Nokia invited us to take a tour of the Carl Zeiss HQ in Germany, all in the name of getting some time to shoot with the pair's latest project, the 808 PureView. Sure, you've heard the specs: a 41-megapixel sensor, f/2.4 Carl Zeiss lens and a focal length of 8.02mm. That hulking sensor dominates the body, but how do those photographic results turn out? We spent a few hours shooting with Symbian's (possibly) last hurrah and found that -- unsurprisingly -- this looks to be the new benchmark for mobile imaging. The top-heavy body fits in with the focus on mobile photography epitomized in this phone and there's a tangible quality to the photos even on the 808 PureView's 640 x 360 display, alongside a noticeable decrease in noise. Check out our gallery and grab more impressions and comparison images with the iPhone 4S and One S after the break.
Nokia 808 PureView sample images
Hopefully, the gallery will give you a good idea at that philosophy we've heard an awful lot about. The 41-megapixel sensor can capture pictures at both 34 and 38 megapixels - depending on whether you plump for either 16:9 or 4:3 screen ratios. Those extra pixels are to ensure the 808 PureView's oversampling magic can work. While images can be captured at these high-end sizes, it comes into its own when the images are transferred to a 5-megapixel form (eight megapixel images are also possible, but Nokia says its five megapixel images should ensure some very impressive results and from our brief time sampling those results, we'd tend to agree.
It's this oversampling that reduces artifacts and noise in images and while Nokia's got some secret algorithms at work, there's enough data left within these image files to unlock those darkened corners. While the cameraphone doesn't have a HDR mode, the 808 PureView has a bracketing option that allows you to take up to five photos at differing exposures. You can then create your own HDR images with some requisite PC software.
The Nokia 808 PureView is also capable of capturing a mind-boggling amount of small detail -- this is what allows it to offer up to three times lossless zoom on its 5-megapixel images, with enough pixels from a cropped selection to make up an image. See how we can make out the parking space number from the 11th floor of the Zeiss building -- not to mention road cracks.
Comparing alongside the iPhone and HTC One S, we largely kept to automatic settings, although we used macro focus settings on both the 808 PureView and the One S when the situation demanded it.
Nokia's smartphone gave a far more realistic composition of the landscape picture we've cropped here from eight megapixels. Although the One S seemed to focus better, its colors are a little oversaturated and that also adds some noise into the mix. The iPhone 4S gave a fuzzier interpretation of the clocktower seen on the PureView version.
The lack of noise and superb sharpness truly stood out here. Note the artifacts on the feather's edge on the One S sample. Also, during our time shooting with the three phones, we found that Nokia's PureView 808 seemed to focus in on the detail better than its rivals. If anything, we wish we had more time getting to grips with the 808 PureView. There's plenty of settings to tinker with, aside from the choice between full resolution 38 (or 34) megapixel images and oversampled five-megapixel shots. We were told that our ISO settings were misbehaving on our sample device, although these settled slightly after a factory reset -- these aren't the finished articles just yet. We were most impressed with how the device handled on automatic settings, creating some excellent images without need to concern ourselves with settings.
While this phone is certainly geared at cameraphone fans that lapped up the N8, we found the interface on the 808 PureView was far more accessible and quick -- especially compared to its iOS and Android rivals. One-touch zoom on 5-megapixel images, by simply swiping across the display, is an addictive and welcome addition, allowing you to still use the physical button to capture high-speed images. The ability to hold your finger on the screen and change focus modes was also a boon, while browsing gallery previews and transitioning to the full images were swift. Now, we're just waiting for a review unit to truly put the phone through its paces and try all those options in plenty more situations.