Nokia's N97 & 5800XM: The trouble with 16:9

by James Whatley on 11th May 2009

Two weeks ago, in my first video diary for Really Mobile, I was talking about my Nokia 5800  Xpress Music when I said:

“I’ve kind of fallen for it a little bit… the firmware update has brought transitions… there are some really nice things in there… for instance: recording 16:9 video”

At which point – at around 1min 35secs into the clip to be precise – I flipped the 5800 around and began recording and, thanks to the wonder of Ben Smith’s editing skills, you can see the transition between the two segments below.

In the shot on the left you can just about see that I am holding the phone at arm’s length and yet, on the right, you can see the EXTREME CLOSE UP that the 5800 so unnaturally provides.
Problemo, no?

Ben and I noted this at the time and had a further play – resulting in this video that I put up on YouTube just before Really Mobile launched:

The sound quality is poor but – as you might have just about heard – this is because we had put the 5800 at such a distance away from ourselves, the mic could only barely pickup the audio. Check around 18secs in when both Ben and I reach towards the phone, again – our arms at full length.

Not. Good.

The focal point is too far away and as such, no matter how cool recording in 16:9 is, dealing with this bizarre nuance can feel frustrating . As it was, not soon after we published the above footage, YouTube user ‘augusc’ commented on the video with this telling nugget of information:

“Actually the phone just crops off the up and down side of the standard HQ video recording, that’s why the focal length must be bigger – and that’s why i find this 16:9 mode unnecessary…”

So in effect it’s not ‘true’ 16:9 recording then?
Interesting.

That’s the 5800 covered, what about Nokia’s upcoming uber-flagship device, the N97?
This device, oft-heralded the saviour of Nokia for 2009 (I’m still betting on the N86), runs the same S60 5th edition software as the 5800 and boasts almost the exact same display specifications too.

Well, over the weekend – via Mark Guim at The Nokia Blog – I spotted Nokia rep, Chanse Arrington, Qik-ing from his own N97 and I asked:

His response?

Right. Clear as mud then.

Unofficial Nokia blogger, Mark Guim, however was another story. He and I continued the conversation offline; I explained in further detail what I meant – using the video above as an example – and he replied that he had noticed the same thing on his 5800. He even went so far as to put together this rather good compare and contrast post between said Xpress Music device and his own N85.Nice work Mark.

This morning I asked Chanse again, this time linking to Mark’s post as a reference. This time he was a touch more forthcoming with his response:


So, there you have it. It would seem that the N97 does indeed record video in the same ‘extreme close-up’ mode as the 5800.

What do you think?

Do you own a 5800, have you spotted this problem?
Or are you considering purchasing an N97? Does this bother you?

As ever, your comments are welcome.

NB: The 5800/N97′s 16:9 recording functionality is oft-referred to as ‘nHD’.

This, for the initiated among you does not mean that the respective devices record in NEAR HD, as is sometimes reported, but in fact refers to the screen-size being proportionately equivalent to 1/9 of the original HD resolution of 1920 x 1080 pixels.

Fact-tastic.

Previous post:

Next post: