Nokia N9 review: Once in a lifetime

GSMArena team, 14 October 2011.
Pages: «12345678910»

Tags: Nokia, MeeGo, Touch UI

8 megapixel camera does pretty well

The Nokia N9 isn't as much of a cameraphone as the N8 (more about that in a second), but that doesn't mean that the company didn't put as much effort into its camera. The reason is simple - the module used in the N9 will be making its way to many more Nokia products in the future, as Nokia’s own Damian Dinning claimed on Twitter.

We are talking about an 8 megapixel sensor with a maximum resolution of 3264x2448pixels and a fast, f/2.2 wide angle (28mm in 35mm equivalent) lens. In layman's terms the Nokia N9 camera should offer excellent low-light performance and the chance to fit more into the frame.

Nokia also made a big deal of the fact that it hasn't used a conventional 4:3 sensor inside the N9, which would lose lots of resolution when shooting in the native for the screen 16:9 mode. Instead, they went for a 8.7MP sensor which allows shooting in both aspects with only a slight loss of resolution. As a result the Nokia N9 produces 8 megapixel shots in 4:3 mode and 7.1 megapixel images in 16:9 aspect.

The N9 completely new camera interface is quite functional, but you won't notice that immediately. At first glance, all you get in the digital viewfinder are a video/still shots switch, a shutter key and a shortcut to the gallery on the right and a virtual button to enter the settings menu on the left.

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The camera interface is quite functional

The settings menu offers 6 different scenes, flash settings, white balance and exposure compensation settings as well as ISO preference. Aspect ratio, resolution, face detection and geo-tagging can also be adjusted from here.

You can also insert some text to be recorded in the EXIF of the photos you take with the N9 (your name or some copyright text).

The final features of the Nokia N9 camera are touch focus, which works as you would expect it to and digital zoom, which is not good for anything as is the norm.

As for the image quality of the Nokia N9 shots - it's really good. We did a quick shootout between that and the Nokia N8 and found that the N9 isn't too far behind the high-res large-sensor camera on the Symbian smartphone.

Nokia N9 • Nokia N8 • Nokia N9 • Nokia N8

And here come some 100% crops, which will make comparisons much easier. In the first two we have upsized the Nokia N9 shots to 12 megapixel in order to be fair to the N8’s higher resolution camera.

And here are the promised 100% crops. Note that we upscaled the Nokia N9 photos to 12MP resolution to make this one fair.

Nokia N9 (upscaled to 12MP) vs. Nokia N8 100% crops

Nokia N9 (upscaled to 12MP) vs. Nokia N8 100% crops

And here's one more that shows how the two cameraphones compare in their natural resolution.

Nokia N9 (untouched) vs. Nokia N8 100% crops

Sure, the N9 photos' resolution isn't all that impressive and they are looking more processed, but the differences are way subtler than you would expect, given the difference in sensor size.

The N9 photos have good amount of detail and have the noise kept well under control. Dynamic range is also really good and our only grudge is that colors tend to be slightly off - a bit too yellow.

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Nokia N9 camera samples

Photo quality comparison

We’ve also added the Nokia N9 to our Photo Compare database. The tool’s page has a quick how to guide.

We were really amazed by the Nokia N9 performance on our test charts. Obviously its algorithms are way better suited to studio charts than real-life shots as in these conditions the N9 is an equal match for the N8. Yay!

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Nokia N9 in the Photo Compare Tool

720p video recording could be better

720p video recording is no longer considered a top achievement. As a matter of fact, it’s now becoming the norm for far cheaper smartphones than the N9, so it might come as a slight disappointment to some here.

Plus, the quality of the videos captured with the N9 isn't all that great. There's plenty of resolved detail and the continuous autofocus is pretty smooth, but the videos are slightly choppy. As we found out, the Nokia N9 dynamically changes the video framerate depending on the amount of data it has to process in individual scenes.

We've seen anything from 24fps to 29fps. And depending which framerate it goes for, you would get either a smooth or a choppy video. The Nokia N9 might be good enough for shooting not too fast-paced scenes, but for that price tag we really expected better.

At least video sound is captured in stereo with a bitrate of 132Kbps and a sampling rate of 48kHz.

If you want to look closer at the video quality, you can download this untouched sample 720p@27fps, taken straight off the device.

As for the video camera interface - it's almost identical to what you get with the still camera. The available scene presets are only two this time and there's no ISO setting, but the white balance and exposure compensation toggles are here.

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Camcorder interface is not too different

Video quality comparison

The Nokia N9 did a decent job of the charts in our studio. In terms of video resolution it fares pretty well against most of the other devices we've added to our Video Compare Tool database as you can see by clicking any of the images below.

Video Compare Tool Video Compare Tool Video Compare Tool
Nokia N9 in the Video Compare Tool

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