Nokia 701 review: Belles and whistles
Better 8MP fixed-focus camera
The Nokia 701 comes with an 8MP fixed-focus camera for a maximum image resolution of 3264 x 2448 pixels. In dark scenes, a dual-LED flash lends a hand.
The user interface has changed since Anna (it's even different from the Nokia N8 camera update), but the changes are mostly cosmetic.
At the bottom of the screen, you get a row of shortcuts: Back, Flash mode, Scenes, Extended options and Menu. The latter lets you toggle between the front and rear camera, launch the user guide or exit the camera app.
On the right, there's a virtual shutter key (often preferable over the physical one, which is hard to press) and a toggle for the still/video modes. On the left, there's a digital zoom lever that auto-hides.
In the extended options you get more goodies like face detection, a self-timer, image settings (ISO, white balance, sharpness, etc.) and a shortcut to one last group of settings where you have geotagging and capture tone options.
The layout of the ISO setting was a massive disappointment. It's a list (Auto, Low, Med, High) and you tap once to select and once again to activate. The Sharpness setting works the same way. Really, Nokia? It's just sad to insist on this ham-fisted approach to menus with each new version of the OS.
Anyway, as far as image quality goes it's actually improved since the Nokia C7. The default settings no longer over-sharpen the image, though you can see halos around high-contrast areas and the images turn up a little grainy because of the sharpened noise from the sensor.
Still, the Nokia 701 captures good amounts of fine detail. One thing that could be improved is the dynamic range - contrast is good but at the cost of overblown areas in the image. Color balance tended towards yellow, which is typical of consumer cameras, but overdid it sometimes.
Close-ups are the 701's weak spot - it just can't get close to a subject and take a photo. Even from some distance, text comes out pretty badly.
We tried reducing the sharpness setting in the camera and that helped out by taking a lot of the graininess out of the photos. That, of course, made the image noticeably softer - ideally, you'd shoot with sharpness set to "soft" and sharpen images manually later.
If that seems like too much hassle, go with the default settings - they're good enough.
Photo quality comparison
We've added the Nokia 701 to our Photo Compare Tool, where it joins the other non-autofocus 8MP Nokias.
The black on white lines of the first chart show the oversharpening halos but other than that, the camera performs fairly well in these high-contrast areas. The second chart shows curious looking (but unwelcome) artifacts from the post-processing - look at the center of the circle and at what is supposed to be a photo of gravel to the right of it (above grass).
The third chart shows good color rendering but it's easy to notice the yellowish color balance in the black and white photo.
720p video recording is good
The video camera captures 720p videos @ 30fps and with stereo sound courtesy of the dedicated second microphone.
The user interface is virtually identical to the still camera interface. Among the options are scenes, video light, video stabilization, you can toggle audio recording and geotagging.
There's an advanced option, which not only shows the rule of thirds grid, but also marks the viewfinder in a cinema-like 21:9 frame.
Video capture was one area where Nokia's 8MP fixed-focus cameras perform surprisingly well and the Nokia 701 is no exception. Videos are shot in MP4 files with about 10Mbps bitrate and 127Kbps stereo sound at 48 kHz, which earns points for the 701.
Videos run at a smooth 30 frames per second, with no duplicated frames. The amount of captured detail is good, but again the low dynamic range leads to overblown areas (the shadow in the trees and the clouds, for example).
Check out the quality for yourselves, here's a sample we uploaded to YouTube:.
And here's a 720p@30fps (14.7MB, 0:10s) video sample straight from the Nokia 701 for direct download.
Video Quality Comparison
Time for the Nokia 701 to enroll in our Video Quality Tool. Our test setup shows that the 30fps framerate is pretty smooth and the captured detail in each frame is quite high. Low-light performance suffers from a big deal of noise however.
In the resolution chart you'll notice that the video recorder sharpens frames quite a bit, just like the still camera.