Nokia N86 8MP was meant to be the biggest surprise of the show. After all the disappointment with Nokia still failing to pull off an 8 megapixel cameraphone, everyone was supposed to be overwhelmed by the announcement on the second day of the MWC 2009. Unfortunately, it didn't turn out quite that way.
Images and specs of the yet unofficial Nokia N86 8MP had leaked online by the first day of the MWC 2009 in a way not as impressive as Nokia may've hoped. And it was Nokia themselves that leaked the whole thing by unveiling the device at an alternative event elsewhere.
Another controversy about the Nokia N86 8MP was that some of the devices were branded N85 8MP. Plus, the camera image EXIF properties identified the units as N85 as well.
Obviously, Nokia had initially planned it as an upgrade of the popular N85, which by the way is just how it looks. Then they changed their mind but strangely (and quite flagrantly) kept the 8MP label.
Nevertheless, the Nokia N85 has one of the most impressively equipped 8 megapixel cameras closing the gap between cameraphones and point-and-shoot cams. It's the first and only cameraphone to offer variable aperture values (F2.4/F3.2/F4.8) and a 28mm wide-angle lens.
You can see the difference between the wide angle and a regular cameraphone lens. Here are two samples of one and the same scene taken simultaneously with a Nokia N86 8MP and another Nokia phone. The samples are downsized to 800x600 pixels as resolution is irrelevant. Just compare the field of view.
The other first-ever is the variable aperture. Having a variable aperture (like a regular digicam) instead of a fixed aperture (like a regular cameraphone) gives you one more way of controlling the amount of light that reaches the camera sensor.
In other words, smaller F aperture numbers let more light in, while higher aperture numbers reduce the incoming light. You still get the same exposure, as the camera compensates for the various aperture settings by varying the shutter speed or the ISO, which are the two other factors that determine the total amount of light that gets in.
But leaving the photography primer aside, the advertized aperture values of Nokia N86 8MP
The first benefit is that at F2.4 the N86 camera has more light to work with as compared to the standard F2.8 value of all cameraphones we've seen so far. In low light conditions that allows you to get higher shutter speeds (possibly less handshake blur) or lower ISO (possibly less noise) or even both.
The second benefit from the variable aperture is that when there's enough light, the camera sensor can let the aperture close down a bit more (F3.2/F4.8) thus creating images that are usually sharper and with better depth of focus field.
Here are several full-res camera shots taken with the Nokia N86 8MP at the Nokia booth. If you check out the images EXIF data however you would see that the aperture value is F2.8, which doesn't really match what Nokia advertized. We guess the N86 unit we used was a too early one to really show its potential.
Other than the imaging novelties, the Nokia N86 8MP is a really capable smartphone with rich equipment. Perhaps the only disappointment is the lack of a xenon flash and the screen size - we couldn't help a sigh over the Nokia N95 8GB 2.8" display.
The Nokia N86 8MP camera performance is yet to have a real trial by fire but the specs are no short of impressive.