Nokia N8 preview: First look
12 MP camera
Let's be honest - it's the reason why you are here. The Nokia N8 hopes to change the way we perceive cameraphones, by making the shooter its leading feature. Nokia did their homework and packed the device with the largest sensor a mobile phone has seen (stretching to 1/1.83" inches). It has an advantage of roughly 50% over regular 1/2.5" sensors found in the Samsung Pixon12 and the Sony HX5, that we recently featured in a blind camera shootout. The larger sensor surface should benefit its low-light capabilities and dynamic range greatly.
But it doesn't end there - the Nokia N8 also comes with a mechanical shutter, a powerful xenon flash, a 28mm wide-angle lens and a front lens made out of reinforced glass. The built-in ND filter will compensate for the lack of variable aperture in those extremely bright conditions when you just cannot increase the shooting speed any more.
Judging by the results of the blind test we conducted yesterday, the company has also managed to deliver on the image quality front as the Nokia N8 managed to convincingly outdo the previous cameraphone ruler, the Samsung Pixon12 and an expensive compact digicam such as the Sony DSC-HX5v Cyber-shot. And here come the promised full resolution samples from the three cameras so you can check them out.
To be honest we are a bit surprised by the results. No, we are not saying that the N8 does something wrong and its win isn't deserved. Right on the opposite - the handset is undoubtedly the best cameraphone in existence.
It's just that the company's philosophy with the N8 is to do as little processing as possible, giving the image a natural look, rather than going for more saturated colors and higher contrast. We thought that this approach won't produce images as appealing to the wide audience. As it turns out we were in the wrong and the Nokia imaging team really knew what they were doing.
The well-measured in-camera post-processing has kept the images from the excessive noise that you usually get when you boost color channels to achieve more pumped up color output.
Plus it allows you to fiddle with the images in post processing leaving quite some room to work with.
Nokia imaging team also had a very sensible approach to noise suppression, wiping away colored chroma noise, but leaving the more bearable luminance noise be, which allowed them to retain as much fine detail as possible.
Add all those factors together and you will see why the Nokia N8 managed to trash the competition in the high ISO part of yesterday's test. Elsewhere things were more evenly matched with the large sensor advantage not as noticeable in good lighting. Yet, even then, the Finnish flagship cameraphone delivers slightly more resolution.
Another thing that came to our attention in the test is the fact that the N8 lens unit has almost no geometrical imperfections unlike the Pixon12 lens, which has notable barrel distortion. There's no fringing too.
The cell phone world has found its new camera champion in the face of Nokia N8 and the digicams are starting to feel the heat. We didn't need that much time to realize that, but we are still examining the margin of the N8 win. That final question should get its answers once our full review is complete.