Tools Of The Trade: The Nokia camera phone

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The Independent Online

In some parts of the world, camera phones outsell both conventional and digital cameras. And as the technology improves, sales can only grow.

Early models were fun, but limited picture resolution restricted their usefulness. With the 7610, however, Nokia has produced a design that takes the built-in camera to one megapixel. This is not far from the resolution of a basic, standalone digital camera a few years ago.

A megapixel image is detailed enough to reproduce in a magazine. It should certainly give reasonable-quality 6x4 inch prints from an inkjet printer. So among business users, phones such as the 7610 could do away with the need for a separate digital camera: that resolution is more than adequate for many people who need to take pictures for work.

The first people to look seriously at camera phones will be the same ones - estate agents, insurance loss adjusters, surveyors and architects - who have used the early digital models to take quick visual "notes".

The 7610 is ideal for this, not least because you can instantly send a picture message to a colleague's phone, or attach a photo to an email. Assuming you sign up to a GPRS-enabled tariff - we tested the 7610 on Vodafone's network - all this can be done with just a few key presses.

As a camera, the 7610 does have its restrictions. It has a few too many buttons to press to take a picture and framing an image on the 7610's screen is awkward. And although Nokia does sell an add-on flash, without it the camera did not perform that well in low light or with high-contrast subjects.

For someone who just wants a point-and-shoot record, though, the 7610 is good enough.

And as a high-end mobile, it has a lot going for it. It comes with a decent array of messaging and organiser functions, and the screen is large enough to make it comfortable to read emails or use the diary. The phone can also act as a modem for an organiser or laptop, through its Bluetooth connection.

But the lack of an alternative to the phone's unusually shaped keypad would make sending long emails a chore; the pad is also tricky for left-handed users. And, although the 7610 has a memory card slot for storing images and other data, it is inside the phone. To gain access to it means removing both the cover and the battery.

However, if good-quality images are your priority, the 7610 camera phone is worth a serious look when it goes on sale in July.


Nokia 7610 camera phone

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

Pros: excellent camera, good screen.

Cons: keypad-only input, fiddly expansion options.

Price: expected to be around £450.