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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Anonymous Coward

Nice review

Only thing I would mention - if you are waiting for Windows phones with similar tech (i.e. the high pixel count sensor, rather than something just called Pureview) it's going to be a long long wait. AFAIK, there are no Windows phone GPU's that can handle the resolution, and won't be for some time.

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Holmes

There are no Windows phone GPU's that can handle the resolution

No, there aren't. There also aren't any for Symbian phones (the Broadcom BCM2763 that's in the PV808 maxes out at 20MPx). That's why the PV808 has a dedicated imaging processor. Which can be used with Windows Phone, too. Or any other modern advanced phone OS.

It may also be worth remembering that the reasons why the PV808 was running Symbian and not Windows Phone 7 are that the development started before Nokia adopted WP and because they had more flexibility in the hardware as on WP8 (where MS dictates what's in the box).

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Anonymous Coward

Re: There are no Windows phone GPU's that can handle the resolution

It is just the BCM2763 doing the image processing - I should know as I worked on the project! A few tweaks were required to get the extra pixels through, but it was only a matter of balancing memory requirements and processing time.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: There are no Windows phone GPU's that can handle the resolution @DavidOff

Sorry, AC above is correct. There is no 'extra' stage between the sensor and the BCM2763 - although Broadcom marketing blurb says 20, it's is actually handling the full sensor with no extra hardware. I don't know where people got the idea of the extra stage from, but it seem quite prevalent, and quite quite wrong.

Which is why you won't see this tech on a WinPho in the near future. No WinPho SoC support this high a pixel count.

Citation: Work on the camera side of the 808 project, so I'm wondering who the AC above is..! As for a 'few' tweaks to get this resolution working - it took more than a few tweaks!

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Cameraphone or phonecamera

Considering it's camera capabilities it would have been better to put it all in a proper camera case with the phone bit tacked on for data connection of uploading pictures and bluetooth for audio if really needed (you wouldn't hold a camera to your face to talk into, grip would be wrong). That way it would be easier to hold and use it as a proper camera.

BTW, there is a bug in that first big 41MP image. Literally there is a bug on a petal ;-)

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WTF?

With that headline I was expecting an opinion based purely on the fantastic camera.

But I guess unsurprisingly it turned into an anti-Symbian whine.

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Holmes

But I guess unsurprisingly it turned into an anti-Symbian whine.

Well, I guess if you haven't used a modern Android, iPhone or even WP7.5 device then you may see it this way. However, reality is that for anyone used to a modern phone OS using Symbian is like a step back into 2009, and it's general flexibility is simply irrelevant if the functionality you want is not available on Symbian.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: But I guess unsurprisingly it turned into an anti-Symbian whine.

I also thought that after my 1st week with the 808, and disappointment in the lame Nokia Store, but then realised, how many unique apps do i actually use anyway?

Nokia's built-in browser, email, messaging, twitter, facebook, flickr, maps, driving, DLNA-push, office (proper MS office), calculator, weather, media editing, run/cycle-tracking, travel recommendation, voice search, wifi-tethering, etc, etc apps are all superb.

There are also free alternatives in the store (Opera is the real deal too, unlike the reskinned WebKit appstore one), and your good stuff like VPN, Putty, converters, or just make a homescreen web-link to replication all those pointless web-apps like Ebay, TripAdvisor, Amazon, etc.

If you like mobile games then yes, you're fucked. Otherwise i've found that i can live with the rare exception (instagram, lol) or just fire up an old iTouch for those tower defence games i miss.

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Linux

Re: With that headline I was expecting an opinion based purely on the fantastic camera.

In all fairness the author has little if any credibility. He still has a 3.5 inch iphone4 in late 2012.

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Why oh why, did Nokia dump Symbian! That one idiotic decision was what forced me to dump Nokia phones after 11 years of loyalty and go with Samsung, and also is the reason why I will not be buying this camera phone despite it being very cool. Why would I want a phone with an OS which is now extinct?

This latest version of Symbian could well have kept Nokia in the game, its as swish as Android and cuts out a lot of the lags and bugs that previous Symbian versions had. But no, instead they decided to dump their one Unique Selling Point and cosy up to Microsoft. Symbian INVENTED the concept of apps, widgets and all the other goodies you now see on Android and iOS, they were the FIRST to do it, and built up a very good ecosystem of apps and developers, I had my first Symbian phone in 2002.

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Holmes

This latest version of Symbian could well have kept Nokia in the game

No, it couldn't. Even the latest Nokia Belle is stuck at a level comparable somewhere at Android 1.6 and 2.1. It's not Symbian's fault, it's Nokia's. Converting S60 (which was designed for non-touch devices) into a touch interface didn't work well, there are just too many oddities that other phone OSes which were designed for touch from the onset haven't. Nokia never had a proper roadmap, updates have always been delayed for months, and often instead of fixing problems just introduced new problems and took away functionality. Nokia is, plain simply, crap at doing software.

At the end of the day, it doesn't matter that Symbian had apps and something like app stores years before the first iPhone came out (my SE P990i had an app store, and with UIQ also a GUI that was designed for touch screens from the start, unlike any Nokia Symbian phone). Symbian was certainly a great OS, but due to Nokia's incompetence it's development had stagnated for more than three years, which was more than enough time for other mobile platforms not only to catch up but to leave Symbian behind.

I like my N8 (which is at the latest Belle Refresh), but having used other modern cell phones (I have a HTC WP7.5 work phone and also two Android handsets running 2.3.7 and 4.0.4) I can't omit that the N8 feels terribly outdated and underperforming (camera aside).

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Silver badge
Mushroom

Nokia can't and/or won't support Symbian properly, thanks to Flop.

I've suffered e-mail on Symbian 3 since I bought the N8 and here we are two years later with Belle Refresh and Belle FP2 and e-mail support still doesn't work. IMAP IDLE support was dropped with Belle Refresh instead of fixed, POP3/IMAP polling is unreliable and still doesn't work properly in Belle Refresh, the only thing that works reliably is ActiveSync but you can have a maximum of 1 (one) account. E-mail notification is non-existent; just a beep and if you didn't hear it then you've missed it, there's no e-mail icon on the notification bar or screensaver and no flashing indicator light either which is a step back from Symbian 1. The phone also had Ovi Push Notification support for applications but Nokia's just knocked it on the head with the latest update too.

Meanwhile the Belle FP2 rollout for the newer Symbian phones has been stopped because it bricked phones.

I was a Symbian fanboy for technical reasons but Nokia's just butchered the OS. Nokia are have shown they're incapable of supporting it, and my next phone will probably be a Samsung.

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Video tear

Looks lovely and well done on the innovative use of a big sensor - however:

Why do all mobile devices, costing hundreds, and offering HD video resolution, all suffer from the wierd distortion that occurs whenever the camera is moved? I presume it's because the image is effectively being 'scanned' from the sensor, so that for any given frame the timing at the bottom of the sensor is different from that at the top, but it must be possible to do this better and dispense with the distortion?

As far as I know proper video cameras don't do this (I'm assuming as I rant) so why do expensive 'premium' mobile-type devices have to?

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Re: Video tear

Rolling shutter is the answer you are looking for and yes it is the frame being scanned - if you move it fast enough the bottom is looking at a different image to the top.

There are other methods for shutter control that don't cause this effect but I believe all mobile cameras use the scanning technique.

Attempts can and are made to reduce the effect but it really can't be eliminated completely if you move the camera fast enough.

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Silver badge

Re: Video tear

What Dave 15 said:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rolling_shutter

Also, see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Image_sensor

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Anonymous Coward

Still waiting for anything worth spending on

I still don't have time to play with a Smartphone - I don't need any more toys in my life. I grew out of playing games. I just have a simple phone for ... phone calls!

Any time I have to spare, to surf the web, I'm near a proper computer or have my netbook.

- but I would like a reasonable camera in the phone I always carry.

Sadly there's no such thing as a cheap and cheerful mobile phone with good battery life and a camera that comes anywhere close to the average 50 quid point-n-shoot.

Why?! Am I really the only one?

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Re: Still waiting for anything worth spending on

There are PLENTY of cheap and cheerful mobile phones with pretty decent cameras. Try visiting a phone shop or cheaper still visit ebay and pick up someones cast off, all you need to do is ignore the 'smart phones' if you don't need that stuff (and most don't). I have a little s40 which has a reasonable 2mpix camera that makes a reasonable fist of most normal point and shoot shots, does well for phone calls and has a battery life of around a week. This is not the only one, and in this market there are a huge number of manufacturers offering different form factors. My main gripe is that I don't like touch screens and I don't like 'chocolate bars', I want a flip phone for pref or a clam shell if I can't get a flip.

As an aside I was knocked off a motorbike a while back, taking the phone out and snapping photos of the scene (road conditions, where on the road the bike had landed, the damage to the car, the number plate, drivers face, damage to the bike etc etc etc ensured the insurance claim was quick and painless, very different to the insurance claim with the last car accident where the guy denied hitting me, changed where the accident happened and blamed me (eventually I won, but it took nearly 3 years).

I also find that taking a quick photo with the phone saves writing down adverts :)

If you carry a phone to make phone calls make sure it also has a camera for the unexpected uses.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Still waiting for anything worth spending on

Get an old N82 for £50. Excellent phone, and a truly excellent camera that still blows away 95% of other new camphones: http://mynokiablog.com/2012/07/05/aas-nokia-n82-vs-nokia-n8-vs-nokia-808-pureview-camera-tests-and-a-damian-dinning-response/

I'd sell you mine, but i'm keeping it as a handy backup network camera.

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could somebody explain

what is 'wide' aperture? all i know there are small and large apertures

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Trollface

Re: could somebody explain

It's a sort of a photographer shibboleth, to weed out the wannabes. Go to any pro photog event, and watch people who say "large aperture" get quietly escorted off the premises, never to be seen again.

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Re: could somebody explain

no, there's no such a thing like a 'wide' aperture, my comment was ironic, you have wide angle of view or narrow angle of view but aperture doesn't have property of being wide or narrow since it's circular.

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Re: could somebody explain

but you can have lens wide open - meaning shooting at the largest aperture available on a lens ;)

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Re: could somebody explain

Yours may have been ironic, but mine was dripping with sarcasm. Look, if you want to go all pedantic, go ahead. But is it really worth it? A "large" 3 TB HDD will have a larger capacity than an IBM 2310, yet it will be quite a bit smaller, physically. I don't see anyone complaining about this apparent nonsense, apart maybe from Dr. Sheldon Cooper, hallowed be his name.

It's just a bit of jargon, no need to get all upset about it.

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Anonymous Coward

WTF?

I'm going to Stromboli next week, and recently bought the 808 too, mostly because very few phones have a cam anywhere near as good as my 5yr old N82, and i'm not dropping in cam quality for any damn operating system.

After getting used to Symbian's quirks i couldn't be happier. Pic quality is as perfect as expected, but the sound, oh my frigging god, it is as if you have multiple quality microphones based around you ran by a pro-soundman. I've never heard anything like it.

A quick test in the back garden, then replayed with headphones, was mind-blowing. I could hear the birds, next door arguing, the school down the road, amazing stuff.

This and an iTouch=sorted. Nice to be out of the fanboi OS-wars.

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Re: WTF?

Little mention of the microphones are made, they are brilliant - did hear a side by side comparison of the iphone and 808 at a rock concert. One sounded like a scratched and beaten gramaphone the other was just like you were still there... guess which way was which :)

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Unhappy

Going against the flow

If I had a pound for every comment, blog post, tech review, etc. that talks about Symbian being clunky, outdated, unfamiliar, etc., I could probably afford to buy an 808 PureView SIM-free (which, to my great chagrin, is likely the only way I'd ever get the chance to own one, with no UK networks offering it on contract - thanks for nothing).

I don't begrudge such people their opinions, but they are just that: opinions. I don't find Symbian clunky or outdated, and I struggle with such comments being presented as objective truth - as if no-one could conceive why anyone could possibly want to stick with a Nokia smartphone when there are bigger, shinier iOS and Android models coming out all the time?

In a few months' time, my mobile contract comes up for renewal, and believe me, I've looked long and hard at potential replacements for my Nokia N8 (the Samsung Galaxy Note 2 is tempting, for one). However, I feel I'm quite happy with the N8 and its features - just to take one reason from my list, the stills camera on any 2012 smartphone (aside from the 808) would be a downgrade from the N8, and I like to have a decent camera with a proper flash on my phone.

I'm happy with the apps I use (Exhibit A: find me an iOS/Android social-networking client that comes within sight of Gravity on the N8, and I'll look at it), and although there is the odd "hole" (e.g. Skype video-calling), it's nothing I couldn't fill with my netbook or a tablet. Certainly not enough to outweigh the N8 features that 2012 smartphones still don't offer (or not as elegantly).

The one UK phone outlet I found that offered the 808 on contract, has now stopped doing so, and I can't afford to buy one SIM-free, so I'm basically faced with "upgrading" to an iOS/Android device which will lack some key features from my N8, or sticking with my N8 and saving myself some cash (possibly putting it aside to land myself an 808 in a year or so when the price should've plummeted).

I know that in the end, I'll have to move away from this platform, but I'm just not ready to give up its benefits yet... though I really must say the Note 2 is interesting :-)

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Going against the flow

> The one UK phone outlet I found that offered the 808 on contract, has now stopped doing so, and I can't afford to buy one SIM-free, so I'm basically faced with "upgrading" to an iOS/Android device which will lack some key features from my N8

You don't have to upgrade at all; when a contract ends it usually goes onto a one month rolling contract.

Stick with the phone you like and you will have the option of getting a new one if something comes along to tickle your fancy.

I am in a similar position; my contract is up but they will have to prise my N900 from my cold, dead hand....

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Re: Going against the flow

Quite right - to be fair, I did mention that sticking with the N8 was my other option :-) Yes, I think I'm probably going to hold fire and see if I can land myself an 808 more cheaply further down the line.

(and there are sometimes when I wish I'd got an N900 myself...)

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Re: Going against the flow

I bought the 808 SIM-free, and I have not regretted it at all. iOS sucks ass in my view compared to Belle FP1, plain and simple.

The 808 is FAST and it is smooth to operate.

I also have an iPad when I feel the need to tryout some new app or game - I am actually surprised how little I use the iPad, except for gaming.

All the important stuff for me like Vimeo, YouTube, LinkedIn, FaceBook, Skype, Nokia's (excellent!) Maps, Dropbox (CuteBox app), SkyDrive, Office etc. are all there on the 808 and it works like a charm!

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Going against the flow

Wouldn't you be much better off haggling over your monthly contract and getting yourself a cheap deal in return for 18/24 months' no handset lock in and then using the cash you save to pay off a loan taken out to buy the 808 sim free? If you do it right (apply for your PAC first), it is possible to save quite a bit. The handset will be worth more at the end too.

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Devil

Ahem

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

Per title.

And no mention of "photographers" and "Facebookers" in the same sentence if you please!

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Instagram alternative

Some might think it a tiny bit perverse to take photos of the 808's quality and then mangle them down to a 600x600 square, but if that floats your boat and you're missing Instagram, try MOLOME. It's free in the Nokia Store (the Store client should be on the 808), and offers various Instagrammish image filters; MOLOME can also forward your snaps to social and cloud storage networks, including TwitBook, Tumblr, Flickr and Dropbox (plus others).

MOLOME doesn't quite offer the... oh, I have to say the word... "ecosystem" (PTOOOOO! yuk, that leaves a bad taste) that Instagram does (make books and fridge magnets out of your pics, etc.), but if that's your bag then you could always find a similar service that supports Flickr, and use F as a relay to upload your snaps from there.

Yes, I use MOLOME, and no, I have no connection with them (usual disclaimer, blah yada etc) ;-)

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Anonymous Coward

Well, once I ascertained that Nokia was true to its word

They aren't being true about the 41mp claim, it's a simulated figure based on supersamping...

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Facepalm

Re: Well, once I ascertained that Nokia was true to its word

Oh yes, they're completely lying. It's *only* 38MP. Which isn't interpolated (except in a Bayer sense), that's actual sensor sites.

Let's pick our fights?

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Silver badge

Re: Well, once I ascertained that Nokia was true to its word

Actually, the sensor IS 41MP, but depending on the aspect ratio of the image you want it can only use up to 38MP and still have a rectangular image.

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Anonymous Coward

Digital zooms

"The combination of a longer focal length with a wider aperture creates a smooth but well marked background defocusing effect that greatly enhances portraiture and still life shooting."

The author knows the lens is fixed but seems to think zooming can change the depth of field, this is not the case as it is just cropping the image.

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Silver badge

Re: Digital zooms

Depth of field is also a function of the format, so when you crop an image to 50% and then enlarge the crop back to the original size, the DoF halves too, since the blur is also doubled in "size".

Try it in a DoF calculator. Double the focal length, f-number and circle of confusion, which is what you do by cropping to 50%, and the DoF halves.

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Silver badge

Re: Digital zooms

Or even better, try it with a photo taken of a flat, detailed surface at an oblique angle so you can see the principle at work.

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Instagram

Molome is the app you want to download on the 808, if you need Instagram-like filters, it works flawlessly.

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No magic

"Instead of capturing the output of each individual pixel separately – as sensors normally do – the trick is to combine the output of groups of individual pixels into a larger pixel."

Which is in fact exactly what happens on most cameras if you save a lower resolution image than the default provided by the sensor. And, indeed, it normally improves the noise handling. I've no idea why everyone is making a big deal about this, other than that Nokia can justifiably claim that the sensor resolution is not detrimental. (Now, arguing about whether Nikon should implement a "small raw" mode on their high-end DSLRs is another matter.)

"This technology allows the 808’s sensor to capture as much light information as much larger pixels and sensors would."

The fact that the 808 has, for a phone (and most compacts), a chuffing enormous sensor and a fast lens means that it can capture a lot of light information. The amount hitting the sensor is the amount hitting the sensor. The amount per pixel is small, but DxO do their noise tests normalized by total image area, and exactly the same concept applies. So "[fewer] larger pixels", yes - "larger sensors", no. So much FUD about downsampling...

Anyway, nice bit of kit. I might pick one up as a compact camera once their price drops to clearance levels. Not so tempting as a phone, though.

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Gimp

2009

I see a lot of comments about using Symbian being like going back to 2009 in smartphone terms but I'd just like to understand what exactly is so different about the typical iPhone 5 experience and say the 3GS experience in 2009? Maybe a lift in performance and the improvement in screen (and the wonderful maps) but still it pretty much looks and feels very 2009 on both devices. Maybe I'm missing something.

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Anonymous Coward

41MP camera takes snapshots and dumps all that sensor goodness into a crappy lossy JPG! Brilliant!

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Anonymous Coward

Sorry to break it to you, but Blu-ray is compressed too.

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iPhone user - Q. How did I know on the very first page?

I will not be rushing to trade in my iPhone - no shit, Sherlock.

A.

"Yet as a camera, the complete lack of grip and the protruding lens so close to the left edge makes handling as uncomfortable and unsafe as any other phone. On the plus side, you can fire off the camera from a large button on the edge. In fact, once you turn the phone horizontally to use it as a camera, it is a pleasant surprise to find that commands such as the shutter release and the zoom lever are exactly where you expect them to find them on a compact camera."

Despite being a professional snapper, this chick instinctively holds a phone in portrait when taking a photo like all those other gormless iphoners.

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Bronze badge
Thumb Down

Fat pixels

They're amazing for a cellphone but I call BS on the resolution. Zoom in to the high res images and search for anything that has an optical resolution better than 3x3 pixels. It's not there. The prototype sample photos from Nokia actually had 3x3 bricks where there were unmasked defective pixels.

The technical white paper indicated that there are 41 M sensors for superior noise reduction and digital zoom, but said the rest of the hardware must process a downsampled or cropped image. My bet is that the marketing department demanded the 41Mpix back even if it meant upsampling after downsampling.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Fat pixels

Of course, if the final image requested is 8MP, then there is subsampling and processing to get to that size. If you ask for a full resolution image (38MP max although sensor is indeed 41MP), then the processing is done on the whole image, not any subsampled image.

It's one of the reasons that WinPho won't have the tech for a while, none of the WinPho SoC/camera pipelines can handle the very high pixel counts, unlike the BCM2763. Note that the ISP on the 808 is the same as the one on the RaspberryPi....a Videocore4.

Citation: Worked on the project.

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Is this an answer in search of a question ?

Yes it works.

The full resolution shot is in focus over a narrow range, 1607 is sharp but not behind or before. The lens is at or near full aperture, stop it down and optical interference will give a softer image. I once worked with microfilm which provided lines across the picture comparable to this sensor - a good 50 mm lens would work best at f/5.6 equal to 9 mm diameter, this 8 mm lens working at f/2.4 is only a 4 mm hole and it gets worse as stopped down.

In the full resolution shot smooth parts of the picture show mottle. But surely the issue is the effective pixel area, why not get the same result using fewer larger pixels ?

It is excellent to record secret documents when at AWRE.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Is this an answer in search of a question ?

It's called AWE nowadays and you have to leave your phone at the gate. (And cameras, pendrives, anything else that might possibly contain NV storage. If it does get in, it doesn't leave again in any purposeful sense.)

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