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Review: BlackBerry Pearl

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The Pearl is RIM's first phone ever with a camera, and it's an awfully good start. At least when it comes to camera hardware and picture processing. The pictures are surprisingly high quality.

The viewfinder application is a simple affair. Like most phones, it takes about 2 seconds to start. Then a black frome appears around a horizontal viewfinder that accurately displays the shot. You can use the trackball to zoom in and out to 1x, 3x and 5x digital zoom (no even numbered multiples or continuous zoom). Unfortunately due to the trackball's general unpredictability, you may find yourself zooming unintentionally or instead of taking a picture.

The only other thing you can change in the viewfinder is setting the flash to on, off or automatic, which you can do by pressing the space key. You can also change this in the camera options menu, which is where you can also change the white balance if for some reason automatic fails you (it never failed us) and image size.

After snapping a picture, it is saved in a matter of about 1 second and you are taken to a review screen where icons let you return to the viewfinder or easily send, delete or even crop the photo. Options from the menu also let you set the picture as your home screen or a photo for caller ID.


The fact that the review screen is so well thought out makes the poorly designed gallery application even more disappointing. Even if the review screen wasn't as refined as it is, the gallery would still be frustrating.

When starting the gallery, you are asked to pick a folder for your photos. The gallery can only view pictures from one folder at a time. When you format a memory card from the Pearl, it creates a default pictures folder which the gallery and camera can use.

Once you've selected a folder, the gallery will slowly - very slowly - create thumbnails for all the pictures inside. To the Pearl's credit, it saves these thumbnails, so it never has to re-create them, even if you navigate out of that particular folder.

Selecting a single picture displays that photo on a totally empty white background. No information or icons are shown. Pressing the menu key reveals a large number of options for viewing, using and editing the picture. However the crop option from the picture review is curiously absent.

The gallery's most severe weakness is not apparent until the second time you use it. After you use it the first time and exit the gallery to do other things on your Pearl you will eventually want to return to the gallery to check out the new pictures you have taken. But when you open the gallery, you might panic when all you see are the old pictures. Do not panic. Your pictures were saved. However you must go up a level in the directory, and then re-select your picture folder before you can see them. Once you reselect your pictures folder, the gallery will draw thumbnails for the photos you took since the last time you used the application. You will need to repeat this process any time you want to view new photos you have taken.


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