Since the true beauty and genius of the Nokia Nseries 8x line is the camera functions, I will start this review of the Nokia N86 with the photos that I took with the N86 while in Germany for the Carl Zeiss lens factory tour on Mon. June 22 and at the Limes Museum and surrounds in Aalen, Germany, on Tues. June 23rd before I had to hand the N86 back. All of the below photos were taken by me (Ms. Jen) with a Nokia N86 8 megapixel camera phone and later resized by Fireworks with no other retouching before uploading.
From the moment that Anssi handed the N86 to the Carl Zeiss lens factory tour participants, including myself, to when we handed it back the next afternoon, I was in camera phone heaven.
The Nokia N86 is a beautiful little photo taking machine. Video, too. It is not just the 8 megapixel digital sensor, nor the Carl Zeiss Tessar lens, nor the computational power allotted to process the imagery, but the N86 is gorgeous for its ease in capturing a photo, for the clarity of the photos, and for the feel of the device in my hand.
Lest, I, like Gollum start hissing my love for my preciousss, let me give my disclaimer here: I have been watching and waiting for the Nokia N86 and the Nokia N97 for many months now. I knew that I would be ready to replace my trusty old Nokia N95 (v.1) sometime in the early part of 2009. I thought I would just buy a Nokia N82, which up to this point has been my favorite camera phone to date, but I decided to hold out and wait to see what Nokia would deliver with the N86 and the N97.
I was hoping for the ultimate mobile blogging machine: an 8 megapixel camera phone with a kick ass digital sensor and the attendant computational power to process it all well, in addition to a qwerty keyboard for the ease of typing and Nokia’s Lifeblog software all the better to blog to my own blog with.
Unfortunately, I have been presented with a fork in the road, a big choice: the N86 gives the great 8 mp camera phone with a nice slider form factor and a T9 keyboard, and the N97 has the qwerty keyboard (quite a nice one at that) with a touchscreen but with a just ‘ok’ 5 megapixel camera that needs some big firmware updates to make the device less evil as shipped. Even then the Nokia N97 that I have tested has been rife with frustration for me. Even more unfortunate, Nokia has decided that it will discontinue Lifeblog and leave bloggers who are not on Ovi, Flickr, and Vox to their own devices.
I knew within 10 minutes of holding my trial N86 that it would be mine. Or at least, when it gets released in North America that I would buy one. Beyond the great photos and video, the device itself feels great in my hand, while a bit wider than the N82 and longer, it felt solid and yet I could still type with one hand.
For the OS/firmware, the Nokia N86 has been criticized for ‘only’ having Symbian 60 ver. 3 on it. I did not notice any frustrations with it, as the version of 3 that was on the N86 is more advanced and the UI looks better than the version 3 on the N95 or N82. As someone who has been knocking my head against the wall with S60 version 5 all this last week with the Nokia N97, I earn for the ease of use straight out of the box (or in this case, straight out of Anssi’s bag) of the N86.
The great thing about the N86, if you are a Nokia user, was how easy it was to get going with it, how fast the set up was, and how in less than 10 minutes I was taking photos and video.
Now, while I did not have any complaints with the camera on the N86, others in our group were concerned about the lack of clarity when using the Macro/close-up mode and the LED flash. I did not encounter any real problems when using the macro mode, but until I can do a side by side photo comparison with the N82 and the N86, I can’t really say for sure. The N82 does have a better physical focal range for macro shots, but I wonder how much of the complaints can be solved in future software / firmware updates.
My only concern with the N86, is the same that I have had with the Nokia N79 and the N97, which is the shots are not always as clear as I have come to expect from the N95. But the N95’s photos have gotten better over time with firmware updates, so I hope that Nokia will have camera software upgrades in the firmware updates within the month. Noting that, I will say that the N79 and N97 are much less clear than the N86 and I only noticed it on occasion with the N86.
As for the LED flash, I didn’t really notice, as I prefer to turn off the flash for almost all shots. Once again, I won’t judge on the LED flash until I can do a comparison photo shoot at Alex’s Bar (low lights & red walls) with the N82 which has a Zenon flash.
As for the non-camera phone features: the browser – it works, email – also works, downloading other mobile applications – check, phone – I think it works but I didn’t use it, alarm – ya whatever, other tech details that other reviewers will talk about in detail until your eyeballs leak out of your skull – go read them for the non-camera related details, etc etc etc.
As a photographer and a mobile photo blogger, other than a qwerty keyboard and a resurrection of Nokia’s mobile Lifeblog application, the Nokia N86 is my dream camera phone for 2009. I will be buying it as soon as the North American edition is released. And if that doesn’t come out by the end of July, I will be purchasing the Euro non-Us-no-warranty version on Amazon. Yes, I am that impatient for my preciousss…