BlackBerry Storm 9500 review: Berry-go-round

GSMArena team, 13 March 2009.
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Image gallery is OK

The image gallery of the Storm is hardly spectacular, being simply a touch-optimized version of what its predecessors have. Not that it's unsightly or functionally crippled - in fact it is doing pretty well overall with the 100% zoom shortcut earning our appreciation.

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The gallery offers list and thumbnail view

The gallery offers finger gestures, meaning that you can browse pictures by sweeping your finger across the screen. You can also zoom in on a photo by pressing the screen and sweeping your finger. Opting between portrait and landscape mode is automatic, thanks to the built-in accelerometer. All you need to do to switch modes is to flip the phone sideways.

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Looking at a single picture

The photos can also be zoomed in on to see more detail but the screen resolution makes sure you won't need it as much as usual. We are particularly happy with the zoom to actual size shortcut that exists on the BlackBerry devices. This gives you a quick and easy way to review photos in the finest detail possible.

Overall, picture browsing is decently fast but the zooming is on the slow side. It takes about a second for each zoom step even when dealing with 3 megapixel photos, let alone higher-res ones. At least the panning is OK.

Camera not up to scratch

BlackBerry Storm 9500 is equipped with a 3.15 MP autofocus camera and a LED flash. However the imaging capabilities of the device are pretty limited with usability, image quality and functionality all below average.

The horrendous camera interface of the Storm is an indication that RIM got most things terribly wrong in this department. There is a status bar appearing at all times hiding a good portion of what actually ends up in the picture. This means that proper framing is a grave challenge.

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The camera UI is anything but well though of

Next up, the UI itself is pretty uncomfortable to work with as there are no shortcuts on the screen meaning that you have to go in the menu to change the settings. Not that there are too many settings you can apply, as those are quite limited.

The glimmer of hope here is image-geotagging, which allows you to automatically record your location in the images' EXIF data.

The few other offered settings are: white balance, color effects and image stabilization. There is also the obligatory picture size and quality.

What bothers us even more than the interface is the picture quality of the BlackBerry Storm 9500. It is well below the average performance in the 3MP league. The amount of resolved detail falls seriously short of impressive. Probably part of the explanation is the extremely aggressive noise reduction applied, which eradicates all fine detail and gives the photos a distinct oil-painting look.

The phone also has a problem with corner softness, with images lacking any sharpness at all near the edges. Contrast and dynamic range are also below par, though the colors are relatively precise. Generally we can hardly think of something good to say about the Storm camera.

Here go the sample photos so you can see what we are talking about.

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BlackBerry Storm 9500 camera sample photos

Truth be told, the camera is one of the most disappointing parts of the BlackBerry Storm (with the video playback restrictions being a close second). If taking photos with your mobile phone is your thing you should definitely look elsewhere - you could get a real imaging touchscreen machine like the LG KC910 Renoir or the Samsung M8800 Pixon for less money. However if you only take an occasional shot every now and then and don't bother downloading them to a PC you might get to live with it.

QVGA videos, no thanks

Video recording brings yet another disspointment. The mighty Storm goes only as high as QVGA@30fps. And no matter what the guys over at Sony Ericsson are trying to convince you - this is not enough.

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The camcorder UI

Videos are captured in 3GP format and can have a color effect applied. The LED flash can also be set to on to work as a video light.

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