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Review: Motorola ZINE ZN5

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Camera

We'll start off by saying "Wow". Motorola showed us 16 x 20 enlargements made from images taken with the ZN5. The pictures looked frickin' amazing. The color was excellent, the light balance and exposure were top notch, and focus was crystal clear. Keep in mind, these examples were shot by professionals using the ZN5 under the best conditions possible. They showed the the camera is capable of.

The camera is positioned on the back of the phone and has a lens cover. Sliding open the cover (or holding down the camera button) starts the camera, which must be held horizontally for picture taking. The camera launches in about 1.5 seconds, which is reasonably fast for a cameraphone.

With the camera open, some secondary buttons appear on the keypad with Motorola's ModeShift. ModeShift is Motorola's term for buttons and controls that change when the phone is used in different modes. In this case, they are camera-specific and include a trash can for deleting pictures instantly, as well as dedicated sharing and gallery buttons. These buttons are illuminated purple, and match the purple camera menus and camera button on the side of the phone.

The menu system for the camera is contained in a little circular button on the screen that corresponds to the D-pad. Hitting up or down on the D-pad cycles through the vast selection of menu items. Pressing left or right on the D-pad cycles through the options in each of the menus as you cycle through them. Now, not all of the ZN5's camera functions are available in this little menu. Only the most important ones: Flash, resolution, shooting mode, and one or two others. The bulk of the phone's configurable options are found in a more standard options menu. What's important here is that the options you use the most are only one or two clicks away, and can be changed almost instantly. You don't have to dig through menu after menu and screen after screen to find them.

Motorola developed this software with Kodak, which happens to know a thing or two about cameras. That means there is some powerful image-processing going on in the background as you frame and take your pictures. For example, Kodak's Perfect Touch software is on board. If you take an image that happens to have less than perfect exposure,PerfectTouch can automatically brightens the image, highlights details in the shadows and drastically improves balance and color. There are also advanced editing features built into the phone that allow you to make any num

The camera itself is 5 megapixels. It has a full flash and that makes for much better pictures taken in low-light settings. The camera has been optimized for taking pictures in low-light settings. Kodak said that 70% of all pictures are taken indoors, so it made sure to include this low-light sensitivity. Pressing the shutter button halfway will focus the image in less than 1 second. Compared to many other camera phones that have autofocus, this is pretty fast. You can, however, override the autofocus and just press down all the way on the shutter button to capture an image faster. What this does is set aside the autofocus and sets the camera to a standard 6 feet to infinity focus mode.

The ZN5 is, without a doubt, the fastest cameraphone we've ever used. It saves pictures and re-sets the camera for the next picture quickly. In some tests, we were able to take as many as ten shots in 4 seconds.

Another exciting feature is a completely fool-proof panorama mode. Using the panorama feature, the ZN5 lets you paste together three images to give you a super wide-angle shot. Based on the unscientific experiment we conducted, it can create a panorama that is approximately 270 degrees wide. The software on the camera then auto-stitches the images together to produce one final image. It works great and is super easy.

In all, the camera is the most impressive we've seen on a cameraphone. Sure, there are other 5 megapixel shooters out there, but this one combines quality with ease of use. With many other devices we've tested, you usually have to sacrifice one of the above. The ZN5 sacrifices nothing.

 

Gallery

The gallery can be accessed from the ZN5's home screen by pressing a dedicated gallery button in the control cluster. The gallery makes you re-orient the phone sideways to interact with it. The default system shows the last image you shot, with a carousel of thumbnails running along the bottom of the screen. Using the D-pad, you can easily zoom through your image library and view pictures.

The gallery options are as robust as we've seen. Anything that you can think of doing with a picture, whether it be editing it, sending it somewhere, etc., is possible. I liked how easy it was to transfer pictures from the camera's on-board memory to microSD cards, blogs, the Kodak Gallery, printers and more.

Editing features include crop, re-size, zoom, or rotate. The PerfectTouch software almost always fixes any image that is screwed up by the camera (which is a rare thing, by the way).

The ZN5 has an automatic connection to the online KodakGallery. The KodakGallery is a photo-sharing site in the vein of Flickr or Picasa. Accounts are free to sign up for, and you can can even create one directly from the phone. Once you have the account set up, the phone can be set to send any images you take directly there. The best way to do this is via Wi-Fi. One thing we discovered, the ZN5 doesn't like secured Wi-Fi networks. My home network has a 26-digit password. The ZN5 wouldn't let me enter that many digits in the password key. In the end, I had to temporarily turn off the security of my Wi-Fi network to get it to work properly. If you use a simpler type of Wi-Fi protection, then perhaps this won't be an issue.

Full-size images upload pretty quickly via Wi-Fi once you have it working. You can set the phone to sync with multiple different accounts, and send different pictures to different accounts at will.

Any photos you upload show up in your KodakGallery where they can be shared with whomever you wish. You can also order prints from the KodakGallery and perform editing features from the browser-based gallery software.

 

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