The selfie is arguably one of the biggest photography trends of 2014 – and I suspect it will get even bigger in 2015.They are everywhere. You might not take them yourself (or admit to it), but I guarantee your family and friends do – social media is crammed full of “look at me” snaps, in all kinds of locations from big smiles at important cultural sites to moody pouts in nightclub bathrooms. Not only are we using the ever-improving front facing camera lenses on our mobile phones, but there are also selfie-sticks to help give us a wider view, and of course for the ultimate selfie why not put your camera on a drone and sent it high up in the sky to take your shot?!
The Lumia 735 from Nokia, sorry, Microsoft (it’s the last of the Lumia handsets that will have the Nokia branding), has been marketed specifically to those who like to take selfies. Slightly bigger than my iPhone 5, but not absolutely massive, it’s a phone I know is proving popular – I have at least three friends who have bought this one.
Design, Look, Feel, Usability
You know from my previous reviews of Lumia handsets (Lumia 925 and Lumia 1320) that I genuinely like the design of these Windows phones. Physically this is an easy-to-hold phone with a streamlined and clean design that sits well in the palm of the hand. I was sent the bright green backed version to try out, which you know is the one I would have chosen, and enjoyed how it looked and felt in my hand for the couple of weeks I had it to test out. The back comes right off, revealing the SIM slot and replaceable battery. That plastic cover can be replaced, meaning you probably won’t bother with a case – no need to add bulk when the gorilla glass screen can cope with plenty of knocks and the back cover can be replaced as easily as a case. The whole thing is solid, fairly light, and while it is a tad too big to fit in my jeans pocket, it’s not as oversized as some currently on the market.
Battery life, incidentally, is pretty good. I’m used to having to charge my iPhone 5 every night (and sometimes more often if I’m out and about using all its features on various strengths of data connection), but the Lumia 735 lasted two days no problem even with all the testing I was doing. I was impressed!
The user interface remains clean and clear, and is customisable using different sized squares within the now well recognised grid pattern synonymous with the whole range of Windows phones. You can group apps in folders which keeps everything neat and tidy and easy to find, but if you’ve got more apps than that you can swipe to one side and you get a full alphabetical list to make sure you never lose anything.
Sadly Windows phone users are still being left behind when it comes to apps, which is the biggest downside for me and the reason I have stuck with Apple for so long. Developers are hard at work, with over 500 new apps being added each week, but a large number of my go-to apps are still not available for Windows phones. Having said that, the apps that are available are lovely to use – I particularly like the built-in Calendar, for example, it’s much nicer than the iOS Calendar (sorry Apple). And because this is a telephone I should definitely mention that using this for calls and texts is no bother at all; the microphone and speaker work well, and the text app is nice with conversations easy to follow.
Photos taken using the Lumia camera and edited for Instagram using the beta app.
One criticism I have of this phone is the fact I couldn’t turn the brightness down as far as I wanted to. When we’re travelling by car at night and LincsGeek is driving I like to make sure I can turn down the brightness considerably so as not to distract him. On this phone there are four settings – auto, low, medium and high – and even on the low setting it is still very bright. It seemed to go slightly dimmer on auto (yes, dimmer than “low”), but still not enough for me. I’m not sure why you would ever want the brightest setting! I don’t remember this being a problem on the other Lumia handsets I’ve tried, I shall have to watch out for it from now on.
Unlike the Lumia 925 I tried previously, the 735 doesn’t have a proper camera shutter button on the side so you can’t use the phone like a traditional camera. Instead you use the soft button on the screen when you want to take a photo. This isn’t a problem per se, it works perfectly well, but the fact that the 925 has one makes me wonder why this one doesn’t. I guess the difference in price point might have something to do with it.
Photos taken on the Lumia 735 one Autumn day. As shot.
The 6.7mp camera is pretty decent bearing in mind the sub-£200 price of this phone. I’ve commented before on the poor colour reproduction on Lumia cameras but this does seem a bit better (I like the reds and yellows in the unedited photo of leaves above), although it still seems to have lots of noise even in bright conditions. The lens has a good wide angle to get lots in the frame, you can tap anywhere on the screen to focus on that part of the image, there are manual white balance and ISO controls, and you’re given plenty of opportunity to edit the snap using the built in Creative Suite app.
To the selfie side of things. I’m not a big selfie taker, although I have been known to experiment a bit and have even used them in blog posts in the past. My apologies! The front facing camera isn’t bad at all – at 5mp it is much larger than the size of most front facing cameras currently on the market (the iPhone 6 has 1.2mp). The wide angle also means selfies of groups (apparently these are called “groufies” – who knew?!). This means that the end result of all that pouting in the mirror should be a much better quality photograph than you might otherwise get. It’s not an amazing camera, just better than most other options out there are the moment – you’re not getting a crystal clear find quality portrait by any means, but it’s good enough.
Using the Selfie App to take… a self-taken photo of me taking a photo. Should have added a mirror in there to confuse it even more! You can see the washed out colour and noise in the Lumia photo compared to my Nikon, but it’s not terrible.
Unlike the normal camera, which as you might expect automatically saves all photographs to an album so you can retrieve them later, the selfie camera does not save unless you tell it to – you only save images you are happy with. This really annoyed me actually; I found it way too frustrating. I can see the point, it encourages you to slow down a little and concentrate on the image and you’re not cluttering up your storage with lots of photos of the same thing, but you can’t easily take two or three shots in a row without bringing your outstretched arm back in and tapping a few buttons before starting again.
Once you’ve taken a snap (you choose whether to do this before or after you save the image) you are given a number of options – aspect ratio, rotate and crop, brightness and contrast, that sort of thing. You are also faced with a number of sliders to add filters and control enhancements to completely change your look. I mean, completely. You can make your eyes bigger, fatten up your cheeks, make your teeth whiter, change your skin tone, soften the image, and even add a smile if you’re lips aren’t quite right. There are also pre set templates to choose from. Some of these things felt a bit gimmicky to me but I expect selfie-connoisseurs (if there is such a thing) will find them really useful before they go ahead and post to twitter, facebook, instagram or wherever else, which you can do directly from the Selfie app.
Working through the menus in the Selfie App. I particularly like how easy it is to share directly from the app to various places.
But why, oh why, does it generate a mirrored image?! I thought my kitchen looked odd in the above photos – and my tshirt – can we have a front facing camera that takes images the right way around next time please?
Splodz Blogz Verdict
This is a pretty decent handset for the price – it’s just £189 sim-free direct from Microsoft. It’s nice to hold, has a good clear screen, is easy to use and has a decent enough camera. It’s certainly worth adding into the mix if you’re looking for a good value handset. And if you like taking selfies.
I took this shot on the Lumia and it has become one of my most liked and shared images in recent weeks. The noise added by the Lumia’s 6.7mp camera actually helped the image. As shot except some cropping.
I received a sample phone to try out for Splodz Blogz for a couple of weeks as part of the Lumia testing programme.