Cameras have always had a special place in Nokia phones. Even though they weren't the first ones to come out with a camera phone (Sony Ericsson beat them to it) they heavily advertised the cameras in their phone, as if they were the only ones to have it in their phones. Their first camera phone was the Nokia 7650, which incidentally was also their first Symbian smartphone. It was a simple VGA camera and all you could do with it was point and shoot, not too different from what you could do with the first iPhone, even though it came out five years later.
With the 3650, Nokia brought video recording to mobile phone cameras and this time they were the first ones to do so. It could record videos in QCIF resolution for full 15 seconds because anything more and it would not fit into a 100MB MMS, a feature Nokia was advertising a lot those days.
Several models later, Nokia's first shot at a proper camera phone came with the Nokia 7610. It was the first phone to have a 1 megapixel camera, 11 megapixels less than the camera we are reviewing today. That was in 2004, the same year Nokia announced the 6630, which had an amazing 1.3 megapixel camera.
Meanwhile, Sony Ericsson continued to churn out good camera phones but they hit gold with the K750i, which was widely acclaimed as the best camera phone ever. Not to be outdone, Nokia announced the N90, their first phone to have a 2 megapixel sensor and autofocus mechanism. It was also the first phone to have a Carl Zeiss lens, a renowned name in optics. It had a very interesting folding design and a lot of camera-centric features. Unfortunately, when it came to actual image quality, Sony Ericsson still had a lead over Nokia and they held on to it for a while.
And then one day Nokia dropped a bomb called N95. It was the first phone to have a 5 megapixel camera. The specifications of the phone itself were mind blowing. Sony Ericsson had no answer to that; no one did. The N95 obliterated the competition with its superior image quality. Eventually Sony Ericsson launched the K850 but once again it was beaten by Nokia with its N82, which was their first phone with a xenon flash.
Last year Nokia launched the N86, which was their first 8 megapixel phone. Nokia took a long time to come up with an 8 megapixel phone of its own, but when they did, they did it with style. The N86 had a lot of new features that were new to mobile phone cameras. It had a 28mm wide angle lens, a mechanical shutter and variable aperture, not to mention Carl Zeiss optics. Till today it is regarded as one of the best camera phones, known especially for its low-light shots.