Mobile camera phones review

No longer is the humble mobile phone merely a communication device.
 
Learn more
 
 
 
 
 
  • Updated:26 Mar 2009
 

01 .Introduction

Mobile phone

It’s official, Australians can’t do without their mobile phone, in fact there are now more active mobile phones than people, with 21 million currently in circulation. However many of these phones can do little more than make calls and perform basic tasks such as sending an SMS.

We tested 21 of the latest mobile phones which also focus on performing just as well taking a picture as taking a call. While our testers did evaluate all these models with an emphasis on their ability to capture, show and share a photo image, they must at the end of the day, perform well as a mobile phone.

Our lab assessed how easy it was to make and take calls, the sound quality of the call and how well the phone performs carrying out everyday tasks such as sending and receiving an SMS playing music and saving a contact.

Because most mobile phones now come with such a wide variety of features, applications, sizes and way of operating you’ll need to work out how and where you’d use one before choosing a model. This is where CHOICE can help.

All the phones we tested will work on a 3G network, which means they are more than capable of dealing with multimedia content such as online video.

Please note: this information was current as of July 2007 but is still a useful guide to today's market.


Apple iPhoneWhere's the iPhone?

While the iPhone has taken much of the mobile world by storm and is no doubt one of the most popular phones going around, camera performance is not one of its most powerful features. In fact, it only has a 2 Megapixel resolution camera and is unable to capture video at all. Check out our NextG story for a look at how the iPhone performs on this network and in general as an all round mobile solution.

CHOICE independence guaranteed

These independent ratings are only available through membership with CHOICE Online because no one test products like we do. Arm yourself with our unique and exclusive information and make your next purchase with confidence.

Brands tested

  • LG KC910 Renoir
  • LG KU990 Viewty
  • Nokia 6210 Navigator
  • Nokia 6220 Classic
  • Nokia 6600 Slide
  • Nokia E66
  • Nokia E71
  • Nokia N78
  • Nokia N85
  • Nokia N95 8GB
  • Nokia N96
  • Samsung I8510 Innov8
  • Samsung SGH-F480 Touchwiz
  • Samsung SGH-i900 Omnia
  • Samsung SGH-U900
  • Sony Ericsson C702
  • Sony Ericsson C902
  • Sony Ericsson C905
  • Sony Ericsson W902
  • Sony Ericsson W980i
  • Sony Ericsson Xperia X1

Video: Mobile phones drop test

Watch us test the durability of the latest mobile phones by dropping them. A lot.

 
 

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The following models scored the best results in our test.

What to buy
Brand Price
LG KC910 Renoir $599
Nokia N78 $699
Nokia N85 $919
Samsung SGH-F480 $699
Nokia N95 $1059
Sony Ericsson C905 $999
Nokia 6220 Classic $689

Results table

Full results for all models are shown in the table below.

PERFORMANCE
PHONE
Make/Model Overall
Choice
score
Ease
of use
score
(%)
SMS
score
(%)
Call sound
quality score
(%)
Durability
score
(%)
Sensitivity
score
(%)
Battery
Life
score (%)
Calling
time
(hours)
Charging
time
(minutes)
Music
Player
score (%)
LG KC910 Renoir
www.lge.com.au
71 72 77 67 75 73 63 4 130 67
NOKIA N78
www.nokia.com.au
69 68 64 56 65 72 72 3 100 71
NOKIA N85
www.nokia.com.au
67 64 54 60 40 73 80 4 170 77
NOKIA N95 8GB
www.nokia.com.au
67 67 73 53 60 72 70 3 90 64
SAMSUNG SGH-F480
Touchwiz
www.samsung.com/au/
67 64 77 59 73 76 70 4 170 64
SONY ERICSSON C905
www.sonyericsson.com.au
67 70 39 64 81 76 61 4 110 70
NOKIA 6220 classic
www.nokia.com.au
66 68 57 58 50 71 57 2 100 57
NOKIA E71
www.nokia.com.au
65 62 54 61 69 74 83 4 120 54
NOKIA 6210 Navigator
www.nokia.com.au
65 65 51 58 63 69 64 3 90 62
NOKIA N96
www.nokia.com.au
65 66 57 57 62 71 56 3 86 74
SAMSUNG SGH-i900 Omnia
www.samsung.com/au/
65 55 64 55 69 77 90 8 120 59
SONY ERICSSON C902
www.sonyericsson.com.au
65 60 63 62 86 76 66 3 120 62
SONY ERICSSON W902
www.sonyericsson.com.au
65 63 38 61 73 71 72 4 125 70
LG KU990 Viewty
www.lge.com.au
64 64 73 59 73 68 47 3 155 55
SONY ERICSSON C702
www.sonyericsson.com.au
64 67 65 59 68 76 61 3 160 60
SONY ERICSSON Xperia X1
www.sonyericsson.com.au
64 63 77 63 40 73 83 6 185 54
SAMSUNG I8510 innov8
www.samsung.com/au/
63 52 55 60 68 72 73 6 155 67
NOKIA 6600 slide
www.nokia.com.au
62 62 53 58 67 73 63 3 100 61
SAMSUNG SGH-U900 Soul
www.samsung.com/au/
62 60 73 56 73 75 53 4 150 59
SONY ERICSSON W980i
www.sonyericsson.com.au
62 67 50 61 85 76 74 4 120 71
NOKIA E66
www.nokia.com.au
61 62 36 55 70 68 66 3 90 54

CAMERA FEATURES
Make/Model Overall camera score (%) Camera picture quality score (%) Display score (%) Camera ease of use score (%) Versatility score (%) Battery score (%) PC connectivity score (%) Camera resolution, (megapixels) Pictbridge Wifi
LG KC910 Renoir
www.lge.com.au
71 59 93 70 54 61 100 8
NOKIA N78
www.nokia.com.au
75 60 90 76 48 87 100 3.2
NOKIA N85
www.nokia.com.au
74 60 92 77 48 83 100 5
NOKIA N95 8GB
www.nokia.com.au
69 67 92 78 48 84 50 5
SAMSUNG SGH-F480 Touchwiz
www.samsung.com/au/
66 59 88 73 36 62 80 5
SONY ERICSSON C905 69 63 88 78 42 48 100 8.1
NOKIA 6220 classic
www.nokia.com.au
77 70 88 83 54 75 100 5
NOKIA E71
www.nokia.com.au
69 48 90 47 48 100 100 3.2
NOKIA 6210 Navigator
www.nokia.com.au
72 55 93 70 48 82 100 3.2
NOKIA N96
www.nokia.com.au
69 57 93 69 60 65 80 5
SAMSUNG SGH-i900 Omnia
www.samsung.com/au/
68 65 88 69 48 82 60 5
SONY ERICSSON C902
www.sonyericsson.com.au
64 50 84 82 48 55 80 5
SONY ERICSSON W902 www.sonyericsson.com.au 68 53 88 67 48 70 100 5
LG KU990 Viewty
www.lge.com.au
65 58 90 90 54 42 60 5
SONY ERICSSON C702
www.sonyericsson.com.au
64 49 88 80 48 53 80 3.2
SONY ERICSSON Xperia X1
www.sonyericsson.com.au
66 53 92 54 48 85 80 3.2
SAMSUNG I8510 innov8
www.samsung.com/au/
67 68 95 59 48 49 80 8
NOKIA 6600 slide
www.nokia.com.au
63 53 90 55 36 85 70 3.5
SAMSUNG SGH-U900 Soul
www.samsung.com/au/
60 58 92 59 36 38 80 5
SONY ERICSSON W980i
www.sonyericsson.com.au
52 39 92 51 12 82 50 3.2
NOKIA E66
www.nokia.com.au
68 41 92 69 48 86 100 3.2

Using the table

  • Ease of use 18.75%
  • SMS: 10%
  • Music player score: 10%
  • Sound quality: 8.75%
  • Durability 7.5%
  • General phone ease of use: 6.25%
  • Sensitivity: 5%
  • Battery life: 5%

Camera scores

  • Camera picture quality: 10%
  • Display: 5%
  • Camera ease of use: 5%
  • Camera versatility: 5%
  • Battery score used as a camera: 5%
  • PC connectivity: 5%

Of the recommended models, all perform well as mobile phones allowing you to carry out the normal day to day tasks such as making a call, sending and receiving SMS and keeping your contacts up to date. However some performed better than others in certain areas.

If SMS is important to you, the Samsung and LG could be a strong option. The Samsung performs reasonably well as a music player. However it is the only model in our recommended list that lacks both WiFi connectivity and an integrated GPS.

Profiles - What to buy

LG KC910 Renoir

Price: $599LG KC910 Renoir

Good points

  • Excellent display.
  • Good ease of use as a mobile.
  • GPS support.
  • Good SMS performance.

Bad points

  • Worst picture quality among the top overall models, although still better than most of the models we tested.

Nokia N78

Price: $579Nokia N78

Good points

  • Excellent display.
  • Easy to use camera.
  • GPS support.
  • Very good battery performance when used as a camera.

Bad points

  • Can’t charge phone via a USB connection.

Nokia N85

Price: $919Nokia N85

Good points

  • Excellent display.
  • Very good ease of use as a mobile.
  • Easy to use as a camera.
  • GPS support.
  • Very good battery performance when used as a camera and mobile.

Bad points

  • Takes nearly three hours to fully charge.
  • Not as durable as most phones in this test.

Samsung SGH-F480 Touchwiz

Price: $699Samsung SGH-F480 Touchwiz

Good points

  • Good SMS performance.
  • Good ease of use as a mobile phone.

Bad points

  • No standard headphone jack.
  • Takes nearly three hours to fully charge.

Nokia N95 8GB

Price: $1059Nokia N95 8GB

Good points

  • Easy to use camera.
  • 8GB of internal storage.
  • Very good battery performance when used as a camera.
  • GPS support.

Bad points

  • Can’t charge phone via USB connection.
  • No support for removable memory.

Sony Ericsson C905

Price: $999Sony Ericsson C905

Good points

  • Very easy to use camera.
  • GPS support.

Bad points

  • No standard headphone jack.
  • Poor SMS performance.
  • Not a standard USB connection.

Nokia 6220 classic

Price: $689Nokia 6220 classic

Good points

  • Very easy to use as a camera.
  • Lightest phone in test.
  • Good camera picture quality.
  • GPS support.

Bad points

  • Short call time on single battery charge.
  • Can’t charge phone via a USB connection.
  • No support for standard headphone.

Profiles - the rest

Nokia N96

Price: $1299Nokia N96

Good points

  • Excellent display.
  • 16GB internal storage.
  • Most versatile camera in test.
  • GPS support.

Bad points

  • Can’t charge phone via a USB connection.

Sony Ericsson C902

Price: $699Sony Ericsson C902

Good points

  • Very easy to use camera.
  • Very good durability.

Bad points

  • Music player not as easy to use as most others in the test.

Nokia 6210 Navigator

Price: $599Nokia 6210 Navigator

Good points

  • Excellent display.
  • Very good battery performance when used as a camera.

Bad points

  • Can’t charge phone via a USB connection.

Samsung SGH-i900 Omnia

Price: $849Samsung SGH-i900 Omnia

Good points

  • GPS support.
  • Best reception of the phones tested.
  • Eight hours call time on a single phone charge.
  • Very good battery performance when used as a camera and excellent when used as a mobile.
  • 8GB internal storage.

Bad points

  • Not easy to use for general mobile phone tasks.

Nokia E71

Price: $779Nokia E71

Good points

  • Excellent display.
  • Qwerty keyboard.
  • Very good battery performance when used as a mobile and excellent when used as a camera.

Bad points

  • Can’t charge phone using USB connection.

Sony Ericsson W902

Price: $789Sony Ericsson W902

Good points

  • Good sound quality when used as a music player.

Bad points

  • Poor SMS performance.

Sony Ericsson C702

Price: $559Sony Ericsson C702

Good points

  • Very easy to use camera.
  • Good reception.
  • GPS support.

Bad points

  • No standard headphone jack.

Sony Ericsson Xperia X1

Price: $1499Sony Ericsson Xperia X1

Good points

  • Excellent display.
  • GPS support.
  • Very good battery performance when used as a camera and mobile phone.
  • Six hours talktime on a single charge.

Bad points

  • Takes three hours to fully charge.
  • Poor durability

LG KU990 Viewty

Price: $299LG KU990 Viewty

Good points

  • Excellent display.
  • Excellent as a camera.

Bad points

  • Poor battery performance when used as a camera.

SAMSUNG i8510 innov8

Price: $899SAMSUNG i8510 innov8

Good points

  • Excellent display.
  • GPS support.
  • 8GB internal storage.
  • Six hours talk time on a full charge.

Bad points

  • Poor ergonomics. 

Samsung SGH-U900

Price: $499Samsung SGH-U900

Good points

  • Excellent display.
  • Very easy to use mobile phone.

Bad points

  • Poor battery performance when used as a camera.
  • No standard stereo headphone jack.

Sony Ericsson W980i

Price: $649Sony Ericsson W980i

Good points

  • Excellent display.
  • Very good battery performance when used as a camera.
  • 8GB internal storage.
  • Very easy to use mobile phone.

Bad points

  • No support for removable memory.
  • Poor camera picture quality.

Nokia 6600 slide

Price: $569Nokia 6600 slide

Good points

  • Excellent display.
  • Very good battery performance when used as a camera.
  • Very easy to use mobile phone.

Bad points

  • Only model we tested not to support HSDPA.

Nokia E66

Price: $749Nokia E66

Good points

  • Excellent display.
  • Very good battery performance when used as a camera.

Bad points

  • Can’t charge phone via a USB connection.
  • Poor SMS performance.
  • Poor camera picture quality.

 

Mobile phone durability water resistance testPhone scores

  • Ease of use A user panel assesses the instruction manual and looks at everyday use such as answering a call, storing a number into memory and dialling a number stored in memory.
  • Sound quality For both incoming and outgoing calls, testers carried out a number of acoustic measurements, such as frequency response. In addition, a user panel subjectively rated the sound quality of calls.
  • SMS Our testers rated the ability of the phone to write and receive an SMS and the suitability of the SMS display.
  • Durability Testers put the phones in an 80cm diameter barrel that was then turned, simulating falls from every situations such as a table or out of a shirt pocket. After five, 15 and 25 turns the phones were checked for damage. There was a maximum of 50 falls. This is a fairly severe test. Our testers also carry out a Water resistance test.  With the phone turned on and connected to a network, we apply a series of soaking tests replicating rain conditions. After an this test we check to see the phone still works and also four to five days later.
  • General phone ease of use A user panel assessed the instruction manual; everyday use (such as ease of answering a call, storing a number into memory and dialling a number stored in memory).
  • Sensitivity They measured the phones’ receiving sensitivity and sending power (particularly important in areas with poor network coverage) in both the 900 MHz and 1800 MHz bands.
  • Battery This is mainly based on the time-in-use result but testers also considered the charging time and battery status warning.
    Calling time Our testers continuously drained the batteries under various conditions in a network simulator. The time in this column is when working under a 3G network environment.
  • Music player score Our testers also assessed the ability of the phone to perform as a music player as well as determine the sound quality during playback.

Printed images are rated for resolution, colour reproduction and noiseCamera scores

  • Picture quality Our testers assessed the phone’s digital camera capabilities to produce an image in different lighting situations. The resulting photo images are then printed and rated for resolution, colour reproduction and noise.
  • Display quality was determined by looking at colour impression, saturation and sharpness with the image at full size.
    The camera ease of use score was assessed by checking how well the phone started up in camera mode, the quality of the viewfinder and how easy it was to take and save a photo.
  • Versatility Testers assessed each phone against a compact digital camera to determine its suitability as a digital camera. Functions such as optical zoom, flash, removable memory/hard drive and autofocus were considered.
  • The battery score for use as a camera was carried out by seeing how long it took to drain the battery when taking photos on the mobile phone.
  • PC connectivity measures the capability of transferring photos to a PC where the process is checked and rated.
  • Camera resolution A three-megapixel resolution is generally the norm with the latest mobile phones, with some approaching dedicated digital camera status with eight megapixel.
  • Wi-Fi capability This allows you to browse the internet and send emails using your existing Wi-Fi wireless connection at home or at a Wi-Fi hotspot when you’re out and about. This generally costs a lot less than using mobile phone network to transfer data.
  • GPS (Gobal Positioning Satellite) While most of these phones provide support for online map services such as Google Maps, a dedicated GPS chip allows you to use your phone to find out exactly where you are without having to get the information via an often expensive data transfer from a mobile network provider.
  • Bluetooth — a wireless radio technology that allows a range of electronic devices, such as mobile phones, mobile phone car kits, computers and PDAs, to easily communicate with each other over a range up to 10 metres.
  • Stereo Bluetooth (A2DP) allows you to listen to your music without cables via a pair of Bluetooth stereo headphones.
  • Headphone connection type A phone with a 2.5 or 3.5 mm jack will allow you to use a standard set of headphones to listen to music while proprietary and mini USB connections force you to use special headphones that are not as readily available.
  • A memory card allows you to store photos and video clips and transfer them to a computer or printer. Not all the phones with a memory card slot provide a card, so you may have to buy one separately. Check to see the exact type of memory you’ll need, as the cards are all tiny and look very similar but aren’t interchangeable.
  • Internal memory Aside from keeping contacts and irritating ringtones, internal memory is also handy for recording still images and small video files.
  • Computer connection type A USB connection of any type also lets you transfer files to your computer. Some models use a commonly available mini or micro USB connection and can have the phone appear on the PC as an external drive.
  • GSM bands indicate support for various frequencies around the world. Phones that offer support for 850/900/1800/1900MHz frequencies would be termed a quadband phone, while models that offer support for either 850 or 900MHz as well as 1800/1900MHz are called triband phones. TheSamsung SGH-F480, SGH-U900 and LG models are triband, with the rest of the models tested being quadband.
  • UMTS (Universal Mobile Telecommunications System) is used to describe the system within which 3G networks operate. All the models we tested should work on a 3G network.
  • HSDPA (also known as 3.5G) This offers faster network performance than 3G, the current network speed king. This means faster video and music downloads to your mobile phone and is supported on Telstra's Next G and Optus ‘yes’ network. However, confirm that your carrier will provide support for the phone before you make the purchase.
  • Operating system The operating system is a piece of software that allows a mobile phone to operate not only as a phone but also perform tasks such as keep contacts and controls applications.