The Nokia N8 arrived at my doorstep on Friday afternoon, only an hour before I had to leave for work. I thought I’d take the first few days to get acquainted with the device before writing anything down. So, today, after having the N8 in my hands for more than 4 days, I thought it be fitting to write my initial impressions.
The N8 is a true beauty. Photos do not do it justice. From the first moment I set hands on the device it became apparent that the N8 is an object of studied design. Despite the fact that my review unit has already had a full life and shows it through dings and scratches, it remains a handsome heartbreaker. Those dings just reinforce the feeling of quality the device exudes. It can handle it. It’s meant to be taken places. The N8 definitely is a quality device.
From looking at photos of the device online I thought I’d be bothered by the protruding square on the back of the device, where the camera module sits. Turns out it’s not an annoyance at all. The device is a sheer delight to handle. Everything about it feels purposeful, the buttons are responsive and right where they should be.
One can access the camera two ways, either by manually going to the Menu, then going to Applications and selecting Camera or, more intuitively, by pressing the dedicated camera button on the side of the device. One short click starts the camera application. No unnecessary delays, no risk of missing a moment.
The Camera application allows for a high level of customization. A ton of photographic settings are available, including face detection, composition grid, self-timer, white balance, colour response adjustments, ISO settings, exposure compensation, contrast, sharpness as well as flash settings. The Camera also features a few shooting modes, including Automatic, Manual (which, effectively, is more of a Program mode than anything else), Macro (both photos in this article were snapped with the camera in Macro mode
), Action as well as two different Night modes (Night and Night Portrait). Pretty impressive for a cameraphone. In fact, the only moment where I felt something was lacking was whenever I needed to move between general focusing and macro. I would have prefered a simple Focus setting, allowing to move between AF and MacroAF instead of a separate shooting setting. It doesn’t sound like much on paper, but in reality it does add a few steps which, upon repeated usage, can be an irritant. For instance, I spent an afternoon going through a routine of shooting something in Auto mode and then, to capture a detail, switching to Macro mode, deactivating the flash, capturing the shot and then moving back to auto. Not a dealbreaker, but annoying nonetheless.
That being said, the images the N8 churns out are of such quality that whatever UI shortcomings are present, they are as soon forgotten. The macro mode renders gorgeous shots, very crisp, with extremely accurate focusing. The camera module’s pedigree really comes through here. No matter the scene, the camera has been able to deliver adequate contrast and excellent exposure. It really seems that combining a large sensor and Carl Zeiss optics can make magic happen. It is such a joy to be able to get such quality images out of a cameraphone. Being able to carry so much photographic weight in my jeans pocket makes me feel empowered. I am completely smitten.
So, I have less than 10 days left before I have to ship the N8 back to the awesome folks at WOMWorld/Nokia. In the next article, I’ll write about what it’s like to live with the Nokia N8 as an actual smartphone.
This article is a translation of 14 jours de N8: Premières impressions, from Boxov.