Our full review of the Nokia 808 PureView's amazing 41-megapixel camera
We've already reviewed the Nokia 808 PureView, the latest Symbian smartphone boasting an epic 41-megapixel camera. However, an impressive piece of tech like that demands some in-depth analysis, and we had lots of pretty photos to show off...so here's our full review of that 41-megapixel snapper.
If you’re not much into photography, you’ll probably be staring at that 41-megapixel figure thinking, ‘is that good?’ Well, first let’s consider what MP – short for megapixels – actually means.
Megapixels are basically a way of measuring photo resolution, so how much detail is captured in each photo. The exact definition is the total number of pixels in a shot (found by multiplying the number of horizontal pixels by the number of vertical pixels). The megapixel rating is one camera spec you’ll always see listed when you’re shopping for a new phone, but don’t assume that bigger is better however – unless you’re blowing photos up to poster-size, you’re unlikely to notice any quality difference beyond about five megapixels.
Check out our Camera Genius Guide for more insight into how to take amazing snaps on your smartphone.
There’s no denying that the 808 PureView takes highly detailed shots, as you’d expect from a camera that packs so many pixels into each photo. Take this shot of a postbox:
With most cameras, if you zoomed into this shot, the result would be a blurry mess:
An iPhone 4S shot of the postbox zoomed in, from the same distance
However, zoom into the 808 PureView photo and you can read the sign (just about), which is nothing short of outstanding considering this is a snap taken on a phone:
Still, the sharpness of your photos is just one measurement of photo quality. Plenty of other factors must be considered, such as light sensitivity, auto-focus and shutter speed. We took the 808 PureView out and about to test it out in a variety of settings, and see what it was capable of. First up, a standard street shot in good, strong daylight:
The scene is well-lit with bold colours, a great result considering this was on full automatic mode. We took several other shots like this, and all of them came out well. The following day was overcast (more typical of our British summer), so we tried out some landscape shots to see how the 808 PureView would handle the dim light. On automatic, the shot was rather dark:
Annoyingly, the scene appeared brighter on the phone’s screen until we took the picture, which came out more shadowy than we’d hoped. Thankfully you can fiddle with the ISO settings, which basically adjusts how much light the camera takes in. On the highest ISO setting, the scene was much brighter, and an accurate representation of how the landscape appeared in real life:
We also tried some action and wildlife shots, which came out perfectly with no motion blur:
No blur on this kite, which was whipping around in the delightful summer gales
You can play with various other settings in the 808 PureView’s menus, including the usual sepia and black and white modes, but we were more interested in the ‘vivid colours’ mode. Here’s a comparison between a standard shot and a ‘vivid colours’ shot, which clearly draws out the green tones for a more beautiful shot:
A pretty cool, moody shot on automatic...
But the 'vivid colours' mode really draws out the green of this scene
Those who prefer more intimate shots (not of that kind, we're talking up-close snaps here...) will love the fantastic macro shots the 808 PureView is capable of. You may have to fiddle with manual focus to get the results you want – a simple case of tapping on the screen where you want the lens to focus – but it's never more complicated than that.
A simple close-up shot of a branch. The closest leaves are captured in stunning detail, while the background is blurred
Finally, we tested the 808 PureView’s mettle when it comes to evening and night shots. In a dimly lit room, our shots were understandably more grainy, but brighter than most phone cameras manage and also with more realistic colours:
Turn on that powerful Xenon flash, however, and any near subjects will be blinded and over-exposed. The flash is definitely not intended for close-ups, but does a great job of lighting up a darkened room. Beware that if you’re trying to take a non-flash shot in a dark environment, you’ll need to turn off the flash focus assist in the camera settings, or the flash will still activate before the photo is taken.
In terms of extra features, the 808 PureView also has a built-in timer, but more impressively it can also take automatic interval shots – up to 1,500 in a row, with an interval between five seconds and 30 minutes. This can be used to capture a scene over an extended period, useful for those cool timelapse videos you see on poncy documentaries.
Even more impressive is the 808 PureView’s video capabilities. You can shoot in 360p, 720p or 1080p (Full HD), which gives a crisp, clear result when played back on a full-sized TV screen. You can even select the frame rate, or shoot in sepia/black and white mode if you’re after an arty video.
We filmed some outdoor movies and were happy with the results. The lens quickly detects when you move from a dark to light environment and adjusts in a second or less, while the video stabilisation mode helps to cut down on camera shake. Focus is rarely an issue as the lens locks on to the central subject automatically. The built-in mic is powerful enough to pick up on distant voices, and in one of our clips you could clearly hear a plane flying overhead and the sound of far-off dogs barking over the ambient wind noise.
Digital zooming can be done in one of two ways. You can use the volume controls as usual, or you can simply swipe a finger up and down the screen to zoom in and out respectively. It’s a smooth motion and even when zoomed right in videos look sharp thanks to the high resolution. This swipe-to-zoom method also works when taking photos, providing you aren’t using the maximum resolution.
An important consideration for happy snappers is storage space. On full resolution, each photo takes up over 12MB of space, and video eats it up at a tremendous rate – so you’ll quickly fill up the 16GB of built-in storage when you head off on holidays. Thankfully a microSD slot allows you to expand this by another 32GB, so space shouldn’t be an issue.
Read our full Nokia 808 PureView review to see what we though of the rest of the phone!