Ever since the ZN5 was announced in June and then cleared the FCC the next month, we've been waiting with bated breath to get our hands on the fancy camera phone. Monday, November 3, it finally lands at T-Mobile. Designed in partnership with Kodak (yes, that Kodak), the ZN5 is hardly the first camera phone we've seen, but it's certainly stands at the top of the list. Camera options are top-notch, the photo quality is excellent, and the integrated Wi-Fi makes getting photos off the phone a breeze. Of course, it is a phone too; and on that front it succeeds by offering good call quality. Other features were generous and it's all wrapped up in a sleek and sturdy design. At times, the phone could be a little pokey, but the ZN5 is an appealing device that successfully blends "camera" and "phone." You can get it for $99 with service.
On the outside, the ZN5 is an attractive device with a sleek profile and an understated style. Though you might think it's related to the Motorola Krave ZN4, the two devices couldn't be more different. While the ZN4 has a touch screen, the ZN5 has a standard candy-bar design with a full set of physical controls. The dark gray color scheme is nicely offset with a couple touches of purple. The handset feels great in the hand--both sturdy and comfortable without being excessively hefty (5.65 inches tall by 1.98 inches wide by 0.47 inch deep; weighing 4.02 ounces).
The gorgeous 2.4-inch display (320x240 pixels) takes up almost half of the phone's front. With support for 262,000 colors, graphics were sharp and colors were vibrant. Menus are straightforward, as the ZN5 has the same simple, but easy-to-use interface that we saw on the Motorola Rokr E8. You can change the brightness and the backlighting time. The text size is not adjustable, but it should be big enough for most users. The display is easier to see in direct light than on many other cell phones
The navigation toggle and central OK button are raised above the surface of the phone, which gives it a nice tactile feel, even if it is just a bit on the small side. In contrast, the remaining navigation controls--two soft keys, a photo gallery shortcut, a back button, and the Talk and End/power keys--are flush with the surface of the phone, but they have a spacious arrangement. Also, tiny silver bumps like those on the Rokr E8 assist in dialing by feel. The toggle doubles as a shortcut control to four user-defined features.
The keypad is spacious as well. We could dial and text quickly, and the bright backlighting should help in dim situations. The alphanumeric keys also have tiny silver bumps to give them some tactile definition. And the keypad holds another surprise: like the ModeShift keypad on the Rokr E8, the backlighting on the ZN5's keypad changes when you're in camera mode. When snapping photos, you can access the photo gallery via a control between the "5" and "6" keys. What's more, when you're browsing the photo gallery, other controls appear for deleting a photo, going back to the camera mode, or accessing the photo share feature. In both environments, it's a nice touch.
On the left side of the ZN5 are a volume rocker, a handset-locking switch, and a camera shutter key, which is purple. On the left spine, there are a 3.5mm headset jack (nice) and a micro USB port, which is used for both the USB cable and the charger. Turn the ZN5 over and you'll find the bright flash and the sliding camera lens cover. Opening the cover starts the camera automatically. There's no self-portrait mirror, which we'd complain about normally, but few standalone cameras have them either. Unfortunately, the ZN5's microSD-card slot is located in an inconvenient location--you must remove the battery cover and the battery to access it.
The ZN5 is all about photography, so we'll start there. Kodak had a hand in the inner camera workings, though both Moto and Kodak declined to state specifics. As we said earlier, the camera starts automatically when you open the ZN5's lens cover. You can shoot photos in four resolutions, from 5 megapixels down to 1.2 megapixels. As you'd expect, editing options are more than plentiful. The camera offers an autotimer, a low light setting, three focus settings (auto, landscape, and macro), five white balance settings (daylight, cloudy, tungsten, auto, and fluorescent), a multishot mode, and six shutter sounds, plus a silent option. The flash is full Xenon, so it's quite effective under almost all conditions. It has four settings: on, red-eye reduction, auto, or off. Our only complaint was that the "auto" setting appeared to be rather sensitive. It fired even when we were indoors under strong lighting, which caused our subjects to be washed out. We recommend you play around with it when shooting.
Though many camera phones--and many standalone cameras for the matter--suffer from a noticeable shutter lag, the ZN5 has a click-to-capture duration of .02 seconds. The camera is always in auto mode, so you can't set the aperture or shutter speed manually. But depending on the lighting conditions, the camera will choose an aperture of f/2.8 to f/5.6 and a shutter speed of 1/60 to 1/1,000 seconds. The ZN5's focal length is 5.56mm.
Taking pictures is an enjoyable and intuitive experience. The menus are easy to use, with one small exception--while the pop-up menus work only in landscape mode, the detailed submenus work only in portrait mode. It would be better if they had the same orientation. On the upside, the camera's controls are comfortably placed.
We're big fans of the nifty panorama mode. After you take the first shot for your three-shot panorama, the phone will vibrate until you move it to the correct position for the next shot. Once you're there, the camera will snap the next image automatically. Also, a border will direct you as you pan. Just keep in mind that you must move from left to right. It's definitely easy to use and similar to the panorama mode on the Samsung Innov8.