Photo Quality Was Poor Despite Big-Name Optics

By Wayne Rash  |  Posted 2012-04-10 Print this article Print


You€™ll find the headphone jack, the charging port and the micro-SIM tray on the top of the phone. The phone includes a tool for opening the SIM tray, but a paper clip will also work. There€™s a speaker grill on the bottom of the phone, and nothing on the left.  

For a complete look at the features, see the related eWEEK Nokia Lumia 900 slide show. Along the bottom of the front of the phone are three hard-to-see buttons. One is a Windows symbol that brings up the opening screen. One is a back button, and the other one is a magnifying glass that invokes the Bing search engine.  

On the back of the phone is the much-hyped Carl Zeiss optical system with its 8-megapixel camera. Do not buy this phone just for the camera, which is far from its strongest feature. The first test photos with this camera did not appear unusually sharp, and a comparison test showed that this camera, despite the hype, is a poor performer.  

Because Nokia has made such a big deal of the camera, I compared the photos it takes against an undistinguished 5-megapixel camera on a BlackBerry Bold 9900, and a 6-megapixel Nikon D70 DSLR. It was not really a contest. In every case, the Lumia€™s camera was inferior to either of the others. 

The Lumia suffers from problems handling bright colors, such as a dandelion flower, which caused so much bloom in the image that it became difficult to distinguish the flower. A photo of a wooded area with the sun off to one side had enough flare to obscure the image in places. The BlackBerry had neither of those problems, although it did have some color shift. The lesson here is that if you want to take quality photos, use a camera. 

One criticism of the Windows Phone 7 OS is the relatively small number of apps available in the Marketplace. However, this number is growing as Microsoft is aggressively encouraging developers. It€™s worth noting that the Windows Phone is not restricted to the Marketplace for its apps. They can be downloaded from anywhere. For example, the Skype app for this device is in beta and is available only on Skype€™s Website. The beta version works fine.  "Unlike Android, which allows restrictions on downloading apps from outside the Google Play Marketplace, this does not appear to be the case with WP7. As a result, this is a potential security hole."

As phones go, I liked the Nokia Lumia 900 quite a bit. There are a few rough edges, such as the problem connecting with the data network, that need to be solved. However, for the things that you€™re likely to use a smartphone for the most, it excels in most areas. Unfortunately, there€™s still no way to sync with Outlook directly unless you€™re running an Exchange server and for some reason the screen doesn€™t always rotate with the phone.

One can only hope that Microsoft will provide a way for direct sync with Outlook, since many small businesses use that software but can€™t afford Exchange. The data connection problem is being fixed, apparently and one hopes that Carl Zeiss will try again with their smartphone camera. But as a smartphone for handling mail, messaging, Web access and app support, it's very encouraging. I liked this phone a lot. I just wish Nokia would clear up those details.

Editor's Note: This story was updated with information on Nokia's efforts to fix the data service connection problems.

Wayne Rash Wayne Rash is a Senior Analyst for eWEEK Labs and runs the magazine's Washington Bureau. Prior to joining eWEEK as a Senior Writer on wireless technology, he was a Senior Contributing Editor and previously a Senior Analyst in the InfoWorld Test Center. He was also a reviewer for Federal Computer Week and Information Security Magazine. Previously, he ran the reviews and events departments at CMP's InternetWeek.

He is a retired naval officer, a former principal at American Management Systems and a long-time columnist for Byte Magazine. He is a regular contributor to Plane & Pilot Magazine and The Washington Post.

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