Nokia 808 PureView Camera Review with Sample images and Videos

July 31, 2012

Nokia 808 PureView mobile phone camera

The Nokia 808 PureView is a game changer for everything related to mobile phone cameras. We are leaving in days where many people prefer using their mobile phone camera than buying a conventional digital camera. Many one of the main reasons to purchase a compact digital camera is for its high optical zoom, higher image quality and manual controls (where available). Even so, mobile phone cameras enjoy the online sharing capabilities and many apps that enhance the camera’s functionality and offer a great experience to the inexperienced photographer.

The Nokia 808 PureView changes everything that we know and experienced using mobile phone cameras. Nokia called that “A new dawn in Photography”, and the 808 PureView is certainly a revolutionary product on its own.  With its 41MP relatively larger sensor and amazing full HD video capabilities, this is not just another mobile phone, it’s a mobile phone that certainly can replace a conventional point-and-shoot camera.  Some people will prefer buying an Android or iPhone mobile phone, but I know many people that will be glad to own the Nokia cellphone just because of its amazing camera.

Nokia 808 PureView Smartphone

Nokia 808 PureView Smartphone

In this review In want to talk about the Nokia 808 PureView camera and sensor. Give you more information from the perspective of an enthusiast photographer.  I personally own a DSLR camera, but as an enthusiast photographer, I personally prefer a camera that I can take everywhere I go and take photos that I would otherwise miss. Because you are carrying your mobile phone everywhere you go, the PureView might turned out to be the ultimate compact camera for everyday use. I am not suggesting that you will get the Nokia as a secondary phone just to enjoy its amazing camera capabilities, but instead getting the Nokia 808 PureView as your only phone and forget about buying a compact camera. I won’t get into the operating system details, I will emphasize on giving you interesting information about the camera capabilities and how it compares to a conventional compact point-and-shoot camera. OK, Let’s begin!

 

Nokia 808 PureView Sensor Size

We  jump straight in to the technical stuff and start talking about the PureView’s image sensor. The image sensor, for those who don’t know, is the heart of every digital camera. It’s a cheap that gathers the light photons, convert the electric signals to digital form and output the data as an image to the memory card.

In general, the larger the sensor, the better the image quality is. Larger sensors have larger area that is sensitive to light.  It depends on the sensor resolution (number of pixels), but in general, larger sensors have larger pixels, that can gather more light and result in better color accuracy, higher dynamic range, with less noise and less image artifacts.

sensor size comparison

Sensor size comparison diagram, comparing the 808 PureView sensor vs other digital camera's sensors

The above diagram(taken using camera image sensor size website) perfectly illustrated the sensor size differences. The Nokia 808 PureView sensor size is much bigger then the Canon PowerShot compact camera and much larger than the Samsung Galaxy S III sensor. In fact, it’s closer to the 1-inch sensor size of the Nikon 1 J1, which is a compact system camera also referred to as Mirrorless camera. The Canon EOS 60D is a Digital SLR camera with APS-C sensor, which its sensor is much larger then all of the other sensors.

The Nokia 808 PureView isn’t aimed to compete against digital SLR cameras and it doesn’t offer the same flexibility that you get with Mirrorless Interchangeable Lens cameras. Having said that, the 808 can easily compete against compact P&S cameras and other mobile phone camera with ease.

Nokia 808 PureView mobile phone from the top

Nokia 808 PureView mobile phone from the top (red circle shows where the camera is)

The sensor is incredibly large, and that’s the reason why their is a relatively large bulge when viewing the phone from the top. That’s to accommodate space for the lens, which suppose to project the image on a larger area. That’s the only downside, but between us, who cares. Consider the technology that sits behind that little bulge, it really doesn’t matter at all. A really small price to pay for having such an advance technology that will soon talk about in more details.

The sensor size is 1/1.2-inch (10.67 x 8 mm) and it’s a CMOS sensor.

The Nokia 808 PureView sensor has 7728 x 5368 max image resolution, at total of 38 million effective pixels. The sensor itself has a 4:3 image ratio and a 3.2x crop factor. The sensor utilizes pixel sampling and feature up to 12x lossless zoom (nHD 640 x 360) in reduced resolution. You get 3x lossless zoom for stills, 4x zoom in full HD 1080p and 6x for 720p HD. The sensor is 2.5 times larger than the one used in the Nokia N8.

PIxel sampling means that the camera can group several pixels and virtually look at it as if they were just one pixel. So when you shoot an image with less resolution, it will utilize the whole sensor using pixel sampling technique. This will result in significantly better image quality, compares to utilizing only small part of the sensor.

When you shoot in 16:9 aspect ratio, the camera makes full use of the width if the image sensor, When you shoot at 4:3 aspect ratio, it utilizes the entire height of the image sensor (16:9 mode: 7728 x 4354 – 34MP / 4:3 mode: 7152 x 5368 – 38MP). The sensor is capable of ISO 80 -1600 (+auto), very impressive!

The Nokia 808 PureView took 5 years to make. Before we continue talking more about this extraordinary mobile phone camera, let’s take a looks at a documentary video that tells the story behind this revolutionary smartphone.

 

 

808 PureView’s Carl-Zeiss Lens

Carl Zeiss lens in Nokia 808 PureView

Carl Zeiss lens in Nokia 808 PureView

As important the sensor is, it’s just one integral part. Although it’s a very important one, to take advantaged of this high quality sensor, a high quality lens should be used. Ask any photographer, professional or enthusiast, and they will tell you that they are willing to spend hundreds even thousands of dollars in expensive interchangeable lenses, ones that can provide them with better image quality.  Image quality is something that you can measure in the lab. Camera review’s website make test in a controlled environment and there are computer software that allows them to know hog good the lens really is. They measure dynamic range, sharpness, contrast, noise levels at high ISO,  purple fringing and moire effects and other digital image artifacts that effect image quality.

Carl Zeiss is one of the world’s leaders in optical lens manufacturing. Many professional photographers use Carl Zeiss lenses to achieve a higher degree of image quality. Carl Zeiss optics are second to none. Their professional lenses are very expensive, usually only pro photographers used them (although their are less expensive lenses for the enthusiast and semi-pro photographers).

Nokia turned to Carl Zeiss and they partnered together to form a high-end smartphone camera. This partnership first began in 2005 and will continue in the future to come. Carl Zeiss lenses exists on other Nokia phones, including the N8 and N9 smartphones. No doubt that by taking advantage of Carl Zeiss expertise in this field, Nokia engineers were able to achieve their goal and create the ultimate mobile phone camera.

The lens itself is a Carl Zeiss f/2.4 8.02mm lens, equivalent to 26mm (16:9) and 28mm (4:3) in 35mm terms. The lens is constructed in 1 group and 5 elements and all lens elements are aspherical. Its also includes one high-index, low-dispersion glass  and utilizes a mechanical shutter with neutral density filter. All in all, this lens was engineered to provide very high-quality image and high resolution, the quality needed when this lens is used with such a high-resolution sensor.

This is a bright lens due to its fast aperture (F/2.4). This will allow you to take images and record videos in low light, images that will have less noise.

The Nokia 808 PureView should result in the best image quality when shooting at 3MP, at 14:1 sampling, utilizing fatty pixels that will result in a better looking image.

 

 808 PureView Zoom

In digital cameras their is an ‘optical zoom’ and ‘digital zoom’. A digital zoom is just a software generated zoom-like, which crops the image at the center of the frame and enlarge the image. This results in a poor image quality. That’s something that you can always do at home using a photo editing software (ie. Adobe Photoshop, Lightroom, etc.). Optical zoom doesn’t degrade image quality. It enlarges the image optically, like the telescope. That’s why when you use optical zoom, you get high image quality, not a pixelated image.

Nokia 808 PureView smartphone camera takes a difference approach. The ‘Zoom’ depends on the output resolution that you’ve set the PureVuew’s camera to capture. At the maximum resolution you cannot zoom at all, and you get a fixed focal length image of 28mm (35mm equivalent). When you shoot at 3-megapixels, you get a zoom that is equivalent to 3.6x . The higher the resolution, the less zoom you get. Let’s summarize this:

  • 38MP – 1x zoom
  • 8MP – 2x zoom
  • 5MP – 3x zoom
  • 3MP – 3.6x zoom

* approximately

 

That a modest zoom, and certainly not the high-zoom that you get with superzoom cameras. For many of you this will be more than enough, others might feels that it’s a but restricting. Considering the fact that almost all mobile phones cameras have a fixed zoom, that’s a very welcome feature.

The following video demonstrates the zoom capabilities of the 808 PureView when shooting video. As you lower the video resolution, you enjoy higher zoom capabilities!

Amazing, isn’t it, very versatile.

 

808 PureView Camera Image Quality

Some people don’t care about the technical stuff, “Just show me the goodies..” the say. I can understand that, you have little time and you just want to know that you get a good product for your money..oh,, not good, a GREAT product. The Nokia 808 PureView camera is amazing. Dpreview has tested the camera in various resolution and various ISO sensitivity levels (here).  The image quality is just superb, both in stills and videos. ISO 800 looks amazingly clean, even at ISO1600 the 808 PureView looks pretty good, although noise has its affect. I won’t be too picky here, those results are much better then any other smartphone on the market today, including the Apple iPhone 4s/ 4,  HTC One X, Samsung Galaxy S II/ III and all the other Android phones that are on the market.

808 PureView Sample Videos

Let’s take a look at a Nokia 808 PureView video sample, see how good the image quality really is:

1080p video capture + using the zoom on the 808 PureView camera:

 

Another 1080p PureView sample video

Gorgeous!! -  OMG! and this is on YouTube, how the uncompressed video looks like. damn this just amazing.

When you zoom in, the maximum aperture stays the same and you even don’t need to change the distance focus. Furthermore, because of the large sensor size, when you shoot closeup subject, you can even achieve some degree of of shallow depth of field (background blur).

If you are shooting in low light, you can also take advantage of the Xenon flash. The video is being recorded with stereo sound as well.  I think that the only thing that I wish for is that we have this camera on a Windows Phone, that would be awesome. I don’t know what’s happening with the Microsoft + Nokia business, but after reading this article on mobilenapps.com, I feel quite optimistic.

 

808 PureView Sample Images

Let’s take a look at some sample images taken with the Nokia PureView 808 (from Flickr):

PureView (5MP) sample

Protreking Time

Blue Sunrise
-1.7. ND Filter On

Nokia 808 PureView – Crète

Nokia 808 PureView – Crète

Nokia 808 PureView – À la plage

Nokia 808 PureView – Aventure en Afrique du Sud

Nokia 808 PureView – Thaïlande

The Nokia 808 PureView Image quality is amazing: colors are well saturated, sharpness is very good and produce image with plenty of details (depends on the resolution), noise is well controlled. Images just looks alive with great punch. You don’t have to edit your photos in Lightroom in order to enjoy beautiful looking images. Great photos out-of-the-box, just shoot and share with anyone on Facebook.
If you are still not convinced after viewing this videos, just to let you know that dpreview game this phone the ‘Gold Award’. Dpreview usually don’t write reviews on mobile phones, but because this is not a conventional mobile phone, I can understand why the editors on dpreview decided to write a full review on it.

People try to compare the Nokia 808 PureView vs Canon and Nikon cameras, against other mobile phones like the iPhone 3GS/4/4S, etc. I think that you need to understand that the Nokia 808 PureView doesn’t really have any competition yet. You might want to get a superzoom camera to enjoy a high zoom for a travel camera. But again, their isn’t any mobile phone on the market that can give you this results, and the 808 can easily replace low-zoom compact cameras. Remember, the camera of this mobile phone utilizes a larger sensor, and this is one of the main reasons why the image quality is amazing.

Here’s a nice video that demonstrates how to use the camera (via PhoneArena):

 

 

Conclusion

I really wanted to find flaws in this camera. Find something that I can convince me that their is a trick somewhere. Honestly, I was so amazed that I think of getting one myself. The Nokia 808 PureView is a amazing product. It certainly convinced me to ditch my Android phone and get the Nokia instead.  Indeed there are many apps for the Android and iPhone, but I don’t use most of them anyway. What I know for sure, the I am using the built-in camera. If you are like me, searching for a camera that you can take anywhere you go, a replacement for a compact camera, the Nokia 808 Pureview is the best of the best.

Of course I didn’t cover the other features of this mobile phone. I reviewed only the camera capabilities. I honestly believe that many people mostly use their phones for shooting pictures and videos and using Facebook and Twitter (maybe play a game once in a while and send / read emails). You have those apps for Nokia too. If you are among those guys, I highly recommend getting  this mobile phone. The video is excellent, it will just blow your mind. Stills image quality is way above any current smartphone on the market.  Sometimes I feel that we are being fed with tons of marketing stuff that we buy new phones without thinking if we need them or not. The battery life is also pretty good and that’s also a good thing, especially when you intend to shoot many photos and videos (although the camera draw too much energy).

Nokia came with an amazing smartphone. I just hope that this mobile phone camera will find itself in future products (Window Phone) in the near future. This is a feature that Nokia can take advantage of to sell more phones. I hope that Nokia will continue you bring us new technology innovations, something that we can take use of, and not gimmicks that no one uses.

A mega-super highly recommended smartphone – at least where the camera is concerned.

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