Nokia Pureview camera compared to the iPhone 4S and HTC One X

pureview color test

pureview low lightpureview motionpureview macro
Low Light with flashMotionMacro

CNET Asia ran a camera test featuring the 41 megapixel Nokia 808 Pureview camera vs the iPhone 4S and HTC One X.

The tests shows the Pureview camera has its strengths and weaknesses, with colour reproduction that is slightly off, and poor Macro shots, but that the camera is unbeatable when it came to motion shots, shooting in low light and of course capturing detail.

Nokia’s Camera Guru Damian Dinning commented on these aspects, saying:

Hi, just wanted to take the opportunity to add some additional points to your comparison.Nokia conduct regular blind comparison tests using multiple devices including high end DSLR cameras, competitor smartphones and compact digital cameras and have done for many years. Through this we have gained a huge amount of experience and understanding in subjective personal preferences.

In the case of the N8, widely regarded as the benchmark before the introduction of the 808 PureView, we deliberately departed from the saturated colours ‘norm’ and optimised for a more natural look. The response to this was met with so much appreciation we wanted to use this as the basis of further development in the case of the 808. We also recognise that for some, images with more ‘punch’ may be preferred, a point you could argue is represented in your own commentaries. However, we remain convinced that for a large user group we expect to use the 808 we wanted to maintain the natural colour reproduction.

So for the first time we created two different colour optimisations. In full auto and scenes modes colour is reproduced with enhanced colour but not overly so. Whilst in creative we have followed the more natural colour optimisations we are passionate about preserving.Nokia recommend for the best all round experience use the 808 in its default 5mp setting. This will provide enhanced zoom capability, smaller file sizes for faster and easier sharing, greater levels of pixel oversampling and yet we believe based on our tests, still provide greater levels of details than any other smartphone. No doubt to create a level playing field I understand your choice in setting 8mp. However, this requires the use of the creative mode to gain access to the resolution setting. In doing so the natural colour optimisations a used as opposed to what would seem may have been preferred in your personal subjective view, the more colour enhanced setting provided by the auto or scenes mode options. In creative mode users are free to adjust the colour saturation and contrast settings as well as exposure compensation, should individual personal preferences differ from the default optimisations which were the results of capturing literally tens of thousands of test images across a wide variety of scenes.

Re close-up: The 808 uses the widest angle optics of any smartphone when used in it’s default fully optimised 16:9 aspect ratio. This does create something of a trade-off in close-ups. However, this is easily compensated for by use of the lossless zoom which of course is completely unique to the 808, a point I was surprised you made no reference to. Full zoom probably providing an end result with greater magnification than ‘broadly comparable’ smartphones.Minimum focus is 15cm and this is achieved at all zoom settings unlike typical optical zooms. This shooting distance can be achieved through a variety of methods; close-up scene mode as a full time option, touch AF in any mode or close-up focus mode in creative accessed via a long touch of the viewfinder screen. Furthermore, as a result of the larger sensor, depth of field is reduced producing enhanced bokeh in close-ups, a further unique benefit many favour for separating the subject from the background.

Damian Dinning – Nokia

CNET concludes:

Aloysius: Nokia’s PureView 808 is simply unbeatable in the smartphone category at the moment. Sure it’s a bulky device and it’s running an OS that the company has left for dead, but if you’re looking for a camera that lets you make calls and check emails–the 808 is it. If Nokia can port its PureView technology to a Windows Phone, that would be a lethal combination that could help Windows Phone meet predictions made by analysts about getting a 15 percent market share of smartphones by 2015.

Jacqueline: I was probably too harsh on the 808 PureView in my previous article, and overly concerned with evening the battlefield for both handsets. That ended up appearing biased which was not my intention–I’m not even an iPhone user. The article could also have been worded more clearly and appropriately.

Thanks to the feedback from our readers, I’m glad we’ve managed to put together a fairer and more balanced shootout this time. I’ve also taken the results into consideration for the 808 PureView’s review, which will include images taken at the maximum effective resolution of 38 megapixels.

I’ll come right out and say the 808 PureView has the best image quality–the level of detail is unrivalled. One aspect I neglected to mention in my previous article was how the 808’s low-light performance blows the competition away.

My only issue with it is that its color reproduction has the tendency to appear slightly muted, especially under fluorescent lighting. Those who have the time and knowhow to tweak it with imaging software won’t have an issue with that.

Shawn: After the battery of tests, the Nokia 808 PureView came out tops and impressed me with the high level of image detail retained even in extremely low-light conditions–a situation which many smartphone cameras struggle with. It also produced images with pleasing color without being overly-saturated. However, I wished the 808 could focus closer–like the iPhone 4S–seeing that many users love to do food closeups and improve its onboard flash for more flattering portraits.

See all the shots at CNET here.

With the Pureview technology  certain to come to Windows Phone it seems Windows Phone will finally take the imaging crown from the iPhone.


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