First Impressions: Nokia N8

Nokia N8 homescreen

I recently got my hands on the newly released Nokia N8. Solely for evaluation purposes, I’ll be playing with its camera features for the next two weeks. More importantly, I hope to be doing some hands on comparison with my iPhone 4, just to see how it stands up with its competitor.

The N8 is remarkably light for what it is. I was a little taken aback when I first held it in my hands. Compared to my iPhone 4, it feels like it’s almost half the weight. The camera, seen below, protrudes about 2mm away from the rest of the body, which makes it look a little fragile. However, after some handling of the unit, I feel that part is sturdier than I first thought.

Nokia N8 camera protrudes out about 2mm

For the purpose of the review, however, I’ll be focusing more on the photography/video component of the camera since without a provider, the majority of functions on the N8 are, well, inoperable.

This Nokia N8 would be my first experience with the Symbian operating system and so first impressions are very important. The newly updated version 3 of Symbian OS has a lot of promise with features that would make even iPhone 4 users a little jealous (including myself).

Nokia N8
Carl Zeiss Tessar 2.8/28 12MP AF camera

The photography portion of the phone features a number of mouth watering options that the iPhone 4 seems to have forgotten in its updates. Basic photography functions like white balance, exposure, and preset settings make the N8 very favourable. Even more useful—at times, that is—is the ability to change the ISO settings. The ability to change the sensitivity of the sensor to the ambient light is not something that I would normally expect to be on a phone camera, but nonetheless is a very welcome function, as it automatically adjusts to the ambient light for optimal exposure.

Let’s look at the camera options screen on the N8:

Camera options screen on the Nokia N8

Scene mode: Gives typical options for shooting: Automatic, User defined, Close-up, Portrait, Landscape, Sports, Night, and Night Portrait. These are typical settings you would see on a point and shoot camera or entry level dSLR.

Face detection: A relatively new feature even for point and shoots, where the camera recognizes faces, and will automatically try and focus on it.

Grid: One of my favourite options even on my dSLR, this provides an aid for aligning straight edges and horizons in your frame. I usually just leave it on at all times since it doesn’t hurt.

Self timer: Timer setting in 2, 10, and 20 seconds. Why the iPhone didn’t include this popular feature is a little odd I thought.

Color tone: Normal, Sepia, Black & White, Vivid. Nice to have on any phone.

White balance: Sunny, Cloudy, Incandescent, Fluorescent. This does quite a good job in adjusting for the light I must say.

Exposure: Again, an option seen on most typical p&s and dSLR cameras is now on a phone!

Light sensitivity: With an option of Automatic, Low, Medium, or High, this mimics film ISO settings and can be a great benefit when shooting under various lighting conditions.

Contrast: Gives you a scale to scroll up and down with, although it has no numerical values for easy remembering.

Sharpness: Normal, Hard, Soft.

All of these options are live in that when you change it in the settings, the display automatically changes so that you can see what the options are doing—with the exception of the sharpness option, which was difficult to see the changes, if it even changed at all.

The shooting screen gives you the option of flash settings: Automatic, Red eye reduction, on, and off. And with a quick tap to the left of the screen, an option to zoom in is given. I find this zoom to be remarkably sharp for a small camera like this. I want to say that the zoom is done digitally, but the quality of the zoom makes me think otherwise. Compared to my iPhone 4’s digital zoom, the N8 wins hands down.

The Xenon flash on the N8 is rock solid and reaches an impressive range. I have yet to fully test this one out, but hope to do so soon.

I’ll be taking this out for a spin the next couple of days so hopefully I can get some real life examples to show off here in my next review.

Until then!

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