Nokia N95 camera review: High five

David Polesný, 19 April 2007. Read the original review at MobilMania.cz
Pages: 123»

Camera interface, description of functions, sample pictures, comparison to a digital camera, and sample VGA videos.

Nokia N95 is among the first mobile phones on the European market to ever offer a 5-megapixel resolution. What's more, its camera features a Carl Zeiss lens, automatic focus, and detailed user-configurable settings. Nevertheless, our experience tells us that on paper specs usually sound a lot more exciting than they are in reality. That is why we will put Nokia N95 to a detailed and extremely rigorous test.

Full-function camera

The camera is located on the rear side of the device; the lens is protected by a mechanical cover opened with an easy slide. Fortunately it's not that easy to let the cover open spontaneously, for example in case of pulling the phone out of one's pocket. The cover is active, that is, its opening activates the camera application. When you closed it, the keypad lock is activated automatically and vice versa - opening it unlocks the keypad.

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Nokia N95

Both activation and deactivation of the camera application is accompanied by gradual l lighting up of the side functional keys backlighting, just like in Nokia N73. On the right side, under your right pointing finger you will find a large release button; right next to it is an instant-access key to the Gallery; there is also a dual zoom key located under your left finger. To sum up, taking pictures with the phone is as natural as with your common digital camera.

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Lens is protected

On the front there is another camera for video calls, which can also be used for taking pictures. It creates images of up to 640 × 480 pixels and might be quite useful for portraits to go into the phonebook.

Inside the frame of the lens you will also see a powerful LED flash (not as powerful as a xenon flash, of course). Unfortunately, there is no setup option in the menu that would allow permanent activation of the flash so that this can be used as a torch, as seen in other Nokia phones. A special program providing such an option could probably be downloaded additionally, though.

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Optics from Carl Zeiss

The QVGA display (2.6 inch) serves as a viewfinder of the 5-megapixel camera.

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Camera keys are located on the right side of the phone • keys are illuminated gradually • shooting position

Camera settings

It takes 6 seconds to get the camera application running. If you manage to focus immediately, then your first shot will probably take you about 8 seconds, which is rather slow, especially considering the frequent use of photo mobiles as opportunist cameras for taking instant shots.

To take a shot, first half-press the release button until the focusing frame becomes green, and then press the release button fully; just like you would do with a standard digital camera. Available are 4 different shutter sounds, each of which can be silenced completely should the phone has been set to silent mode.

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Camera viewfinder

The camera application is very user-friendly and easy to manage. Function icons are displayed on the right and switched between by using the vertical ways of the navigation key. The horizontal ways duplicate the zoom function, also available on the phone side. When a function is selected, an additional menu pops out. The upper context key closes functions, while the bottom one opens the option menu.

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Camera menu and setup options

Among other options here you will find camera resolution settings, automatic insertion of images into albums, shutter sound setup, or default storage. Once you have set up all above mentioned features, they remain saved even if the camera application has been restarted. However, the same does not hold true for the functions displayed in the right menu column, which load their default settings each time the camera is activated.

ISO setup from phone

Let's now have a closer look at the camera functions displayed in the right menu column:

  • The camera/video mode switcher is on first position.
  • Shooting mode - you help the camera focus and provide exposure setup. Available are: macro, portrait, landscape, sport, night, night portrait, automatic mode, and even a user setup option. The latter allows custom settings for focus, flash, exposure compensation, white balance, color nuances, sharpness, and contrast. Automatic mode is rather reliable; macro would be better if setup manually.
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  • Flash - automatic, user-configurable, or deactivated. Red-eye reduction is available, too.
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  • Self-timer - off, 2, 10, or 20 seconds
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  • Sequence mode - single shot or consequent shots with a user-configurable time interval of up to 15 minutes.
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  • Exposure compensation - setup in a ± 2EV range; 0,5 EV step
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  • White balance - automatic mode works rather well, white color reception under artificial light is possible to setup, too.
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  • Color nuances - a standard set: standard, sepia, black & white, negative, and an additional vivid color mode.
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  • Light sensitivity (ISO) - you can set it low in order to eliminate noise; this way, however, the shutter speed is lower; or vice versa. Available are three sensitivity levels and an automatic mode. Setting the ISO manually is a good step forward, but it works best only when combined with manual exposure setting, which Nokia N95 lacks. If you hold the phone still, switch on the self-timer, and set up a low sensitivity level expecting a nice night shot, you will only get a dark photo. The automatic mode does not allow you to extend shooting time too much preventing the image from getting blurred. In other words, manual exposure settings in photo mobiles remain a matter of future solutions that are still to come.
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  • Contrast - suitable in case of a dull scene; it makes colors more vivid. Since Nokia N95 creates images of rather high contrast, this function is likely to be used rather seldom. Sometimes it may even require you to lower the contrast levels.
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  • Sharpness - the phone software can make contours more pronounced or, on the contrary, blur them a little bit. Whether you should use this option or not is up to your
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Zoom: the zoom is managed through its own control elements, so it is not available in the menu. The phone zooms digitally, that is, the image gets cropped. The result is a less sharp, interpolated image. The digital zoom achieves good results when shooting in lower resolution.

The big thumbnails a linked to sample pictures in full resolution ( 1-1.5MB), the small ones point to resampled photos to 800 × 600 pixels.

Sample pictures using zoom:

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