Nokia 808 PureView Following the success of the N8, Nokia has upped the ante by announcing the 808 PureView which boasts a whopping 41-megapixel camera sensor.Jaw-dropping camera aside, the smartphone's specs are pretty ho-hum. Running on the Symbian Belle OS and powered by a 1.3GHz single-core processor, the 808 has a 4-inch ClearBlack nHD (640 x 360 pixels) display that's protected by Gorilla Glass. The handset also comes with Dolby Digital Plus technology for surround sound on headphones.
The handset's most compelling feature, however, has to be its camera, so that's what we'll be focusing on in this hands-on.
Upside41 megapixels--that's more than the megapixel count on the full-frame Canon EOS-1DX and Nikon D4 dSLRs...put together.
However, as we all know, sensor size matters as well. The CMOS sensor on the Nokia 808 PureView measures 1/1.2 inches, which is larger than the N8's. In fact, that's larger than the sensors found in most advanced compact digicams such as the Panasonic Lumix LX-5 and Fujifilm FinePix X10. Like other high-end Nokia phones before it, the 808 uses renowned Carl Zeiss-branded optics, which features a molded glass aspherical lens. That's meant to give sharper images with higher contrast and brighter colors.
Combined, the camera is also supposed to perform well in low-light situations with less noise.
The camera app offers three modes: Automatic, scene (i.e., macro, landscape, snow etc.) and creative. Creative allows you more control over the camera's settings, such as white balance, ISO, ND filter and--this is where it gets interesting--sensor mode.
There are two settings you can choose in sensor mode: PureView or full-resolution. PureView allows you to shoot 3-, 5- or 8-megapixel images using Nokia's "pixel overlay" technology. In layman terms, up to seven pixels are oversampled to one pixel in a photo. This is said to produce a sharp image, even when completely zoomed in (viewed at 100 percent).
In full-resolution mode, the 808 is able to shoot in either 16:9 or 4:3 aspect ratio. The 16:9 mode allows you to get a wider 26mm panoramic view, while shooting in 4:3 provides you with a wide-angle 28mm perspective. The former captures photos at 34 megapixels, while the latter hits an amazing 38 megapixels.
The impressive part is, that's still not all there is to the 808's camera. Taking a leaf out of the Sony Xperia S' book, pressing the shutter button allows quick access to the camera app from the lock screen.
In our short time with the demo unit, the camera bootup time definitely takes less than a second, and is probably comparable to the Sony handset.
Another noteworthy feature Nokia has brought to the 808 is a one-finger swipe-to-zoom capability. This is particularly useful in the video mode (the handset is capable of full-HD 1080p recording, by the way), where you swipe upwards on the screen to the required crop factor. Once you lift your finger off the screen, the camera zooms in automatically, eliminating jerky movements that result from manual zoom.
The video recorder is touted to have "high-amplitude audio capture", which is able to record sounds of up to 140dB. You would, for example, be able to shoot a video at a rock concert, without sound distortion.
DownsideThere's no denying the impressive specs on the 808's camera, but there are certain areas where it falls short as well. We may be nitpicking, but there's currently no burst mode function. The handset is also unable to capture images during a video recording, which the recently unveiled HTC handsets are capable of.
While the 808's sensor size is indeed large for a smartphone, it's still much smaller than the APS-C format found in most entry-level dSLRs. Even in those enthusiast-oriented cameras, manufacturers tend to avoid going beyond 20 megapixels as that would affect picture quality and low-light performance. This makes us wonder what the point of squeezing so many megapixels on a small sensor is, when most interchangeable lens cameras don't even venture there.
The improved optics has also added bulk to the phone's chassis. Measuring almost 18mm at its thickest point, the 808 is definitely not going to win any awards for slimmest or sexiest smartphone.
Above all, we think that its biggest letdown will potentially boil down to the Symbian operating system (OS) it runs on. Nokia's gradual transitioning to the Windows Phone (WP) OS--plus the fact that the company has yet to announce the next major Symbian update--could cause consumers to think twice about jumping on the OS.
ConclusionAs consumers increasingly rely on smartphones as their go-to camera, Nokia is making a smart play with the 808. In fact, the phone could possibly give compact cameras and dSLRs a run for their money with its larger-than-average sensor, complete suite of imaging features and comparatively lower price. It costs an estimated 450 euros (US$600) and will start to ship in May.
There's a huge "but" though, and that is its Symbian OS. Elop has previously announced that the company will only stay committed to Symbian until 2016.
At a group interview with Singapore media, Nokia's EVP of Sales, Colin Giles, declined to comment on what's next for Symbian after Belle, but stated that innovation on the platform will still continue.
Taking into account the popularity of the Nokia N8--and the fact that many are still using the device--we wonder if the 808 could be just the device to boost the longevity of the OS. We'll reserve that judgement until after we have an in-depth review of the handset.