Camera and Multimedia:

If there was ever a time for a drum-roll, this is it. It’s time to take a close look at the Nokia N8's 12MP camera with auto focus Carl Zeiss lens (28mm f2.8). Nokia commissioned the University of Westminster, a university with a strong photographic heritage in London, to conduct research into the Nokia N8’s sensor. Nokia World 2010 touted the N8 as a compact camera replacement. There has been so much buzz surrounding this camera, that it really has to be something special to live up to it all, and by golly it is.

Quick to activate, quick to fire (even with flash), quick to process, when we first started taking pictures, the speed at which the Nokia N8 worked made us think it was set to a low resolution. That wasn’t the case. At full 12MP, everything works, and works quickly. The camera button on the bottom right of the N8 has two stages of press (focus and capture) and this can be used to take the picture. Alternatively, there is a single camera icon on the screen that can be used. The camera has face detection, an optional on-screen grid, as well as the following:

  • Scene modes (auto, user defined, close-up, portrait, landscape, sport, night and night-portrait)
  • Self timer (off, 2 seconds, 10 seconds, 20 seconds),
  • Colour tone (normal, vivid, black and white, sepia),
  • White balance (auto, sunny, cloudy, incandescent, fluorescent)
  • Exposure (-2 to +2 in increments of 0.5)
  • ISO (low, medium, high)
  • Adjustable contrast
  • Sharpness (hard, normal, soft)

Pictures taken on the Nokia N8 are indistinguishable from some of the mid-range compact cameras on the market at the moment, and are unquestionably better than most entry-level compacts.

Colour reproduction is good. While on the AMOLED screen, images look slightly over-saturated, but when exported to a monitor, reds and yellows in particular look bright and natural.

As you can see from the samples, levels of detail are high across busy images, especially in shots taken in daylight. Thanks to the 12MP sensor and Nokia’s efforts, images don’t break down as soon as they are zoomed into, so there is some leeway in terms of cropping an image once it is taken.

Exposure levels are also very promising. With the shot of the two statues providing a low contrast scene on a slightly overcast day, the Nokia N8 produced a capture very similar to the real thing.

An area the Nokia N8 camera is a little weaker is dynamic range. When faced with a high contrast scene, as with most compact cameras, shades of black melt into one, and highlights can become blotches of white. Another factor is metering. The Nokia N8 doesn’t enable the user to set metering, so it is defaulted to centre-weighted.

The Nokia N8 impressed us with its noise handling. Of course it produces noise, but it does a very good job of minimizing it. Unlike the Motorola Milestone XT720 for example (another Xenon flash camera phone), which softened images to death in order to reduce noise (and still produced more than the Nokia N8), darker images retain a degree of sharpness and there is no blotching or banding of colour. The flash will also come in handy for dark situations.

Staring at macro shots from the Nokia N8 was also a pleasure. With a decent aperture, the N8 can deliver a pretty shallow depth of field when in macro. In addition, levels of detail it picks up are superb, with a minimum focusing distance of about 15cm.

Indoors, the Nokia N8’s great sensor coupled with its Xenon flash can actually light up a small room and produce a decent picture in the process. It is the perfect imaging companion for someone who doesn’t want to carry two gadgets around. The images taken in the restaurant were all in full auto and came out great, as did 99% of the images taken on the N8. Between its usability and quality, it really is the first camera-phone that has stood up against some mid-range compact cameras and won, both in terms of quality and usability.

Photo editing options are as follows: rotate, resize, crop, add clipart, distort, draw upon, speech bubble, frame, red-eye correction, stamp, colour effects, tuning and animate. All these worked well on the go, providing a good amount of versatility to photos once you’ve taken them.

Viewing photos taken on the Nokia N8's camera can be done in the phone’s photo browser. This is displayed in a standard grid, and once an image is selected, zooming can be achieved by both pinch to zoom and double tap. With the nature of the 12MP images captured by the Nokia N8, they are big and zooming in and out can take a couple of seconds to display correctly, however, there is no real stuttering, just a lower-res version until the image refreshes.

Video capture on the N8 keeps up with the current trends, HD ready at 24fps. While still not as smooth as the VGA capture (30fps), the Nokia N8's HD video is among the better ones we’ve seen on a phone. Noise handling is more of a problem than with photos, however, it is still better than most HD video phones out there. There are nice touches as well, like in-body video editing, enabling clips to be trimmed, with text overlaid and photos interspersed within a video, only adding to the N8's strengths as a multimedia capture / sharing device. Outputting content to an HD TV works pretty well, providing smooth video playback leaving us genuinely impressed.

Nokia N8 Sample videos taken in various conditions:

Video playback
on the Nokia N8 is immense. With it chewing up everything we threw at it up to a resolution of 720p (DivX, H.264, MP4 and Xvid), and playing it back to us smoothly as can be, we really have no hesitations calling the Nokia N8 a great multimedia phone. Whether watching content on the Nokia N8's screen or outputting to an HD TV, it’s a seamless experience, with no need for codecs here or conversions there, just smooth playback all the way.

The music player has had a very nice revamp. Upon opening up the application, it takes you straight to artists and albums, unlike previous versions which would require an extra step to get here. Clicking the options button lets you view tracks by now playing, song, playlists, genres and podcasts. There is also a link to the Ovi Music store. When viewing albums and artists, holding the Nokia N8 in portrait displays a list, while landscape displays a coverflow like stream of album art. The N8’s coverflow is one of the smoothest we’ve seen and is very usable. The revamp however comes in portrait mode. Once an album or artist is selected, the screen will split, the top half displaying a mini coverflow, while the bottom half has the track list. This is very usable and makes single handed music browsing a doddle.

The on board loud speaker is a letdown. With no stereo output, and a sharp sound, it isn’t there to be used very often. It does a great job of ringing, being loud and audible, however, when listening to music or playing back video, wasn’t a sustainable method of listening to the phone. In contrast, output from the onboard 3.5mm headphone jack was superb for a phone. As is generally the case, connecting a good set of headphones makes all the difference.



1. Donnie unregistered

"The on-board GPS works well finding the Nokia N8’s position even when indoors. Coupling this with Ovi Maps Nokia maps makes for a very versatile phone that could double up as a GPS replacement provided you had a good data plan." Ehm did you just happen to completely miss the most compelling feature of Ovi Maps ? You can preload entire countries to your phone after which you can navigate (including searching and voice-directions) completely off-line, not a single byte of data transfer required. Perfect in Europe where you'd otherwise end up roaming after a few 100 kms, and one of the major selling points over any other solution (remember it includes voice directions and search, not just map display, - offline)

4. Stoli89

Posts: 333; Member since: Jun 28, 2010

Fully Agree, OVI maps is a great value and a wonderful and cost effective tool that does not require a network to operate. That said, if you happen to have an unlimited data plan...the N8 can also use Google Maps. I disagree with the reviewers opinion about Symbian^3 and more specifically that last portion of the OS stack called the User Interface. The changes under the hood are immense (over 250 in total vs S^1). The fact that S^3 is fully compatible with Qt means all current AND future apps developed for both Meego and Symbian^4 (^5..) will remain compatible. The fonts, themes, icons are familiar to Symbian users...which I find convenient. For those of us who want a change...the nice thing about Symbian is you can easily do this with 1000's of choices available...many of them for free. With its hi-end graphics chip, multi-touch/single-tap selection, and smooth capacitance interface...I find this phone's UI to be quite good and certainly up to date. A more detailed list of these changes is located here: Lastly, the reviewer is comparing this phone to flagships at higher price points, even though this N8 is not marketed nor priced as Nokia's flagship model (we'll have to wait for the N9). Considering the quality and performance of this's a steal IMO.

2. Nokia 4ever unregistered

Yay, Nokia is never a let down like RIM, I so love this phone!!! I don't care if the built-in browser is not smooth enough, it still has opera mini or if its UI is "dated", is still functional, Nokia doesn't care about making a mobile OS that is graphically beautiful but resource-hungry, this is an example that even with little specs the new OS runs smoothly compared to different OS's who needs more specs and do almost the same things (OS6). Os's user and Nokia haters, even though your beloved android and IOS phones are "better than any other mobile OS", Nokia's still a great company and may not be perfect (no one is), but they keep improving their product. Long life NOKIA !!!

22. B unregistered

Hey, thanks for the feedback. Having reviewed the N8, we really, really liked it. In fact, we loved it and genuinely want Nokia's handsets to do well, they're a fantastic company that make fantastic hardware. The changes to Symbian are evident with everything running smoothly, but that's just not enough as the interface is visually underwhelming. The hardware of the N8 is perhaps the best we've seen on a smartphone but as smooth as Symbian^3 is, it's not as inviting as other OSs. For example, despite having a shiny new N8, subjects given the choice preferred to play with a much lower specced android phone, simply because it offers more versatility in a more visually stimulating package. As mentioned, we can whole-heartedly recommend the N8, it's very good and well worthy of that 8.5, and on multimedia alone is a 10. Nevertheless, as with iPhone and Android, it has its issues. It just so happens that the N8s issues cropped up a lot more often. Regards, B_Phone Arena Reviewer.

3. yann_ unregistered

Phonearena did it again - proof their loyalty to boss Steve. No words for unique functions that are completely missing on iOS or Android phones. Example - USB on the go, HDMI out with Dolby digital... Losers. What to expect from lamers that gave to iPhone 4 rating of 9.5 - the phone with call/antena problems?

6. jpropin

Posts: 152; Member since: May 20, 2010

8.5 isn't bad from a U.S Website that like all the other U.S Based Websites sucks the teet of Apple & Google. I was expecting no higher than 6.5. So I'm quite surprised. Just wait and see what the tools at CNET give it.....LOL

7. DontHateOnS60

Posts: 872; Member since: Apr 20, 2009

They'll give it a 3/5.

5. rafael.roque

Posts: 78; Member since: Jul 03, 2010

I can't wait to get mine; regardless of any review... Simply put; I don't like Google's intrusive OS, RIM's mundane OS, Apple's my way OS. If you want control of your smartphone; then Symbian gives you that. Point and case, if I want the Sense experience found on HTC's Android smartphones on my Symbian phone, then I simply install SPB Mobile Shell and now I have 1-10 home screens with customizable widgets and shortcuts... If you can't handle Symbian, then you might as well stick to feature phones.

52. Mash unregistered

Palm's webOS is good too.

8. cristianer

Posts: 42; Member since: Aug 20, 2010

Nice. But it is expensive for me.

10. jpropin

Posts: 152; Member since: May 20, 2010

It is expensive, but for an unlocked phone with as many features and capabilities that it has, it's pretty much on par with other unlocked devices. What really pushes the N8 over the top IMO is that it's compatable with both AT&T & T-Mo's U.S 3G Signal. If your a T-Mo subscriber like me the money you save from not having to have the mandatory data plan with a subsidized smart phone basically pays for this phone and more in the two years you'd be under contract. I can get unlimited Web for $10 a month or just use WiFi and pay nothing. The C6-01 & C7 which both have alot of the same features as the N8 will hopefully be coming out not long from now and hopefully will offer a less expensive alternative to the N8

48. cristianer

Posts: 42; Member since: Aug 20, 2010

Yeah. Anyway I'm waiting the milestone 2, I hope it will be cheaper.

9. Emix unregistered

Thank you phonearena for fair and detailed review! I expected 9 or 9.5 but 8.5 is good! This is my next phone!

11. yeah unregistered

wow it is right. they gave 9.5 rating for iphone that does not perform like a phone let alone a smartphone. jeez such a bias website. shame on phonearena

12. why I bought an N8 unregistered

I just bought an unlicked N8. I decided to go for the N8 after using an HTC Magic (rooted) for 1.5 years. Android is a nice platform, but hey, it gets slower and slower after a few months. Unacceptable. IPhone is not for me - do not like Apple's manias. So, back to old Nokia and yes, I am happy. It is a phone, has to allow me to call, freely, without forcing me to depend on a charger. I have a fast internet connection. GPS. I only would like to see a better Mail for Exchange, with the compelling Google sync. Other than that, bye bye, Android/HTC/Samsung and company...

13. thatdude1 unregistered

Great handset! I do not agree with everything the reviewer said, but 8.5 is much better than I anticipated from phone arena. Definitely my next Nokia handset as that is all I use lately. Should have given it at least a 9.0.

14. GIO

Posts: 2; Member since: Oct 07, 2010

This phone shouldn't get higher than 8/10 in business staff, but it should get 10/10 in in multimedia, so they should have given it 9/10 at least...

15. RVM unregistered

Nice review, thx phonearena. Im Nokia fan, but i have to admit Symbian^3 still need some more eye candy, hopefuly S^4 will fix it. I am definitively gonna buy N8, that phone is just amazing (for my needs) !

16. Wreckone unregistered

Yeah I cannot wait for my N8, I'm currently using a 580O! The N8 is like a dream come true for Nokia lovers! I live in the US and the reviews are mostly skewed here favoring IOS phone and Droid OS. I like being different and have enjoyed both my E71 and 580,0 but I really am exited about getting my N8. The hardware alone cannot be matched (as a package!) and a upcoming firmware updates will replace browser and Symbian 4 is just around the corner too...

17. 530gemini

Posts: 2198; Member since: Sep 09, 2010

Well, at least the N8 seems to have dramatically improved. Although still not good enough to compete with the likes of the iphone4 and galaxy s. I see the N8 as a great mid range smartphone.

18. DJ unregistered

Never owned an iPhone so I can't comment, but I did own a Samsung Galaxy..... The Vibrant. VERY, VERY , VERY overrated. I had boffo issues with features that did not work as advertised. And I knew alot of others who did as well. The Samsungs look great on paper, but aren't so great in reality.

19. Hazel unregistered

It all now depends on the personal taste of the user. This is the kind of phone I'd recommend for people who want a touchscreen smartphone with simple interface and navigation plus a great multimedia experience at the expense of an originally beautiful screen that does not need any shells of any sort, a good speaker, and many available apps. Like, say, my father. But for me, I still prefer the upcoming HTC Desire HD with Android 2.2 Froyo. There is something to be said about the not-so-perfect home screen customization of the N8 (and its minimum of 3) and the not-so-good speaker phone IMO. I am particularly fond of the Desire HD because it is not only visually stimulating with its HTC Sense + Android interface but the whole personalization + customization of the home screens, the skins, and the modern look... They are all very attractive to me. I want something that would be a definite eye-catcher but is still more than it looks. I need the speaker to be loud and proud like with Desire HD's Dolby Mobile with SRS because I use my phone as an alarm clock and if it has crappy speaker, then how is it supposed to wake me up? Basically, I want an all-in-one phone: Something that plays music as well as videos well that will make me forget about getting an iPod, something that takes pictures well that would make me forget about buying a digital camera, something that would make me not want an iPad because it can read e-books, surf the Web, etc. easily. I want something that has Navigations and GPS, a capacitive touchscreen and a multitude of apps available while yet still being durable compared to others. This is not to say that the N8 isn't an eye-catcher but the Philippine mobile market being Nokia largely dominated by Nokia... I imagine this will be fairly common in some people's hands soon. That's why I'm going with the Desire HD as well. I want to be the only person using an awesome, expensive, high-end phone within a large sight radius--- and I want them to know I love my phone. That it's not just for show. That, basically, it really is awesome. =)

20. jpropin

Posts: 152; Member since: May 20, 2010

You are right It is a matter of personal taste. I want a device that gets it done. A device that will do as it says and doesn't make promises it can't keep. But most of all, I want something solid that I can hold in my hand and squeeze and not worry about it busting into 1000 molded plastic pieces. Something that is built to last and I can rely on when I need it

30. Hazel unregistered

Yeah, and truthfully I'm happy to see that Nokia has finally caught up on the whole smartphone trend with a device that doesn't lag up once you get any data inside it. I almost bought myself an N97 mini a month ago and thank goodness I did my research! Otherwise, I'd end up frustrated real bad. I'm also glad because a new Nokia phone model released means prices for the earlier released phones will drop sooner or later and I would like to have either a RIM Blackberry Curve 8900 or Nokia E72 (will mostly like go for the E72) for instances when I have to rough out and I don't want to risk my Desire HD getting scratched, broken, wet, snatched, or even mugged away from me. And as I mentioned, the Philippine market is largely dominated by Nokia, I expect prices are going to drop soon in spirit of the many business competitions battling it out for consumers (and bottomline: profits). Another thing is I've always respected Nokia's easy to navigate interfaces during those pre-smartphone times. Hopefully they'll pull through. When it comes to mobile phones, competition is good. Otherwise, there would be little evolution and very little numbers of high-class phones as compared to if there were competition. So yeah. I'll stick with Desire HD. The thing isn't likely to break in pieces anyway since it has a unibody aluminum frame. =) And much rarer over here. Very much rarer.

21. jpropin

Posts: 152; Member since: May 20, 2010

Very nice comments about the N8 on The Street.Com 37528001 Pretty rare that Nokia gets a positive endorsement on a U.S Financial Website.....LOL

23. Himm34 unregistered

What I can't understand? You are buying a phone not the apps. Although the Iphone and others have some nice ones,but once you brake it down the software in the nokia want be dumb down like it is in the Iphone.Take the camera and look at the lack of features missing from the Iphone. And the nokia is built better as well. Do a drop test and see which one comes out on top. For my money it's the n8

24. orielwindow

Posts: 109; Member since: Sep 23, 2010

Nice balanced review. I like that you gave credit where it was due while remaining critical about the "new" OS.

25. pathmarkpolice

Posts: 102; Member since: Feb 05, 2009

Watch the video review of the phone on youtube (I think it's a 3 part review by mobileburn, it's really in depth). Don't go by words alone. See the phone in action. In terms of multimedia, the phone is an absolute beast. The 680 mhz processor does work pretty well and the phone can multitask, but the WAY it runs its tasks are annoying. For example, Symbian still refreshes your music list and displays that annoying message when refreshing the tracks. There were only 5 songs on the reviewers phone and refreshing the tracks took a little while. Also, there is some slight lag when switching between the home screens. The worst part of the phone is the texting. There is no auto correct option. I repeat, NO AUTO CORRECT. And forget about a portrait qwerty keypad, you're stuck with Alpha Numeric. Sending a text message or email or twitter response seems extremely laborious. If you're a texter, I wouldn't recommend this phone as there are extra steps and a lack of auto correct with the landscape qwerty that makes composing messages a nightmare. If you've used an iPhone or an Android phone, I think using the N8 would feel like a big step backwards. However, if you've been a die hard Nokia fan and have used their previous crappy, touch symbian models, this phone looks like it'll be a Godsend. Also, the full 3g band functionality is something I'd like to see ALL phones carry.

27. 6kle unregistered

I disagree with the hard words about texting. It does have auto correct in the portrait and if you can't turn on it for the landscape then it should be fixed soon with an update or a mod. Already several days ago there was a simple free app released that allowed also portrait mode qwerty. Also, when it comes to "not enough eye-candy UI" this OS is fully open and as such you can change and tweak the UI a lot. There are already plenty of good looking UI skins, including Nokia's own midnight themes that it released several days ago in an update (but isn't really noticed by any of the reviewers from what I've seen). The things that can be changed by apps/new firmware/mods are things like UI visuals and minor gripes like those with texting etc. What can NOT ever be changed by such things is the hardware. As said, Nokia hardware is fantastic. The software is great when you take some time to tweak it with mods to what you personally like best and wait a bit for firmware updates that are constantly being worked to iron out these MINOR gripes. This is a new OS and as such it still has updates on the way to make it better. No future update or mod will ever change bad hardware though so it's good to keep this in mind if you want to use your phone for a long time.

29. akk28 unregistered

Just to make one correction (don't have time to correct everything). N8 DOES HAVE auto correction, you turn it on while in landscape qwerty from the options tap (turn auto correct on). Reviewers mistake for not noticing so obvious option available.
  • Display 3.5" 360 x 640 pixels
  • Camera 12.1 MP / 0.3 MP VGA front
  • Storage 16 GB + microSDHC
  • Battery 1200 mAh(5.83h 3G talk time)

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