Ever since the Nokia N8 was released with its incredible industry leading 12-megapixel camera way back in 2009, we’re yet to find a cameraphone that can in its entirety stands up to the Nokia N8's power as a compact camera replacement. Boasting great picture quality and a Xenon flash, not even Nokia’s own follow ups, the Nokia Lumia 800 or Nokia 710 hold a candle to the 2009 release, which won cameraphone of the year at the 2011 Recombu Awards. Now that the N8 has just been updated to Symbian Belle and is more current than it has been for a while, we have decided to test this ourselves with all three Nokia cameraphones and a Canon Powershot S90, one of the best compact cameras available. We're doing all this in a bid to confirm once and for all that the Nokia N8 is still the Nokia cameraphone to beat.
Starting outdoors, this is where most shots on any camera tend to be taken. It’s where you’ll find the beautiful sunsets, the awe inspiring architecture and the snowmen. Yes, we got snapping during the big freeze and have chosen snowy settings for our outdoor samples.
Outdoor Sample 1 - Whites
Snow. It’s white. But is it really? Cameras tend to struggle with white balance, but what they struggle with more is off white and the nuances of colour within white. This makes snow perfect for test number one.
As you can see from the snowy shots, the snow was in fact an ever so slightly yellow white with both the Canon Powershot S90 and the Nokia N8 capturing this detail beautifully. The Nokia Lumia 800 was a close second with a slightly overexposed white region while the Nokia Lumia 710 dropped a bit too much blue into the picture. First test down and everything’s gone as expected.
Outdoor Sample 2 - Colours
Red is a loud, vibrant colour and there are few things in this world redder than a UK postbox. So how do our Nokias pick up this colour? Well for the most part. The Nokia N8 once again comes out on top, with the richest tones coming through and results very comparable to the Canon Powershot S90. The Nokia Lumia 800 once again falls behind with slightly more subdued colouration while the Nokia Lumia 710 drops to the back of the race, under-saturating the rouge of the postbox and losing the pop focal point red demands.
Outdoor Sample 3 - Subject
While we didn’t have any people to take a picture of, we were well able to take a shot of a handsome snowman to see how the cameras deal with subjects. This snowman was a day old, so his face was more ice than snow, transparent in parts. In turn nuances were harder to pick up. To make things more difficult, he was wearing a black cap, so this leaves us looking for detail in the face, cap and accurate colour in the background.
With the weakest detail, the Nokia Lumia 710 is once again out of the race, pegging it last in our outdoor section overall. The Nokia N8 and Nokia Lumia 800 actually underexpose the image slightly when compared to the Canon Powershot S90. This increases detail on the snowman’s face which is great. That said, the Nokia Lumia 800 doesn’t have the range of the N8, so loses detail in the black hat as a result. This once more places the Nokia N8 at the top of our tests with fantastic dynamic range for a mobile and makes it the winner of our snowy outdoor section.
While technically also outdoor, we framed this scene to see how, in complete automatic mode all three of these Nokia handsets deal with high contrast, testing their auto-exposure and dynamic range.
As can be seen with no zooming necessary, the Nokia Lumia 710 totally underexposes the shot being thrown totally off by the sky. While it picks up some detail up top, it loses detail in the foreground as a result. The Nokia N8 actually doesn’t win this round. While better than the Nokia Lumia 710, it doesn’t offer the foreground detail the Nokia Lumia 800 does and with no touch to focus, metering wasn’t the easiest to over-ride. Naturally, the Canon S90 demonstrated a very good balance of foreground and background exposure with the Lumia 800 being most comparable, albeit with slightly over-exposed sky.
Outdoor macro is a camera’s friend. Great light, quick shutter, good depth of field, all it needs is a good macro lens with a nice, close focal range.
With the S90 demonstrating what it should look like, with a sharp in focus bolt and an attractive amount of background blur, it appears we’ve shed light on the Nokia N8’s weakness. With the closest focal range being considerably further than either of the Lumias, you will see we had to step back when taking the N8 sample to get the shot to focus. In turn, while the detail on the hinge is incredible, the bolt is slightly out. The Nokia Lumia 710 and 800 both appear to have closer focal distances, however don’t produce as high a level of detail as the N8 or as accurate colour. In addition, they also overexpose the sky.
So which Nokia wins? If you like to get up close and personal, we’d say the Nokia Lumia 800. If however you’re more concerned about your macros overall image quality, once again the Nokia N8 champions along.
This was our surprise round. A well lit office and off the bat, our indoor macro champion other than the Canon Powershot S90 was the Nokia Lumia 710. It focused on the foreground fruit marbles instantly when the other mobiles struggled even when pulled back. Unfortunately, it underexposed the shot as you can see when comparing it to all the other pictures. The Nokia Lumia 800 and Nokia N9 performed similarly to one another in terms of focus, with the Lumia 800 able to focus a little closer. Both also exposed the shot better than the Nokia Lumia 710. So if you're a close up indoor focuser, your favourite would be the Nokia Lumia 710 thanks to how easy it was to get the shot we wanted. Overall picture quality and it's the N8 yet again.
Pets, flowers, people, they all tend to be photographed inside and inside is where the Nokia N8 really comes into its own. In this flowery kitchen scene, the Nokia N8 is the only camera apart from the S90 to retain the quality of yellow found in the foremost flower with all the Lumia's washing the scene out too much, and even the S90 struggling, yellowing out the whole scene a bit too much.
Indoor - Flash
Add a flash to the scenario and the Nokia N8’s camera muscle only flexes harder with its Xenon flash bringing out more colour from the foreground while the Nokia Lumia 710 and 800 just wash it out even more than they did before. It really is incredible the difference this type of flash makes and we wish they were on more phones.
All taken into account and there is no denying all these are fantastic snappers for their price. Even the worst performer in our tests, the Nokia Lumia 710 produced some perfectly respectable, detailed shots and showed a real forte for macro photography. The Nokia Lumia 800 also has its strength in being an all-rounder. Winning in our high contrast round, it performed consistently and was a breeze to use.
Having said that, we can safely say that the Nokia N8 with its 12-megapixel sensor is still the champion Nokia camera-phone, and possibly the champion camera-phone period. While it has its weaknesses being unable to focus in as closely on macro shots as its competition, it delivers the best colour, dynamic range and the Xenon flash takes its indoor performance to another level.
You can click through all the image grids and decide for yourself which you think takes the crown. If you agree, disagree or just want to share your opinions, please fire us a comment below.