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Nokia N93 Photo / Video Capabilities

In my continuing evaluation of the Nokia N93, I’ve promised to talk about the picture taking capabilities of the phone next.  The N93 has a 3.2 megapixel camera, with 3x optical zoom, and Zeiss optics.  It should be a very good camera, for the pixel density!  And, indeed, the promotional shots Nokia sent with the camera are incredible with eye popping color, and lots of detail.

Sadly, these are not the results I achieved. Over the weekend I shot a number of photo’s at a friend’s wedding.  And, as with previous Nokia camera phones I’ve owned, images in lower light conditions tend to be noisy, and the camera’s autofocus feature, erratic. In addition, shutter lag is extreme, making it difficult to take spontaneous shots with the subjects in motion.  Still, you can produce decent photos with a little care.  And, as a handy snapshot camera it really can’t be beat.

Here’s a photo of the church where my friends had their wedding, from the outside.  Aside from the rotten composition, which I will take the blame for, the image isn’t bad, with reasonable detail, and not too much noise.

However, contrast the outdoor photograph with this indoor shot.  The camera’s autofocus mechanism chose the pew in the foreground as the focal point, and it was only after applying a sharpening filter that the detail in the background was revealed.

In this shot of the groom sharing a laugh with the priest during the rehearsal, the light from the side windows was not as bright, and you can see the noise intruding into the photograph in the detail of the fresco above.

The N93 has several photographic modes, as well, which the camera is supposed to choose automatically for you. It does a good job of picking the right mode. The following two photographs are of a jar of coins sitting on my desk in my office.  The first is taken using the automatic mode, and the second using the camera’s manual “close-up” or macro mode.  In theory, the macro mode should have produced a better result.  Judge for yourself.  My opinion is that the flash which the camera’s auto mode introduced, made for a better photograph, despite the reflected light.

In video mode, the N93 shoots television quality video at 30 frames per second. The images suffer from the same noise problems in low light scenarios, but otherwise seem fine.  Certainly good enough for spontaneous videos of family members.

By default, video zoom is digital, rather than the 3x optical zoom used in still photographs.  That is because the mechanism for performing optical zoom is audible as a mechanical clicking on the soundtrack to the video.  A pity, since the optical zoom is better quality than the digital.

The final word?  The N93 is a better quality camera than the predecessor products I’ve used from Nokia — the N90, N91, and N70 — but it’s still a snapshot camera.  Despite Nokia’s claims that the images can be blown up to 8×10 size, it’s doubtful that most of us will be able to capture an image of sufficient quality with this camera phone to make that worthwhile.  It’s great, however, as a snapshot camera for spontaneous moments.  And, after all, isn’t that what’s important about a cameraphone?

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