I messed up! Many Tab owners will end up doing the same too because of the position of the built-in mic. When taking videos in a classic ‘mirrored looser’ hand shape you need to be careful. Here’s the effect in my first video uploaded direct from the Galaxy Tab.
Note the muffled video then watch this one. Much better! The quality is actually quite good. It’s H.264 at 720×480 with a 64kbps AAC soundtrack for a total 4.2mbps bitrate. That’s why you don’t see any ripping or wobbly effects. The original file is even better. Bear in mind this one was taken in difficult conditions. I could make a much better video in sunlight! The LED lamp helps though. File analysis from KMPlayer included below.
The question remains though – why not 720p? Continuous auto-focus would have been nice too.
File details. (Download original here) Can someone explain why this is marked as NTSC? I thought that was for analogue format, not digital.
Format : MPEG-4
Format profile : 3GPP Media Release 4
Codec ID : 3gp4
File size : 40.6 MiB
Duration : 1mn 20s
Overall bit rate : 4 239 Kbps
Format : AVC
Format/Info : Advanced Video Codec
Format profile : Baseline@L3.0
Format settings, CABAC : No
Format settings, ReFrames : 1 frame
Muxing mode : Container profile=Unknown@12.3
Codec ID : avc1
Codec ID/Info : Advanced Video Coding
Duration : 1mn 20s
Bit rate mode : Variable
Bit rate : 4 173 Kbps
Width : 720 pixels
Height : 480 pixels
Display aspect ratio : 1.500
Frame rate mode : Variable
Frame rate : 29.804 fps
Minimum frame rate : 6.211 fps
Maximum frame rate : 1 000.000 fps
Standard : NTSC
Resolution : 24 bits
Colorimetry : 4:2:0
Scan type : Progressive
Bits/(Pixel*Frame) : 0.405
Stream size : 40.0 MiB (98%)
Format : AAC
Format/Info : Advanced Audio Codec
Format version : Version 4
Format profile : LC
Format settings, SBR : No
Codec ID : 40
Duration : 1mn 20s
Bit rate mode : Variable
Bit rate : 62.4 Kbps
Maximum bit rate : 67.4 Kbps
Channel(s) : 1 channel
Channel positions : C
Sampling rate : 16.0 KHz
Resolution : 16 bits
Stream size : 609 KiB (1%)
I don’t usually cover standard smartphones on Carrypad but seeing as Nokia were kind enough to spend 2 hours demonstrating the N8 to me in Düsseldorf last month, I’ll be kind enough to comment on it and provide you readers with some thoughts.
[Photos, video and brief N82 photo comparison below.]
As someone who’s heavily into mobile and connected photography, (N82, X10i owner) the N8 interests me. As someone who’s also into a full, fast internet experiences, the N8 doesn’t interest me. ‘Step away from ARM11’ is my advice for anyone looking for a fast and full web experience and a few minutes with the iPhone 3, a well-optimised ARM11 web experience, will prove that even an optimised webkit browser isn’t up to the quality and speed of current high-end smartphones. Yes, Nokia will call the N8 a mainstream smartphone but at 450-Euros it comes in above the HTC Desire which is my benchmark for a 2010 smartphone.
My hands-on with the N8 left me with the feeling that it should be approached as a 3G media-camera rather than a smartphone. It’s more exciting if you think of it like that too – a gadget. HDMI-out, 720p playback (I experienced a reasonable, but not stunning, playback), Dolby surround support with digital output is also exciting although I’m not sure who’s going to be selling content for that! Add in a quick and high-quality camera for static and video image work, a built-in editor, high quality 3G support, fast user interface and, something that I really value, a fast, scalable and high-quality MP3 manager and playback utility. There are a few other things too:
Ovi maps – Free offline maps and turn-by-turn is invaluable for anyone that travels borders (try using Google Navigation when roaming on an Android phone!)
Quick access to SIM and MicroSD
AMOLED Screen (Great colour. Should save battery life in many cases over an LCD screen. Basic clock standby screen is always-on. Not that good in sunlight though)
On screen keyboard seemed good in portrait mode
USB On-the-go (USB hard drive access)
Potentially good gaming graphics
High quality YouTube playback? (In my opinion more valuable than Nokia TV)
12MP is impressive but does it perform. In my brief tests I was able to do a few N82 comparison photos and judging by the results (looking at ISO, shutter, F-stop settings used) the N8 is on the same level as an iPhone 4 when it comes to light sensitivity. I’d guess that it’s 2x more sensitive which sounds a lot but isn’t that significant when it comes to low light work. With the high quality optics, fast camera UI, video recording capability and high-power Xenon flash though, it definitely takes the lead as far as cameraphones go.
Sample Photos (8MP)
N82 Comparison – Low Light Flash – 8MP photo (More N8 images and sample photos at Flickr)
N82 (Left, 4:3 format, Original at Flickr) and N8 (Right, Original at Flickr) If you check the EXIF data on Flickr, you’ll see that there isn’t much of a difference in light sensitivity between the N82 and N8 although the N82 is probably using some heavy processing and of course, it has firmware that has been matured over 2.5 years! A crop of the two photos shows good quality on both cameras although this is only at 8MP. A 12MP N8 pic would obviously provide sharper images at larger sizes. N82 crop image on left.
Overall, the N8 gives much better camera experience with quicker response, faster preview, better ‘viewfinder’, better features and overall better results. It’s clear that it’s a worthy upgrade to the N82
The N8 is not a do-it-all smartphone or a no-brainer consumer smartphone like the HTC Desire or iPhone because it’s aimed at a market of mobile media users and creators who like to share with quality; People wanting a productive web experience with a choice of tens of thousands of apps need to look elsewhere. Having owned the N82 for over 2 years I know that the N8 can replace a compact camera and because it’s in the pocket, you’ll end up with more of those ‘real-world’ shots that are so satisfying. In family and friend situations, it’s a real advantage.
The N8 is a flexible, connected media partner and in a few months when the price drops by 10-15%, should be good value too. I certainly can’t think of a better connected camera in the market right now and it’s tempting to swap out my Xperia X10i for it although I know there’s a lot I’d miss.
[Sidenote: If anyone reading this in Europe buys an N8 and fancies swapping with an X10i, either temporarily or permanently, let me know because i’m prepared to give it a try.]
Sony, Samsung and Nokia have been leading the market for high quality cameraphones for years now and if you’ve been following my N82 story, you’ll know that even after 2.5 years I’m still finding it hard to find a replacement for the amazing optics, sensor, flash and mechanics of the N82 camera.
It’s not just about mega-pixels. It’s never about the megapixels. 12MP might bring you some digital zoom le-way and a better large-format print but that’s about it. I wrote a semi-private article about assessing smartphone cameras [reproduced below] a few months ago and you’ll see how complex the situation can become if you’re really looking to replace that compact camera; And many people are.
It’s not just about image quality either. It’s about ease-of use, sharing, longevity, geotagging, communities and having a camera and video cam with you at every opportunity. I have literally thousands of pictures that I’ve taken with the N82 that I would never have had the chance to take with a compact camera. There are thousands of people out there that have used smartphone cameras in difficult situations too. Car accidents, citizen journalism, wars and then there’s the possibility to go live to thousands of people with applications like Qik and Ustream. Compact cameras generally have better quality optics and the very important mechanical zoom but there are still good reasons to have a cameraphone.
The new player on the block is the Apple iPhone 4 and I have to confess that I’m interested. It comes at a time when I’m deep in the middle of looking for a new cameraphone solution before my N82 dies. I’ve done some analysis on the iPhone4 pictures and although I can’t comment on the new software yet, I can comment on the sensor. It doesn’t seem to be a huge leap forward in quality. In sensitivity terms it appears to have a 1-stop advantage over the 3GS and of course, with the high resolution, is likely to product better prints but that’s not significant for most people. In fact, it’s rather disappointing given the hype that came from Apple on the backlit sensor. [Update: I estimate that the iPhone 4 is only giving users 1 f-stop advantage. That’s double the sensitivity but not a huge difference in the real world] We’re talking ‘good’ and ‘top quartile’ here but not top 5. I’ve seen better results from the N82, N86, Satio, N8, XT720, Omnia Pro, N900 and I suspect there are a few other Samsung and Sony phones out there that will beat it. For me, the iPhone 4 brings software rather than quality and that’s a valid reason to choose it if the image quality is acceptable to you. Ignore this report though. It compares the iPhone 4 to some superphones for sure but if you’re interested in quality cameraphones, that’s not the list you need to be looking at.
The Samsung Omnia Pro had an excellent camera but fell short in a few important areas. Windows 6.5 is not exactly the best OS for photographers, it only comes with LED flash and, as with many smartphones, the open lens proved a grease-magnet and long-term quality issue. The Xperia X10 is a similar story too. Then there’s the Sony Ericsson Satio which had a good camera and flash but turned out to be a terrible phone. Currently it looks like the Nokia N8 is going to set new standards but for me, that Symbian operating system isn’t something I’m getting too excited about now that I’ve had some good time with Android. Again, the lens is open on that N8.
Given that I’ve settled on Android as the best mobile OS for me (I’m a Google user, I’d be stupid to choose anything else!) there’s one phone coming up that might take the title for me. I don’t expect it to have the quality of the Nokia N8, a phone likely to raise the bar significantly, but it looks to be a nice all-round solution. You can check out some Flickr galleries taken by Asian owners of the XT720. I’m a little worried about what could be a plastic lens (this image looks either smudged with finger grease or the result of a plastic lens) but as far as Android phones go, it looks to be good enough that it could replace the N82 although I have promised myself that I will test the N8 too.
Here’s my list of things to think about when choosing a cameraphone:
General image quality (lens quality and sensor quality more important than megapixels)
Low-light photography (without flash) A sensitive sensor means not having to use flash. A natural lighting wash is often better than a pinpoint flash. It also means that the camera can choose higher shutter speeds and therefore produce sharper images.
Flash. For very low light images, flash is required. Xenon flash make a great choice not just for its power but for it’s short duration that can ‘freeze’ images. A long duration LED flash can result in blurry images if the subject is moving. LED lamps are the only choice for low-light video work.
Preview screen (both indoor and outdoor) I make a lot of mistakes on my N82 purely because I can’t see what is in focus and what isn’t. A big, high-brightness screen is a superb way to secure a better ‘hit’ rate.
Access to controls. Touchscreen devices can make accessing camera options easy. Check out how many presses you need to make to turn the flash from ‘auto’ to ‘red eye.’ for example.
Type of controls. If you want to get creative you’ll need access to focus controls, ISO, aperture, shutter speed and white balance but there are some other features that are good. How about automatically taking 6 shots at a time? Or being able to detect movement. Some of these features are gimmicks, some are useful.
Pre-focus. Make sure that the camera is able to pre-focus by pushing the shutter release button down half-way. If you’re able to prepare for a shot like this, the duration between pressing the shutter release button and the camera taking the image can drop dramatically. A near instantaneous press/capture is obviously ideal.
Touch capture. With touch-capture, you can tap on an area of the (touch) screen to influence the focal point. It can also be less ‘shaky’ than using a mechanical shutter release button. Be aware that touch-capture will not give you the ability to preview the focus.
Speed to remove device from pocket and start camera. THere’s nothing worse than waiting for a device to come out of standby and waiting for the camera application to start. Having a shutter cover rather than a case saves time. Having a quick unlock feature saves time. Fast software saves time.
Quick review. Being able to see the photo you’ve taken is critical. Often the shutter sound does not correspond exactly to the time the image was taken. If the preview takes 2 or 3 seconds to appear it’s annoying for both you and your subject.
Transfer of photos (online, usb bluetooth, tv) Think about where you need to send your photos. Do you use Flickr. If so, think about a phone that uses 3G with a fast upload speed (HSUPA or HSPA for example.) Make sure the transfer process can be run in the background. Also think about USB transfer speed. For Facebook, make sure you can install an application that supports image uploading or that the Facebook website allows you to upload from the phone.
Lens cover. The value of a lens cover can not be overstated. A greasy, scratched, dusty lens is the last thing you want.
Geotagging. Geotagging isnt just for fun, it helps you to organise your photos based on places. A fast GPS lock or use of network location services can help.
Overall size of device. If it’s too big you might have to put it in your bag.
Price. Clearly price is a major consideration.
Apps. Think about third party software. The iPhone has a number of good camera applications that can be used for different scenarios. On-cam video editing is becoming a theme too as processing power increases.
Future. Phones can often get better over time. Firmware gets improved and a phone that may have been slow on first release might get upgraded. A phone older than 18 months is not likely to get regular firmware updates.
Build quality. A cameraphone WILL take a beating. Think about moving parts and exposed ports.
Choosing a mobile phone based on camera capabilities is not how most people will go about the process of choosing their next mobile phone but I know that there are many of you out there that put the camera capabilities high on the list. I hope the tips help you and if you’ve got any other Super CameraPhone tips or thoughts (how’s that Evo, DroidX doing?) please let me know in the comments section below.
If you are interested in cameraphones, check out these two bloggers. They’re as mad about mobile phone camera’s as I am!