Also, after being spoiled with the camera app control options of Nokia’s Lumia phones years ago, the lack of true manual controls and tweaks was also disappointing. There are three focus modes: include center-weighted, evaluative — which generally involves face detection — and old-fashioned auto, while there’s similarly limited options for focal range photography. Macro, infinite distance and auto are your three only options. And that software-driven bokeh mode that we’re seeing on most smartphones with two lenses? The Nokia 8’s interpretation of it is just not that good. It typically smeared objects outside of the main area of focus, and usually neglected to take into account the details of, say, the stag statue antlers.
That’s not to say there’s nothing to play with inside the camera app. The simple control UI includes the ability to combine the front facing camera with the rear-facing duo for simultaneous photos and video. This is what a “bothie” is made out of.
The good parts: The cameras on both the front and back use the same resolution, so your images don’t look particularly uneven. There were, however, times when the front-facing camera struggled with changes in lighting. The biggest problem was the physical challenge of lining up what you’re trying to capture. I took some “bothie” video as we drove around the Berlin Victory Column during the photography testing, and it was hard to balance capturing both the building and myself in the back of the car. You could say that’s fine for rough-and-ready live broadcasts, but it’s difficult to make anything look particularly good. A wider-angle lens on the front facing camera would have alleviated things.
And about that livecasting: Nokia added the ability to livestream directly from the camera app to YouTube or Facebook — which is a smart idea. However, when trying it out, I barely seemed to notice that hyped-up Nokia OZO-branded audio recording. Despite promises of 360-degree directional audio, and three microphones embedded inside the phone, the quality was pretty rough. My voice blasted out on Facebook, while video compression wrecked the quality of the video. This isn’t completely the fault of the Nokia 8: phone signal quality and Facebook’s own compression tricks are all involved. But the point is that I don’t want to share something that sounds grating and looks muddy. What’s the point in that?
Another issue I had was the delay in switching between the two sensors on the back of the Nokia 8. This was an problem with several of the first wave of dual-lens camera phones last year, but most have figured out how to speed up this transition. We got to test this Nokia 8 ahead of its retail launch in Europe, so there is the chance that the company can tweak some of these issues through software updates. At this point, there’s certainly plenty for the engineers to work on.
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