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.

SOLUTION 1

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?

Tags: , , , ,

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 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

Comments (15)

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  1. Keith says:

    I COMPLETELY agree with you, Jay. Considering the fact that N8 is a camera-centric phone (don’t get me wrong, it’s not JUST about the camera), the camera UI needs a lot of improvement. Personally, I’ve become a HUGE fan of the camera UI on Windows Phone 7. It’s simple, yet intuitive. Great functionality. I love how you can slide to the right to see the last picture taken and then pinch out to see the full gallery WITH the camera still being on. It’s great!

    And I love your solution 2. slide the icons. That would make much more sense and settings would be more accessible. I hope Nokia sees this post and works on the UI refinement S^3 devices. Great work Jay! :D

  2. Ms. Jen says:

    I would like to be able to pick which icons I want on the front screen, like I can do on the N86. Then I would pick the 3-4 that I use most.

    I would also love to 3 user perferences that are saved, then I could make my own settings and have them as my icons. I very rarely use the flash and I hate having to take the extra step to turn the danged thing off, I have missed quite a few shots that way.

    Finally, I really want the bottom right selection button to be moved away from the icon row, as I am either exiting when I don’t want to or pressing the settings icon rather than exit or the trash can instead of close.

    What I am about to say is blasphemy, but the N8 has reminded me of why I am not a big capacitive screen fan, I am forever pushing buttons and not knowing if the software registered my action*. I have found myself returning to the N900 for the screen haptic feedback and the keyboard.

    * Only about 1/2 the apps on my N8 have any haptic feedback, the other half don’t. I wish it was phone wide.

    • Jay Montano says:

      Ah, you’re right about that exit button. Sometimes it catches the base of my thumb and exits!

      If the N8 remembered you didn’t like flash (like N900 would, as in permanently keep it off based on last used setting) would that be ok?

  3. kay says:

    if i were to make a suggestion it would be to have a ribbon scrollable ribbon on the right side. in this ribbon would be the most commonly used settings. things that should be on there would be the scene mode, flash setting,megapixel selection, timer and advanced settings. the ribbon should be transparent and not contain more than 6 items. when an item is selected an extra ribbon still transparent should open to the side with the extra options eg select scene mode and the extra ribbon will display macro, sport, night, portrait and should be scrollable.

    another thing i might suggest is how about making the camera smarter as in have it prompt u depending on the scene to select the appropriate mode such as if u move it really close to an object it should prompt u if u want to take macro photos or if it detects faces ask u if u want to take portrait photos or if low lighting night mode etc. in this age of apple craze Nokia can make a difference by makin advanced devices that are simpler to use at least for the non techie.

    • Jay Montano says:

      Great suggestions. Funny thing is the scrollable ribbon is what we had in Nseries non touch e.g. N95 – which turns out is possibly quicker to use than Nokia’s reconfiguration of the camera touch UI.

      Do you mean SmartAuto – leave everything to the camera? Which scene mode to pick etc? Yeah that would be great.

      • kay says:

        yeah i meant smart auto kinda like what u get in the canon portable cameras like the SD1000. ease of use is everything nowadays and making the cam smart would really make a huge difference. also it would be very important to add a mode selection under settings such as regular or advanced where regular is default and not too many options are available to confuse the regular user. then the advanced would be for those who want to make detailed adjustments to several settings, this way everyone is happy.

  4. Gerii says:

    Something that I desperately need is a one-click switch to change between macro-mode and auto-mode. What’s also missing is pinch to zoom or any other way of zooming in the picture preview.
    If you take a look at Samsungs camera UI (for example on the OmniaHD) that’s what imo would be the best – even when you go into a menu there you can still see the viewfinder behind the options.

    • the brain says:

      i was going to say this

      the omnia hds camera interface could not better and its s60v5 so should be easy to port and its so easy to use

  5. Graham says:

    Many good points.

    I think the fact the camera doesn’t remember settings is on purpose. I seem to remember reading about it somewhere. In fact I like it, many times on my previous Nokia I’ve started videoing when I wanted to take a quick snap. Anyway settings are remembered until the camera app is exited, the phone can cope, just leave it running.

    I like solution 3.

  6. I ‘d love to do some Photography with a N8 . . .

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