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