The camera seems to be among the most interesting things about Nokia N93. The 3.2 megapixel matrix along with autofocus and 3x optical zoom with Carl-Zeiss optics has made many people curious about the capabilities of the device.
Just to sum up for the most impatient - we are not so pleased with its performance. Read further on for more details.
Otherwise, the view finder application is very easy to use. It can only operate in landscape mode. The camera supports self-timer pictures, sequence of pictures, different shooting modes (+night mode), white balance, exposure value, different color effects (sepia, black & white, etc.), sharpness, brightness, contrast, color saturation, flicker cancellation. Nokia has chosen to use "scenes", called "shooting mode". You can select scenes like Portrait, Landscape, Sport or Night Portrait and the camera will hopefully adjust to the situation. There is a possibility to define your own scene setting.
Fitting a zoom lens in a mobile phone is an achievement, no doubt about that. Everyone with digital camera experience knows how much more fun is a camera with zoom. The digital zoom most of the camera phones are equipped with just doesn't count - using it with full resolution still images makes no sense, you just fill your phone's memory with useless interpolated data. On the contrary, the optical zoom lens reveals more details when zooming on the target.
While making the zoom test we were surprised to find that the Carl Zeiss 3x labeled lens is actually not exactly 3x. The EXIF data shows that in wide position the focal length in wide position is 4.5mm and in full tele it is 12.3mm. This makes the zoom something like 2.7333x. If however we choose to believe the label on the front of the lens, which states focal range of 4.5-12.4mm than the zoom is 2.7555x. We also measured the zoom by comparing the size of the objects taken in wide and tele position, which confirmed that the zoom range is less than 3x. Comparing the Nokia N93 lens range to a digital camera with known 35mm equivalent focal length revealed that the phone has a 35mm equivalent focal length of about 35-97mm, quite typical for an entry level digital camera.
To test the quality of the lens we made two types of photo sample series. The first one is making a series of photos from one and the same position, this way showing how much more detail the tele position of the lens reveals.
From this test you can see how much more detail the zoom lens resolves. The sharpness of the lens is very good for such a small physical size. You can also see the results of the optical and the digital zoom, of course, there is no comparison. (The simulated digital zoom is produced by resizing the wide sample in an image editing program, a method guaranteed to give better results than the in-camera real time processing).
The other type of samples are taken from different position and with different lens focal lengths, but framing the object the same way. These tests will show the quality of the lens in tele position - how much details you lose by using the zoom instead of getting closer to the subject. We expected a significant difference in the quality of the wide and tele position for a lens this small, even a Carl-Zeiss branded one.
Well, not surprisingly the best quality is achieved at the wide end, but the results at tele are not that bad. The conclusion here is that if you can, it's better to use your feet instead of the zoom lever - you will get higher quality photos.
If you have expected that the more expensive Nokia N93 model would produce higher quality photos than those by the N73 model in all circumstances, than you are wrong. The reason is the zoom lens. The zoom lens in general requires smaller physical size of the image sensor. The smaller size leads to more cramped pixels, which results in higher noise levels. The processing Nokia uses doesn't help at all, in fact it seems that the sharpening routines even exaggerate the noise. Indeed, you can see that noise is high in almost every picture.
The noise levels are too high.
The noise is not that much of an issue if you are going to use your photos in lower resolution, for web publishing for example. The downsampling is known to mask the noise. The samples in 1024 x 768 pixels resolution look very good.
Indoor, where the light is weaker, the noise increases, but not as much as we've seen is some other camera mobiles. The indoor photos taken by Nokia N93 are altogether usable.
When the light is really weak, you can rely on the build-in LED flash. The problem is that the LED is effective only within close range (less than 1m) and only in wide zoom position. We didn't managed to make even one usable photo in tele position.
Nokia N93 is able to take good macro photos without switching to the dedicated close-up mode. In fact the dedicated mode is not very usable, because it switches the auto-focus off. The best macro coverage is achieved at the tele end of the zoom, quite convenient, because there is not need to get really close to the objects, which sometimes blocks the light on the subject.
Nokia N93 produces quite realistic and pleasant colors. The only problem we have noticed is with the flowers from the macro samples - the orange colors in reality looked different. The auto white balance system also works reliably; we didn't notice any significant problems. The auto-focus system, while not very fast, is reliable, we had just a few out of focus pictures during the testing.
The secondary VGA camera works in portrait mode because it is supposed to be used for video calls and thus is in portrait orientation.