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Nokia squeezes 41mp camera into latest smartphone

  • Nokia 808 PureView
  • Nokia 808 PureView
  • Nokia 808 PureView
  • Nokia Lumia 610
  • Nokia Lumia 610

By Jonathan Bray

Posted on 27 Feb 2012 at 09:25

Nokia will be including a 41-megapixel - yes, forty one - camera in its latest smartphone, the Nokia 808 PureView.

The camera also sports Carl Zeiss optics with a maximum aperture of f/2.4 and is accompanied by a single Xenon flash. The sensor technology, which Nokia said was "inspired by satellite imaging technology", is the highest seen on any smartphone today, and higher than most consumer DSLRs.

Images produced by the new camera are 38-megapixels in size, and in demos showed less noise than we'd expected and a lot of detail and punch.

The phone can also produce lower resolution images (5 megapixels) with more dynamic range using a technique Nokia calls 'pixel oversampling' – condensing the information of seven pixels into one.

Oddly, though, Nokia has not chosen to squeeze its mind-boggling new camera technology into its latest Windows Phone handset, but into a smartphone sporting the new flavour of Symbian – Nokia Belle.

Windows phone

Nokia also used its press conference to expand its Lumia range of Windows Phone handsets. The recently announced Lumia 900 – essentially a larger version of the Nokia Lumia 800, with a 4.3in screen – will be made available across Europe and in the UK in the next few months.

The Lumia 610, though, is the most interesting. This new budget smartphone will sell for around €189 when it hit the shelves in Q2 this year, and heralds a new era for Windows Phone with a much more basic specification than normal.

Touted as "perfect for the younger audience", the 610 will have only 256MB, instead of 512MB, which was, until now a requirement for all Windows Phone devices. It also has only an 800MHz processor – the previous requirement was 1GHz.

In use, the Lumia looked to be just as smooth as other more powerful Windows Phone handsets, although some features may be restricted.

We noticed in the settings menu a message warning that "Because this phone has 256MB of RAM, app selection and features may be limited", hinting that the 610 may not offer the full Windows Phone experience.

Nokia Lumia 610

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User comments

Resolution?

Can a cameraphone lens, even one with a Zeiss badge, REALLY resolve that many pixels?

By PaulOckenden on 27 Feb 2012

Eh?

What is the point? The lens will be nowhere near good enough to warrant that sort of definition. (No matter how good it is the size will prevent it doing justice to such a high definition.)

That's a higher definition than either Canon or Nikon can provide with full frame sensor cameras that can use thousand pound lenses.

By qpw3141 on 27 Feb 2012

It will be interesting to see the reviews for the 808.

By JamesD29 on 27 Feb 2012

@PaulOckenden

No.

A top quality camera lens will resolve about 140 lppm (line pairs per millimetre), which is 280 linear pixels. The article does not specify the sensor size but, even if we are generous and assume 1cm on the longer dimension (unlikely) that would mean a maximum resolution of 2800 pixels of lens resolution across the sensor compared to around 8000 pixels of the sensor itself.

Increasing the sensor resolution does make a very small improvement in overall resolution since that is given by Ro = 1 / ( 1/ Rl + 1 / Rs ).

Where Ro is the overall resolution and Rl and Rs are the resolutions of the lens and sensor respectively.

By qpw3141 on 27 Feb 2012

Re: Eh?

It doesn't look like the camera is really intended to output the full MP count. They're using the extra pixels to aid noise reduction and enable lossless digital zoom. I think it looks interesting. This isn't an SLR, you're not going to get an APS or bigger sized chip in a phone, and having a moving lens ins't very practical. Nokia actually look to be using their knowledge of hardware to do something interesting. I'm guessing it hasn't shown up in a WP phone because they've only just started down the WP and I'd imagine that to integrate the extra processing chip they'd need quite a bit of access to the underlying OS to get it working. The sound recording from the phone is also meant to be pretty good.

By magicmonkey3 on 27 Feb 2012

"Inspired by satellite imaging technology"

Probably means it has a fixed focal length of 35,786 km!

By JohnAHind on 27 Feb 2012

@PaulOckenden

Well, even if we take an ideal diffraction-limited lens at f/2.4, allow a really generous sensor (for a phone) like 1/1.7", and calculate the resolution using Rayleigh criterion (as opposed to MTF-50), maximum system's resolution will be around ~18 megapixels. I guess you can push it to some ~20 megapixels with image stacking, but it's still far from 41 :-)

By Lomskij on 27 Feb 2012

I think its in the 'zoom'

The three key words are probaly 'zoom' and 'image-processing'. The former being a function of the latter, if you see what I mean.

The noise issue is likely to be important.
Small sensors (necessary in a 'phone) with lots of pixels are 'noisy'. Visual 'noise' tends to increase in proportion to pixel-density, so a tiny dsesor with lots of pixels needs some sophisticated noise-reduction techniques. The lens aperture at f2.4 will also help the fight against noise, as it is letting in quite a lot of light to start off with.

The whole package sounds intruiging, and maybe the high pixel count points to using a system similar to that used by Sigma on their DSLRs....

By wittgenfrog on 27 Feb 2012

Windows Phone

" We noticed in the settings menu a message warning that "Because this phone has 256MB of RAM, app selection and features may be limited", hinting that the 610 may not offer the full Windows Phone experience.'


Nope, the 'warning' means what it says. Some Apps won't work becuase they require features {Like sensors) that aren't on the 'phone.

According to MS Where your particular WP lacks the appropriate kit, you will be notified via the WP Store if\when you try top download it.

This is much the same way that different iterations of the iPhone co-exist, and few people are complaining about that in the same terms.

By wittgenfrog on 27 Feb 2012

Sensor size

The sensor in the 808 is 1/1.2”

By magicmonkey3 on 27 Feb 2012

samples

"science" aside (sensor size, pixel density, aperture etc) - proof should really be in the eating... did anyone check to see the uncompressed samples from Nokia? They knock the spots off many images I've seen from various compact cameras (and some dslr's for that matter) - to get that quality from a device which is genuinely carried around with you all the time is a winner, to me.

http://conversations.nokia.com/2012/02/27/nokia-80
8-pureview-%E2%80%93-revolutionary-camera-technolo
gy-great-smartphone/

By joecool12 on 27 Feb 2012

610

The 610's apparently lower than minimum specs make it sound like the sort of phone that will irritate and make you regret you chose it every day of a 24 month contract. If it is intended to be "perfect for a younger audience" then it needs to be able to play games - it sounds like it will struggle.

By halsteadk on 27 Feb 2012

ludricrously [sic] high resolution camera

Says it all, really (in the sub-head)...

By JohnGray7581 on 27 Feb 2012

@joecool12

The hi-res samples clearly show that sensor outresolves the lens (I doubt if system's resolution exceeds 20 mpix), however downsized to 5 mpix images indeed look bitingly sharp and colourful - massive oversampling clearly pays off.

By Lomskij on 27 Feb 2012

Nice try...

...but it's sensor size, not pixel count that determines picture quality. The only thing I see here is something that will fill your hard disk rather more quickly than you want it to.

Interesting they've put it into a Symbian phone though. Either this means for some reason the Windows OS can't cope with the images, or perhaps Nokia are back-peddling on their love-in with Microsoft. Nokia has after all lost 2/3rds of its share price over the last two years, and presumably some people are losing faith with Elop and his strategy..

By SwissMac on 27 Feb 2012

41 MP Sensor

OK so it appears that 'oversampling' is pixel binning, or linking the output of several physical pixels together to form a sort of 'virtual' pixel.

This technique is supposed to offset the extra 'noise' of small pixels because the combined output requires less amplification, and so less noise is generated.

By wittgenfrog on 27 Feb 2012

...But no cigar Mr Mac

Firstly it definitely isn't just 'sensor size' that determines picture quality (in a digital camera). Otherwise a 1MP 'Full-size' sensor would be better than one with 35MP. It isn't.
Its a balancing act.

For example successive generations of 'Prosumer' DSLRs use proprietary sensor sizes smaller than 35mm film. Pixel counts have increased generation on generation and Image quality has also improved.

Several factors are clearly involved, but what we'll call 'image processing' is at the heart of these improvements. The latest Canon and Nikon sensors are incredibly 'efficient' at capturing light and turning it into electrical impulses, and their processing algorithms wonderfully sophisticated. The result is outstanding low-light performance (fewer speckles) with images you can blow-up to bigger sizes before blockiness sets in.

Firstly a 41MP camera is outside the WIndows Phone spec. Secondly I would assume they're trying it in Symbian as its a 'known quantity' or baseline, to allow them to monitor battery useage etc.

Finally I doubt therefore, that NOKIA have fallen 'out of love' with WP7, they're simply trying new technology on a lower volume 'mule'.

By wittgenfrog on 27 Feb 2012

Other advantages

As the article says, the extra resolution allows increased dynamic range, and improved colour. Normally the colour of a pixel is estimated from the surrounding pixels with clever software taking account of edges in the image. With pixels to spare, a 10MP image can be created with the colour and exposure more accurately calculated. As mentioned in an earlier article there is even the opportunity to perform focussing after the image has been taken.

The arguments about reduced sensitivity assume that the output image is full size, however I doubt that is what is intended. The sensing area is actually greater than phone sensors, and it should make a very good 10MP camera.

If you compare the low light performance of a modern camera against a 5 year old one you will be shocked. The improvement is far greater than I had imagined, and a slight reduction would not be noticed by most users.

By tirons1 on 27 Feb 2012

Other advantages

As the article says, the extra resolution allows increased dynamic range, and improved colour. Normally the colour of a pixel is estimated from the surrounding pixels with clever software taking account of edges in the image. With pixels to spare, a 10MP image can be created with the colour and exposure more accurately calculated. As mentioned in an earlier article there is even the opportunity to perform focussing after the image has been taken.

The arguments about reduced sensitivity assume that the output image is full size, however I doubt that is what is intended. The sensing area is actually greater than phone sensors, and it should make a very good 10MP camera.

If you compare the low light performance of a modern camera against a 5 year old one you will be shocked. The improvement is far greater than I had imagined, and a slight reduction would not be noticed by most users.

By tirons1 on 27 Feb 2012

OK I have now read Nokia's article

The sensor is huge and it is intended to produce lower resolution images. By over sampling they mean under sampling.Having a small lens and a large sensor is far from ideal, but at least they don't need to worry about optical zoom.

By tirons1 on 27 Feb 2012

Wittgenfrog worryingly imaginative today

You really do make it up as you go along, don't you? lol!

By SwissMac on 28 Feb 2012

Excellent explaination at dpreview.com

You can read chapter & verse on the sensor, complete with some illustrative diagrams at dpreview.com.

http://www.dpreview.com/news/2012/02/27/Nokia-808-
PureView-with-41MP-sensor

By wittgenfrog on 28 Feb 2012

@tirons1

Actually, it is oversampling - gathering more data than required for the final output.

By Lomskij on 28 Feb 2012

SwissMac

You are making yourself look silly here. May I respectfully suggest that you do a little reading before commenting further? Thanks.

By PaleRider on 28 Feb 2012

ooh...

Does this comments section have a new sherif? Silent post deletion going on now?

By PaleRider on 28 Feb 2012

Oh no....

My mistake. Gawld. The software for this comments section goes from bad to worse. So do I now have to do a refresh to see my message?

By PaleRider on 28 Feb 2012

Not sure what everyone above is on about.I downloaded one of the 38mb test images taken with it of the rock climbers and zoomed right in to it on Photoshop.The Picture resolution quality is amazing.The noise was also almost non existent.Perhaps consider this instead as a very good point and shoot camera which also happens to make phone calls.In which case Canon,Nikon, Olympus and the rest have now got some really good competition.

By Jaberwocky on 28 Feb 2012

sorry the above should have read 38 mpix image / not 38mb image.

By Jaberwocky on 28 Feb 2012

I did look at the rock climbers picture, and even with this very carefully selected PR image I felt that at 1:1 it had a certain, well, "Lomo" feel to the image. But that's hardly surprising IMHO.

By PaulOckenden on 28 Feb 2012

Amateur Photographer mag backs me up

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-17190117

By SwissMac on 28 Feb 2012

Amateur Photographer mag backs me up

The Amateur Photographer editor says much what I did as reported by the BBC:
http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-17190117

Even in the link you provided Wittgenfrog, it clearly shows the benefit comes from having a larger sensor size, not from just squeezing more pixels onto a sensor that is no bigger than for other phone cams. Without the larger sensor, the increased pixels wouldn't improve things.

DSLR sensors are even bigger than the cut down Four thirds sensor size shown as the largest on the dpreview diagram, so no, this camera phone is NOT going to replace DSLRs for quality pics anytime soon.

By SwissMac on 28 Feb 2012

This blog software painful.

No idea what they're doing behind the scenes, but the software controlling this site is flakey when it comes to displaying posts. I suppose it explains the double postings.

By SwissMac on 28 Feb 2012

Belle

Symbian Belle is a massive step forward for the beleaguered OS. I installed it on my wifes N8 and it is far more responsive and easier to use.
If those sample images are accurate then that's one hell of a camera....

By Barff1706 on 29 Feb 2012

Camera or Phone?

Having read all the above comments and more elseware just what is the issue, if you want a phone you buy that, if you want a good camera you buy that.

By keith217 on 1 Mar 2012

Outrageous Resolution However...

I don't know how they have do it as current top end cameras by Canon, Nikon and the like are no where near this. I also doubt that the lens can possibly do the resolution justification either.
However, much of the comment sounds like sour grapes from the Crapple Sh1tephone crowd.

By iancsw on 2 Mar 2012

Outrageous Resolution However...

I don't know how they have do it as current top end cameras by Canon, Nikon and the like are no where near this. I also doubt that the lens can possibly do the resolution justification either.
However, much of the comment sounds like sour grapes from the Crapple Sh1tephone crowd.

By iancsw on 2 Mar 2012

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