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Camera flash test: Nokia N86 vs Nokia N82 vs Nokia N97 vs Samsung i8910

| August 11, 2009 | Reply

James Burland from Nokia Creative has been putting the N86 (from Steve Litchfield) under a few tests. In his latest post, he checks out extreme low light performance using the built in Dual LED flash (which Nokia claims is “70% more powerful than previous Dual LED solutions”), and compares it with:

  • the might Xenon of the N82
  • another Dual LED wielding N97
  • single LED of the Samsung i8910

cam

[testing how much light the respective flash puts out]

I had expected the N82 to win, and not surprisingly it did. What is surprising though is how close the N86 came using it’s latest generation dual LED and those improved optics. Imagine just how much better it could have been if it had Xenon? User reports on the N86 show that although it is very close to illuminating scenes like the N82, it cannot freeze shots like the N82 can.

Though the N86 isn’t the winner in terms of flash, it does have the undisputed title for best low light photos WITHOUT flash. As great as simply sticking Xenon would be to a generic 8MP camera, your low light image quality will suffer when you go beyond the distant limits of your flash. The N86 has superior optics to any of the previous Nseries line that gives it the upper hand in taking in all the available illumination of its surroundings. Even better is the wide angle lens that lets you get a lot more of the subject into the frame.

Via Nokia Creative

Other N86 camera tests include:

FD

[Wide Angle lens gets more of the scene into the frame.When the N82 doesn’t wash out the picture, the colours are much more vibrant, but otherwise, the N86 produces results that are more pleasing to the eye.]

On the subject of N82 Xenon Tests, here’s a post with the N82 versus N97.

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Damien’s comments over at Nokia Conversations are really interesting to read. He points out (the official reason) why Nokia’s gone the Dual LED route and not xenon. Basically the issue seems to be space. Nokia wanted to create a good all rounder phone, with the best performance for the given space.N86’s dual LED illuminates a scene quite well, but also doubles up as being a usable video light.

Nokia apparently doesn’t just want to be ticking boxes. i.e. Xenon – check.

“There is a certain amount of space for a lighting solution in the product. For that space which provides the greatest amount of illumination? For the space available in a mobile device LED is now very close to xenon.

I have seen some xenon handsets (which will remain nameless) provide a ‘tick box’ solution. In other words, yes it says xenon on the box but the flash tube and capacitors are so small that the output is less than I have seen even from older generation dual LED solutions. So it’s the real performance that matters, not just what it says on the box,”

Hmm – so be weary. Just because a handset advertises Xenon, doesn’t mean it performs as well as you’d expect from a Xenon Flash. Same goes for advertising video light – it may be there but it might be so crap you can only film subjects 20 cm away.

“mobile device LED is now very close to xenon”. Close, but not close enough. The occasions where you actually do need flash, dual LED won’t cut it. Having decent implementation of Xenon would have given it the edge in being able to capture a photo in ALL situations.

As for the N86, I can sort of accept the reasoning of “space” as to why Nokia went the Dual LED route. It’s a compact, good all rounder, and Dual LED was the best lighting solution for the space available.

But I’m less understanding of why they didn’t include Xenon (or even this new breed of Dual LED) for their flagship that is the N97. The N97 was already a relatively large/thick phone. If the key aim is performance, any added size that would change its camera from being a wishy washy cameraphone to being a reliable all situation camera is definitely worth it.

It would have been an ideal combination – big 3.5″ – the “old 5MP” that didn’t have low light improvements of the N86 – it was screaming for Xenon. But Nokia chose to make compromises (and in the case of the N97 it was making the wrong cuts in terms of best possible performance…e.g. RAM)

hmmm.. Nokia Mantra  “We make so many devices…we’ll just put that in our next phone”. 😛

Future Devices: Xenon coming back to Nokia

Last quotes from Damien which may hint at future devices.

Does this mean Nokia doesn’t understand the benefits of xenon? No.

Does this mean Nokia will never introduce a product with xenon flash? No.

Without being familiar with our future product plans I would encourage you not to make any other conclusions other than does the N86 8MP fit your needs. If it does, then I’m very happy. If not I’ll understand. Maybe we have something in the future or elsewhere in our portfolio which will be more appropriate for you.

Perhaps the rumoured 12MP Nokia with Xenon?

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Category: 3rd edition, Nokia, Nseries, Rant, S60

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Hey, thanks for reading my post. My name is Jay and I'm a medical student at the University of Manchester. When I can, I blog here at mynokiablog.com and tweet now and again @jaymontano. We also have a twitter and facebook accounts @mynokiablog and  Facebook.com/mynokiablog. Check out the tips, guides and rules for commenting >>click<< Contact us at tips(@)mynokiablog.com or email me directly on jay[at]mynokiablog.com