Nokia claims N86 8MP doesn't need any xenon, world chuckles

31 July, 2009

It seems we aren't the only ones that feel sorry the Nokia N86 8MP lacks a xenon flash like its predecessor - the Nokia N82. So the Finnish company decided it had to do something to restore its latest flagship reputation and released a statement, boldly claiming that the handset doesn't need a xenon unit to make good low-light shots.

Of course we do agree with most of the points listed - the Nokia N86 8MP wider-angle lens and wider aperture make it easier to avoid camera shake in lowlight environments but the developers have also missed on some major points.

For one the wider-angle lens and the wider aperture aren't enough of a compensation for the light output difference between a xenon flash and a LED unit (be it 3rd generation or not). While flash photography has its flaws too (the harsher shadows and the overexposed parts of the reflective subjects in the frame spring to mind) our humble opinion is that cameraphones are far from ready to tackle low-light photography without a proper flash. Even dedicated point-and-shoot cameras produce highly noisy results in flash-less photography. And as much as we want to believe that the Nokia N86 8MP has somehow managed to bend the laws of physics, our eyes tell us otherwise.

In fact the N86 8MP did come pretty close to the Samsung Pixon12 image quality in the dark with the flash units on both devices turned off and that speaks well in favor of the progress Nokia are making. However once the xenon power kicks in, it becomes a really uneven battle as you can see from the samples below. So a step forward it might as well be, but the N86 8MP is far from the best in class at this stage.

Samsung M8910 Pixon12 • Nokia N86 8MP • 100% crops

Samsung M8910 Pixon12 • Sony Ericsson C905 • Nokia N86 8MP • 100% crops

Nokia have even gone as far as doing a low-light shootout between the N86 8MP and their oh-so-popular xenon-equipped N82. So yeah - when you are able to keep the device steady (as in "there's no way you are getting a nice shot hand-held"), the N86 can match the now retired 5 megapixel cameraphone. However if you don't have a support at your disposal, xenon light is the only thing that can give you shutter speeds that are quick enough for hand-held shooting.

You can check out the Nokia N86 8MP and N82 low light comparison itself on this interactive slideshow, which is best viewed fullscreen:

Now don't get us wrong - the N86 8MP is still a really good cameraphone package. However its key feature is the wide-angle lens, rather than the exceptional low-light performance or top-of-the-class image quality. So thanks Nokia for going the extra mile and explaining us that the tiny low-power LED can fully substitute the technology that has been used in dedicated cameras for years now, but we'd really prefer simply going for xenon next time.



Reader comments

  • lucifer

the future is slim supercapacitors and xenon, i think it will be adopted soon by phone producers

  • Anonymous

I guess you never heard about "gadget convergence" do you ? never say no if you don't know what you are talking about. personally, I'd love to see everything in one gadget.... it will take awhile, but it's coming very fast....

  • Anonymous

It doesn't matter. LED may be able to reach xenon's light output but it will drain battery faster and it will never be able to match xenon light's motion-freeze capability. Stop comparing LED with Xenon. we are talking about sky and earth. Go and get...

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