Nokia N86 – Worst Camera Phone EVAR!!1!

Hey, didn’t I post just yesterday that Nokia’s N86 was the best camera phone EVAR?

Indeed I did. I’m not trying to contradict myself here; instead I merely wish to point out a couple of issues that prospective N86 owners should be aware of. You can decide for yourself how important they are.

Exhibit A: Panora-meh.

Maybe it’s because photo-stitching is a bad idea with a wide-angle lens, or maybe it’s because I suck at such things. But try as I might I could not for the life of me get a halfway decent result in the N86’s panorama mode.

Click through to each photo’s Flickr page and see what went wrong with each. The third photo came closest to yielding acceptable results, but there are errors in all three…

Bangkok Panorama Fail

Singapore Panorama Fail

Shibuya, as seen from 16th Floor of Excel Hotel Tokyu

Exhibit B: (not so much) Macro.

I’m not terribly impressed by the macro mode on the N86 (or any of the Nseries handsets I’ve tried, for that matter). I just can’t get as close to what I’m shooting as I’d like to, like this big bag of betel nuts in Taipei, for example:

Taiwanese chewing gum -- forget Red Bull, this stuff will bite you in the ass.

The odd thing is that while focusing the lens will often lock on my subject for a split-second, then lose it completely. Maybe this hack for macro video recording would also work in photo mode?

Exhibit C: Here we go again…

N97 owners are all too familiar with Nokia’s destructive camera lens cover. Well, guess what — the cover on this N86 is doing the same thing. See that line just below the lens?

Scratchy scratchy!

The saving grace here is that the cover is not scratching the glass directly over the lens, per se, due to its modified design. But Nokia could have avoided this uproar altogether with more metal painted plastic around the lens, as they did with their own N79:

A better Nseries lens housing...

I’m not personally sold on the lens cover idea at all, and my opinion is that a thick, clear shield over the lens (as in the N95 8GB and N97 Mini) is the way to go.

And on the subject of cameras…

Exhibit D: Front-facing camera… WTF?!1!

Imagine my surprise to discover that the front-facing camera on Nokia’s imaging flagship has a lower resolution than the N97 before it — CIF vs. VGA. The pixel count isn’t much different but the resulting video sure is!

Here are two streamed Qik videos, recorded in the same location at the same time of day with the same settings. The only difference between the two is the slightly weaker Canadian winter sun.

N86 (352×288 pixels), recorded yesterday:

[qik url=”″%5D

N97 (640×480 pixels) recorded last summer::

[qik url=”″%5D

While the front-facing camera might never be used on most handsets, I’m a big of Qik and use it quite often with my screen facing me. Maybe this is why Qik’s running a contest right now with the 1st-gen N97 as the prize?

So there they are, my photo and video-related issues with the N86. Are they enough to steer you towards another device? It’s certainly giving me pause for thought

By Andrew

Mobile phones, Linux and copyright reform. Those go together, right?


  1. From what I can see here is the panorama is just an apps that stitches all the images but then it’s only can be called as software failure.

    As for the 2nd photo, it’s was just that you did not focus the object correctly before u pressed the shutter.

    I have tried out N86 8MP and the photos quality is almost as good as compact D. camera. Probably just some skill need to work around with the camera. Even compact D. camera also would out of focus.

    IMHO. Cheers!

    1. As for the 2nd photo, it’s was just that you did not focus the object correctly before u pressed the shutter.

      Really? So you were standing with me in Taipei while I stood there for five minutes trying to get the lens to focus properly?

      You should have introduced yourself!

      1. Okay, maybe, maybe I was a bit too far for the macro lens to lock in, but 6mm? Can you provide photographic proof that you can get that close? ‘Cuz I can provide lots of proof that you can’t! 😉

  2. Some valid points, but still. It is by far one of the most capable camera phones out there. If you really need the full features of a camera, you’ll always be better off using a dedicated digital camera, in my opinion.

    1. I actually disagree with this. No matter how good a standalone camera is if it can’t upload directly to Flickr or YouTube it’s largely useless to me — these days, anyway…

  3. The main problem with the camera covers of the N79, N85, N86, N97 and N900 is that you need to apply a lot of pressure on a large surface to move it. That pressure is mainly directed down on the lens. If the cover is poorly designed like on the N97, it leads to scratches.

    I think the N82 had the best lens cover, followed by the N95-1. The covers were quite far from the lens and the activation was simple. The only way you would scratch your lens would be if you jammed a stick in there.

    In my opinion, the N82 is still the best Nokia camera phone. Xenon flash and an easy to open camera cover. Pretty much every else out there LOVED the camera on the N82, but Nokia seemed to think it was a failure and never made a proper update to it. Every single review of a Nokia phone has complained about the lack of xenon, yet that complaint has been ignored for two years now.

    1. Absolutely right – although the N86 camera is much better for video than the N82, and somewhat better for photos, I think.
      I disagree with Andrew that the lens cap should be removed – my N95 8GB got very scratched, very quickly (my own fault, i know, but I wasn’t used to having a good camera without a cap and I didn’t have a protective case).
      The N82 has a great cover – though the recessed lens space does tend to collect dirt & dust and is harder to clean. The scratch you show from the lens cover on the N86 is well below the edge of the lens, so shouldn’t be a problem – and I’d rather have that than have nothing. Although it does feel a bit flimsy.

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