Rant: Fixing Nokia's Symbian Touch Camera UI – Perfecting the Nokia N8 Camera experience

| November 13, 2010 | 15 Replies

The Nokia N8 undeniably has the best phone camera on the market. It also has a pedigree of great flexibility in terms of camera options  – white balance, colour tone, camera grids, scene modes, ISO, exposure, contrast, and sharpness (note lack of continuous shooting mode as seen in the likes of the N95).

However, like a common theme in Symbian – so much GREAT features buried in ridiculous menus.What’s worse is that much of my camera UI woes was SOLVED with MAEMO 5 (as well as a nice feature in N900 of always remembering last used setting), yet for some unfathomable reason Symbian gets a camera UI that only Dr. Robert Langdon would be pleased to use.

Check out this post and video:

Video: Nokia N900 Camera Interface – why it’s better than what’s on the N97

On the plus side, Symbian has improved somewhat from the S60 5th version.

  • We have a single video/camera button switch where the touch-screen shutter-button used to be, and
  • said shutter-button has now moved to the bottom middle (i.e. no need to press options>video mode – who ever thought this was a good idea in the first place needs their head examining).
  • Also really cool is that multitouch pinch in/out to change photo/video resolution.

One of my many complaints with S60 5th version and now also with S^3 is that there is sooo much screen realty that’s wasted. You have a huge screen yet Nokia insists on keeping the buttons on one side, with what I feel a very stupid space hungry zoom bar on the left which is very redundant given the dedicated zoom buttons.

For those who like taking photos single handed portrait like it’s 2004 you can. Just hold the N8 in portrait and press that touch-shutter button. Similarly, this doesn’t really affect single handed landscape use.

So All together:

Symbian Camera UI Problems:

  • Too many button clicks. Either due to being buried under menus or because I still need double tap in certain areas.
  • settings/options buried under menus (e.g. there’s a completely different set of settings if you click the big options. Things such as geo-tagging – what if I only want a select photos to be geotagged. I have to keep wading through menus)
  • Screen area wasted
  • Camera forgets your last used settings (yes I’m aware of user defined profile but that’s not as convenient).

Note: These are very quick paint jobs, I didn’t bother making it look pretty, but you should get the gist of what I’m trying to portray.

Note 2: I understand that there are differences between certain Symbian Touch cameras, i.e. autofocus not available, certain settings like Sport not available but that should stop generally improving the interface to be less of a hassle to use.


Why not, for goodness sake, place an added row of icons to the left? It’s not a new train of thought, other camera phones have sported this.

  • Note in the image below we have rearranged the right column of icons to include scene mode and photos. (Not camera UI thing, but it would be nice if somehow the camera could automatically recognize the need for macro mode)
  • On the right are commonly used settings including white balance, colour tone and the camera grid.
  • This makes it easier to use the camera with two hands as now the left can do something other than attempt to use the zoom bar.
  • With more icons on show, you can get to most of your required settings in TWO/2 taps. Not 2 or 3 or 4 or 5 or 6.
  • The spanner “options/settings/cam menu” button persists in this situation to get at the other icons that aren’t immediately visible
  • The icons on the left can auto hide to give more an unobstructed viewfinder, which returns once touched.
  • What if you can SWYPE around the camera options, i.e. if I press “flash” I don’t have to lift my finger off the screen, just drag to “Red Eye” or whatever.

Another important change I’d like to see is for that dang list in scene mode to disappear.

Why the heck would you have scrollable scene modes when you can fit everything in one screen? It is incredibly annoying to scroll down a list when you don’t need to.

Also – PLEASE, if I tap ONCE select and let me take a photo. I don’t want to have to double tap (lilke current method) and then have to press back to get rid of the camera menu.

SOLUTION 2: Icon scrolling

  • Here you can scroll up and down the left coloumn to see the rest of the other camera settings.
  • This might be a touch confusing but you can imagine it like a dedicated digital camera’s dial. Perhaps there could be a dial interface (with said graphical appearance).

Solution 3: Icon slide

  • Here the camera “settings/options” spanner has been replaced by the self timer. These are generally the most used icons I’d say for the camera.

To get at the rest of the icons just swipe/slide the left column of icons to the right. Something could be done to make this more visually appealing, but as said, is just to demonstrate a concept.If the Maemo folks can do it, I don’t see why the Symbian guys can’t. Then again having said that, look at the browser fiasco.

Are you happy with the N8 Camera UI? What would you change about it?


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Category: Nokia, Nseries, Symbian, Video

About the Author ()

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 and tweet now and again @jaymontano. We also have a twitter and facebook accounts @mynokiablog and Check out the tips, guides and rules for commenting >>click<< Contact us at tips(@) or email me directly on jay[at]