Review: Nokia 808 PureView – Part 3 Photography

Also in this series:
Nokia 808 PureView – Part 1 Hardware.
Nokia 808 PureView – Part 2 Software
Nokia 808 PureView – Part 4 Audio, Recording and Conclusions

So this is the part that many people might be most interested to read, but also the part that ultimately has been written most about, including on some professional photography websites. Where we look at the camera.


I’ll state it here and now. This is the best camera phone on the market now, and will be after every phone announced this summer so far is out in shops, and may still be a year from now. It lives up to the hype and frankly, it has to given the specs.

So, a few facts – I’m sure you already knew this but here we go anyway:

  • The 41MP sensor is round and doesn’t actually give you a 41MP image. The highest resolution is 38MP for 4:3 images and 34MP for 16:9 images.
  • The reason for the 41MP camera is not so you can take pictures and have them look good on a wall (and by that I mean all of the wall, not hanging in a small frame from a nail). YOu are encouraged to shoot pictures at 5MP with other options for 8MP and 2MP. The huge sensor does allow you to zoom at those resolutions.
  • When you are zoomed out, on (for example) a 5MP photo, it does use the whole lense to create the image, using oversampling to remove noise or other artefacts and defects from the image.
  • When you are zoomed in, it can no longer use oversampling, so the output is from only that much of the lens it needs to make up (for example) 5MP. While no oversampling takes place, the picture is still good because the lens and other camera module parts, are really good, high quality parts.
  • Yes, you can still take bad pictures and I have lots of them, mostly because I wasn’t still or focused properly on the object.

OK, so that’s out of the way. The quality of the images can be excellent and the default, “Automatic” modew does a good job. the two other modes are Scenes and Creative. Scenes has a list of pre-set options for things like macro, landscapes, pets etc. Creative is the one where you get to pretend you know about cameras and can set the resolution, ISO, aperture, white balance and other settings. You get 3 slots in creative mode to have different settings – I have been playing with Full resolution in 4:3 and 16:9, as well as an 8MP 16:9 image. It is a shame you can’t really change anything much, except from creative mode.

Zooming is really easy – sliding your finger up and down near the left edge of the screen. While many might assume pinch to zoom, I realized that this is harder to do while holding a phone to take pictures and so the change makes total sense. Because no physical lens is moving, zooming in and out is fast and smooth. You can tap on the screen to move the focus to other objects too. In some modes you do need to pause when pressing either the real or on screen shutter button, to make sure you are properly focused and it’s not clear which scenes need this at first.

In low light it works to light up the room or space well, with the Xenon flash. However, you still need to keep the camera still to get a good picture in low light. I got some pretty well lit, very blurry shots at night.

Image Quality and Samples

IN general the image quality was excellent and the relative quality of pictures was only degraded by my inability to either stay still or frame a shot properly. That said, it wasn’t perfect and in particular, bright patches washed out on several photos (see the sky on the photo of the bridge, the woodland lake and waterfall).  That said, in general the images looked great, and it handled close up’s and landscapes impressively. Images looked fairly natural and neither oversaturated or dull, which is nice, though if you feel the need to beef things up, there was a vivid color mode.

The pictures here were taken at the Minnesota Landscape Arboretum, Minnehaha falls, Lake Calhoun,  Lone Lake and a few other locations around south Minneapolis. If you like your waterfall pictures to have water, please bear in mind we are in a bit of a drought right now in the US upper Midwest.

These are 5Mp pictures

So here are some examples of the zoom you can get at 5MP

Here are some that were taken as full resolution (38MP at 4:3 and 34MP at 16:9), and fully zoomed out samples.  I realized after this that while you might want to do panorama’s and landscapes for full resolution shots, the one that came out best still had the closes subject.

Here are a couple of comparison shots, with the 808 PureView set to 5Mp.  The other cameras used are mobile and point-n-shoot.  Canon 300HS, Nokia N9 and Lumia710. I’m not expecting the N9 or 710 to compete on photo quality, but represent upper mid and lower mid range camera phones.

Nokia 808 PureView Canon PowerShot 300HS Nokia N9 Nokia Lumia 710

So there you have it. The 808 PureView can take great pictures (an my camera skills or lack thereof can’t do it justice). It has simple point and shoot modes, which allow for zoom which does a good job, though most point ‘n’ shoots can out-zoom it. It also has “creative” modes for getting to know the details of the camera, and where you can set, for example, the ISO for a picture.  The quality of pictures produced is good enough to rival point and shoots, though this does depend on setting up the shot correctly, as it does with most cameras. In essence, not every picture with this will be better because you used the 808 PureView instead of a digital camera, but you certainly don’t need to take an additional camera with you once you have this.

I was going to include Video and Audio in this page, but this is getting long, so you can check out Video and Audio in part 4, coming soon.

About bluechrism

I am a software developer with most professional experience in the Windows .Net realm and I'm currently a WPF developer with Starkey Labs. However, I have wanted for some time to start the mobile developer journey properly and being an N900 owner, this was to be in the realm of QT. Job hunting, moving to Minnesota and changing jobs put my plans on hold 6-12 months but things are starting to settle now, just as I'm getting sorted to start some things, Microsoft and Nokia merge. This blog is about my novice mobile development experiences and hopefully will end up complete with links to download some apps on various platforms, but obviously by the name, Sybian, Maemo/Meego and Windows Mobile. In other stuff, I am English, I support Everton FC, I have visited Glastonbury music festival 5 times and recommend it to anyone. I am married and my wife and i have a dog called Friday.
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3 Responses to Review: Nokia 808 PureView – Part 3 Photography

  1. Pingback: Review: Nokia 808 PureView – Part 2 Software | The MicroNokia Developer

  2. Pingback: Review: Nokia 808 PureView – Part 1 Hardware | The MicroNokia Developer

  3. Pingback: Review: Nokia 808 PureView part 4 – Audio, Recording and Conclusions | The MicroNokia Developer

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