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Nokia 808 PureView Full Review

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And so we come to the highlight of the 808 PureView. Up to this point it is clear that the 808 PureView will not sell to the masses purely for the software; and the rest of the hardware, while at the top of the class, is hardly a swing factor. The camera, on the other hand, is something else to behold. The focus will, of course, be on the 41-million pixels fitted onto the sensor. I must point out that due to the sensor shape, the 808 PureView actually takes 38MP images in 4:3 aspect ration and 34MP in 16:9, still no slouch!

I was floored when I deeply analysed a full resolution image taken with the 808 PureView.  The amount of detail resolved is simply staggering and this is apparent once you start cropping. I have generated crops as small as VGA resolution to pluck out scenes. Indeed at full resolution the power of the device is in the ability to crop and reframe. Please click on the images to display them at full resolution.

Nokia 808 PureView camera 34MP Full Resolution

Nokia 808 PureView image 100% full crop

The real magic of the 808 PureView lies in what is now called PureView Phase I. This is intelligent use of the incredible amount of detail the sensor produces, to generate exceptional stills at  lower resolutions, 2MP, 5MP and 8MP. The buzz word here is oversampling. The 808 PureView has a companion graphics processor dedicated to the camera that takes information from neighbouring pixels  to create a superpixel, providing cleaner data about a scene. The immediate benefit is almost zero noise in good light, and minimal deterioration as the light conditions worsen. So, at 5MP in 16:9, the 808 PureView is essentially using 7 pixels worth of data to generate 1 ‘pure’ superpixel. The results are mind-blowing!

Nokia 808 PureView 5MP image

Nokia 808 PureView 2MP image

The other offshoot of PureView technology is zoom. As we hanker after thinner sexier devices with larger and larger screens, one of the units that suffers is the camera. There is thus an upper limit to the quality and resolution at which one gets this quality, and the quality deteriorates rapidly when trying to zoom. The high pixel-count of the PureView allows one to losslesly zoom. Using 5MP as an example, at full zoom the camera is effectively shooting at true 5MP. Other camera crop into the image then blow back up to the full resolution, akin to zooming in on an image on your PC. Again, staggering results.

Nokia 808 PureView macro zoom

Nokia 808 PureView blur bokeh

These benefits apply to video and in many ways, with the lower resolution of even HD-video compared to still, in more dramatic fashion. Again, lossless zoom is effective. Added to that, Nokia also introduced Rich Recording promising the best sound experience from a recording on a mobile device.

While all of this is generally for the enthusiast, in automatic mode, one gets the benefit of this technology, as the resolution is fixed to 5MP. This offers a nice compromise between image size for distribution, not too small, not too large, and oversampling for quality. And the camera interface is superb, with just an onscreen shutter key, a flash on/off toggle, and video/stills toggle. Very much like the iPhone, which offers the simplest camera interface, but here one has the added PureView quality.

Nokia 808 PureView automatic

Overall, the 808 PureView’s camera has a pleasing UI, with very easy-to-understand control elements, as a no-frills mode for non-camera enthusiasts. The camera is fast, really fast in operation and sharing to Facebook and Flickr is also built-in, making for one of the most comprehensive experiences on a mobile device.

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By , Columnist, Johannesburg office

Published on Sep 24th, 2012 GMT +2

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