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Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Fun with a phonecam 

Not bad for a trashcam

Pretty nice, huh?

That's with the phone in the Nokia 6682 Matchstick and Rogers sent my way.

On the other hand, this was taken with the same camera:

Digital Zoom is Evil

Uh oh.

The moral of the story is that digital zoom is evil. Well, not really. But this camera is some combination of trying too hard and interpolating badly. The result is that I don't use the digital zoom feature at all. No, never. Hardly ever.

When I got this phone, I was keenly interested in how the camera would work out: it's a 1.3 megapixel sensor sitting behind what appears to be a typical phone-cam lens: focus-free, no optical zoom.

The result is not an impossible device. The photos are really only suitable for web work or (speaking very generously) standard prints, but they're good enough for that.

Moreover, the camera gets some basic stuff right. The time from deciding to take a picture to taking a picture is nearly as fast as thought: slide open the lens cover, and the camera immediately goes to photo mode. Press the button, and you take a picture. It's that fast, and it benefits from the fact that the phone is almost certainly on already. This fast reaction time is important to my theory of how one's "always with you" camera should work: it has to be teeny tiny, and it has to be capable of catching a quick shot when you pull it out of your pocket. Full points on these issues.

The big question is whether I would replace my actual digital camera with this one. Not yet. The 6682 is more of a preview of the future than an ideal present, and reasonable versions of the future may already exist in Europe and Asia. No, seriously: check out this shot on flickr for an idea of what I'd consider "good enough."

On this continent, the 6682 may be about as good as it gets. Note this review which picks it as one of the three best camera-phones available (presumably on this continent), alongside its big brother the N90, which is another camera that seems to be pushing into the land of good enough. Surprisingly, the even-better-spec'd Nokia N93 camera doesn't seem much better than the 6682's, judging by the rather fuzzy shots I can find on flickr.

But that's really just talking about the phone as a camera. As a phone, it's not half bad. It's big by phone standards, small by PDA standards, and while I still wonder if there have been any improvements in mobile phone usability since my much-loved Nokia 5100 series phone.

But having a Series 60 phone means this thing is a nerdy delight: throw three more games on your phone? go for it? Add any app you can think of? Sure. This thing is as much a phone-PDA as a Treo 600 or a basic Windows Smartphone; it lacks only an acceptable keyboard (and T9 or whatever Nokia's fast-input system is called) is not that much worse than a mini-QWERTY or Graffiti interface.

But navigation isn't perfect, and I haven't found a solution to some of my minor annoyances: being a wild eccentric, this phone is usually the only timepiece I have with me, and the two available clock displays are a very ugly 7-segment LCD emulation and a less-ugly analog clock that might be usable if it had some hour marks on the clock face. At least the screensaver mode simply displays the date and time in a perfectly reasonable way.

I've tried a surprising number of phones, and while I'm fairly impressed by the UI on the cheapo Motorola V551 I, ahem, specified as our standard departmental phone at work, these devices have a lot of features and functions, and I don't think enough time has gone into making the UI truly intuitive. I get by, but that's not the same as liking the user interfaces.

There's a lot of rumor-buzz-hype-hope around the idea of an Apple iPhone, and I think that's because where I see a hope for convergence of digital cameras and phones, other people see a hope for convergence of MP3 players and phones. Since Apple has already proven they are world leaders in MP3 player UI, hopeful phone users would like to see them apply that magic to the cel market (Motorola ROKR E1 need not apply, thanks).

I got the same phone from the same place and well pretty much feel the same way.

It keeps getting packet connections too.. that I keep cancelling after long times. Grr
You could always carry around a Nokia Bluetooth keyboard if you really wanted to do text entry, there Ryan.

They're selling them in the phone kiosk store in the basement of Pacific Centre on the North End (Wireless Wave?). Roland gave it a shot with his N70. Personally, it would take a healthy shift in my working patterns to buy one (I don't take my laptop to meetings to take notes, even though I have one...)
Just got my phone from the same company as well.

I've got a review up here.
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