2 v10.2010.19-1.002
Photo dimensions (pixels)4000x30002592x19442592x1944
F number/Aperture2.8/5.22.8/5.62.8/5.2
Flash typeXenonXenonDual-LED

Here we're going to do two tests. The first will test the flash power/distance by placing the camera 5 meters away from the back of a completely dark room. The second will test the speed of the flash to stop objects in motion by photographing a metronome.

Flash Distance

All camera phones were set to auto mode with automatic flash in a room with no light. I placed 3 objects on the ground a meter apart from each other in front of the camera. The big boxes were 4 meters away and the wall was about 5 meters away.




N900Canon SD850i



The dual LED is just not bright enough compared to the Xenon flash. The N8 and N82 produced fairly comparable photos. The N82 produced much more true colors while the N8 photo turned out blue-ish. We can attribute this to better Xenon compensating algorithm on the N82 while the N8 hasn't been tuned enough yet. However, the N8 photo has more details as you can almost read the text on boxes at the rear.

WINNER: Tie: N82, N8

Flash Speed

I used a metronome since it has a generally consistent speed, easily recognized by readers all around the world, and has various speed settings. I threw out all photos of the metromone arm at the very far right and very far left since the arm moves much slower at that point. I took 3 photos with each phone at each speed setting.

I found that each phone produced consistent image quality between the 3 photos taken. All camera phones captured photos between 100-200 ISO regardless of metronome speed. Now let's look at the detailed results.

Low speed (40 GRAVE)

Mid speed (72 ANDANTE)

High speed (120 ANIMATO)

The Xenon on the N8 and N82 were able to freeze the metronome arm in all photos while the dual LED on the N900 wasn't able to keep and produced a blur.

Interestingly, between the N8 and N82 photos, the N82 produced a lot more light than the N8. Brighter light is definitely useful when you're taking a close portait photo in a dark room. Although the N8 produced better detailed photos, the N82's brighter photos were much more pleasing on the eye. A slight drawback to the N82's Xenon unit is the slow Xenon re-charge. I only encountered charge delays on the N8 twice while the N82 re-charge was more than double the time of the N8 and I encountered it on 50% of the time. So, if you're planning to take a lot of quick photos, the N8 is the one to choose but overall the N8 results were better.



As my earlier comparison had shown, Xenon is definitely a must have if you intend to take photos in the dark. Although the N8 is billed as having comparable Xenon flash to the venerable N82, the N82 software is better tuned to compensate for the blue light of the Xenon and it's also brighter at short distances. Nokia has done an admirable job at slimming down the Xenon charge unit to fit the thin N8. It's obvious buyers would not choose between the N8 and N82 just on the Xenon flash alone. So if you have the N8 or plan to get it, the N8 Xenon is almost as good as the N82. If you're holding onto a N82, be happy to know that you still holding on to the best Xenon flash unit available on a Nokia device.


1 comment:

Bryan Hunter said...

Having used a N900 for the last 2 years, I have to say the camera was fantastic. Agree that the N82 suplants it though. Good comparison!