JOHANNESBURG, South Africa – Following my colleague’s in-depth Nokia 808 PureView review, I decided to take this Technical Image Press Association innovation-award-winner for a spin myself, to specifically test whether it is a must-have in a photographer’s kit.
This is technical review suited mostly for photographers. If you already own this phone, I recommend you visit the Nokia 808 PureView Portal for tips and news.
There’s no doubt that with a 41-megapixel camera, a gigantic 1/1.2″ CMOS sensor (for a phone, that is), ISO from 80 all the way up to 1600, a f/2.4 Carl Zeiss lens, Xenon flash, an ND8 filter, Nokia’s oversampling technology and much more, a review wouldn’t even be needed to certify this as the best camera-phone ever made – but then again, the phone’s Symbian operating system is one feature that is repelling potential customers.
The merits of the phone and its software were discussed by Ntutu in his review, and although I have used quite a few Symbian devices myself, I tried to ignore what operating system is running on the 808, and just focus on how the handset could be useful for a photographer.
Besides the features I listed above, the 808 Pureview also has five easy-to-choose white balance modes (including automatic), exposure compensation from -4 to +4 in 0.3 steps, an 8.02 mm lens that is 35mm sensor equivalent to 26 mm in 16:9 mode, and 28 mm in 4:3, a focus range from 15 cm to infinity, and of course, 1080p (full HD) video capture with excellent sound from Nokia Rich Recording, that is rated to up to 140 dBSPL.
As you may have noticed, there are two capture ratios that result in two different focal lengths – these also have different resolutions, as the 41-megapixel number describes the circular sensor, rather than the actual image capture size. In 4:3, the photographer can capture a 38 MP image, while in 16:9, there is a limit of 36 MP – not a big problem at all, considering that the full-frame Nikon D800 DSLR itself captures a 36-megapixel picture. This is explained in the image below:
It’s quite interesting to note that not many dedicated cameras come with the features that the 808 PureView offers, namely timelapse, built-in ND8 filter, image editor, and of course, the ability to upload to social networks, since this is actually a smartphone with a camera.
The highlight of the device is curiously not the 41-megapixel number, but what can be done with it with means of oversampling. If set in 5 megapixel mode and zoomed-out to its fullest, each pixel is evaluated against its neighbour, and the average is determined, resulting in a highly-accurate “super-pixel”. This is PureView technology, or at least one technology under the PureView umbrella (the other is Optical Image Stabilization in the Nokia Lumia 920).
There’s a another reason that would compel the photographer to stick the 808 in 5-megapixel mode instead of the appetizing 36 or 38 MP – that’s zoom. While regular camera-phones can zoom-in and out, it’s not lossless, usually involving stretching the real image and faking pixels resulting in ugly images. With the 808 in 2, 5 or even 8 MP mode, zooming yields real digital zoom, where-by the image represented isn’t artificially stretched. This can also be applied in full HD recording, since 1080p is equivalent to 2-megapixel.
Although I seem quite confident of the device’s capabilities, it’s in the next page that I present a quick run through the user interface, as well as the results from my several image and video shoot-outs, one set of them taken at the Johannesburg Botanical Gardens.