Nokia 808 PureView Quick Review While many photographers despise phone cameras, there's no denying that even the most ardent shutterbugs don't have their cameras with them all the time. This often leads to missed photographic opportunities. Camera-equipped phones, on the other hand, are ubiquitous, but almost all have rather poor image quality. Nokia 808 is supposed to be the best of both worlds: it is an attempt to marry a very competent large-sensor compact camera to a smartphone, so you can have both your camera and your phone with you without having to bring a second device. Tech specs On paper, the camera in Nokia 808 PureView is very impressive. It features a 1/1.2" 41MP sensor which compares favorably to typical small-camera and cameraphone sensors. The sensor is almost the same size as 1-inch sensors found in Nikon 1 series cameras. The lens is nothing to scoff at either. It features 5 elements in 1 group, all lens surfaces are aspherical, with one lens being a high refractive index, extra low dispersion type. Its focal length is about 8mm (28mm EFL) and its maximum aperture is f/2.4, making it relatively fast. The best feature of Nokia 808 camera is well known to owners of Panasonic GH- and LX-series cameras: its sensor is multi-aspect and maintains the same diagonal angle of view in both 16:9 and 4:3 modes. Max. resolution is 38MP in 4:3 and 34MP in 16:9. The camera also features a real xenon flash, as opposed to LED lights found in most phone cameras. Interface and controls The camera in the 808 PureView has only one physical control — the shutter button. Everything else is controlled using on-screen menus. The list of options is rather impressive for a cameraphone: you can manually control sensitivity, exposure compensation, flash modes, focusing modes (auto, macro, infinity or hyperfocal distance). Sadly, there is no way to manually control aperture or shutter speed. Supersampling and digital zoom The camera in Nokia 808 PureView is capable of taking photos up to 38MP in size, but its main mode of operation is the so-called 'PureView mode.' In this mode, the camera will downsample the images you take to 8, 5 or 3 MP, greatly reducing visible noise. This feature also allowed Nokia to implement smart digital zoom: instead of cropping and then upsampling, 808 PureView simply crops the images to desired resolution without any resampling whatsoever. For example, for 5MP images maximum digital zoom is about 3x. Of course, at full digital zoom the benefits of downsampling (such as lower noise levels) are lost. Some examples (at 8MP): (No zoom) (Max. digital zoom (No zoom) (Max. digital zoom) Vignetting The lens used in Nokia 808 PureView shows heavy vignetting: about 2 stops on the sides of the image and more than 4 stops in the corners. Image quality at different ISO settings Despite having a relatively large sensor, Nokia 808 PureView is not usable above ISO 400, partly because of heavy banding which appears at ISO 800 and especially ISO 1600. Full-size (38MP) images: ISO 50, ISO 100, ISO 200, ISO 400, ISO 800, ISO 1600 Some examples of banding at higher ISOs: Image quality compared to iPhone 4S and Panasonic GH2 It is genuinely interesting to compare Nokia 808 PureView not only to one of the best 'conventional' cameraphones (iPhone 4S), but also to a large sensor camera (Panasonic GH2 with Lumix 14mm f/2.5 lens). The first two shots clearly showed that Nokia 808 is infinitely better than the iPhone and closer to the Panasonic than I had expected. View full-size images: iPhone 4S, Nokia 808, Panasonic GH2 iPhone 4S employs a very aggressive noise reduction algorithm that completely eliminates all the detail in the red spool. At first I was sure this is a depth of field issue, however, this is clearly not the case because the needle is in focus. (Left to right: iPhone 4S, Nokia 808, Panasonic GH2) View full-size images: iPhone 4S, Nokia 808 (8MP), Nokia 808 (38MP), Panasonic GH2 Note that the images above were taken in full Auto mode because that's how people mostly use phone cameras. The Panasonic GH2 shows the best image quality despite the fact that its auto-ISO selected the highest ISO value of all three cameras. View full-size images: Nokia 808, Panasonic GH2 View full-size images: Nokia 808, Panasonic GH2 View full-size images: Nokia 808, Panasonic GH2 Overall image quality of 808 PureView is very good and very close to serious compact cameras (such as Panasonic LX5/LX7 or Samsung EX1/EX2). At higher ISOs, however, the Nokia falls behind the competition. More sample images Full-size image: http://photo.torba.com/images/pavel.urusov/f/x3vmTgbl81MO11HfCweu.jpg Full-size image: http://photo.torba.com/images/pavel.urusov/f/qllBo0O3sYm7FPc2E1oV.jpg Full-size image: http://photo.torba.com/images/pavel.urusov/f/viBwUGr4HtOmK87E49qG.jpg Full-size image: http://photo.torba.com/images/pavel.urusov/f/1Nihz3zslxZIbVCqYt7v.jpg Full-size image: http://photo.torba.com/images/pavel.urusov/f/B3VwHX99HDftK1WA3akm.jpg Full-size image: http://photo.torba.com/images/pavel.urusov/f/kv9G8K8GZCsxkNJXMDDm.jpg Full-size image: http://photo.torba.com/images/pavel.urusov/f/aw3cGKILgCv8OsrNFoqo.jpg Full-size image: http://photo.torba.com/images/pavel.urusov/f/7UVVPl3SeZu4qFZ6rlKy.jpg Final words There's no doubt that Nokia 808 PureView is perhaps the best cameraphone ever in terms of image quality. However, it's also a cellphone, and as a phone, it's literally 5 years behind iPhones and Android smartphones (Symbian today is not that different from Symbian 5 years ago). It's also very massive and thick for a modern phone — I couldn't carry it comfortably in the front pocket of my jeans. (Nokia 808 next to iPhone 4S) I also must admit that its photographic functionality is limited by its antiquated OS. For me, the most appealing aspect of mobile photography is the ability to edit pictures right on my phone and upload them to Facebook/Flickr/Instagram immediately. I use Instagram and various image editors heavily both on my iPhone and my Samsung Galaxy Nexus, but you can't do this on Nokia 808. In that respect, it's more like a traditional camera. You can edit your images, but you need to fire up a PC to do this and sometimes this limitation is infuriating. In the short time when I was using Nokia 808, I often found myself transferring files from it to my Nexus using Bluetooth, then editing them in PicShop and uploading to Instagram. The image quality of Nokia 808 in good light is excellent; however, past ISO 400 it's worse than that of Samsung EX1, Panasonic LX5 and similar high-quality compact cameras. In the end, I don't know whom this device is for. It's a good camera (although limited by its lack of optical zoom), but not a good phone. It's also already made obsolete by compact cameras running Android, such as Samsung Galaxy Camera.