When magazines print their Top 10 Photography Tips, you can normally guarantee that the #1 photography tip is to always carry a camera with you. Modern digital compact cameras have made that very easy to do, but for many people the idea of carrying around an additional gadget doesn’t fit with their lifestyle.
Enter the camera phone.
The whole appeal of a camera phone is that you’re always going to have it with you, because you always have your mobile phone with you. They are also extremely discrete (well, the phones are; the folks using them often are anything but!) which means you’re not going to attract the sort of attention you might get taking carrying around a decent Nikon SLR. Handy if you enjoy taking photos in the heart of London’s Docklands and other places where the police come with their very own complimentary H&K MP-5 sub-machine gun.
Back in March, I bought myself a silver Nokia N82 to become my main phone. Since then, I’ve been snapping away with it, and thought I’d share the results.
The Nokia N82 – 5 Megapixel Camera Phone
Nokia’s N82 comes with a 5 Megapixel sensor, and a Carl Zeiss lens supporting f/2.8 to f/5.6. Focal length is fixed, and quoted by Nokia as 5.6mm. Unfortunately they don’t provide any figures to compare that to 35mil focal lengths, but I’d estimate that it’s somewhere between the equivalent of 28mm to 50mm in 35mil terms.
It’s important to stress that the lens is fixed focus. All the zooming is digital, which should be avoided at all costs. Digital zooms result in lower-quality images (if you’re lucky), and on my Nokia N82 the auto-focusing simply doesn’t work if you try zooming in. Mind you, my particular handset has been back to Nokia more than once for repair, so you may find this actually works quite well for you if you buy your own handset.
This camera can also take macro photos. The quoted specs are that you can take macro photos at a distance of 10-50 cm. I found that quite useful, but not especially brilliant, and if macro photography is your thing you’re more than likely going to carry a real camera with a real macro lens anyway.
The lens is hidden behind a manual sliding cover to keep it clean, which does the job. just above the lens is a real flash (not a crappy LED flash like the N95 had to suffer), which I expect makes the N82 a great camera for taking photos of your drunk mates in the nightclub at the weekend (which, let’s face it, is really why phones have cameras at all).
Taking Photos With The Nokia N82
I got into digital photography early in 2003, when digital cameras were notorious for being slow to start up and to lag substantially when actually trying to take a photo. Thankfully, real cameras have long since banished this particular demon, so it’s really obvious how slow the N82 is when you whip it out of your pocket to capture a quick shot.
I have missed many shots because of how slow the camera mode is to start on the N82, how slow the autofocusing is, and the lag when clicking the shutter release button. If that’s your type of photography, then you’ll want to try the N82 out for yourself before taking the plunge.
The screen is bright and clear, although on sunny days I’ve found that the screen makes an excellent mirror, and it can be tricky to take shots if you can’t shade the screen with your free hand. But if your photography allows you the time for some patience, or you can avoid direct sunlight on the screen, you could probably live with it.
Nokia N82 Photo Quality
Speaking of direct sunlight … my own experience is that the N82 takes by far its best photos in well-lit conditions. It can be blue skies or grey, so long as the sky is bright and you don’t try zooming in, it will prove to be a camera you can trust.
In darker conditions, especially around dusk, I’ve had little success in taking quality photos with the N82. I’ve always suspected that camera phones are mainly designed for use in nightclubs anyway, so this isn’t a surprise and I found I quickly got used to the limitation.
One thing I like about the photos taken with the N82 are the colours. To my eye, I find them deep, rich, and most importantly pretty accurate. This adds a lot to the perception of quality in the final image, and it also adds to the enjoyment of taking photos with the N82, because I certainly feel that under the right conditions I can trust it to take a photo that I won’t need to edit later.
Here are some shots that I think show what a useful camera the Nokia N82 can be, in the right conditions. None of these photos have been edited in any way. There’s certainly some shots in this set that I’d have been happy to have taken on a dedicated pocket camera, and I think that’s a good indication of how much image quality has improved on camera phones.
Geotagging With The N82
If you look at the metadata on the sample shots, you’ll notice that there’s a distinct lack of geotagging information. The older firmware on the N82 didn’t support geotagging at all, and I’ve been unable to get it working on the new firmware since my N82 came back from Nokia. However, if you take a look on Flickr, you’ll see lots of folks haven’t had any trouble, so I’m putting this down to a problem with my particular N82.
Photo Uploading To Flickr
One of the neat features of the N82 is “Share Online”, which allows you to upload your photos to Flickr without needing a PC. It works over WiFi as well as the mobile phone network, which saves on data transfer costs. Unfortunately, since my N82 came back from Nokia, this feature no longer works. I get a completely ambiguous “System error 100” message. A quick Google shows that I’m not the only person who sees this problem, and that there doesn’t seem to be a good explanation of what causes it or how to resolve it 🙁
I’ve had the Nokia N82 for six months now, and I can see myself keeping it for another couple of years and continuing to use it as a camera phone throughout that time.
The ultimate test is whether or not I’d be willing to leave the dedicated pocket camera at home, and just go out and about with the Nokia N82. Day to day, travelling to and from work, I do indeed only have the Nokia N82 with me – but there’s no way I’d go out and about on a weekend or on holiday and hope to rely solely on the Nokia N82.