My Battle Hardened Nokia N8 (Image by: Nokia N900’s 5MP Carl Zeiss)
Good cameraphones are few and far in between. What comes out in the market are some mediocre devices with LED flashes that usually perform well in optimal lighting conditions, but what that actually means is you can only ever take pictures in the daylight, outdoors. Real cameras use Xenon flashes, and without it, there’s really not much point. Indoors, even in the day, image quality suffers when taken from LED flashes so much that they’re hard to consider uploading to social networks at all. And what good is a picture if you couldn’t share it? Pretty worthless.
One could argue that if you wanted to take pictures, you’d bring a camera with you. Yes, but then I would also need to manage the battery charge, the chargers, the connectivity cable, memory card readers, and memory cards for both the camera and the phone. Not to mention the software that comes with both of them. Photo-geotagging is rare on point-&-shoots. And not to mention the extra bulk a camera would add to a person with limited pockets. Finally, my largest issue about keeping a camera separate from your phone is that you can never be sure that when you go out today that you’ll be needing a camera or not. Maybe you’ll need to take pictures, maybe you won’t. Maybe it’ll be invaluable, maybe it’ll be junk weighing your jeans down.
“In most ways, taking a camera with you is like going out with an umbrella just to be safe should it rain.”
The solution to this problem is to find a phone with camera features that would rival even decent quality point-&-shoots. One with Xenon flash. For the past few years, the answer would have been Nokia’s N82. The N82 is actually a smartphone and not a camerphone, for which reason it edges out its nearest competitor at the time, the Sony Ericsson K850i. While the Nokia N-series brings all the guns for a smartphone gunning for the flagship race, the Sony Ericson K-series (Kamera) only prioritizes the camera and sacrifices WiFi, GPS, and various other features. I bought the N82 in 2008 and despite my rugged use, still performs admirably. It once saved the day as the only camera available during a friend’s Debut. Had it not been powered by a Xenon flash, we’d be looking at shadows in the blurry dark instead of well composed shots.
For a visual comparison of LED vs. Xenon shots of current phones, check out this link from CNet Asia: LED Shots, Xenon Shots. Note that LED performs decently with subjects that are closer, but the colors get washed out and the picture seems like its a couple of tint levels wrong.
Nokia’s new Flagship N8
Since then, Sony Ericsson have brought out some Xenon-equipped phones in the C905 (8MP) and Satio (Idou) (12MP). While Nokia’s N82 grew a brother with the N86, albeit without the Xenon flash. Motorola, Samsung, and LG have come up with some of their own as well. For a quick Xenon-flash-equipped list, try this link from GSMArena.
Motorola Milestone XT720
Today, we find ourselves in a very interesting conjuncture. Nokia’s engineers may have finally created a worthy successor to the N82 in the soon-to-be-released Nokia N8. It brings powerful smartphone features in a capacitative touchscreen interface with some amazing optics: 12 Megapixels, large sensor, Xenon flash, 25FPS HD video. Rounding out the features are some smart multimedia choices like MKV support, HDMI out, Dolby Surround and USB On-The-Go. The Nokia N8 looks to be Nokia’s answer to the popularity of the iOS and Android devices, and they show their pedigree by skipping mediocre cameras and going for something crazy, like a 12MP Xenon – a feature that no Android or iOS carry. (A Xenon enabled 8MP Android exists with Motorola’s Milestone XT720. Sadly, reports say the camera is subpar, the HD video is overly compressed and the Xenon isn’t powerful.) For now, it would seem, Nokia might win another round in the cameraphone market with the N8. At least, if it comes out soon enough. Nokia Philippines, I hope you’re listening.
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