Nokia has finally, kicking and screaming, announced that it is to launch an 8-megapixel camera phone, the N86. But should you go Nokia over Samsung, Sony Ericsson or LG? We had a play with the new phone away from the MWC show floor to find out.

Designed as a triple slider - imagine the N96 however with a camera focus rather than an entertainment one - and you've got the right idea. The handset can slide one way to reveal the keypad, the other to reveal four dedicated camera keys like zoom functions.

Taking a design ethos from the E71 model, the Nokia N86 features a metal casing, and a considerably better build quality that we've been used to from Nokia. The result is a handset that feels a lot sturdier. The design includes a scratch-resistant hardened glass front with an OLED display. "Authentic metal" details add to the quality of the unit. If Nokia goes down this route for all their new handsets, it will be happily welcomed.

Sticking with the camera, it features a rather annoying slider shutter on the rear of the camera. While from a design point of view it does give the phone that camera feel, I bet 2 months in and it would be annoying. We didn't have time to check whether having it in a pocket would cause it to open, but it's something to bear in mind.

Hiding behind that protruding lens cover, that also houses a kick stand so you can perch the phone on your desk, is a wide-angle Carl Zeiss Tessar optics lens with a mechanical shutter up to 1/1000 and an f-stop range of 2.4-4.8 to suit low light conditions.

If that wasn't enough to get you in the snapping mood, the phone features an 8-megapixel sensor, geotagging capabilities and a 3rd generation dual LED flash rather than a Xenon flash. Nokia say that the move back to LED is because things have vastly improved in terms of battery, light and general technologies used to make the picture work better with the limited features available.

In our brief play we weren't able to take pictures away with us, but we were able to use the camera and have to say that the phone’s response time, considering it was a pre-production sample, was still very good. Carl Zeiss and Nokia both tell us that they are still working on the performance with further improvements in both the usage and end result still to come. The companies did show us a couple of A3 prints supposedly taken by the N86. Yes the skateboarder image leaked on the web was from the N86.

Based on the print outs we saw the camera's performance is very impressive. Yes it isn't perfect and yes DSLR companies don't have to worry just yet about people ditching their cameras, but as a spokesman for Carl Ziess told us that the quality and performance should cater for 95% of compact users, providing they don't use a zoom lens.

Of course as with all Nseries handsets it's not just about one element and so with that in mind you will also get the usual bells and whistles you come to expect from Nokia.

Here that means 8GB of internal memory, GPS, AGPS, 2.6-inch QVGA 230 x 320 screen, Wi-Fi and Bluetooth 2.0.

Nokia says that the new phone will allow you to store over 4000 images in addition to instantly sharing images to Flickr or its own Ovi share application.

First Impressions

With a simple, perhaps over simple design, the N86 doesn't break any traditions of what you would expect from a Nokia Nseries handset, playing it safe all the way through from the design to the S60 user interface.

If, therefore, you're a Nokia fan and looking to go 8-megapixels because you want a better camera than you currently get from the Finns, this might be worth looking into further.

However with competition from Sony Ericsson, Samsung and LG the N86 will have a tough job on its hands when it comes out in Q2.

Nokia N86 - First Look deals

Nokia N86 - First Look
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