Nokia N86 8MP Review – Part 3 – Camera

25. September 2009 at 19:40

It may have taken a while, but its finally here, the third and final part of my epic Nokia N86 8MP Review. This review will focus on the hardware, software and experience of using the 8MP camera this flagship is renowned for. So without further ado, let’s get started…

The Nokia N86 Camera Overview

  • 8 Mega Pixel CMOS Sensor
  • Carl Zeiss Optics
  • Wide Angle Tessar Lens: 28mm
  • Mechanical Shutter: Speeds of up to 1/1000 sec
  • Large & Variable Aperture: F2.4, F3.2, F4.8
  • 3rd Generation Dual LED Flash
  • Dedicated Camera Key
  • Slide Lens Cover for Protection & Camera Activation
  • Geo-tagging
  • Photo Editor
  • Video Editor
  • Direct Printing to any compatible picture printer
  • Photo/Video Uploading straight from the Gallery
  • Real Time Video Sharing to any compatible mobile device

The Nokia N86 8MP is Nokia’s first 8 mega pixel cameraphone and features a stunning wide-angle Carl Zeiss Lens. The wide-angle lens is especially useful when taking landscape images as it manages to scoop together a lot more of the scenery. When it comes to portraits, the N86 does tend to struggle a little, as it doesn’t manage to get all the little details within the image. This is more apparent when zooming into a picture once the photo has been taken. The automatic variable aperture control allows the camera to correct light sensitivity and sharpness accordingly. There are no options to adjust the aperture manually, which isn’t really an issue as many use mobile cameras to simply point and shoot. The mechanical shutter quickly stops the light getting to the sensor which creates crisper and clearer images.

Imaging Spec

  • Imaging Formats: JPEG, EXIF
  • Image Resolution of 3280 x 2464 pixels
  • Capture Modes: Still, Sequence, Self-Timer, Video, Panorama
  • Flash Modes: On, Off, Automatic, Red-Eye Reduction
  • Flash: operating range of up to 3.5 m
  • Up to 20x Digital Zoom
  • Focal Length: 4.61 mm
  • Focus Range: 10 cm to infinity
  • Macro Focus: 10-50 cm
  • White Balance Modes: Automatic, Sunny, Cloudy, Incandescent, Fluorescent
  • Centre weighted auto exposure; exposure compensation: +2 ~ -2EV at 0.33 step
  • Scene Modes: Automatic, User Defined, Close-Up, Portrait, Landscape, Sport, Night, Night Portrait
  • Colour Tone Modes: Normal, Sepia, Black & White, Negative, Vivid
  • Light Sensitivity Modes: High, Medium, Low, Automatic
  • Full-Screen Viewfinder
  • Autofocus with Assist Light and Two Stage Capture Key

Imaging Experience

Capturing images with the N86 is not exactly what I expected. For starters, image focussing takes around 1-2 seconds and processing takes around 3-4 seconds which means it can take up to 6 seconds just to take one photo. Then there’s the camera key, which can only be described as a disaster. The key follows in the footsteps of other cameraphones with dedicated camera keys, in that a half press allows the focus, and a further half press will take the picture. However, once focused and ready to take the picture, the second press requires a considerable amount of pressure in quite an uncomfortable manner. This usually makes the handset move a little, disturbing the final image. I would have loved to have seen the same camera key used on the N95 8GB, as it required just the right amount of pressure for taking photos.

An active toolbar shows all the available options and allows you to toggle between them just like you would on a standalone digital camera. A nice feature included is that you can change the order in which the options appear to best suite your needs, so if there is a certain feature you are always using, you can set it at the top of the toolbar for easy access. Removed from the options is the grid view which was available previously, although it may not be missed too much.

With the built in GPS, you now have the option of Geo-tagging your images, which is a very cool addition to neo-mobile photography. The N86 also features panoramic imaging, allowing you to stitch photos together with ease. The feature works very well and is extremely handy when the wide angle lens is just not wide enough.

Image Editor

The image editor is the same one featured on previous devices with quite a few, yet rather novice options. Its perfect for having a bit of a laugh with, but nothing extremely productive can be done with it. The options include crop, rotate, resize, and it allows you to adjust the brightness, sharpness and contrast of images. You can also add text, clip arts and position a frame around the image, and even reduce the red-eye imperfections caused by a xenon flash. Visual effects like sepia, black and white and negative, and the ability to even cartoonise the image are present. However, more functionalities are definitely required, and it would be good to see the editor as a standalone application.

Image Samples

The subject in the image samples are the same throughout in order to make it easier to recognise the image quality. The photos on the left are of the Nokia N86 8MP and on the right are of the N95 8GB. You can click on the thumbnails in order to examine the images further.

Outdoors in daylight using automatic mode:

Outdoors in daylight using full zoom (not extended zoom):

Outdoors in daylight using macro mode (no flash):

Outdoors in daylight using macro mode (with flash):

Indoors in low-light (no flash):

Indoors in low-light using night mode (no flash):

Note: no matter what i tried here I simply could not get the N86 to focus, so had to take the image and hope for the best.

Indoors in low-light (with flash):

Indoors in low-light using macro mode (no flash):

Indoors in low-light using macro mode (with flash):

Complete Darkness using automatic mode (with flash):

Complete Darkness using automatic mode (with flash):

Note: when taking these images I placed myself one meter away from the object.

Complete Darkness using night mode (no flash):

Panoramic images taken with the Nokia N86 8MP:

Note: here there are three shots stitched together. The N86 allows you to stitch up to five shots into one image.

Video Spec

  • Video Recording Formats: mp4, 3gp
  • Video Recording Resolution of 640 x 480 (VGA) at 30 fps
  • Video Light: operating range of up to 2 m
  • Up to 8x Digital Zoom
  • Image Stabilisation
  • Video White Balance Modes: Automatic, Sunny, Cloudy, Incandescent, Fluorescent
  • Scene Modes: Automatic, Night
  • Colour Tone Modes: Normal, Sepia, Black & White, Negative, Vivid

Video Experience

Once you have pressed the camera key down enough to get the video recording started, everything is pretty much the same as any other cameraphone. The dual LED’s can also be manually activated to act as a video light, allowing to do a pretty decent bit of recording in low light conditions.

You need to ensure you’re holding the device without covering up the microphone, as this is very easily done and will distort the audio quality. If you require no sound at all, you now have the option to mute the microphone, which is a great added touch.

Video Editor

Yes, the N86 does have a video editor, which with some difficulty I managed to find. You may have noticed that in Part Two of the review I mentioned that I would’ve liked to see a video editor, well, it’s here. It took me over a month to stumble upon, and this is because the editor is only available if you go through Applications > Gallery > Images??? I cannot understand why the option is disabled when in the video centre and is only available here. Nevertheless its there and lets you do the following:

Merge – The ‘Merge’ option allows you to join video clips together, or add images to the beginning or end of a clip. It would’ve been nice to see an option to enable different transition effects, like fade in/out, etc.
Change Sound – You can place a sound clip or music track from your device to play over the video clip, which will mute any sounds recorded on the clip.
Add Text – Pretty self explanatory, ‘Add Text’ allows you to add up to 50 characters either before or at the end of a video clip. The text is displayed in white with a black background, and again there are no additional options with regards to transitions, nor to change the colors of the text/background.
Cut – Plain and simple, ‘Cut’ lets you trim the video clip, giving you two markers to set your start and end positions with. You can also take a snapshot of any frame throughout the clip.

It is nice to have the video editor back, a multimedia orientated device needs to be equipped with such software. However the overall solution is very disappointing; the lack of options and poor location of the editor really makes you question why Nokia bothered. Additional features are not too difficult to incorporate through firmware updates, and although Nokia are generally very good at keeping their devices up to date, I wouldn’t count on seeing any improvements in the near future.

Video Sample


Personally I though the image quality produced by the Nokia N86 was simply awesome for a mobile phone, and it manages to capture great images in low light conditions too. The video quality is very impressive and the zoom does perform much better. I must say the video light is an imperative tool and although the push for xenon may rage on, I would like to say that I am personally supportive of the direction Nokia have taken with Dual LED’s, as a cameraphone needs to be able to do everything well, and xenon wouldn’t fair well at all in recording videos in darker conditions. So there you have it. You have all the information you need, now its up to you to have your say as this now concludes my Nokia N86 8MP Review. If you haven’t already, take a look at Part 1 and Part 2 which take a look at the N86’s hardware and software, and leave some comments below to let me know what you think.