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back to article Just how good is Nokia's PureView 41Mp camera tech?

When I first learnt about Nokia's 808 PureView phone featuring a 41Mp camera, I thought I'd either misread the specs or I'd somehow stepped into the future. A forty one megapixel camphone – WTF? Not even professional DSLRs showcase such a high resolution. Nokia 808 PureView 41Mp camphone Nokia's 808 PureView 41Mp camphone …

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Wait for the 920

There was a post here recently that linked an engadget page on the low-light capabilities of modern phones - a 920, i5, SGSIII, PV808, and in many respects the 920 beat the 808.

It seems Nokia have kept their edge in imaging - whilst not cutting edge, my Lumia 800 gives pretty good images in trying circumstances.

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Re: "Wait for the 920" I agree as far as that goes.

We have a fully updated N8 in the house (primarily my good lady's phone although she will sometimes allow me to take some snaps with it :)) and our view after living with it for about eighteen months is "lovely camphone, shame about the os". I know that Symbian has it's supporters/aficionados here at RegHardware but both La Señora and I find it (still after a year and a half) clunky and counter-intuitive. Whatever else one may opine about the "facilities" in the winphone os it is not in any sense difficult to use. If one is a digital photography enthusiast and needs/wants the best camera available (defined here as the one you always have with you) then taking a look at least at the 920 when it's released would certainly IMO be the way to go.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Wait for the 920

LOL, the 920 is only Pureview in name. it's doing nothing that Sony havn't been doing on their cameraphones for the last 2 years.

Seems you got sucked into the hype....

http://www.sony.net/SonyInfo/technology/technology/theme/exmor_r_01.html

The Xperia Arc (Jan 2011) had this same tech.,

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Re: "Wait for the 920" I agree as far as that goes.

The N8, unfortunately, doesn't do Symbian Belle justice at all. I just moved from my old N8 to the 808, and I must say, the difference in speed alone is worth the money!

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Stop

Re: Sony Cam Phones

Whilst the Sony sensors are very good (and indeed, nikon does some very good things with sony DX and FX sensors), do the sony cam phones come with OIS? I didn't think they did, always happy to be told I'm wrong though...

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Wait for the 920

I think the 920 is for people who want a better phone and less emphasis on the camera.

The 808 is for people who want more emphasis on the camera and aren't really bothered about having a smartphone.

Either way, these Nokia cameras are leagues ahead of anything else and the low light performance just shows how "specs" count for nothing. Look at the images in the article below, especially the performance of the amazing super sophisticated quad core wonderphone the Galaxy S3 :D (which is the worst performer).

http://www.engadget.com/2012/09/26/lumia-920-low-light-shootout/

And yes, they used the "auto" mode and you could play with settings to get better results. But this is a test to demonstrate how optimal the hardware and software combination is. Most people leave their point n shoot camera on auto.

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Gold badge

Re: Wait for the 920

Rubbish. The 920 isn't just back illuminated, it has optical stabilisation too, which uses gyros to keep the lens and sensor still.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Wait for the 920

Does the wife of the guy on the boat know what's he's been up to?

She does now!

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Anonymous Coward

Yes, Sony has been fitting backlit sensors since early 2011.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P7vxpNDFMm4

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So...

... it's all good but lack of support for the OS puts you off.

Looks like all that target practise Nokia have been putting in with the footgun have paid off. They can hit the target every time now.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: So...

So would you rather they were still using Symbian?

As for Android, it can sod off. I don't want it and having Nokia supporting an alternative is good for me.

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Coffee/keyboard

Re: So...

I'll take any phone OS, so long as its not Microshuft.

The hopefully ex-monopoly is out of the question...

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Anonymous Coward

Excellent Review

Bring back the ratings!

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FAIL

I had a Nokia N8 - with admittedly a more modest 12MB camera however Symbian is one hell I wish never to return to. For 400 quid you could buy an excellent camera, you really wouldn't want to inflict the pain of a Symbian powered Nokia phone on yourself.

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SE Satio

I had a Satio for a while with its lovely 12MP camera (having always had SE phones from the W200i through to the C902) but the OS, a nasty kludge of Symbian and SE GUI made the phone a nasty diabolical torture device to use.

It put me off smart phones for a year (I went back to the C902) until I discovered the joys of Samsung and Android and while the camera is OK on my Galaxy with some nice features the quality of the imagery isn't a patch on the Satio. Such a shame Symbian is such a bad OS.

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If it was cheap..

... Then it might be nice as a compact camera. However, as the bloke above me says, north of 400 quid will pay for a lot of camera.

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Re: If it was cheap..

>north of 400 quid will pay for a lot of camera.

It will, even a low end DSLR. However, for about £400 and pocket sized, you'd be looking at something like a Lumix LX-7 or Canon S100... search internet for 'nokia 808 vs LX 5' for some surprising comparison shots. The 808 performs better than the LX 5, which has a faster lens and bigger sensor than most compacts.

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Stop

Re: If it was cheap..

plus, most £400 cameras won't browse the internet, check your email, call people, text people, watch videos on, listen to music, play games on...

Today's phones pack a lot of stuff in one package making them quite good value as it is. Putting a usable camera on them is quite salivating.

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Re: If it was cheap..

You mean it will buy a lot of camera body. You would really need to spend £400+ on a lens and £400+ on a camera body to get anything decent.

Most kit lenses are slow, you won't get anything like f2.0 in a kit lens and the 920 can shoot at f2.0.

A camera is a combination of a good sensor and a good lens. People worry about the body too much and forget that the lens is the more important factor for getting sharp pictures.

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Re: Giles Jones

The f-number means nothing without context. The Lumia 920's f2 is equivalent to about f9 on an APS-C DSLR.

Why? Because the APS-C sensor is ~4.5x the size of the Lumia 920's sensor.

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Anonymous Coward

Nice review

My only criticism would be that I'd would like to have seen a couple of 41MP scapes in perfect and not so perfect light, just to see how the camera fares at its maximum possible resolution (not that I'd likely use that, but just curious :).

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Re: Nice review

I'd like to see a couple of snaps not taken by a professional.

Hand the camera to the nearest joe bloggs and see how well the pictures stack up.

I've seen sample shots for alot of mobile phone cameras, they never look as bad as the ones I produce.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Nice review

The professional aspect of photography isn't just technique. It's framing and knowing what good light is and how to capture it.

If you take a camera out on a dull overcast day and take photos then they're going to look melancholy and the colours look really poor. You also need to think about shadows, it's no good taking a photo at midday and having a lack of shadows on a landscape.

This is why so many people get disappointed when they buy a new expensive camera and then realise it isn't taking better photos. It is just capturing the same boring, dull conditions the previous camera is.

If you want beautiful landscapes then you aren't going to take them if your local area looks like Afghanistan.

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Re: Nice review

But Afghanistan is very beautiful.

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Thumb Up

"The best camera is the one you have with you"

Or whatever the quote is. The snag with a decent quality camera (which until now has been "any dedicated camera") is that you rarely have it while you tend to have your phone a lot.

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Re: "The best camera is the one you have with you"

Absolutly right. I have a nice Fuji Finepix which takes good pictures even if it is getting a bit old now. Since I got my N8 about 18th months ago just about every photo I've taken has been with it. The reason is simple. I carry my phone just about everywhere. I don't carry my camera everywhere.

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Re: "The best camera is the one you have with you"

Also if you've had a great phone camera for a few years you end up with thousands of great shots that you wouldn't have otherwise had, either because you can't be arsed carrying a good camera, or your phone renders all those memorable moments as blurry embarrassments.

Always worth the investment i feel, and being scared off by a perfectly respectable operating system is quite foolish.

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Re: "The best camera is the one you have with you"

Not to mention "no SLR" policies at many music venues.

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instagram?!

"Instagram, being one example that photographers and Facebookers alike will certainly miss. "

So Nokia goes to great pains to create the highest quality mobile phone camera ever seen, and then the major complaint is you cannot install an app for degrading the pictures...

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Facepalm

Re: instagram?!

Instagram...now if ever there was an app for muppets...

"Yeah the idea for the app is we let people make their crappy photos even more crappy!"

"Who wil fall for that???"

"Who do you think..Hipsters!"

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Re: instagram?!

couldn't agree more, have an upvote good sir

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FAIL

Re: instagram?!

"Nokia Belle also lacks the support of many applications readily available for Android and iOS – Instagram, being one example..."

Umm, no. Just no.

In what way can Nokia Belle lack support for an application? The application developer may not have released a version of their application for Nokia Belle but that's just crapness on the application developers part and hardly Nokia's fault!

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Re: instagram?!

By the way, if one insists on using "hipster"-filters to destroy their fotos, there is the fairly excellent Molome app for Symbian that does almost EXACTLY what Instagram does.

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Pureview on Microsoft phones.... don't hold your breath it is NOT the same!

They've done the typical thing. Produced an amazing camera on an OS which is able to support such massive changes to the entire way the camera and the graphics functions. They have given this a name and then applied that same name to an OS which can NOT do the same in the hope of conning some people into spending money on a 'new' camera phone in the expectation it is as good as this 'old' camera phone.

It won't be, because it can't be. Maybe by the end of next year some of the magic can have been transferred but don't hold your breath.

As to the battery life comment, the battery life on the 808 - and indeed ALL symbian based phones runs rings around all the other smart phone contenders. The OS was designed from the very start (back in the '80's) to run on batteries - it is basically an evolution of the Epoc32 system that ran in the Psion series 5 hand held computers. Android and iOS are loosely based on linux which is a desk top system, winpho is sat on top of wince which is another cut down desk top. You will NEVER get the battery life out of these other devices that you will out of Symbian.

I would LOVE a copy of this whole article though - I worked on the device :) (not that you would guess I might be biased - but truly nothing else even comes close).

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WTF?

PureView and Windows Phone

"They've done the typical thing. Produced an amazing camera on an OS which is able to support such massive changes to the entire way the camera and the graphics functions. They have given this a name and then applied that same name to an OS which can NOT do the same"

What a load of fanboy bullcrap. Of course Windows Phone can do the same, in fact any modern phone OS can do the same as the reason why the PV808 can process such large amounts of imaging data is *not* because of the OS but because the PV808 has dedicated processing hardware.

As the owner of a Nokia N8 (12MPx with large sensor) I am, too, disappointed that the new Lumia 920 comes with a measly 8Mpx snapper and where the 'PureView' branding has been applied to a mechanical stabilizer and a litlle bit better low light performance, but I don't have to lie to myself to make Symbian aka Nokia Belle looking like the best thing since sliced bread. From a user perspective, it's at a level with Android of 2009, and as good as Symbian is technically as an OS, Nokia always has had the by far worst implementation of it (non-touch phones running S60 when other Symbian phone makers were putting out touchscreen phones which already had true touch interfaces like UIQ). And some of the updates for what was Symbian^3 even made bugs worse or removed functionality that has been in there before.

The best thing in Nokia going for Windows Phone is that the software is made by someone else. Nokia can make great hardware, but they almost always screw everything up when it comes to software.

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Bronze badge

Re: PureView and Windows Phone

True the images are processed directly by dedicated hardware but the OS has to be able to use the dedicated hardware and allow things such as passing the huge volume of data directly from the camera processing on the dedicated chip to the screen graphics without passing it through layers of software. If it can't then the layers of software wilt under the pressure of the data and it stops.

I think you'll find I did admit to be a fanboy :)

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Holmes

Re: PureView and Windows Phone

"True the images are processed directly by dedicated hardware but the OS has to be able to use the dedicated hardware and allow things such as passing the huge volume of data directly from the camera processing on the dedicated chip to the screen graphics without passing it through layers of software."

That's wishful thinking, sorry. Almost anything that in regard to a captured picture (including image manipulation) is done inside the imaging processor. What you get on the phone screen has been vastly downscaled before by (yes, you guessed it!) the imaging processor, so the amount of data that leaves towards the GPU is tiny anyways.

And yes, even on Symbian there are a dozen or so software layers between most of these stages as there are on any modern phone OS. And that is no problem whatsoever.

They key is in the imaging hardware, not in the OS. And we will most certainly see similar hardware on a Nokia WP8 phone sooner or later (better sooner if Nokia wants my money).

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Re: Pureview on Microsoft phones.... @Dave 15

"indeed ALL symbian based phones runs rings around all the other smart phone contenders."

Not really, on like for like usage. Symbian doesn't have any magic sauce when it comes to the efficiency of the semiconductors that the phone is assembled from, the screen, or the antenna. I see no material difference in battery life between my old Symbian powered N5800 and my SGS2, when subject to moderate use. However, the SGS2 is more capable, and nicer to use, and so gets used far more.

Certainly if you leave your phone in your pocket all day every day, then the Nokia has longer standby (though in the real world nothing like the 400 hours the makers claimed), but throw in a modest number of calls and a few other activities and there's very little in it.

Which is why people are happy to buy Andoid and IOS. "Good standby if you don't use it much" isn't a compelling proposition from Nokia, even though people do want better battery life.

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Facepalm

iOS based on Linux? Really?!

But thanks for the laugh.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: PureView and Windows Phone

Good, we don't want your stupid closed minded attitude anyway :)

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Anonymous Coward

Re: iOS based on Linux? Really?!

Based on Darwin isn't it?

Even so, that is an OS without any inherent regard paid to the power efficiency of its memory management which is where Symbian scores over it. Reading the crop of user reviews on Amazon is would appear 24 hours of heavy app usage can be expected from the 808, so it does indeed run rings round any Android phone I know. Having just suffered the double misfortune of breaking my compact and scratching the lens on my camcorder, I'm quite tempted to shell out for one.

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Happy

Re: Pureview on Microsoft phones.... don't hold your breath it is NOT the same!

According to wikipedia: iOS is derived from OS X, with which it shares the Darwin foundation, and is therefore a Unix operating system. iOS is Apple's mobile version of the OS X operating system used on Apple computers.

OS X has origins in BSD which is unrelated to Linux. Linux is also a unix-like OS but is not the same.

Most desktop unixes use GNU for the base user-space programs (GNU's Not Unix). Apple, I would guess, don't. They instead use NeXTStep (from Job's NeXT company). FYI there is a clone of the NeXTStep user interface called WindowMaker which runs on Linux. It uses a UI paradigm refreshingly different from Windows.

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Mushroom

Re: PureView and Windows Phone

You obviously havnt used it then. Its leagues ahead of anything else on the market in terms of stability, performance, usability and social networking integration.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: PureView and Windows Phone

I tried it briefly. It made me want to vomit my spleen through my tear ducts. Perhaps in a couple of updates time it might be ok.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: PureView and Windows Phone

Windows Phone can't handle Pureview, so they just took the name, as they knew Microsoft fanboys are too stupid to notice..

I wouldn't trust what you see anyway, they had to fake all the footage..

http://www.theverge.com/2012/9/5/3294545/nokias-pureview-ads-are-fraudulent

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Re: Pureview on Microsoft phones.... don't hold your breath it is NOT the same!

The OS use on a modern smartphone is so small, it's not really relevant. The main point of designing custom OSs for mobile or even just for smartphones was that, simply put, early smartphones were not capable of running a PC-class operating system. The same issues were true for PDAs of the day, which is of course why so many early smartphones were based on PDA operating systems (and in fact, the Windows 7 Phones still are... they're running WinCE, not WinNT).

Back when you had a monochrome, transflective LCD screen, a CPU, a tiny bit of memory, and a phone modem as pretty much the whole phone, the OS could well have been a significant part of the power consumption. Not anymore, and not for a long time. The main impact from the OS on battery life isn't even the OS itself, it's the hardware's ability to manage power (clock speed control, shutting off unused resources, etc) and the OS's power management support for that, too. When it comes to power hogs, it's primarily the screen, if you have a good signal, or the radio (3G, 4G, doesn't much matter) when you don't have a good signal.

In the case of Android, yeah, that's Linux. UNIX began as an OS for minicomputers in fact, not microcomputers. But that was the 1960s, and nothing particularly relevant to today. Linux is fully capable of function on modern low power microprocessors, and under the Android project, modern power management was brought in as well (that was part of the original Linux fork Android took, which was merged back earlier this year). Linux is also one of the most popular embedded operating systems today -- it's seen plenty of use in low power applications, even before Android.

iOS is derived from MacOS, of course, which is based on CMU's Mach kernel and BSD UNIX -- no Linux in there. On MacOS, Apple has delivered some of the best power management on any OS... MacOS PCs typically run longer than most similar Windows PCs, even these days given identical hardware... most of that's due to MacOS's well tuned power management. Which is also on the iPhone.

Your battery life depends quite a bit on what you're making those batteries do. Certainly, if your OS is doing more things, it's going to use more battery power. If it's running on higher class processors, it may (though not always) use more power. Larger and higher definition screens also suck down much more power... an example: the current 9.7" iPad screen takes 2.5x as much power as last year's identically sized iPad screen. The only differences are due to pixel density. SymbianOS phones have typically had much lower resolution screens than their iOS or Android counterparts, which is a significant contributer to battery life. They also tend to have slower CPUs and fewer hardware features. That's not a SymbianOS limit, that's just the reality of Nokia not focusing on SymbianOS phones for the last several years, as they try to kill the market.

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Re: iOS based on Linux? Really?!

All mobile OSs have extensive work on their power management. That's not where the power is going.

If you look at a typical modern smartphone (Android, iOS, and certainly the forthcoming Windows 8 phone), you'll find as much as 50% of your power going to the screens. That's what higher quality displays (IPS, OLED, 720p or nearly so) can do for you. Nokia's not going to be any different... in fact, their PureMotion screens incorporate two innovations that will eat even more power. One is the trick they use to get the LCD switching time up.. they hit the LCD with a voltage spike on the incident of the switching signal. This gets them about 3x the speed of other (read: iPhone) LCDs, but it's taking more power. The other is a claim of better daylight readability, which is exactly what Asus does in their IPS+ display mode: big fat backlight. Anytime there's light, heat, or a strong radio signal, that's power going out of the battery.

They "fix" this in the 808 by just not playing the game. The 808 runs a 640x360 OLED display, 1/4 the resolution of most 2011-2012 smartphones.

Some Nokia phones, like the 808, achieve better power characteristics simply by going retro. The CPU in the 808 is based on ARM11. The successor to ARM11 was ARM Cortex A8, which was replaced by the A9, and over the next year is likely to be replaced by the A15 (and similar cores: Qualcom has the Scorpion, comparable to the A8, and the Krait, same class as the A15... Apple's new iPhone 5 has a core similar in performance to an A15). In short, they have a CPU from 2006 or so, just run a bit faster... yeah, you're going to save a little power there.

And yet, the N9 claims about 70% more talk time than the 808, even with the same battery size (or close enough)... so what's the deal there?

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Re: iOS based on Linux? Really?!

I thought it was the screens that generally chewed through battery? Certainly if I dont use the screen much on my phone I get much much longer battery life. Start using the screen for reading ebooks and you can see the battery drop quicker.

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Sounds like Nokia could do well to ditch the phone components and repackage it as toughened, waterproof 'action sports' compact, possibly retaining the satnav optimised for mountains. It's got to be easier to make this design of camera shockproof than it is a camera with moving lens parts.

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