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On 16 Feb, it was leaked. On 17 Feb, it was announced. And on 18 Feb, we played with it. It's Nokia's 8-megapixel N86, featuring more advanced optics than those seen on typical N-series handsets, including a Carl Zeiss variable-aperture lens (f2.4/3.2/4.8 with automatic aperture control) and a wide-angle panoramic shooting mode.

This is the first phone we've seen to have a variable-aperture lens, which you'll find in even the most basic point-and-shoot camera. Varying the aperture alters the amount of light admitted to the sensor, so you can alter the look of the image with focus effects such as bokeh. It's a whole new chapter in the epic camera-phone-taking-on-the-compact-camera story.

What's odd is that the N86 doesn't have a xenon flash -- it uses LEDs. Xenon flash technology is what you'll see on decent compact cameras, whereas LEDs are found on run-of-the-mill camera phones. This raises the question: is Nokia really serious about this phone taking on the mid-range compact camera market?

And we can't say we're all that thrilled on the design, either. It feels like any other Nokia, has the same operating system and interface as any other Nokia, and uses the same keyboard layout and small, thin, fiddly menu buttons as any other Nokia.

But all is by no means lost. Inside this quad-band dual-slider is 8GB of memory expandable with microSD cards, a 240x320-pixel AMOLED display with 16 million colours, GPS sat-nav with spoken turn-by-turn directions using Nokia Maps 3.0, Wi-Fi, HSDPA data connectivity, support for up to 640x480-pixel resolution H.264, MPEG-4 and WMV video, MP3, WMA and AAC audio -- including iTunes Plus downloads -- and stereo Bluetooth to top it all off.

So the bottom line is that it's a feature-packed camera phone, with high-spec visual optics, GPS to geotag the photos you take, and high-speed Internet to upload them straight to Flickr. Y'know what, it looks samey and boring, but it's sure as hell not on the inside.

It'll be on sale in Q2 2009, and we have a bunch of photos over the next few pages.

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The N86 with the keyboard slid away.
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The 8-megapixel camera in all its glory around the back of the handset.
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These keys felt decent enough for speed texting...
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...but these did not. We didn't like the look or feel of these thin little buttons.
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The front of the phone, with the secondary camera for video calling visible on the right-hand side of the picture. (Look even more closely still, and you'll see the phone is not-so-secretly marked 'N85 8MP', not 'N86 8MP'. When quizzed, a Nokia rep said this was because this particular handset's casing was a prototype.)
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The right-hand side of the N86.
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