To help us provide you with free impartial advice, we may earn a commission if you buy through links on our site. Learn more

Nokia PureView 808 – a revolutionary camera design

Nokia PureView 808
Our Rating :

Nokia rethinks mobile, and possibly all, digital cameras with its massive 41-megapixel sensor

Nokia’s big surprise at its MWC press conference was the announcement of a 41-megapixel camera, yes that’s not a typo, a genuine 41-megapixel sensor in a smartphone. The phone in question is the Nokia 808 PureView. The announcement was tempered immediately when we released that the Lumia brand was missing, and that the 808 is a Symbian based device – rather than a Windows Phone one. Still, the technology is intriguing and Nokia said it had a “Plan to introduce these technologies into several nokia products”, so a Lumia PureView may not be far off.

Nokia PureView 808

We got a hands-on demo of the PureView 808 in action, and in the lighting conditions on the show floor it was very impressive. You can take a picture at the full 38-megapixel resolution (for 4:3 aspect ratio), and then quickly zoom in to crop out the part you want. Shoot first, compose later, certainly has speed benefits.

Nokia PureView 808

1. Shoot wide

Nokia PureView 808

2. Crop in using Slide Zoom

Nokia PureView 808

3. Pick out the image you want

You can also set the 808 to downsample the image to eight, five or three megapixels. This sampling then uses multiple pixels, up to eight, to create a single pixel in the finished image. Nokia claims that this way it can massively reduce noise levels and produce more accurate colours. It makes sense, but we’ll want to test in our labs before we agree.

Nokia PureView 808The settings page for the camera

The research behind the new sensor used technology from satellite photography – and it was developed in partnership with Toshiba. The sensor is claimed to be around 1/1.2in, massive for a digital camera, let alone a smartphone – so you’d think it would be prohibitively expensive. The actual resolution is 7,728×5,368 with each pixel measuring 1.4 Microns across.

Nokia PureView 808The actual resolution is a little lower than the headline figure

The lens appears to be nothing special, it’s a little larger than you’d expect on a smartphone but it certainly doesn’t seem big enough for the monster sensor behind it. It has an F2.4 maximum aperture, but as Nokia points out in its Whitepaper on PureView there’s no need to stop this down when zooming in, as occurs on most digital cameras. With an entirely digital zoom, the PureView can always shoot at F2.4, even if the eventual image is cropped to the maximum 3x zoom factor. Distortion at the edge of the frame and zoom-related noise in video clips are also avoided, yet more bonuses of such a non-optical zoom system.

Video can also be shot at 1080p with up to a 4x zoom factor. Both stills and video benefit from Nokia’s smooth Slide Zoom function, which allows quick and accurate crops of either media after you’ve shot your pictures.

Nokia PureView 808Hopefully a Windows Phone version isn’t far off

Yes, the phone itself runs Symbian, but that’s no reason to dismiss what looks like an exciting new camera technology. The 808 itself will cost around 450EUR when it rolls out in May, that’s equivalent to most high-end Android handsets – so Nokia will need to work that price down before fitting it into a powerful Lumia-branded phone. That said, the 808 itself is pretty impressive, with an OLED display, Gorilla glass and 16GB of internal storage.

We’re really looking forward to testing a Symbian phone for the first time in years.