Thursday, July 16, 2009

E75 - makes a great camera phone

As I mentioned in the last post, the E75 has a really good camera. Yes, the images still look like they've been taken by a phone, but there were several key hardware and software elements employed by Nokia which helped make the E75 in my mind, a very capable point and shoot.

For a start the camera has auto-focus, and you can pre-focus by simply pressing the camera half-way. Unfortunately, pressing the button all the way down without pre-focusing bypasses focusing altogehter, but it does mean that you can take a photo quickly if you need to. But to me, what separates the focusing mechanism of the E75 from other phones - and indeed, other point and shoot cameras - is the use of the LED flash as an auto-focus lamp at low light settings. This brilliant choice by Nokia means that even in complete darkness, the E75 can produce a shot like this:

Seeing in the dark: Full marks to Nokia for employing the LED flash as an auto-focus lamp - this photo was taken at night in complete darkness, but the flowers are in focus, and despite being very close to the camera, the image is not washed out and the colours are close to life.

the correct render of the colours, and the absence of overexposure in the photo leads me to suspect that the white balance and exposure of the image is also calculated during the pre-focusing stage (see example below for more evidence). Honestly, I reckon Nokia should sell this technology to camera manufacturers if they thought of it, because I have stand-alone cameras that don't perform this well with a flash so close to a subject! It may be a hasty call after just using the cameraphone for a day and a half, but I think the E75 may be the best camera I've ever used in low-light conditions with the flash on!

As proof, I've added some macro shots taken of my laptop keyboard by my canon point and shot (A410, 3.2MP) compared to those of the E75 (3.2MP), another auto-focus cameraphone (E71, 3.2MP), as well as a fixed focus camerphone (Dopod 838, 2.0MP). To make things fair, all shots were taken one after the other, and with the flash activated and all settings set to automatic. The plan is to take more photos on the weekend (weather permitting) in a larger variety of situations (both indoors and outdoors), but for now, let us marvel as the prowess of the E75.

Umm, this is the standard?! : The Canon powershot A410 is a point and shoot camera with an auto-focus lamp, which definitely helped with the focusing. Unfortunately, the camera didn't/couldn't throttle down the exposure enough, and the "J" key has been completely obliterated, with some collateral brightening of the sorrounding keys. Colour is accurate where the image is not overexposed.

E75 : Subject is sharp, colours are accurate, and the LED flash has produced a bright section in the image, but nothing too severe. Auto white balance did its job well, with only a slight yellow cast compared to the Canon A410.

Dopod838 : Subject is reasonably sharp (macro setting on), but the black is washed out, and the LED flash has completely washed out the "B" key. White balance is correctly applied by the camera.

E71 macro shot: Where do I start? The image is more out of focus than the Dopod (auto-focus had trouble in low-light setting and dark subject), the image is the most overexposed of the three, and to add insult to injury, the white balance is completely wrong (my keys are not violet!)

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