Tag Archives: Symbian

The Nokia 41MP Pureview battle – Lumia 1020 vs 808: Photography control and camera app features


The Nokia 808 was the last and the best of the Symbian powered Nokia smartphones, and featured the pinnacle of camera in a phone.  The Lumia 1020 is said to be the next upgrade of the 808, and if so it has to be the new benchmark for camera in a phone.  The question to this date remains a hard fought one, as both these phones are very special, as they target the professional and enthusiast photographer, and also the users who want photos with  on compromises (meaning oh what to do, that’s all a phone can do to be not an excuse).

I have been using the 1020 for a while, and decided against all common sense knowing that the Symbian platform is dead, to buy a Nokia 808 to see how does it fare against the newer Lumia 1020 featuring what Nokia markets as the phone to replace the 808. The review focus foremost is as the camera in the phone, and secondly on the basic smartphone capabilities.

P1020196

I am going to start this unique review more on photographic terms (no I am not a professional photographer, but a person who appreciates high quality photos and control when taking photos) since these two smartphones are more about the camera than anything else.

Part 1: Photography control

The two phones are actually very very powerful photographic equipment when it features a sensor that is larger than sensor feature in professional smart cams such as the Canon G15, Canon S120, Lumix LX7, Nikon P7100, etc and hence the ability to use this in full manual mode is important.

Here is a quick comparison of the Nokia Pro Camera (Lumia 1020) app and the Nokia camera (Nokia 808).  I have not considered any third party camera apps, or Lenses that may give additional controls in this.

  Nokia 1020 Nokia 808
Aperture Control No No
Shutter control Yes No
ISO control Yes Yes
Exposure control Yes Yes
Compression quality No NormalSuperfine
Manual Focus Yes No
Touch Focus Yes Yes
Focus Light on/off Yes Yes
Capture modes 5MP

5MP + 34MP

5MP + DNG 34MP

2MP

5MP

8MP

34MP

Aspect Ratio 4:3 and 16:9 4:3 and 16:9
ND Filter No Yes
Capture Mode NormalTimerBracketing

 

NormalBracketingInternal

Self-time

Saturation No Yes
Contrast No Yes
Sharpness No Yes

Lumia trump cards

The Lumia 1020 has the advantage in that it offers shutter control, which is a very powerful feature. The Nokia 808 sadly was due to get this before they pulled the plug on the Symbian platform, and while you can’t set it manually you can achieve a bit of shutter control by using the ND filter and exposure control, but still this critical element goes to the Lumia 1020.

The Lumia 1020 brings another massive ace that  it can save both a 5MP shot and the 34MP shot, a feature the 808 lacks, and the latest ability to save in DNG format means photographers can get into Photoshop or similar tools to enhance their photos.

Nokia 808 trump cards

However the Nokia 808 comes out fighting by having the ND filter which is useful when shooting in bright light, to get better exposure on your photos, and also is able to apply custom saturation/contrast settings when shooting.  Another powerful feature is the ability define the sharpness you want applied to the photos, and the quality of the compression.  So several powerful capability that the Lumia 1020 Pro camera is not able to match.

The 808 also wins in that it has a 2MP mode, which is ideal for uploads to your social sites, and also has an added advantage that it has a higher zoom level compared to the Lumia 1020.

Round 1: Conclusion

So from photography control view and app point of view the Nokia Pro camera of the Lumia 1020 has the edge over the camera app, and when you couple the Windows phones ability to load Lenses (custom camera plug-ins) this definitely goes the Lumia 1020 way, but the 808 is not easily beaten!

The Windows 8 platform is fast developing, and there are talks that the aperture control may also come into this app, and further changes are due to the Nokia Pro Camera.

Advertisements

Nokia N8 smartphone review


After years of Nokia phone ownership, and the latter part being all Symbian phones I did my switch to Android.  The transition from Nokia also came after i switched from the E-series devices to the N97 mini, which sadly showed how little the Nokia devices had evolved over the years, and in many ways the phone was inferior to the older models both in multimedia, and also rather unstable.

However the Android experience via an Sony Ericsson X10 (yes not the best, but still very much a decent example, specially on the camera end for Android at that time), highlighted how much more smarter the Android and IPhone devices had grown.  However one area that really put me off on Androids was the poor battery life, and lackluster camera (though things have moved on now on these areas).

The two points were important enough for me to switch back to Nokia, and this time to the Nokia N8, the current multimedia champ even after over an year in the market.  However i continued my Android experience by purchasing an 7″ Samsung Galaxy Tab, where i found it to be more suited for my needs.  The review of the Nokia N8 is entirely based on my personal experience Symbian phone ownership, and recent experiences with Android phones/tablets and Apple devices.

First Impressions

A very vital aspect of any smart phones is the design and look and feel. While not having the super slick look of an IPhone 4 or Android phones with similar design, the N8 has its own touch of class in a very different way.   You really get a feel for the phone is when you hold it, as the size and weight really make it feel very comfortable.  Pictures do very little justice for this phone.  In many ways its like a car, you have to test drive it to really appreciate it.

While the bulge from the camera definitely impacts the design of the camera, you know the bulge has to be accept for what that little  camera can do! In case the impact the slim looks is a problem then an IPhone4, Android smart phone or the Nokia C7 might be a better choice, but be very aware, they all come with less capable cameras.

Design

The phone just feels very comfortable, and the size is very pocket friendly.  However if they could have gone with the 3.7 or 4″ screen with a higher res screen it would have been ideal.  But i am sure both those would have meant less battery life, and seemingly the resolution issue might be also due to the platform.

The phone oozes class and quality when you hold it, and the raw metal really gives a feeling of confidence on the unit, something you don’t feel when you hold a pure plasticky Samsung Galaxy or similar Android phones.

The screen being an AMOLED type has very good colors, and does quite well even outdoors an area where less capable LCD screens are severely challenged.

General Features and Sync capabilities

Nokia always has been well featured on the standard telephony side, and the N8 and Symbian^3 maintain this.  The contacts, call management features and calender management features are good.  The sync with desktop is done with the Nokia OVI suite which works well with outlook.  The phone can also sync with your online account in OVI, though not sure how many use that feature 🙂

The OVI windows client is pretty decent and does a good job in syncing most of the content.  The application though has grown heavier over the years, and a very large download as well!

In addition the phone comes with the Office and Acrobat Reader (light edition).  Editing of documents is not possible with the version provided, with the editing version only coming bundled with the E-series Nokia phones.

The Nokia map feature is highly regarded, sadly for me i cannot comment since Sri Lanka is not covered by the maps provided!  So i have to depend on Google maps for any navigational purposes.

The phone also comes with a YouTube player, and you can find a YouTube downloader software on OVI as well.  Also available free is Swype, an alternative keyboard that can be very effective if you are heavy Text-er.

The browser sadly had been clunky, and the latest version with Symbian Anna is better.  However I don’t complain much since i mainly use Opera Mobile or Mini, and when using this the performance is competitive and so is the usability.  Even on Android or and for that matter an IPad, i mostly use other browsers than the standard. On the standard browser Flash playback is possible, but its a the full fledged Flash version.

Multimedia capabilities

Nokia has always been strong on media format support without the need for any third party software, and the N8 continues this tradition.  The built in media player is capable of playing most formats, and does a good job.  Though it runs a puny 680Mhz processor, it has dedicated hardware for boosting video processing which is the reason why it can match or surpass the performance of supposedly more powerful hardware on the video playback front.

The key emphasis of the N8 has been the camera, so much so many say is more a camera-phone, rather than a phone-camera.  Packing one of the largest sensors installed onto a phone, and coupled with a very good lens that has been developed by Carl Zeiss is good enough for most phones.  However adding a powerful Xenon flash and an AF assist light ensures that the camera is able to perform quite well even in trying indoors and low light conditions.  In addition it also has a built in ND filter, something very rare even on proper cameras that allow it to provide very good photos in day light even under very bright light conditions (another area that cameras find it hard to generate good pictures).

The outcome is that the camera provides superb photos in day light, and does very very well indoors and under low light.  The xenon flash is powerful enough to light up a small room, and the sensor good enough to take decent photos even without the flash if you can hold the camera steady.

However not all things are good, and even with the latest update these issues the software side has some serious shortcomings.  Until Symbian Anna, the camera interface was the same camera interface i have seen in the N97 mini, running the older Symbian operating system.  With Symbian Anna and the new update from Nokia Beta labs the camera interface is much more user friendly but still lacks some key features to make use of the camera hardware better.

  • Option for precise ISO control
  • Ability to to set the sharpness and ISO as a fixed configuration (currently its clears every time you change any of the camera scenes, and defaults back when the camera application is loaded each time)
  • Option to set the shutter speed manually (since the shutter is set by software, i am not sure why the shutter speed control cannot be provided)
  • Ability to set a minimum shutter speed
  • Ability to set a maximum ISO threshold
As an owner of the famous Lumix TZ/ZS superzoom camera, i know that you can get some very good long exposure shots even with small sensors if you are able to keep the device steady and expose if for a longer time. The N8 has the camera hardware, but the lack of software to allow this really puts a hard stop.
The camera software algorithm has a nasty tendency to increase ISO and keep the shutter speed down, which is why you may end with too many blurry shots even with such fine hardware (for a camera in a phone).  Lack of control over the the shutter speed definitely is something hurting the N8 very badly.

On the video front of course the phone excels, with very good video recording.  The benefit of a good sensor, and good lens, specially a fast lens helps with videos under low light conditions.  Xenon flash means it cannot assist in video mode, so its all up to the sensor, lens and software, and check out samples on you tube and you see the video quality even under poor light is better than cameras with the single and dual LED spotlights!

The camera also comes with built-in editing for videos and photos, and the apps are surprisingly very capable and featured.  In addition you can download the Panaroma photo tool from OVI.  The tool is a bit tricky to use, but the outputs are pretty decent.  Here is one taken using the software.

App Market (Nokia OVI store)

The OVI store sadly though having a large number of apps has very little great quality apps. Thankfully the Nokia phones comes bundles with a lot of standard software and applications that you need to purchase or get from an app store for other platforms. If not Nokia smartphones would have not survived at all.  However you can see that the business apps, kids apps, multimedia apps are very lacking and even the vendors who provide this service do not consider Symbian a platform they wanted to supported.

One of my favorite apps for password management was Splash ID which i started using with my Palm PDA devices, and then with my Symbian phones.  But the Symbian version was dropped, and is not supported on any of the Symbian touch type  operating systems versions.  Same issue with the very popular note taking software EverNote.  I hope with the resurgence we see on Symbian that vendors bring Symbian back and not write it off prematurely.

Currently social networking is the BIG thing among smart phone users, and though the Nokia Social app has improved its still not anywhere close to the support Android provides.  The best Facebook app i have used is the latest software that Facebook themselves provides, but its very basic compared to what you find on other platforms, and this is an area Nokia really needs to work on to bring in the younger generation back since i am sure design and hardware is second to none.  However with the ever growing interest towards Windows Mobile, these may only be a dream.

However to me, it provides me all the applications i need and since i can live with the slight lags (used to it for years) in return for the better battery life, camera and portability (i like the size).   Apps i generally use include Skype, Facebook, JoikuSpot, Swype, Nokia Situations, Opera Mobile and Mini, Fring, WordPress and EPOCCamera.  The built in QuickOffice provides the Office application reading capability.

One area that is miserable on Symbian is PDF reading and viewing. The options are very minimal and all the apps in my opinion suck big time. In addition this is an area where the lower pixel screen of Symbian^3 devices such as the N8 really feel lacking.

Expansion and external connectivity

The cool thing about the N8 is that it comes with the USB on the go ability (added recently to Android as well), that allows to connect an USB device directly and access it.  The USB adapter is provided as standard with the Nokia N8 when you have to buy it for any other device that touts this capability.  I tried this out with a flash drive and it worked superbly.

The device also has a mini HDMI, and again Nokia provides an adapter to connect a full HDMI, something you need to fork out with other devices. I tried this out with several HDMI equipped TVs and found it works superbly.

When i went hunting for a new LCD TV, I loaded different videos which i already had seen on my PC LCD and new the quality, and then had this on a USB flash drive.  I then connected the HDMI adapter, and had the videos playing from the flash drive via the HDMI adapter, and it worked very very well.

The phone comes with 16GB on-board, and also has the very important micro-SD slot to allow you to upgrade further.  The slot supports cards up to 32GB in capacity. Unlike IOS (Apple), Symbian like Android has a full file manager, and allows you to open a file from any application that supports it.  You can also download video, music files and save it to the device and play later (unlike Apple!).

Battery Life

This is one area where the Nokia N8 excelled compared to even its less capable N97 predecessor, and specially compared to the new breed of Android phones that can barely survive a normal day of operations.  The phone easily can last a day of normal operations, and with the power saving feature enabled 2 days + is easy.  I do agree though that if you use the phone on heavy Internet browsing and multimedia, there is no big difference between this phone and the Android devices, and for such users the Android devices with the better browsing experience, and larger screen estate is a better choice.

Software Upgrades

Not something one would usually talk about, but platform updates are now something all are keen on.  Android its all about the new version, and same with the IOS platform.  Symbian has been lacking on any explosive growth, and with Nokia partnering with Microsoft even i felt it was funeral bells for Symbian.  However it seems the Windows Phone era and Nokia has hit some delays, and Nokia is being backed by Microsoft itself in continuing to make Symbian a backup OS for Windows Mobile as we Microsoft apps that were not featured outside Windows Mobile now being made available or supported on Symbian including Communicator, Lynx, SharePoint and even Microsoft Office.

Though Symbian development was officially moved to an external vendor (Accenture) the speed of new changes, and the magnitude of changes has been amazing.  Symbian has grown in capability and look and feel in the last 6 months more than it has ever done for the last few years!  The new features work quite well on the Nokia N8 even if the hardware was engineer for something much less, and you can see that the new software runs even better with the new 1Ghz + newer GPU that is running on the most current generation Symbian hardware.

I just updated mine with the Symbian Anna update, and am waiting for the Bella update.  Even though the changes in the Anna update are suttle, the changes are important.  Browser experience is better, the keyboard implementation definitely much improved for touch use (and the split keyboard, so important).  Qt support has also meant better looking and more user friendly apps for Symbian.

Image Sample Gallery

I have attached a few samples to showcase the camera capability across very trying conditions.  Conditions include pure daylight, indoors, macro, panaroma.

Broad daylight, macro mode.  You can see it does a fair background blur.  You cannot expect any blur like you get in a DSLR from any small sensor camera.

Indoors with decent light of a picture on a wall. Taken with default settings to show the level of detail captured.

One of my work colleagues taken during a wedding.  My Nokia N8 no competition to his Canon 60D though 🙂 Picture straight of the camera with only cropping, no post processing.

Not easy taking a picture of a butterfly close up, shows how quick the AF is o this camera.  Bit of post processing since i felt the camera default was overexposed.

From Symbian to Android – my experiences


Afters years of Nokia Symbian ownership decided i need to try out one of the more popular smartphone platforms.  If the Nokia N8 did not have the hardware failure, I was also set in purchasing it, since the legacy feel of Symbian3, weak app market (ovi) were not big issues, though the lower resolution screen was a bit of bummer.  The C7 is a decent lower model, but the full-focusing camera makes it not good since the ability for a camera in the phone to take picture of a whiteboard or a receipt is vital. Full focus while doing a good job with normal pics, can only focus beyond 50cm, so that means no macro at all.

While the IPhone 4 is a very appealing proposition, specially with the rich app store, the bordering arrogance (putting it mildly) of Apple on how they handle their sales put me off.   I also found from the official local agent for Apple that Apple has prohibited selling the IPhone in my country, and this is something i have not seen with any other vendor.  So off went the Apple IPhone no matter how good!

So then the option was to get into the more wilder Android market.  The Galaxy S was the choice, but with budgets, i took the Sony Ericsson X10 (yeah yeah, support is crap, no proper multi-touch, Froyo aint’  coming here……………………..) as the replacement for the Nokia N97 mini.

First impressions,

PROS

– The app store is definitely richer

– The apps are far more smoother than the N97mini. Then again this is running a processor that 2.5X of the N97 mini and has a dedicated graphic card, so i guess that not a fair comparison

– The higher no of pixels are definitely useful, as you see the difference when browsing and reading content such as pdfs, etc. Definitely a worthy improvement

– The multiple desktops, definitely helps customize the apps into groups, and the lack of restrictions on the size of the widget makes it even more neater

CONS

– Outlook sync:: NO OUTLOOK sync.  This really surprised me. Here i have synced my contacts with outlook, and were all ready to sync to find that i cannot.  The work around was messy and complex, unless you buy a commercial tool.  This is how i got around it without any special tool, but its a manual process based on reading the net and then doing some of my own experiments.  See  https://rayazmuthalif.wordpress.com/2011/01/23/syncing-up-your-contacts-from-a-nokia-phone-to-an-android/.  Quite surprising considering google must be having loads of users converting from nokia and and other phones and no having a Google tool for this is ridiculous.

– Tethering:: No built in tethering, i mean sure it supports it but its all via downloads from the market.  Things that Nokia gave free are sadly not bundled.  The sync app is super featureless, with only media transfers, and a file manager.  No wonder manufacturers love Android, their costs are  lowered in the investment on apps.

–  User Experience:: Maybe its the SE implementation but the touch interface is not smooth, i have tried the iPhone and this is no match for the iOS interface (yet).

– Usability:: who said Symbian was bad.  Just try going through the menu options on Android.  It is no good either.  Stevey J and the boys definitely have that end covered. My wife who had a time learning to use the N97MINI, simply used this and said, only for the techies, as its just to overly complex for a phone.  Can’t disagree with her on that, this is more like a desktop OS than a phone OS.

– Multimedia:: Woo.. seems like the video codec we took for granted is not available as yet for Android phones.  The Galaxy S is the first certified DIVX supported phone, which means none of the other phones have official divx support.  Add to it there is no Divx software for Androids as yet.  Seems the current Divx implementations are all software based, so expect heavy battery drain when playing Divx

– Camera:: Have you noticed that most Android camera’s have no proper flash.  The much famed Galaxy S for instance does not even have any sort of flash.  However don’ t think its because they use any great sensor, the Nokia N8 sensor rules in this arena.  The current camera capabilities are limited in Android, with very little control.  Most of what you see in the camera apps is thanks to the manufacturer, not Google Android.

– Free Apps drain power and increase data costs due to Ad download:: Apps are free on on the google app market, BUT.. a big BUT, most of them require internet connectivity to work, since they need to download ads.  This could be a no no for many users in our market since unless you buy a data package bundle you can end up with big bills.  So watch out.