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home :: Features :: Reviews
28th October 2006
Nokia N73 camera phone review
by Ian Burley
3039: Nokia N73 camera phone review

We've tested one of the more affordable of Nokia's new three megapixel Nseries camera phones, the N73

Prices: (retail estimates - no contract discount) UK: £300, US: $495, Europe: €450
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Featuring a CarlZeiss lens, the Nokia N73 is one of the latest batch of premium Nokia Nseries camera smartphones, or as Nokia marketing people like to say, 'multimedia computers', originally launched last year. Back then they all featured G3/UMTS wireless broadband capability and a two megapixel camera, with video calling, plus various model-specific targeted enhancements, like motion video recording, iPod-like digital music player features, etc.

This year's Nseries models, like the N73, now feature 3.2 megapixel cameras, a much-improved web browser and some models, though not the N73, include WiFi wireless networking capability. Next year's N95 has already been pre-announced and that will add another string to its bow in the form of an integrated GPS satellite tracking receiver. The N73's most obvious competitor camera phone is the Sony Ericsson K800i.

Of this year's Nseries range the N73 is more widely targeted and affordable G3/UMTS-capable phone than some. Although it's constructed to a higher than average standard it doesn't quite have that tank-like feel of the N80 or metallic precision of the N93, and it doesn't have their WiFi capability, either. But it does have the same 3.2 megapixel camera resolution, with the added bonuses of autofocus and a Carl-Zeiss branded lens that the N80 can't boast. It also has a larger screen. Another feature is its tiny pair of integrated stereo speakers, though wired headphones are included in the box and these enable the integrated FM radio tuner. Bluetooth, of course, is standard for wireless headsets and printing.

As you’d expect with such compact camera modules, the fixed focal length lens is tiny, but it does autofocus.
As you’d expect with such compact camera modules, the fixed focal length lens is tiny, but it does autofocus.

Autofocus
This review concentrates on the photographic capabilities of the N73. Carl Zeiss optics on an Nseries phone usually denote that the camera section has autofocus and this is the case with the N73. The N80, for example, makes do with manual 'normal' and close focus settings. The lens is protected both by a glass plate and a sliding plastic cover, which doubles as the on/off switch.

Image quality Downloadable N73 image samples here
As you will find with our downloadable samples, the N73 has plenty of image sharpness to offer, though in difficult lighting we did find that pictures could look a little washed out, partly because of a tendency to over-expose. Although you can compensate using the exposure bias option, the tiny camera's limited dynamic range will mean you will often have to trade dark shadows with preserved highlights or vice-versa. But as camera phones go, the N73 is clearly above average and printed image quality at 6x4 inches (15x10cm) is hard to distinguish from dedicated point and shoot digital cameras.

In the MPEG-4 video clip mode, you only get a recording rate of 15 frames per second, which doesn't deliver particularly smooth playback. Sound quality is reasonably good and we didn’t notice any AF obtrusive chatter in normal use.

One frustration was the time it took to switch to camera mode, sometimes resulting in the photographic moment of opportunity being missed because it takes several seconds for the camera software to come to life. Again, this is a common problem with camera phones, but the N73 isn't a breakthrough in that department. Switching between still and movie camera mode is a lethargic process too.

Memory cards
It's a good idea to invest in a good sized MicroSD card as the camera's modest internal memory soon fills up. Luckily you can get 1GB MicroSD cards for under £20 (US$35 or EUR€30) now. Less inspiring is the very delicate looking memory card door that is perched on an extending plastic retainer that looks like it might snap in the slightest breeze. It is stronger than it looks, but unpleasant to prize open and out at the best of times.

Applications
Being a Nokia Series 60 platform phone, running the Symbian OS, there is good third party applications support and a decent set of bundled applications. The same excellent 'minimap' Web browser first seen on the N80 and N93 is featured on the N73. This gives the most desktop-computer like of browsing experiences, complete with a small 'mouse' cursor and a 'map' view for windowing around a large Web page. For finding and viewing your photos and movie clips, there is a very slick animated gallery application. It's also possible to use your images to form the basis of a subtly animated screen saver or desktop background that fades in and out from one image to another. Nokia's PC Suite of software tools for connecting your computer to the phone and synchronising notes, calendar items and contacts, etc. is very effective. It also makes connecting your laptop to the internet via GPRS or G3 very easy.

Sound quality and battery life
On the phone side, the N73 performed impeccably, with excellent sound quality, both in terms of ring tones and voice quality when listening to a caller. Of particular note is the exceptional battery life. One battery charge lasted over a week with moderate use of the phone for calling and shooting stills and movies. Compare this to one or two days for the N90 or 3-5 days with the N80 under similar loads.

CONCLUSIONS and RATINGS


DPNow rating system explained..

Performance

– Images are sharp and relatively noise-free and colours are good in sunny blue sky conditions. Exposure can be fooled in not so ideal conditions, resulting in washed-out images. Video is only recorded at 15fps. Call audio is very good.

DPNow rated: Good


DPNow rated: Good

Ease of Use

– Anyone familiar with a Series 60 Nokia phone will soon be at home with the N73. It's quite easy to pick up even if you aren't already familiar.

DPNow rated: Excellent


DPNow rated: Excellent

Features

– G3 phones are still considered a premium, so the N73 stands out in this respect, as does the 3.MP Carl Zeiss kudos of the N73, but some might miss a protected or sliding keypad, an even thinner design and the slow video frame rate is disappointing.

DPNow rated: Good


DPNow rated: Good

Build quality

– The Nokia N73 is delightfully presented and well made, but I felt the Nokia N80 was even better.

DPNow rated: Good


DPNow rated: Good

Value for money

– Although the N73 is by no means a cheap phone, especially if you have to pay the full price for a SIM-free one, it is competitively priced for its features and is great value in a network contract bundle.

DPNow rated: Excellent


DPNow rated: Excellent

Things we liked about the Nokia N73:
  • Image sharpness
  • Image quality under good lighting conditions
  • Lens has autofocus
  • Great styling and finish
  • A good set of applications software
  • Excellent battery life
  • Superb 'minimap' web browser


  • Things we weren't so keen on:
  • Flat, sometimes overexposed images under difficult lighting conditions
  • Slow activation of camera
  • Movie clips recorded at 15fps only


  • The bottom line: The Nokia N73 is undoubtedly a very desirable and up-to-date mobile phone with a built in camera. Considering its specification, the N73 is relatively good value and available free in the UK under contract with the better known networks. There is still room for improvement in the camera department to make it cope better with less than perfect lighting conditions, but overall I'd certainly be happy to own and use an N73 and so I'm pleased to give it the stamp of approval via the DPNow Editor's Choice award.

    Overall ratings

    - At DPNow we don't much rate stars and percentages because they mean one thing to one reviewer and something else to another - this is why we use our own rating system above, but as the industry demands such devices, we reluctantly provide them, based on our concept of the product's target market, the competition and how we got on with the product while testing it.

    DPNow rated: 87%


    87percent

    DPNow rated: 4.5 stars (out of 5)


    4.5/5 stars

    DPNow is pleased to award the Nokia N73 an Editor's Choice award





    Product views

    Click on any of the thumbnail pictures below to see the full-size version, plus its caption.






    Image samples

    Click on any of the thumbnail pictures below to see the full-size, original and un-edited 3.2 megapixel camera JPEG images, or right-click and download to your computer for more convenient viewing and evaluation.



    Video clip sample:

    Click on the thumbnail to play a sample Nokia N73 MP4 video clip. An MP4-capable video movie player, like QuickTime, is required. This clip may play better if downloaded and played from your computer's own drive.






    Menu screens

    Here are some views captured from the Nokia N73's screen to give you an idea of the graphical user interface and menu system:








    Specifications


    General
    Dimensions • Weight: 116 g
    • Height: 110 mm
    • Width: 49 mm
    • Thickness (max): 19 mm
    Operating frequency • Dualmode WCDMA/GSM and quadband GSM coverage on up to five continents (WCDMA2100/EGSM850/900/1800/1900 networks)
    • Automatic switching between bands and modes
    Memory Functions • Up to 42 MB* internal dynamic memory for contacts, text messages, multimedia messages, ringing tones, images, video clips, calendar notes, to-do list and applications
    • Support for miniSD memory card (hot swappable)
    • Approx. memory capacity indication with 1GB miniSD memory card
    • Video (MPEG4 CIF @ 15fps AAC audio) up to 175 min
    • Photos (3.2 megapixel) up to 1219 photos
    • Music (eAAC+) up to 1092 tracks
    * Changes to product details are possible without prior notice. Application offering may vary. Dynamic memory means that the available memory is shared between dynamic memory functions. When any of these functions is used, there is less available memory for other functions which are also dependent on dynamic memory.
    Display and User Interface • Active standby main services always on top
    • Active toolbar interface in camera and gallery
    • On device photo editor and video editor (manual & automatic)
    • Large bright 2.4 inch QVGA (240 x 320 pixels) TFT color display with up to 262,144 colors
    • Ambient light detector - used to optimize display brightness and power consumption
    • Review key provides direct access to photos and videos
    • Multimedia key provides direct access to predefined application
    • Slideshow from gallery with Ken Burns effect (automatic zoom and pan) and 3D sound effect stereo speakers
    • S60 software on Symbian OS
    Call Management • Speed dialing
    • Voice dialling and commands
    • Nokia PoC (push to talk)
    • Contacts: advanced contacts database with support for multiple device and email details per entry, also supports thumbnail pictures and groups
    • Call logs: keeps lists of your dialed, received, and missed calls
    • Automatic redial
    • Automatic answer (works with compatible headset or car kit only)
    • Supports fixed dialing number, which allows calls only to predefined numbers
    • Conference call
    See New - Mobile Photography and Video
    Camera Specifications • CMOS sensor, 3.2 megapixel (2048x1536 pixels) with autofocus and digital zoom up to 20x
    • Carl Zeiss Optics, Tessar™ lens
    • Focal length 5.6 mm
    • Focus range 10 cm ~ infinity
    • Macro mode with 10 cm focus distance
    • Mechanical shutter with 1/1000~2s shutter speed
    • Active slide cover for lens protection
    Photography • 3.2 megapixel camera (2048 x 1536 pixels) with up to 20x digital zoom
    • 2-stage capture key for autofocus control
    • 2.4 inch camera viewfinder in landscape orientation and with active toolbar
    • Slide for camera protection and activation
    • Integrated flash (operating range up to 1m)
    • Modes: auto, off, on, red-eye reduction
    • Advanced camera modes: still, sequence, video
    • Scenes: automatic, user defined, close-up, portrait, landscape, sport and night
    • White balance: automatic, daylight, cloudy, tungsten, fluorescent
    • Color tone: normal, sepia, B&W, vivid, negative
    • Light sensitivity: high, medium, low, automatic
    • Settings for brightness adjustment, image quality, self-timer, white balance and color tones
    Video • Video: play, record, stream
    • Audio recording AAC stereo
    • Video stabilization
    • Video clip up to 1.5h (limited by available memory)
    • File format .mp4 (high), .3gp (normal, MMS)
    • Video capture: 352x288 (CIF) at up to 15 fps MPEG-4
    • Automatic white balance control
    • Scenes: auto, night, close-up, snow/beach, cine, old film
    • Digital zoom CIF up to 4x / QCIF up to 8x
    • Two-way video call capability
    • Second VGA camera (640 x 480 pixels ) with up to 2x digital zoom
    • Real time video sharing to another compatible mobile device
    Editing • On device photo editor and video editors (manual & automatic)
    • Home photo editing on compatible PC with Adobe Photoshop Album Starter Edition
    Nokia XpressPrint • Print digital photos directly from the device
    • Transfer photos directly to a compatible printer, printing kiosk via Bluetooth wireless technology, a compatible miniSD card or to PictBridge-compliant printer via USB cable
    • Built-in application is quick and easy to use; no installation, no fuss
    • Print tag tag photos for later and easy printing
    • Photo quality prints up to 10x8/25x20cm
    • Find out more at www.nokia.com/xpressprint
    Nokia XpressShare • Easy sharing of captured photos and videos directly from the gallery or straight after capture via email or Bluetooth wireless technology while retaining full image quality or via MMS with automatic resizing of images to fit MMS
    • Two-way video call capability
    • Video sharing for one-way live video or video clip sharing within the voice call
    • Image/video uploading from gallery to pre-defined online album
    • Find out more at www.nokia.com/xpressshare
    Nokia XpressTransfer • Transfer and organise photos and videos between your device and compatible PC
    • Connect to compatible PC and images are automatically transferred with Nokia Image Store feature in Nokia PC Suite, and photo albums created on the device are saved in similar albums on the PC
    • Organise and edit photos and videos on a compatible PC with Adobe Photoshop Album Starter Edition
    • Deletion or resizing of the images and videos transferred from the device. Resizing means you can carry a large collection of photos and videos on your device and full quality versions are stored on the PC
    • Gallery preserves a view of photos and videos transferred to PC
    • Find out more at www.nokia.com/xpresstransfer
    Hear New - Mobile Music
    Music Features • Digital music player: supports MP3/AAC/eAAC/eAAC+/WMA with playlists and equalizer
    • OMA DRM 2.0 support for music files
    • Stereo FM radio (87.5-108MHz /76-90MHz)*
    • Visual Radio support, find out more at www.visualradio.com
    • Integrated stereo speakers with stereo music
    • Nokia Music Manager application in Nokia PC Suite for music transfer
    *Stereo sound can only be heard with a compatible stereo headset.
    Do New - Mobile Computing and Connectivity
    Productivity • Quickoffice document viewers (Quickword, Quickpoint, Quicksheet)
    • Adobe PDF reader
    • PIM (Personal Information Management): Contacts, Calendar, To-do, Notes, Recorder, Calculator, Clock, Converter, Printing
    • PC synchronization with Nokia PC Suite - Local/Remote (Windows 2000, XP)
    • Data: Calendar, Contacts, To-do, Notes, Email
    • PC applications: Microsoft Outlook (2000, 2002, 2003), Outlook Express, Lotus Organizer (5.0, 6.0), Lotus Notes (5.0, 6.0)
    • Anti-virus
    • Yahoo! Go
    • Email client with attachments and mobile VPN support
    • Settings Wizard/Access Point Configurator
    Browsing & Messaging • Internet browser: XHTML, HTML
    • Email (SMTP, IMAP4, POP3), MMS, SMS
    Connectivity • Pop-Port ™ interface with USB 2.0 full speed
    • Bluetooth wireless technology 2.0
    • Infrared
    Data Transfer* • WCDMA 2100 with simultaneous voice and packet data (PS max speed UL/DL= 128/384kbps, CS max speed 64kpbs)
    • Dual Transfer Mode (DTM) support for simultaneous voice and packet data connection in GSM/EDGE networks
    • WCDMA packet data rates: UL 384kbps, DL 384kbps
    • Circuit data to 64kbits/s for video call
    • EGPR class B, multi slot class 11 (UL 118.4 kbps, DL 236.8 kbps)
    • Speech codecs supported: FR, EFR, WCDMA, and GSM AMR
    • Data transfer application for moving data from compatible old Nokia S60 device over Bluetooth connectivity
    *Actual achieved speeds may vary depending on network support.
    Add-on Software • Operating system: Symbian ver. 9.1
    • User interface: Nokia S60 3rd Edition
    • Java: MIDP2.0, CLDC 1.1, 3D API, PIM API, File access API
    • C++ and Java SDKs
    Watch New - Media to-go
    Stream media files from compatible media portals RealPlayer media player • Stream media files from compatible media portals
    • True Web experience with Nokia Web Browser (secondary browser)
    • RealPlayer media player
    • Download and play multimedia files (video and music)
    • Stream media files from compatible media portals
    • Full-screen video playback on the device to view downloaded, streamed or recorded video clips in larger size
    • Played formats: AMR-NB, AMR-WB, AAC, RealAudio, RealVideo, H.263, MPEG-4
    Package Contents
    Sales Package Contents Available colors: Silver Grey/Deep Plum, Frost White/Metallic Red
    • Nokia N73
    • Nokia Battery BP-6M (1100mAH)
    • Nokia Charger AC-4
    • Nokia Charger Adapter CA-44
    • Nokia Classic Stereo Headset HS-23
    • Nokia Connectivity Cable CA-53
    • Wrist strap and lens cleaning cloth
    • CD-ROM: Nokia PC Suite & Adobe Photoshop Album Starter Edition
    • User Documentation: User guide, Get Started guide, Get Connected guide & Additional Applications leaflet
    Power Management
    Operating Times* • Talk time (ECTEL): up to 226 min (WCDMA) / 246 min (GSM)
    • Standby time (ECTEL): up to 370 hours (WCDMA) / 350 hours (GSM)
    • Still images : up to 800 pictures (3.2 megapixel)
    • Video capture up to 186 min (CIF, 15fps)
    • Video call up to 150 min
    • Video playback up to 366 min (CIF, 15fps)
    • Music playback up to 12.6 hours (offline mode)
    * Operation times may vary depending on radio access technology used, operator network configuration and usage.





     
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