Nokia 808 PureView Quick Review

Discussion in 'Open Gear Talk' started by stratokaster, Sep 29, 2012.

  1. stratokaster

    stratokaster SC Top Veteran Subscribing Member

    Dec 27, 2010
    Kiev, Ukraine
    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)


    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:

    Full-size image:

    Full-size image:

    Full-size image:

    Full-size image:

    Full-size image:

    Full-size image:

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    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.
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  2. bartjeej

    bartjeej SC Hall of Famer Subscribing Member

    Nov 12, 2010
    Thanks for the review! I think you make some very good points about it not offering the seamless connectivity of other smartphones, thereby making it more like any other camera.
    • Like Like x 1
  3. Lili

    Lili SC Hall of Famer

    Oct 17, 2010
    Dallas, TX
    Thanks for the well thought out review.
    For me I find the OS not so bad but then I was and am quite used to it from use in Nokia N8.
    Once can edit photos in-phone, however. The editor is built into the gallery.
    Hit the menu bars at bottom right and choose edit.
    They folded the formerly separate photo editor in here:)
    I love mine and use it as phone and camera both.
    • Like Like x 1
  4. Lili

    Lili SC Hall of Famer

    Oct 17, 2010
    Dallas, TX
    PS one can also upload directly to flickr and facebook too.
    Also I suspect the Nokia will have far better IQ, in good light, than the Samsung Galaxy camera :)
  5. Amin Sabet

    Amin Sabet Administrator

    Jul 3, 2010
    Thanks for a great review, Pavel! The more I carry my 7" tablet, the less I care about my phone. In fact, the main criteria I have for a phone these days are that it works well as a phone, has a long battery life, and gets a strong 4G signal in order to act as a hotspot for my tablet. Having a great camera built in is a strong plus.

    The high ISO comparison to the iPhone 4S was very interesting. I had no idea the Nokia sensor was that big.
  6. dixeyk

    dixeyk Guest

    That's a terrific write up and very interesting. Of course the camera part of the phone tends to pretty far back in the list of things I look for in a phone but for folks for whom that is significant I can see this being an attractive option. I was struck however that it is a pretty large phone compared to the 4S (and the new iPhone 5).
  7. Lili

    Lili SC Hall of Famer

    Oct 17, 2010
    Dallas, TX
    Only in thickness is it bigger and its a tad heavier.
    I wear quite tight jeans and I find no problem carrying it in pocket!
  8. Lee Sze Yong

    Lee Sze Yong New to SC

    Oct 1, 2012
    thanks for the review. got here via google search, but have been reading forum threads & reviews on

    do you think the AF is fast enough? tried it at a mobile phone shop; it seemed a little slower compared to a sony xperia. it's missing the touch shutter function also.

    was wondering if it would be quick enough for candid street photography? maybe using hyperfocal mode would help? i shoot quite often using my mobile on the MRT (subway) commute to and from work, so keen on the nokia 808...
  9. stratokaster

    stratokaster SC Top Veteran Subscribing Member

    Dec 27, 2010
    Kiev, Ukraine
    AF can be a bit slow indeed, especially in macro.
  10. Lili

    Lili SC Hall of Famer

    Oct 17, 2010
    Dallas, TX
    the AF is about the same as many P&S cameras; not that fast.
    However it is so easy to set up hyperfocal in creative mode.
    Just a a long touch and choose the AF option.
    I think it would rock in that mode for Street.
  11. KianO

    KianO SC Top Veteran

    Jun 27, 2012
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