Wednesday, January 31, 2007

N95 Indoor Pictures with a Flash

Boston Web Innovators Group
Last night I went to a meeting in Boston, It was a good time to try out the N95 in a low light situation. The photos are much better than the N93.

It takes quite a while for the camera to display the image after taking the picture, but I'm sure that's just because this is a preproduction model. It seems that I have some focus issues too, but that might be because I put my subjects over on the side of the frame. The focus area is pretty big. I'll have to play around some more with this. If it's like any other camera, I'm sure I just have to focus on the subject and then move the camera to the side.

On thing I can tell you is that the N95 will make you very popular at parties. The meeting I was at was all about new software solutions in technology. One attendee told me that seeing the N95 was the highlight of his evening. It's a fun phone to show people.

At dinner after the meeting we were talkign about Imogen Heap and my friend hadn't heard of her, so I took out the N05 and played him one of her songs. I just set the phone down on the table and let the music play out of the stereo speakers. People liked it.

Sunday, January 28, 2007

Friday, January 26, 2007

Nokia N95 Second Impresions

I had some time to try a few more features of the Nokia N95 today.

MUSIC PLAYER
You can play music files from the Music Player or the File Manager, but I can't figure out how to get my mp3 files to play with the music player. Later, I figured it out. You have to put the files in the same directory as the music files. Pretty straightforward, but I first put them on the microSD card instead of on the phone's inbuilt memory. More testing is needed here.

VOICE RECORDER
I set the voice recorder to High quality and recorded my voice. When I tried to send it to VOX, I got an error saying that VOX only accepts images and video. That's not right. The recording was good.

CELL SERVICE
I thought that for Cingular, now AT&T, MEdia Net is the package I needed to get HSDPA. So I asked a few friends and Darla Mack wrote back to me:

"I have Cingular's Unlimited MEdia Net. I don't think that Cingular's 3G will work properly on the N95 because firstly, their 3G isn't available everywhere as of yet. Also, the N95 isn't programmed to work on the US 3G network."

Nokia N95 on Wikipedia
The Nokia N95 is an Nseries smartphone/"multimedia computer" by Nokia. It was unveiled in September 2006 and is scheduled for release in March 2007 at an estimated unsubsidized retail price of €550 (US$700). It is based on S60 3rd Edition Feature Pack 1 software on the Symbian OS (v9.2) and is particularly significant for being both Nokia's first 3.5G (HSDPA) handset and also first GPS enabled handset.

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Nokia N95 First Impressions

Unboxing the N95
This was fun. It turned into a multimedia experience.

Nokia N95

I did a video with my N93 of unboxing the N95.

Nokia N95

I have a lot of unboxing the N95 photos on flickr.

Here are some first impressions of some of the N95 features:

Nokia N95

Micro SD card
When I took the Micro SD card out of the phone's memory slot to plug it into my card reader, I found that I didn't have an appropriate opening for it. I didn't even have an appropriate opening for a MINI SD casrd never mind a Micro SD card.

MUSIC
Listening to Moby, In My Heart, the Nseries theme song. I plugged in my own headphones and was presented with a choice of:

- Headphones
- TV-Out Cable
- Music stand

What's a music stand?

I dragged over a few .mp3 music files and they played with no problem.

Nokia N95

LOADING APPLICATIONS
I wanted to find out how Darla Mack did those cool little screen shots of her phone so I could do them too on my review. So I emailed her and she gave me a link to Antony Pranata's Screenshot app. Here is the link.

http://www.antonypranata.com/screenshot.

It's an application that lets you take screen shots of your cell phone. That is very cool for a number of reasons, not the least of which is the fact that the Nokia N95 is an open platform.

I loaded the snapshot application, took a snapshot, and nothing seemed to happen.. So I clciked on the snapshot application and then it started running, so I took a snapshot and now I can't find it... Must be here somewhere...

Found it!

I sent it up to VOX, the blogging service that the N95 provides a pre-loaded blogging client for.

Here's the post over at VOX


Nokia N95


RINGTONE
I don't have cell service for the phone, but I hooked up the USB cable and copied over the ringtone from the TV show 24. I can't get enough of that ringtone.

You can get the CTU 24 ringtone here for free.

I also copied over the song Let Go from Imogen Heap. Great song and it sounds really nice on the phone's stereo speakers.

GPS
I clicked on the world and zoomed into my house. The mapping function looks really sweet. Right now I'm searching for a local place to eat, let's see what it comes back with when it's done searching.

Nokia N95

WiFi
I got on the internet using the local LinkSys router that I have in the house. I've got WEP security turned on, so I entered my password and was online to Google in a flash. One cool think about the browser is that it pre-types in http:// in the URL entry line so you don't have to. I liked that.

I also just set up the connection to my LinkSys router so I don't have to type in the password every time.

PHOTOS
I took a few photos and the Carl Zeiss 5 Megapixel lens seems nice. The flash seems to do a good job in low light too. I need to do more testing and bring the camera outside to check outdoor photos. No tripod mount though.

Nokia N95

VIDEO
I had some trouble figuring out how to turn the video camera on. On the N93 you just flip open the viewfinder and depress the shutter. With the N95, you close up the slider and open the lens cover. It starts off on camera mode and you just press the selection button and you are in video mode. If you are in the music player and want to use the camera, it seems that you have to close and open the lens cover to reactivate the camera. No audio in.

I shot a video and uploaded it to VOX.

After uploading it I visited the site using the browser, but when I tried to play it I got the message, "This movie file is not accessible from mobile devices." Ironic.

Plays fine from my Firefox browser.

Video: Unboxing the Nokia N95

I used my Nokia N93 to shoot an unboxing video of the Nokia N95. Here's what the shooting setup looked like: http://www.flickr.com/photos/stevegarfield/369062645/

Nokia N93 Video Shoot of N95 Unboxing

Nokia N93 Video Shoot of N95 Unboxing
I'm using my Nokia N93 to shoot an unboxing video of the Nokia N95.

Monday, January 01, 2007

Nokia N93 Review

Nokia N93 Review [ cross posted from Off On A Tangent ]
I've had the Nokia N93 for a few months now and used it in a number of situations. One thing that's universal, when I take it out to shoot video it generates a lot of
interest.

The N93 has the potential to be a complete portable video production studio, but it has some flaws which keep it from being a failsafe video capture device.

Hopefully by working with Nokia and getting updated firmware, these reliability issues will go away. Also, with the impending release of the N95 next year, you'll have a choice to consider for a very similar device.

Video
The N93 shoots amazing video outdoors. The N93 is now my main vlogging camera. Shooting 640 x 480 at 30 fps with a beautiful lens, I love the quality.

Having the camera in my pocket or bag for capturing moments is ideal.

The handling is very nice and I like the flip out screen.

Low Light
The N93 has a torch light built in that can be used as a flash or a constant light. When used as a flash for still photos, the photos are sometimes grainy. The more light, the better the photos on the N93.

Here's a pretty good one where I was very close to the subject and the light worked welll indoors:
Mmm Beer

The Canon S400 takes better low light photos with a flash. I was at a recent party and didn't take my Canon Digital Rebel or Canon S400 with me. It tried using the N93 as my party camera. It didn't work so well. All the photos weren't bright enough. Other people with digital still camera with onboard flash got better lighted results. That's too bad. I hope the N95 will be better. Some people have added a bicycle light with velcro to the top of the N93 and that seems to have good results.

White Balance
The camera has automatic white balance. There is no manual white balance to adjsut to a white card or surface manually.

Sound.
There's a stereo mic with left and right mics on the phone. It produces great quality when you are close to your sound source. For example in a one on one interview. An audio in jack would make it even better. Being able to attach a handheld or wireless mic would make the sound better for interviews. And while I'm at it, I'd like to get two channels of sound input. If I had a mic in, I'd be able to use my XL breakout box.

Steady Cam
The N93 has an inbuilt stabilizer. This works really well.


I filmed Massachusetts Gubernatorial candidate Deval Patrick for over 30 minutes and the shot was really, really stable.

One time I had some shakiness, like vibration, I'm not sure what that was caused by. I'm still watching that. Hasn't occurred again.

Lost Video Twice
I had video that I had just shot using the in camera pause and continue feature, get lost. This is unacceptable.

As you shoot video you can press a 'pause' button, then press 'continue' and have your video be one continuous clip.

Twice I've had the camera lock up.

Once, after shooting about 10 clips in a row, the camera rebooted on me and I lost he videos.

Another time after shooting three or four clips the camera froze up and I couldn't press 'stop' or 'continue'.

I think this has been fixed in a firmware upgrade. I'll need to do more testing.

Speaking of firmware upgrades, these are now available online, but you have to have a windows machine to get the updates. You also have to have a SIM card installed in the camera to update the firmware. I haven't signed up with a mobile provider yet, so I'll need to borrow someone's SIM card to perform the update.

Still Camera.
Ice Horse
The camera takes really nice still photos at 3 Megapixels. Sometimes there is a problem for the camera to quickly find focus.

Cell Service
I'm a Veriazon customer and get great service from them. Unfortunately they don't support SIM cards.

Now I need to look into getting either Cingular or T- Mobile.

Cingular told me in an email that they do not support the N93, although I know that others with the N93 use Cingular. Not sure what their policy is about giving you service and a SIM chip for an unsupported phone.

What would be best is if Verizon just sold SIM chips via another service. I'll have to look into that with them. Makes lots of business sense. Verizon should resell access to a network that supports SIM chips.

Editing
The phone saves video as MP4. You can edit MP4 natively in Appple's iMovie if you initially choose MP4 when you edit a movie file. iPhoto now also recognizes the N93
and imports both photos and movies directly into iPhoto. Makes it a lot easier then having to go through directories using the bluetooth or Finder interface.

For Final Cut Pro, when you bring in an MP4 file it has to be rendered. You can edit the original clips in the browser, but once they are placed on the timeline they have to be rendered and then if you move them around they need to be re rendered.

I'd be much better if the files were save natively on the N93 as QuickTime H.264.

Future.
I'd like to see H.264 native capture support and a solution of my two freeze up and reboot issues. Like I said, the new firmware is supposed to resolve those issues.

I'd also like to see a standard tripod connector on the bottom of the camera.

When you flip the view screen around to point towards you subject, the N93 switches to the secondary camera. I'd like it to be able to stay in full movie mode.

I'd also like to be able to stay in full movie mode and shoot with out having the camera fliped out. I'd like to see a manual white balance too.

There is Lots More
The N93 has a lot more features that I'm not going to review in this article. You can hook the phone display up to your TV to play games and watch video.
The phone has WiFi that allows hooking up to the internet and your home network.

The N93 has a radio application in it and another application called Lifeblog which allows you to directly post to a configured blog. I've gotten this to work with photos, but never got it to work with TypePad blgging software to post even the shortest video. It's supposed to work but after contacting TypePad technical support and trying both MP4 and 3G files, it hasn't worked for me. I did use the web interface with video hosting service Hipcast, which I consult for, and that worked. I've also seen a blog post where video was directly uploaded to blip.tv from the phone. So it will work.

You can also edit videos on the phone too. That will have to go in another review.

Disclosure
Nokia sent me an N93 to evaluate and ended up letting me keep the phone. They also paid my expenses to go to NYC for the N95 product rollout. Nokia has not required me to write or say anything about the phone. Anything I write about it are my own thoughts.

Conclusion
I love how Nokia is an open company. Open to developers to add on features via software. There's also a user community that's very helpful, as are Nokia
representatives themselves.

Once I get my open issues resolved, I'll be able to give the N93 a vote for the best video bloggers cameraphone combination on the market.
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