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Nokia C7-00 camera… not quite what you'd expect!

| November 29, 2010 | 26 Replies

Due to popular (kind of) demand, I’ve conducted a short yet conclusive test on the 8 Mpix camera capabilities of the Nokia C7-00. Similar fixed-focus or EDoF  (Extended Depth of Field ) camera modules are also used in a pair of other Symbian^3 based Nokia smartphones like the C6-01 and the upcoming E7, so I think it’s safe to draw some parallels out of the results of this test.

To see how it goes, I’ve pitted the C7-00 against a seemingly run of the mill, average performing by today’s standards, 5 Mpix auto-focus camera in the Nokia N900. I like having my camera tests as varied with different phone models as possible, so in some shots I’ve also allowed HTC Desire to bring an outlandish flavor into the test. So let’s get going!

1. A far-off shot. This is where EDoF camera used in the Nokia C7 could show some intriguing results:

Nokia C7

Nokia N900

Notes: The images are clickable to their original, full-res versions. Both phones show a lot of nice detail, but the central area of the Nokia C7 photo has a tad more detail. The explanation could be that the resolution of the Nokia N900 is lower, but I’d like to point out something else here: notice how the N900′s photo is almost uniformly sharp across the whole photo. Now look at the C7 photo. There are very noticeable out of focus areas all around the central area that you can almost draw a circle around it. Looks familiar?

2. More fun and action in the next round of my photo test. Literally:

 

Nokia C7

 

Nokia N900

 

HTC Desire

Notes:  Lot’s of little, colorful details here waiting to be picked up by the phone cameras. Nokia C7 manages here quite well, in fact, I think it could be this round’s winner. It’s photo is sharp all around, and the only negative thing I can mention here is the slightly reddish tint against the cooler, but also more natural looking colors in the shot made with N900. The third contestant, the HTC Desire, rests behind with it’s bit more blurry shot, dragged further down by the faded color pallet.

3. Quite possibly the most demanding endurance shot taken indoors:

 

Nokia C7

Nokia N900

HTC Desire


Notes: There’s a truly staggering amount of little objects and light sources that put the phone cameras really under pressure here. The test is coming to an end, so it’s especially important, who got the upper hand here?

Unsurprisingly, the HTC Desire is first to wave the white flag. Not only it’s colors leave a lot to be desired (no pun intended) but also the resolved detail seems to be almost completely washed out of the picture. So no point for the outlander yet again.

What is surprising, however, is how well the Nokia C7-00 performed in this unquestionably challenging situation. While the steadily performing N900 has left a far gap from HTC Desire, the 8 Mpix resolution in Nokia C7-00 really did help to pick up the smallest of detail here and thus earn the upper hand in the third test.

4. Some say, it’s not the luckiest number for Nokia. In this case, it may very well be true. The much dreaded, yet necessary, close-up shot, is next:

 

Nokia C7


 

Nokia N900

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Notes: for obvious reasons, there’s no macro shot setting in the Nokia C7. To give a better idea how Nokia C7 fixed-focus camera behaves here, I’ve included a second photo that pulls slightly away from the object. As you can see, it didn’t go well for the Nokia C7. Yes it’s terrible in close up shots, and yes, it’s so 2002. I was seriously not prepared for it to turn out so badly, but there you have it.

5. A shot in the dark:

 

Nokia C7

 

Nokia N900

 

HTC Desire


Notes: After much lingering, I’ve also decided to include a fifth stage, the so called pitch black test, where typically most of the phones are not very good at. Since neither of contestants are titled as camera phones, you shouldn’t expect anything… unexpected.

Team HTC seems to be out of luck again, as the Desire is equipped with a single LED flash module, while both team Nokia members come packing with 2x LED’s. But does that equal to twice the firepower?

Not really, but all phones showed passable results save for the fact that the C7 camera required a lot more attempts to produce something enjoyable. The single LED flash on the HTC Desire did it’s job but also managed to white-out a good deal of colors, while the N900′s dual LED’s introduced an unnecessary feature in from of a very noticeable and ugly looking yellow tint.

With that being said, Nokia C7 also wasn’t without it’s flaws. The flash was perhaps a bit too conservative here as the cartoonish color pallet of the poster is almost gone, but the resolved detail manages to impress nevertheless. Even the tiny print at the bottom is still readable, which proves that the effectiveness of a fixed-focus camera depends heavily on the distance to your target, even more so than the auto-focus cameras.

 

The conclusion:

Now that wasn’t so bad, now was it? The Nokia C7 manages quite well in almost all scenarios, except the close-up shots as seen in the test. Could it be, we concentrated on the flaws of the fixed focus cameras a bit too much? Perhaps they’ve grown, improved over the years, and it doesn’t really mean we’re progressing backwards. Maybe sideways?

But here is the thing: I want my phone built-in camera to be universal. Not best of the bunch, but simple in use and reliable in different kinds of situations. What I’m looking for is not the highest pixel count, nor I want my phone camera passionately pretending to beat conventional digital cameras, as it’s going to do that sooner or later anyway. What I want from my phone camera is a solid performance in a wide spectrum of situations.

And this is exactly what I get from the Nokia N900. It’s average performing, but balanced all around camera, and this is the case when a camera is not even supposed to be a highlight of the device. But it is for me. I can’t recall any other phone I took so many photos with, and the sheer fun factor is boosted even further with the simplicity of uploading content on to the web using Pixelpipe.

Taking close up shots isn’t really something unusual, not for me, and most definitely not for anyone else. The consumers are the directors on how the device is going to be used, and the sole job of the manufacturer is to provide the necessary options. I often take photos of some notes or chunks of text when I feel too lazy or simply don’t have a pencil close at hand. This is how a smartphone should work – it should make our lives a little more easier. And it’s why I think we love them so much.

On the postive side, the Nokia C7 camera wins with it’s immediacy. Just point the camera, press the shutter key and wholla – the very next second you’ve successfully immortalized the moment. Provided, of course, you’re fast enough with activating the camera application on the C7. On the Nokia N900 it’s not a question of holding down a fiddly little camera key for a few seconds. It’s a question of simply opening the camera lens cover in a single swift movement of your finger and then pointing the camera in the necessary direction.

After a year of perfecting this ‘art’, it’s now a physical response, a mere impulse that runs to the tip of my index finger the split second I think about capturing something of interest. This is how I want my phone camera to be. Powerful, yet down right primitive in use so even a monkey could operate it in the right moment.

So where does the C7 rank in this test. Before a more thorough revision of the results in this photo test, I have to admit I expect worse from the C7 camera. As I said, it’s mostly doing a good job, and it’s lighting fast at capturing photos, but my pick would be the N900. Simply because I can trust it wherever I need it.

The 8 Mpix does look fairly impressive at it’s prime, but you simply can’t trust it. It quells your hunger for a short while, but it leaves little to no emotional satisfaction whatsoever.

Maybe the post Nokia N8 hangover is to blame here… go figure!

As always, please feel free to write down your reactions about this piece. What I’m most interested is how you feel about Nokia using fixed focus or the so called EDoF cameras in it’s latest smartphones, and whether the advantages it brings really outweigh it’s drawbacks?

P.S.

A big thank you to the wonderful and always eager to help people behind womworld/nokia for providing this trial Nokia C7-00 :)

P.P.S.

@Jay: this wasn’t the little experiment I was talking about a while back. That one might take a bit more time, and I have coursework breathing down my neck again :P

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Category: 5th Edition, Cseries

About the Author ()

I'm Journalism and English student with a passion for mobile phones and the industry.
  • http://mynokiablog.com Jay Montano

    Great post Sergejs! If this isn’t that post you were talking about, I can’t wait to see the experiment one :D. Don’t worry, put coursework first dude :D

    Didn’t realise the HTC Desire was that bad!
    Shame about the low % of good shots you’re getting as read from your post.

    One of the important things about any camera phone is a sufficiently high percentage of good shots so you know when you take a photo, most likely it’ll be a decent one worth taking the camera out in the first place.

    Did you manage to test this with N8 and colours or a digi cam? How cartoony does this make photos – near iPhone 4 range?

    • Dave

      The Desire surprised me – thought it would be okay, but it seems pretty lousy.

    • http://phonespot.wordpress.com Sergejs Cuhrajs

      I love doing phone camera tests, so getting the N8 for trial is my top priority to see if it really lives up to the hype :)

  • http://mobilelivingroom.de/ nokia_fan

    great work :-)
    this is what’s my experience is with the cams of C7, E7 and C6-01
    at the Nokia World and Qt Developer days…

    the cam is mediocre in most situations, but when it comes to
    point and shoot f.e. on a party, the 50 or 60cm to infinity fixed focus
    is really annoying imho…

    • http://phonespot.wordpress.com Sergejs Cuhrajs

      EDoF feels very limited, artificial, there simply isn’t much room for errors… this is why I gave so much love to N900 camera in my conclusions.
      Nokia must never release anything less than that, it’s the golden standard in phone cameras 8)

    • arun

      but

      shooting videos from full focus camera are much better than in auto focus camera

  • tom

    as for macro photo with c7 – could you, please, do this – put the phone in the reasonable distance from text (e.g. 1 meter?) and zoom in, so the text fills the screen.
    what is the result?

    • http://mynokiablog.com Jay Montano

      good idea. That’s how I get macro on video and closer macro with N8 stills.

    • http://phonespot.wordpress.com Sergejs Cuhrajs

      @Tom, will try that tomorrow, somehow I’m not too optimistic about this but it would be fun to try nevertheless :)

  • http://mynokiablog.com Jay Montano

    lol. The weirdo.

  • flyingelephants

    the c7 pics are nice looking but if you zoom in the n900 has better details in most cases. Try reading small text in the first two pics and check out the faces in the background of the hotel shot. The c7 has some weird splotching or something going on, especially in the corners. The picture of the nokia flyer is unacceptable for an expensive smartphone – this level of performance will be even more unacceptable for a phone at the e7′s price point. Heck, my e63 has an awful 2mp camera but it still does better scanning pages!

    I would have liked to have upgraded to either the c6 or the c7 but I would like to get a half decent camera in my next phone so I guess i’ll be saving my pennies for the n8. speaking of the n8, it would be nice if that had a lense cover.

    Anyway, I think this EDOF thing will prove to be a blunder for nokia unless they can improve the technology to allow taking close up pictures.

    • http://phonespot.net Sergejs Cuhrajs

      @flyingelepha I fully agree with you mate, EDoF is ruining the impression of what a 8Mpix camera should be like, but sadly the pixel count is where most people are going to be looking at. Phone cameras are kind of stuck now, you have to sacrifice precious space for better optics vs the slimmer phones but with much more limited optics. But why just not make them at least reasonably decent in all sorts of situations?

      And for sure, if you want a very good camera phone, the N8 is the way to go :) I pray the N9 will be spared the horrors of EDoF…

  • alex68
  • http://phonespot.wordpress.com Sergejs Cuhrajs

    @alex68 Haha, I hope you enjoyed reading it :) There’s also going to be a third (and final) part out next week, so I guess after that people will just go out on the streets demanding for more xD

  • Pingback: Nokia C7 Camera review | WOMWorld/Nokia

  • http://nokiadna.com Micky Aldridge

    Great post, and same conclusion I came to too. The C7 is a great allround device really. I love it.

  • Stoli89

    Interesting post, but you kept reinforcing a fallacy…that EDoF is fixed focus. Actually, the EDoF used in the C7-00, C6-01, and E7 is a FULL Focus camera. FULL Focus does not equal FIXED Focus. Older, cheaper FIXED Focus cameras were designed with one focus point at a predefined and fixed focal length. The FULL FOCUS camera uses polymeric lens systems; each lens in the system made from unique resins and precision formed to an asymetrical shape. The FULL Focus also uses two stages of processing and offers focusing from about 0.5 meters out to infinity. The FULL Focus has the characteristic of all subject areas within the field of view remaining focused. A fixed focus camera would only have one subject/area in focus within the field of view.

    • http://phonespot.wordpress.com Sergejs Cuhrajs

      Wow, tnx Stoli89 for clearing this up, I love it when readers also give something interesting back :) Some people also pointed out to me on twitter that it’s not entirety accurate to call fixed focus= EDoF…

      But even though they are not totally the same thing, I think calling it ‘full focus’ is very misleading for many/ most people.

      Sadly the close up shot results are the same for either the fixed or full focus cameras… it’s a half-backed product that has little to no advantages to your typical auto-focus camera, thus I hope we move away from EDoF cameras asap…

  • turkka

    good and balanced review.

  • KB

    Thanks Sergajs. Enjoyed reading your research into the pictures quality of the above cameras.

    Like others I didnt expect such quality from the HTC. I was stuck between choosing C7 or N8. But nearly about to go for the C7 because it looks g8 and different. But really disappointed with the close up shots! Y did Nokia have to to spoil it!
    You are right you need the flexibility of use with the camera.
    Also c7 not using autofocus is also a disadvantage.

    Its always one thing or the other.

  • Abbas

    If C7 had an auto focus camera for macro photography, I would buy it! Close up photos are very important for me. I usually copy my notes with my Nokia N85 auto focus camera which is very good at close up. C7 is an awesome phone and it has a lot of capabilities! But I need an auto focus camera for close up and L2TP VPN because I live in iran and the stupid iranian govt has blocked foreign websites so I have to use VPN to pass their filters but only L2TP VPN works in iran because Irancell the iranian mobile operator has blocked the PPTP port.

    Nokia please remember that Android has both PPTP and L2TP VPN support and it is very easy to set up! I know that there is a program called “symvpn” and with it I can use PPTP VPN but unfortunately I need L2TP VPN to pass the iranian filters! But because I have VPN on my computer so I can use a wireless ADSL modem and with connecting my Nokia via wireless modem I can use VPN too. So I can solve my VPN problem in this way, but what about close up photos? How can I solve it?!!!

    Anyway, how about the video camera? Can I use it to copy my paper notes? What is the minimum distance for the 720p HD camera recording? Dear Sergejs, would you please examine to see weather it is possible to use the video camera in order to copy printed papers? Please do it and let us know, ok! Thanks a lot.

  • 7aMaDa

    thanks man that actually helped ..i really dont care about close up pics cuz i usually take pics of me/wtih friends/family etc i rarely take any close up pic i mean that wont make me not buy c7 thx again

  • Mohammad Arif Siddiqui

    Dear,
    I just bought Nokia C7-00, after updating now its background colour is black.
    How can I change its background colour. Can anybody help me ?
    Thanks

  • Anon

    The thing I dislike most about the camera is how some fools have doubled up the shutter button so it is also acts as a camera on button, even though it is sited exactly where one’s little finger is placed whilst trying to use the mobile as a mobile phone ! It means it is continually starting the camera when it isn’t required to come on, ruining whatever one is doing at the time. Who can have such a low ability to think that, that got through to market ? Why have they not immediately distributed a software fix so a new setting defaults to the, “will not deliberately annoy the owner so they tear their hair out many times a day”, setting ? Is it just a huge joke from a company that wishes to lose market share and go to the wall ?

  • nabil

    hey im using a nokia c7. the photos when i take from it has very poor clarity and size is upto just 1mb or so. it wasn’t like this before. plzz help me outt :(

  • Safi

    anybody van suggest me to get scanning software for Nokia c7 or how can i get pics in closer distance .?

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