Nokia 808 PureView: The Smartphone with the 41MP Cam

Few years back, i.e. before Android based smartphones became popular, if one needed a good reliable smartphone one just had to walk into a Nokia store. Those Nokia smartphones where well-built and came with some neat features that no other phones in the market had. Based on Nokia’s Symbian operating system, these smartphones gave Nokia a huge chunk of the smartphone market. But with the landing of Android and iOS based smartphones on Indian shores, the world turned upside down for Nokia and its Symbian based smartphones. One of the last great Symbian based smartphones was the N8. The N8 took the smartphone market by storm, its selling feature a 12MP cam and some awesome hardware. Slowly Android and iOS devices took over the whole smartphone market, pushing Nokia to a corner.

But Nokia as a last resort launched Nokia 808 PureView during Mobile World Congress at Barcelona. People where stunned to see a smartphone with a 41MP cam. The phone was officially launched in June; here is our take on the device.

Design

Design is similar to most Nokia smartphone. Most of the space at the front is taken up by the display with the Nokia brand between the display and the earpiece towards the top end. The typical three button layout, found on most Nokia smartphone, is situated below the display. There is no physical separation they appear as one long button instead. The left-most button is (Green) Call/ Answer, the middle-button is Menu, while the right-most is the (Red) Power/ End Call button. The whole front excluding the earpiece and the physical button, is covered over by Gorilla Glass

At the back one can see the huge 41MP cam with Carl Zeiss optics, a Xenon flash and the loudspeaker, in a casing that bulges out of the back. The back curves a bit, so that one can hold onto this behemoth. Even with the curves, the device is a bit tricky to hold onto.

The left side of the phone is left bare without any buttons. The volume rocker, slider to lock/unlock and the dedicated camera button can be found on the right side of the phone.

The top has a mini-HDMI, Micro-USB, mic and 3.5mm jack. The second microphone plus a lanyard/ wrist strap hole are located at the bottom.

Like I said earlier, the phone is a monster when it comes to thickness. It measures 17.95mm thick at the camera and 13.95mm at its thinnest spot. This is in complete contrast with thickness trends found on new smartphones. The new iPhone 5 has a thickness of 7.62mm and the Galaxy S3 is 8.3mm.

The build quality is solid, with high-quality, matte-finish plastic used throughout.

Hardware

The Nokia 808 PureView is powered by a 1.3GHz, single-core ARM11 processor. It comes with 512MB RAM and 16GB internal storage. But in today’s world, where smartphones like the Galaxy S3 and HTC’s One X, (which are quad-cores and have at least 1GB of RAM) rule the market. The Nokia 808 is really underpowered. It looks more like Nokia have brought a knife to gun fight.

The Nokia 808 features a 4-inch display with 640×360 resolution. But for a phone that aims to compete at the premium end of the segment, the resolution is simply not good enough. Resolution aside, the size is on par with most of the phones in the market, although phones like Galaxy S3 and One X have larger screen but fits well with the new IPhone which also has a 4inch screen. The colour reproduction is accurate and the screen is bright, even outdoors. It also comes with a 1400mAh battery which will give a talk time of up to 11 h on 2G or up to 6 h 50 min on 3G and standby of up to 465 h on 2G or up to 540 h on 3G.

Camera

Now onto the feature that makes this phone so unique; the 41MP cam with PureView. Nokia claims offers stunning results and it does.

If you thing that you will be able to shoot 41MP pictures with this cam, think again. The Nokia 808 PureView camera operates in two different modes. The first one is the full-resolution mode, where you can click 38-megapixel (4:3) or 34-megapixel (16:9) photographs. The image below from Wikipedia explains why you cannot shoot a 41MP picture.

Other modes include 2-megapixel (16:9), 3-megapixel (4:3), 5-megapixel and 8-megapixel effective resolutions.

Now onto PureView. The PureView technique involves taking a full image and oversampling it to the effective resolution that you have selected. Oversampling an image means combining adjacent pixels into one. The more pixels you combine, the more accurately the resultant pixel represents real-world information. With PureView, Nokia seems to have perfected this technology. The resultant images are crisp, with more details and lesser noise.

The optical zoom on Nokia 808 PureView works better than other mobiles or even point-and-shoots. The large sensor means the 808 implements optical zoom by simply cropping the relevant bit, which means there is no upscaling involved, which, in turn, results in better pictures. Clicking photographs in full-resolution mode is unlike anything you may be used to. There’s no zoom at all. If you want to click a distant object, point the camera in the general direction and click away. The 41-megapixel sensor means details or objects not visible to the naked eye will show up in the photograph just fine. Use crop to achieve the same result you would’ve got with a zoom lens. While the camera supports tap to focus, focusing on objects in the distance, even ones that you can’t even see on the screen , it doesn’t always work. A large sensor cannot be a replacement of a zoom lens with manual focus, and the results are some sad images.

The cam software is pretty good and offers pre and post processing adjustments/ options. The cam can also be used to record 1080p video. I doubt if 16GB storage will be enough.

Overall, the cam on this device is something. I don’t think there will be another smartphone coming into the market anytime soon which can beat this phone. Hell, this might even give a tough competition to entry level point-and-shoot cams too.

Software

The 808 runs on Nokia Belle (Symbian OS 10.1). The new OS hasn’t changed much, except for some added features, from its previous versions.  New features include notification bar and free-resizable home widgets, which are similar to features found on Android. In terms of apps, the Nokia 808 comes bundled with almost everything you would need – from Twitter to Facebook, YouTube to Adobe Reader, Shazam to Quickoffice and Mobile Office. Now something that is really useful, the built-in Drive app, which offers turn-by-turn navigation and is really user friendly. Nokia maps was one really good and useful app found on all Symbian devices. It would give you some really precise info about your location and other stuffs. You can also download the maps and use them offline.

Our opinion

The Nokia 808 PureView comes with a price tag of Rs34,000. For that kind of pricing the phone has really less features compared with other phones in the same price range. We advise to buy this phone only if you want a really good camera and have figured out some use for it.