Nokia Pureview 808

Now that Microsoft has announced it will purchase Nokia, I thought I would review my Pureview 808 phone a year and a half past its introduction date.  Released on an outdated Symbian platform the phone had two compelling traits, for me. It has a Broadcom image processing chip (GPU) and most importantly, an awesome camera. Basically the Pureview concept, when enabled is to variably oversample an image by taking a 38 the megapixel image and decimating it, from 7:1 at the widest zoom setting to 1:1 at maximum zoom. When it is 1:1 each pixel captured = pixel on screen, so only the center portion of the sensor is used, which also happens to be the sharpest part of the lens. If it is zoomed out, you get a decimated image. The image is always 5MP or 8MP in size when PureView is enabled, or you can dump the entire 38MP image to flash. This is a brilliant concept. I was skeptical at first but it works great. The camera is almost great enough to replace a Canon S90 point and shoot. Why almost great enough?

Here are the pluses:

  • low noise sensor for most shots
  • illwater hazard

    old catif you zoom in, however, noise is more apparent, and they do some smoothing in addition to decimation. designated driver(this makes sense since images are being sampled at 1:1)

  • zoom is convenient
  • full size images, at low iso, look great
    still life

Here are the problems:

  • The autofocus is terrible
  • It wanders all over the place and is frequently inaccurate. The focus assist light is distracting to the point people ask you to turn it off, which makes the problem worse. A lot of times I will use hyperfocal mode to eliminate the focus wander.

  • Highlights blow out
  • Putt Putt See the picture at top, too. I don’t know if this is due to the image sensor being saturated since the pixels are so small. If so, this would be an advantage for HTCOne’s UltraPixel (small number of large pixels). Another reason may be the jpeg engine is only capturing 8 bits (or even less). I dont’ think you need to be able to capture the dynamic range of a nuclear explosion but a little more dynamic range would be nice.

  • It has a real xenon flash, but it doesn’t work so well

    the flash is so close to the lens backsidethat it is guaranteed to cause redeye, or in case of our four legged friends, makes them look like they have diode pumped solid state yellow-green laser beams for eyes or something

  • Slow to startup.

    starting the phone up is difficult and requires tapping through several screens. A point and shoot has a convenient on switch and starts up almost instantly.

  • Noise is non-uniform

    noise, when present, and it will be at 800 ISO, it is worse on one side of the sensor. Look at the bottom of the image. dead rabbitIn landscape shots it is on the right.

The phone has some other nice features:

  • no stupid iTunes
  • I hate iTunes! With the 808, I just dump MP3s I want to play to the flash

  • removable microSD card
  • save photos to the removable storage and if the phone dies, you still have your images. My iPhone died and I lost all of the images I didn’t back up.

  • maps built-in
  • I like the ability to download maps and have GPS location if I am outside of cellphone range, or in a foreign country where data access is expensive.

  • can connect car stereo to headphone jack and still use microphone
  • I never could get this to work on my iPhone. My stereo is too old to support anything but line-in

Overall a surprisingly nice phone, but I am looking forward to taking a look at the Lumia 1020. I understand the UI is better, and it has a newer image sensor. The newer sensor is smaller, but since it is back illuminated, it is claimed to be lower noise than the 808, although images on Nokia’s website appear to have more noise at the same ISO than the my phone. link (I know the images on Nokia’s site are 38 Mpix) The image stabilization looks awesome though, and should help keep a lower ISO in images to make sure they are low noise. If you don’t want to carry around a point and shoot and a camera, there appears to be one other alternative. Would you like to carry this monster Samsung S4 Zoom? bolshoi samsung phone Peronally, I’ll pass on the S4 Zoom but I’ll probably never buy a point and shoot again. I’ll definitely keep my Nokia Pureview but I can’t wait until the PureView concept gets even better. With Microsoft now controlling Nokia’s mobile business, I hope that they will continue developing it.

One Response

  1. Awesome pictures! 🙂

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