Taking pictures with your smartphone

English version of my previous article for my international Nokia 8 friends
– last update: 9 June 2019 –

Mobile phones have become the most popular cameras these days and Nokia was one of the first manufacturers to invest in  the quality of the cameras. Already in 2005 they signed a contract with the famous German camera optics maker Carl Zeiss to deliver prime lenses for their smartphones. Things haven’t changed after HMD Global took over the company name and launched Nokia 8 in 2017. So you really can take beautiful pictures with this phone – especially in good lighting conditions. New updates to the camera app in 2018 (and hopefully in 2019) have added extra features that mainly try to improve pictures in low light conditions and have even given the camera app (basic) Pro settings.

The official Nokia 8 camera manual is – unfortunately – very basic and totally outdated. And that applies to the manuals for the newer Nokia smartphones as well!

Here you find my manual with many tips and photographs – which I hope will also be useful for people with a different Android device or even an iPhone.

Before I start, here are the specs of the mobile phone and the camera app that I use:

  • Phone: Nokia 8 TA-1012
  • System: Android Pie
  • Standard camera app:
    86.9.1130.21 – 86.9.1130.51 (February 2019) – 86.9.1130.91 (May 2019)
  • Firmware cameras:
    V100.0096.03 (February 2019) – V100.0098.01 (May 2019)
    V020.0071.03 – V20.0072.01 (February 2019)

Manual

– Tips & tricks –

1 – Open the camera
2 – The viewfinder screen
3 – Taking pictures
4 – Auto mode
5 – Focus
6 – Zoom
7 – HDR
8 – Moving objects indoors and sport events
9 – Flash and low light circumstances
10 – Live Bokeh: artificially blur background or foreground
11 – Extras: black and white, panorama, beautify, Google Lens, ‘bothies’ and timer
12 – Pro mode
13 – Troubleshooting

Photo samples: outside, inside, at night, macro

***

1 – Open the camera

Three ways to start the camera app:

  • On the lock screen: slide the camera icon upwards.
  • On the home screen: tap on the camera icon.
  • In all circumstances: press twice on the power button on your device.
    You can activate this feature in the Settings app:
    System >  Gestures > Jump to camera: On.

2 – The viewfinder screen

When you launch the camera app, this is what you see in the viewfinder in portrait mode – if you take a picture of a black sheet or if you cover the lens 😎.

Screenshot_20190129-105521.png

The default settings are:
1 (a hamburger button for extras)
2 (Google Lens)
3 Twin
4 Single
5 Timer off
6 HDR Auto
7 Flash Auto
8 Rear camera  – tap to switch to the front camera
9 Shutter button
10 Previous photo – tap to view the photo.

Tap on 1 (= three dashes or hamburger button) to go to the settings:

  • Shutter Control & Shutter Sound: On
  • Resolution: both rear and front camera: (4:3) 13 MP
  • You can also reset the settings here and restore the default camera settings.


Bug – you might see double icons in the viewer
Temporary solution:
Settings app > Display > Advanced > Display Size: Default.

Solved after the system update of February 2019

3 – Taking pictures

Precautions

  • Make sure the lenses are clean.
  • Hold the smartphone as steady as possible. The Optical Image stabilization module on the rear camera tries to overcome slight movements.

Two ways to take a picture

  • You can take a photo with a tap on the shutter button (9) in the viewfinder.
  • Other possibility: use a volume button. You can also turn the camera to have the volume buttons at the bottom (for selfies for example). The volume button can’t be used for the burst function though.

Sound of the shutter
Hamburger button (1) > Settings: Shutter Sound (sound made when the shutter opens).

4 – Auto mode

These are my standard settings:

  • Twin (3) – Single (4) – HDR On (or Auto) (6) – Flash Off (7)
  • Rule of thirds grid
    Hamburger button (1) > Settings: Grid ON.
    Read on vinkacademy.nl how you can take better pictures using this grid. The text is in Dutch but the photo examples with grid make the tips easy to understand.
VinkAcademy
screenshot from vinkacademy.nl
  • These settings are saved automatically until you change them again.

5 – Focus

  • The camera has a sophisticated auto focus function. That means that the camera evaluates the scene and chooses the focus and exposure. So you can aim your camera on your subject and shoot. In ideal light conditions not only your subject (in the middle of the viewfinder) will be sharp but about everything in the picture.
    Note: the square that pops up in the middle of the viewfinder does not mean that it’s focusing in the centre – it is a scene evaluation. (@user389)
  • Front and rear cameras automatically detect and focus on faces – see the sort of square(s) in the viewfinder. The cameras even follow the movement of the faces. A nice help to shoot pictures of persons and selfies that way!

Screenshot_20190308-114110

  • Best practice: manual focus + exposure
    Tap on that part of the scene in the viewfinder you want in sharp focus – that can also be in the middle of the scene.

    • You now notice a little sun that you can slide up or down to adjust the exposure. This can be useful in low light or dark shades.
      Tip: your finger doesn’t have to be exactly on that little sun, just slide up and down with one finger somewhere on the screen.
    • If you do this, you have three to five seconds to take pictures before the camera switches back to automatic focus and exposure.
    • Make low-light photos with different exposures so that afterwards you can select the best one.

Focus

6 – Zoom

Never use the built-in zoom (except maybe in really ideal light conditions). You get much better results if you use a photo editor. I use the photo editor of Google Photos to straighten and crop (manual).

This tip even applies to smartphones with a zoom lens such as the iPhone 7 Plus and 8 Plus:
“(Thanks to the dual camera) you have 2x optical zoom and the ability to take pictures with depth effect. Just like the predecessor iPhone 7 Plus, you have up to 10x digital zoom at your disposal, but we only use that to read texts from a distance, for example, so as a kind of binoculars. Not to take pictures, because they are almost always disappointing with digital zoom.” In the same article there is another reason not to use the zoom of the iPhone 8 plus: “Optical image stabilization (OIS) is only present on the wide-angle camera, not on the telephoto lens.”
Source: https://www.iculture.nl/iphone/iphone-8-plus/review/
(translated with http://www.DeepL.com/Translator)

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Wednesday, January 30th 9:31
The photo above is a detail (zoom) from the picture below

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7 – HDR

“HDR stands for high dynamic range and it’s a composite of a series of images that are shot at different exposures from dark (underexposed) to light (overexposed) and balanced. When combining the three images, it provides a dramatic image with awesome shadows and highlights.” (source: Lifewire)

The standard position in the Nokia 8 camera app is HDR A (uto) – the camera decides whether HDR is used or not (and it may perform some other enhancements as well).

Would you rather like to decide yourself?

  • When is it better to have HDR On?
    (You cannot use flash now.)
    – Landscapes
    – Low Light
    – Portraits in the sun
    source: Lifewire
  • When is it better to have HDR Off?
    – Moving objects
    – If you move yourself
    – Too colourful scenes
    source: AndroidPIT

Thanks to HDR no more fear for the sun or dark shadow(s) … It might even a good strategy to always have HDR on as – see 4 – Auto modus.

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8 – Moving objects indoors and sport events

Long-pressing the shutter button (9) and the burst function shoots a dozen or more photos – you then select the best picture afterwards. HDR is switched off automatically.

  • This feature can be turned on and off:
    hamburger button (1)  > Settings > Shutter control
  • This fails with the volume knob.

Thanks to user389 on https://community.phones.nokia.com/discussion/29371/camera-nokia-8/p5. A tip that also Apple gives to iPhone photographers.

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9 – Flash and low light circumstances

  • Try to avoid using the flash!
    Instead, use Twin (3) HDR On (6) (see 7 – HDR) and tap to focus & adjust the exposure with the sun slider gently (see 5 – Focus).
    Or use Pro Mode (see 12 – Pro mode).
  • If you have to use the flash, use these settings in the viewfinder:
    Color (3) HDR Off (6) Flash On (7).

10 – Live Bokeh: artificially blur background or foreground

Add a depth-of-field effect that keeps your subject sharp while creating a blurred background – ideal for portraits or macros: bokeh. Nokia has called it live bokeh because you can see in the viewfinder screen how the photo will look like afterwards.

  • Activate Live Bokeh via the hamburger menu (1).
  • In the viewer you swipe the Bokeh-slider (standard in the middle position) to the right to blur the background even more, to the left to blur less.
  • You can even change the focus afterwards in the Bokeh editor of Google Photos if necessary.
  • Live Bokeh can also be used for selfies, but you can’t change the focus afterwards.
  • You can’t use HDR in Live Bokeh. That’s why photos taken with HDR and tap to focus (see 5 – Focus) may be better in certain circumstances.

Click on the first miniature to open the photos
with Dutch and English captions

11 – Extras

  • Black and white pictures: tap on (3) and select Mono(chrome).

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  • Tap on the hamburger button (1) for
    • Panorama
    • Beautify – especially for selfies.
      Move the slider (in the middle) to the right to artificially photograph your face less sharp – you suddenly have a lot less wrinkles! Move the slider to the left to have more.
    • Google Lens
      Position your camera … tap on Google Lens (2) in the viewfinder to copy and translate text, search similar products, scan codes, identify plants and animals … (source: https://lens.google.com/)
  • Bothies
    Tap on (4) and change single to Dual or P-I-P to take a bothie, a photo with the front and the back camera at the same time.
  • Timer
    Tap on (5) Timer off and select 3 seconds or 10.

12 – Pro mode

Activation via the hamburger button (1)
What can you change in the viewer – from top to bottom?

Screenshot_20190208-131558

Tapping on one (numbered) icon and then you can access these settings with a slider.

  • (1) White balance: auto – sunny – cloudy – shadow – fluorescent – bulb light
  • (2) Focus: auto – m (macro) – ∞ (infinity)
  • (3) ISO-value: auto – 100 – 200 – 400 – 800 – 1600
  • (4) Shutter speed: auto – 1/500 – 1/250 – 1/125 – 1/60 – 1/30 – 1/15 – 1/8 – 1/4 – 1/2
  • (5) Exposure:  -2 -1 0 +1 +2

Mind!

  • The camera app remembers the settings you have used so don’t forget to change from Pro to Photo after having taken the picture.
  • The camera app even remembers the Pro settings separately, so if you change between Photo and Pro the next time you use Pro it will use the last used Pro settings.

Only in portrait mode

  • You can quickly activate the Pro function by swiping the shutter button upwards (9). Once activated you can turn the camera in landscape mode.
    (In Nokia 7 plus this can only be done in landscape mode!)
  • The interface is now even a bit more handy – see screenshot below.
  • You can reset the Pro settings by swiping the shutter button upwards (9) .
    (thank you: @juho lemmetyinen)
  • You can return to the Photo mode by swiping the shutter button (9downwards twice.

Screenshot_20190405-150020

Macro photography
– Focus (2): m (macro) and keep tapping the shutter while slowly moving towards or away from your subject.The minimum focus distance of Nokia 8 is around 10 cm (4″) and it may be required to crop the best picture later for tiny objects.
(Credits: @user389 on https://community.phones.nokia.com/discussion/comment/89093/#Comment_89093)

Low light photography in restaurants, pubs … (with flash)
– (3) ISO-value: 800
(Credits: @Jivko Antonov)

Night photography (flash disabled!)
– Focus (2): ∞ (infinity)
– ISO (3) 100 – for fireworks use 200 or 400 (background = dark) – for low light: use 1600
– Shutter speed (4): 1/2 sec. (Can only be done with a steady hand!)
(Credits: https://www.android-hilfe.de/forum/nokia-8.3114/kamera-zeigt-her-eure-schoensten-fotos-und-videos-vom-nokia-8.845883-page-2.html# post-11360157)

These tips in the video for Nokia 7 plus also apply to the Nokia 8:

Another brief introduction can be found in this article by techradar.

13 – Troubleshooting

  • Reset the default settings:
    the hamburger button (1) > Settings:
    at the bottom you can click on Reset settings.
  • If that doesn’t help: action plan for Android phones.

Photos

The photo samples below were taken in Antwerp, Rotterdam, Ostend, Bruges …

My settings:

  • Twin (3) HDR on or auto (6) (see 7 – HDR)
  • Focus: auto or set manually with a tap on a detail and shoot – on a rare occasion the exposure was slightly adapted with the sun glider (see 5 – Focus).
  • All pictures were taken without zoom, flash or using any of the pro settings.

Zoom in on the pictures themselves to view the photographs in detail – or, tap on a photo to open the original photo in Flickr, zoom and get info. 

Outside

The blossoms were shot on December 22 (!).
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Inside

Quite remarkable is that you can zoom in on the first photo at Antwerp station and not only see what time it is on the clock below but also on the one above – both in the original photograph here as in the copy in the free version of Google Photos.

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At night

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Macro photography

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All pictures in my Flickr Nokia 8 album