Nokia 808 PureView was a bigger hit than expected by most. Yes, it had the super-fantastic mega-awesome camera but many criticized the rest of its specs such as the low screen resolution, less-popular Symbian OS, thickness etc. But despite all that, the almighty camera alone was good enough to make all the media fall in love with it and then some. Anyways, I want one soooo badly but I can’t really afford one right now and it doesn’t help when it’s not even going to be released in Australia where I live. Very upset indeed. I would have loved to write up my own 808 Pureview camera review much like my previous N8 camera review. =(
Nonetheless, I still had some questions about its specs, its capabilities, what Damian@Nokia had in store for us in the future etc so I shot off an informal email and thankfully he responded. We ended up having a few emails going back and forth exchanging our thoughts. I am basically going to copy and paste most parts of the email but please note that not all the numbered questions below were actually asked as a question. Damian just responded to some of my thoughts and I just included them as part of this post as I thought it was worth sharing.
Questions & Answers
1. What is the maximum ISO value capable by the 808’s sensor technically?
“1600 is the maximum available”
2. Why was it limited to 1600 when it surely could have done at least 3200 or 6400 going by the noise level shown at 1600?
“There is actually more gain applied than n8. N8’s ISO range was 100 – 800 which is 8x gain, whereas 808 is 50 – 1600 which is effectively 4x more gain than the n8. This was made possible through various improvements in the sensor processing as well as of course oversampling.”
3. Is there a possibility to get an update that enables higher ISO later?
“Theoretically possible, but we spent a LOT of time considering this and felt that in manual ISO providing 1600 was the best way forward for those users who knew what they were doing. In other modes it’s limited to 800 to ensure very high satisfaction related to what we knew would be a very high expectation. The challenge we have sometimes is in making sure people respond in a positive way. We know we can’t please everyone. So whilst some may tolerate the higher noise level, others may aim to create a negative reputation based around noise being higher than expected. We wanted to make sure we really delight people, sometimes that may mean a trade-off in the eyes of some to achieve that. It’s always very challenging to cater for so many different opinions. It’s one of the main reasons we spend so much time listening to people to try and get the balance right for as many as possible.”
4. What is the auto-ISO range used when recording videos? (I know you don’t do videos but just in case you knew)
“It’s equivalent to 800 ISO”
5. Is the ADC used in 808 Pureview 12bit or 14bit?
“Not sure if I am allowed to reveal such info…”
6. It seems it’s quite clear that PureView technology will be used in future WP8 Nokia phones. I admit that I’m walking on thin ice here but are you able to even hint that what we will see relatively soon (within 2012-2013) could possibly be the “same” (sensor size/MP count) or “better” than what we currently have in 808 PureView?
“What we have stated is that you will see PureView used in future products, but we have not stated when or in what way. PureView is about high performance optics, high performance sensors and leading edge image processing. Those elements can be used in a number of different ways and you will see us applying these in dfferent ways.”
7. Will we ever see a real enthusiast version of a device using PureView? (full manual aperture/shutter speed control, RAW support, jog dial or rotating lens ring controls etc) Basically more of a high-end compact camera with phone capabilities. =)
“There is a lot of change currently and I expect a lot more to come. Looking at what digital cameras is like looking in the rear view mirror. As DP review reported this week as a result of the soon to be available camera extras for Lumia products, the camera industry is now moving slowly and being left behind, still stuck to years of legacy. We are breaking free from that legacy and the 808 is the first true example of this. This means we will NOT implement elements just because they are in digital cameras, but only if we feel they make sense for the variety of users we aim to serve.”
8. Were any of the listed features that I put down as my wish list to you&Nokia been in any way mentioned in any part of your meetings? (I mean in general. I’m not saying that I was the first for any of these ideas) Such as: Displaying more exposure information at time of exposure/focus, custom function volume buttons, noise reduction setting, shutter speed priority mode etc)
“What I can say is that all of those we had discussed already ourselves. Some may come in the future, while others are not possible and others we chose not to do for various reasons, most likely because there is a missing enabler of some kind. In summary if they come they come, if they don’t, probably a very good reason why not.”
9. I can understand how high ISO noise could result in “See I told you, what do you expect cramming 41MP into a tiny sensor?” type of comments. But at the same time, I also feel that it’s little things like this which make it less of a camera than it could be. It’s a double-edged sword I know. As you are oversampling anyways, you could have made ISO 3200 option only available at 5MP or 3MP PureView mode and not Full resolution. (Note – this was not a question and was part of our email conversation later on)
“The idea of possibly having a higher ISO setting just in PureView mode is an interesting one, will take a look, but can’t promise anything, I think there was another limitation to 1600 as well but can’t remember what it was as it was academic in the end because of the reasons I outlined before.”
10. Many actually now think lower mega pixel (=density) has better IQ. Nearly all of my friends/collegues care more about low noise without flash than zoom/crop/high MP also. If Nokia made 808 Pureview with same size sensor but made it 5MP with RAW/advanced features/ISO12800 capability, I would snap one up no matter what! (Note – this was not a question and was part of our email conversation later on)
“Regards to 5mp vs 41mp, this wouldn’t have enabled zoom and that was our main driver behind the hi res sensor. 5mp sensor of the same size actually would not give any dfferent performance. Calculations have shown that the with the oversampling our performance is the same as would be possible with a same size 5mp sensor. So this way you get the best of both :)”
I would like to thank Damian Dinning again for taking time answering my questions and exchanging our different thoughts.