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Sunday, December 31, 2006

Nokia N93 Review

N93 Review
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 well 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 adjust 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.

16 comments:

  1. Ever since I have actueally held your Nokia N93 and shot a few seconds with it, I have fallen in love with the thing. I have resisted the urge to buy one, mainly because I had to replace my cellphone back in August and would end up paying too many euros for it at the moment. So I'll watch for the next Nokia with interest. I hope they develop mac compatible software, as it would be a drag to have to find a pc to update software.
    Thanks for this review, Steve and a Happy New Year to you and Carol. Still hoping to see you soon in Paris. ;)

    ReplyDelete
  2. Great summary Steve - and I've hit the video lockup-and-lose bug many times too. I'm on v20.0.034 firmware. Nokia, if you're listening, you've got your two biggest N93 evangelists afraid to use the device for fear of losing video. FIX THE BUG and get a new firmware out. Via NSU, which means also fixing the NSU bug so that we can actually apply the update, please. Thanks.

    Steve

    ReplyDelete
  3. I want to suggest this video compare between N95 and N80:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zRjZx9-gbv0&eurl=

    Steve, i read your disclosure and i hope that is true: how has Nokia contacted you?. ;)

    ReplyDelete
  4. Hi Dario,
    I was contacted through this blog:

    http://blog.zedcentral.com/

    --Steve

    ReplyDelete
  5. Anonymous3:38 PM

    It would be much more stable and reliable if it used embedded Linux or Maemo. This lens really belongs on the Nokia 770 which can display higher resolution than the N93 video capture. This would also allow some of the wealth of Linux video editing software to be ported to the Nokia 770. It is a shame that Nokia requires the dirty Windows operating system on your PC.

    ReplyDelete
  6. Thanks Steve for a very honest and balanced review of N93. Your pioneering work on mobile video blogging is a real inspiration. Wishing you all the best for 2007!

    ReplyDelete
  7. @Steve Garfield: Thanks Steve. Uhmm,so..is a strange blog.

    ReplyDelete
  8. Ciao

    I am in Boston and use the N91, N93 with SIM from T-Mobile. Just buy the service with a free phone and swap the SIM into your unlocked N93.

    Alessandro

    ReplyDelete
  9. Anonymous10:46 AM

    Nokia N Series reviews and technical details on my blog:
    http://postpedia.blogspot.com

    ReplyDelete
  10. Anonymous2:53 PM

    Dear Steve,,,Thank u for the opinion, I just wanna know whether you can connect to internet using N 93 and Mac powerbook??. I have GPRS connection from the service provider.

    ReplyDelete
  11. This is a costly model & the best item designed by nokia.It is not
    designed for common people.But I have a dream to get this model.But how I do not know .Would it be possible to give me free of cost.

    With Thanks

    Debasis Datta Gupta

    ReplyDelete
  12. wow it's nice,beautiful ,handsome,cute like that we can going on say anything about this model mobile,I am using the Nokia N93 model mobile,I unlocked the mobile recently using the unlock code,i purchased unlock code in here http://www.prounlocking.com/unlock-your-phone/rs8wp2/ at low cost.

    ReplyDelete
  13. I read all comments and am a great phone lover .... this N93 is truly amazing. extraordianry features and style .... just in love with it.

    ReplyDelete
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