Nokia N70 camera review: Quality without a label

Marek Lutonský, 20 October 2005. Read the original review at MobilMania.cz
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A big review of the Nokia N70 smartphone is to come very soon. In the meantime we are offering you a separate article with detailed description of N70's built-in digital camera. So let us find out what the pictures Nokia's second 2 megapixel camera are like, regardless the lack of the famous Carl Zeiss label.

Nokia N70 is from the second wave of 2 megapixel photo mobiles to hit the market. First came the Sony Ericsson K750 (and its allied models W800 and D750) and the Nokia N90 with its Carl Zeiss lens. Now the Nokia N70 smartphone has joined the parade together with another photo mobile with 2 megapixel - Samsung D600.

Sony Ericsson K750 Nokia N90 Samsung D600E

All photos in this article are displayed in full resolution (with several exceptions). They have not been modified and contain EXIF information

Zeiss is nothing but a label

While Nokia N90 can boast about its Carl Zeiss labelled optics and its auto focusing, the new N70 model makes a step back to standard photo mobiles. It does not feature auto focus, it has fixed focus lens. Yet its camera and video applications origin from the Nokia N90 and thus offer plenty of options.

So, how exactly does Nokia N70 take pictures? It is brilliant in comparison to all current photo mobiles. Even though we could hardly speak about its optics as of something exceptional, the number of pixels manages to balance the situation, so picture quality is good. N70 performs brilliantly even in a direct comparison with its most successful competitors. I hope Carl Zeiss does not get offended, but the reality is sometimes cruel - in many cases Nokia N70 takes better pictures than N90, even without the blessing of the famous label. As a whole, however, Sony Ericsson remains the only photo mobile that shows high-class performance without exceptions.

Nokia N70 I think it is not bad at all

Flash could bring a surprise

The maximum resolution, in which Nokia N70 takes pictures, is 1600 × 1200 pixels, which is exactly 1.92 MP. The phone offers lower resolution options as well: 1024 × 768 (wrongly quoted as 1280 × 960 in the manual) and 640 × 480. In my opinion, resolution characteristics in N70 have been selected more successfully than those of Nokia N90. Pictures are saved in a JPEG format. File sizes are approximately 400 KB.

Alike all photo mobiles on the current market, Nokia N70 does not have an optic viewfinder. It uses the display instead. The phone can be held in one hand or horizontally, like a standard photo camera thanks to a special side-button, which activates the shutter release function. Picture taken this way are displayed vertically and thus look a bit strange.

The fastest way to activate the camera is to remove the back cover, revealing this way the camera lens. The phone makes its first picture in 4.4 s - a bit far from ideal, not to say a disappointing performance. In this test Nokia scores the worst among all photo mobile phones that have undergone our testing so far. Allied Nokia 6681 manages within 2.67 s from a stand-by mode; Nokia N90 does it within 3.32 s.

Next to the camera lens you will see the matt white glass of the built-in flash. As usual, the flash is set to auto once the camera application has been started. You can force the flash manually to enabled or disabled. Be careful though, because once you close the lens cover, all selected settings disappear. The flash is quite necessary for picture taking in low light conditions. It helps a lot, indeed.

When you press the release button, it gives out a sound that resembles the real sound of a lens shutter. However, if you select a quiet mode, the phone gets truly silent, with the short flash of the diode next to the camera lens being the only detail, which might alert the photographed person that they are being taken picture of.

Nokia N70 has another camera on its front side. Originally, it has been developed to support video calls, but it can also be used for taking self-portraits. It works with resolution of 640 × 480 pixels. As it lacks a single setup option, the pictures it takes are quite low quality.

The most important feature is missing

Just like in Nokia N90, the most frequently used settings in Nokia N70 are accessed through the context menu of the phone's camera.

1. Scene. There are a few program modes here - automatic, portraits, landscape, night and sport. There is one manual mode, which allows for flash, white balance, color settings etc. In its manual Nokia states that inside the Sport mode the resolution is reduced to 800 × 600 pixels. In reality, it remains unchanged.

2. Flash. I already mentioned the fact that automatic flash is activated every time the camera is ran. But it is also possible to manually activate or deactivate it too.

3. White balance. You can select the appropriate option - sunny, cloudy, lamp or fluorescent lamp. As automatics are not flawless, white balance experiments are sometimes worth making. An example for that is to be found in the second chapter.

4. Color effects. Within this menu you can choose color effects - sepia, black & white and inverse mode.

The vertical ways of the four-way button control the zoom. The latter is digital and therefore useless for pictures that are to be viewed in a computer and - of course! -for printing. Anyway, it is quite good for viewing images on the small phone display. In this menu you can also activate an extended, 20-step zoom. The more steps applied, however, the lower is the quality.

Compared to Nokia 6630 and 6681 models, this photo mobile is not equipped with exposure compensation. Notwithstanding the fact that Nokia did not equip its mentioned old models with a standard exposure compensation option we know from the digital cameras, they were still able to modify the brightness and contrast when processing the picture. Nokia N70 does not offer such an option at all. I my opinion, the exposure compensation option should be present in every camera device.

A few words about videos

The more advanced mobile phones are released on the market, the more interesting and useful video shooting becomes. Let us start with resolution: Nokia N70 shoots video in a 352 × 288 pixels format, which is four times bigger area than the most photo mobiles are currently offering. In this resolution Nokia N70 shoots in various formats, including MP4; if the resolution is reduced in half, the phone switches to 3GPP format.

The camera features quite fair video characteristics. The record length depends on the available free memory space. The digital zoom can be used while video. You can also chose, whether the sound is to be recorded or not.

Sample video

One of the Best

Nokia N70 is a very good photo mobile phone. It has the fullest right to take its place among current top-class camera phones. Especially the pictures it takes outdoors are better then those of the majority of its competitors. N70 performs a bit worse indoors. The automatic mode boosts the ISO sensitivity, which results in unpleasant noise. A sure catastrophe is the macro mode. The lens's focal distance is fixed for taking pictures from a long distance, which is not good for the close-ups. And this is a great disappointment, for we all know that photo mobiles are frequently used for photographing closer objects like texts, notes etc.

In general, Nokia N70's camera can be given a high mark. Compared to its forerunners, it has made a certain step forward.

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