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Nokia N73 3G smart phone

Does it have the X-Factor?

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The camera is a nice 3.2-megapixel one, with a Carl Zeiss lens. No optical zoom here, but a 20x digital one which wouldn't be worth including if Nokia didn't bundle so many other image-enhancing capabilities with the device. The affect of a digital zoom is identical to zooming in on a shot using a PC graphics package, so the normal argument is that you might as well do the work once the pictures are transferred off the camera. However, Nokia wants to look towards a world without PCs, so you will need to do everything on your phone. To that end you can change the brightness, contrast and sharpness as well as cropping, resizing, adding clip-art, applying effects like frames and text boxes, or perform red-eye reduction - all without the graphic leaving the phone and just by using the four-way control stick and two soft-menu keys.

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Editing graphics might seem cumbersome on a phone, and frankly it is. The controls are well laid out and intuitive, and there's context-sensitive help. But given the physical limitations of screen and keypad, the process couldn't be any easier. It's still not very easy though.

This plethora of tools is intended to encourage the user to think of the phone as their sole computing device. To further that end the edited photographs can be uploaded straight to your Flickr account, e-mailed or (of course) sent over MMS, all without touching a PC.

The camera is accessed through a slider on the back of the handset, which reveals the lens and automatically opens the camera application. This application switches the handset into landscape mode: with everything rotated 90°.

While useful for taking photographs, this transition is also applied when viewing images in the Gallery application and can catch the user unawares, which wouldn't be a problem if it didn't take a couple of seconds to complete during which time the handset is unusable.

Observant readers will have noticed that this is not a camera to whip out and catch the moment, unless you get a good three or four seconds' notice of the moment happening. Actually, even if you do have sufficient notice to get the camera application loaded and the screen rotated, it won't matter as the moment at which you press the shutter and the moment at which the photograph is taken will not be the same anyway.

This lag between shutter-press and shutter release seems endemic to high-end Nokia handsets and unless you take a lot of still-life photographs it will drive you mad. It'll be endless shots of where the children were a moment ago, the wave on which the surfer was standing just now and the patch of ground where the family pet was being amusing really recently. It's not impossible to work around, but it is hard and really convinces that this handset isn't the camera it would like to be.

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At least with the handset rotated the shutter button is under the index finger and navigating around the gallery is easily done using the control stick and the right thumb. The left-handed will have a harder time of it, but presumably are used to being unable to take digital pictures these days.

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Next page: Verdict

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