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Some thoughts about PureView and the future

No shots at all in this post. I wrote most of this last night replying to someone reacting on my previous post, my “low light ode to the Nokia 808″ (a post I took offline later because of some serious conceptual mistakes in it – that’s a first :-). And then I realized I had written a reaction that could easily be a seperate post, so here it is.

Loyal club visitor Junnior Reis concluded “the Nokia 808 PureView wins again”, quoting Steve Litchfield’s famous line  “Not a Chance. Physics Wins. Physics Always Wins.

Both are right, probably. But I do remember Damian Dinning sayingPureview is a blend of new imaging software and hardware technology to create leading performance and capabilities. There are many different ways this can be applied”.

I believe Damian’s view on the matter should still count for something, being the one responsible for the almighty 808 PureView and deeply involved in the development Lumia 1020 for that matter.

Or, to quote an older Nokia slogan: “it’s not technology, it’s what you do with it”. That came with the Nokia N8 and Damian Dinning was reponsible for that masterpiece of mobile photography as well. Its 12MP camera is still really hard to beat even now!

Look at the competition. Every producer thought they could settle down after the “MegaPixel race” was over. And then out of nowhere, the 41MP sensor proved it really still mattered, with its brilliant software and a versatile interface that would enable you to do just about anything you wanted from the camera. It’s not just technology, it’s what you do with it…

A few producers joined the race again. HTC started yelling it was not about the amount of Megapixels but their size. We all know what the Ultrapixel is good for though: it’s generally considered the most painful failure in even HTC’s newest high-end device.

Sony keeps bragging they have the best mobile camera in a waterproof phone – that was actually true until Samsung released the Galaxy S5 with a camera that appears to be better than the one in Sony’s Xperia Z1 (which has been disappointing just about everyone).

And now we’re looking forward to Sony’s Xperia Z2 – I’ve seen a sample during the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona,  there are interesting changes in the interface and a few innovations: it does look promising I must say.

In other words: the race for the best mobile camera is far from over and just about everybody is trying to convince the market they have it. Millions of marketing budget are spent to convince people to buy it – not just because of the camera of course, but it’s an extremely important feature.

Still, even after about two years, the large 41MP sensor of the 808 proves to be very hard to beat in quite a few respects. The 808 PureView unleashed the powers of Nokia on Symbian. The team could simply give it everything they got. And it did get everything: the 808 still is a landmark in so many respects, it has so much to offer it’s still dazzling, even two years later.

Nokia simply put in “everything but the kitchen sink” and why? Because it was going to be the very last device anyway: there wasn’t going to be a “next” device you’d be sorry not to have waited for.

But although I do admire the 808 PureView for all it’s capable of, and it really astonished me with its imaging capacities once again, I do love the future as well. And I think I’ve shown on numerous occasions the Lumia 1020 is often comparable with what the 808 can do.

There is no doubt in my mind the Lumia 1020 will be much better for many users, combining its fantastic imaging capacities (PureView oversampling, OIS and even Raw .DNG) with a gorgeous screen and a modern OS that keeps improving significantly – according to recent reviews windows phone 8.1 is even better than iOS and Android have to offer.

I realize the 808 is almost sacred to many others and its imaging quality is almost impossible to surpass, but the 1020 is doing an amazing job and everyone in the industry is convinced no recent camera phone comes close. Don’t forget the 808 PureView has never been considered a serious competitor in the industry since it was DOA running on Symbian.

The one ISO 100 example from the Lumia 1020 in my previous comparison (offline by now) has been far from perfect, I know – but like I wrote, I’m not going to keep it away from you just because of it. My mileage may vary, too. I was seriously very happy to see the ISO 200 shot was completely okay, since it showed me my 1020 at least wasn’t defective.

I think by now we have to accept the fact that the camera quality of the 808 PureView has been a “once in a lifetime” event. I’m not sad about it, it’s what started the PureViewClub in the first place. I’ll be using it until it will die on me (which might take quite a while still).

But I’m looking forward to what Nokia’s/Microsoft Mobiles’ imaging team will be offering in the next generations of their mobile imaging devices. And there will come a day when I will stop comparing the results to those of the 808 PureView, simply because it’s going to be impossible to obtain one (even after my previous post, someone was so impressed he asked me where to buy it…).

And maybe even there will come a day that Microsoft Mobiles will produce a phone that will actually easily surpass the camera quality of the Nokia 808 PureView, by having the guts to put the same or even bigger sensor in and the best lens available.

Guts, because it would make for a thicker device. I´m sure no-one reading this site would mind – it has never been a problem with the 808 either, not for the those who know what you can achieve with it. But we all know what happened when Samsung tried it with the Galaxy S4 Zoom… Size does matter.

I hope this explains a few things on how I feel about the 808 after seriously using it again (thank you for encouraging me to do so), my great love for the Lumia 1020 – and the future of PureView. If there is any future for PureView at all.

In Barcelona, during this year’s Mobile World Congress, it sure didn’t look that way, since – like I’ve written before – the concepts “PureView” and “ZoomReinvented” appeared to be completely absent at the Nokia stand. That looked like a big sign on the wall to me: it would actually surprise me if Microsoft Mobiles will still be using the PureView concept when marketing their future devices.

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Low light shots from the Nokia 808 PureView, Lumia 1020 and Samsung Galaxy S5

You asked for it – and I’m always glad to serve you here at the PureViewClub: low light shots captured with the Samsung Galaxy S5, compared with the Nokia Lumia 1020 and – by popular demand – the Nokia 808 PureView.

In previous posts – in much better light conditions – we’ve seen the Galaxy S5 performing very well. Most remarkable was the Galaxy S5 shots turned out a bit brighter, losing some contrast along the way.

One of the interesting “discoveries” was that when you use the “selective focus” option the Galaxy S5 will give you a >20MB file (read about it in this earlier post). Also, I’ve been impressed with the way it shows you what HDR does to your shot before capturing it.

I think on almost every occasion readers have been asking for a low light comparison – including the Nokia 808 PureView if possible. During a family visit this weekend I managed to capture this simple, but effective scene outside. I hope it will offer what you were looking for.

As usual I’ll share these shots with a few disclaimers: these were captured in between “family affairs”, so I guess that’s why I wasn’t concentrated enough to put the Lumia 1020 in 16:9 aspect ratio. It’s not something you notice fast when you’re shooting very dark scenes either, so I discovered I didn’t only a day later.

There is one advantage though: in 4:3 you’ll get most of the Lumia sensor, whereas the Galaxy S5 gives you the full 16MP in 16:9. One more thing: I only used the Nokia 808 PureView in 8MP PureView mode. I will bring the Nokia 808 PureView on a next short holiday soon, I promise you I’ll make some low light shots in full resolution with it as well.

Let me start with the Nokia 808 PureView since you appear to have missed it so much (I must admit it was fun to work with it again :-) You’ll see two results (both resized from the 8MP originals) – first in ISO 400 (1/2 econd)

2 Nokia 808 PureView - Balcony ISO 400

Next: Nokia 808 PureView – ISO 800 (1/8 second)

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Introducing Rosstek – a passionate Dutch mobile photographer since the Nokia N8

I have had the honour to introduce mobile photographers whose work I admire and really think deserves your attention. Like – in no particular order - Javier Garcia GonzaloDetkoDaveTopolino70Baron ChatMs. JenDaniel CheongRichard DormanMohamed Ahmed Saleh and – recently Deepak Khoenie.

Please do check the previous posts I linked to if you haven’t done so already, I promiss you their work is worth your time!

This post is about Rosstek’s photography, which came as an unexpected surprise to me, and I’m not even completely sure how anymore – must have been through Twitter. He remains somewhat of a mystery after contacting him (in fact I’m not even sure Rosstek is male or female, I’m just assuming).

It appears that Rosstek likes to stay anonymous, but he was willing to share some information with me for this post. Since he (or she) is Dutch, I’ll start with a typical scene from the Netherlands.

Rosstek - 7

As a teenager, Rosstek started in the nineties with an old Praktica DSLR. Next he bought his first cheap compact camera’s – analogue first, digital later. He must be just as passionate about mobile, since he exactly knows which devices he used.

He started with a Sony CMD-C1 and after that it was “Nothing but a Nokia”: 3210, 3510i, 5140, N80, N95, 5800, N97mini, N8, 808 PureView, Lumia 920 and now Lumia 1020.

He captured this scene – from the new metro in Amsterdam looking up to its classic Central Station – with the Nokia 808 PureView.

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Next comparison: Samsung Galaxy S5 vs the Nokia Lumia 1020 – shades and lowlight (1)

Yesterday morning, just before work I made a few snapshots with the Nokia Lumia 1020 and Samsung Galaxy S5. Yes, it was a sunny day, but the scenes I captured had quite some shadow too. Next to that I managed to get one shot in a pretty dark studio – I will make more low light shots as I promised, I just didn’t have the time yet – too busy discovering Windows Phone 8.1 on the Lumia 1520 :-)

In general, you can see the Samsung Galaxy S5 gives you a bit brighter result when you put all the shots next to each other, like below.

Screenshots Lumia 1020 Galaxy S5See what I mean?

Of course, these are the shots you will see in detail in this post – in the exact same order. The resized version are from the 5MP shot of the Lumia 1020 (first) and the 16MP shot of the Galaxy S5. The difference in light is quite remarkable in the first shot.

1 Nokia Lumia 1020 - Blue house1 Samsung Galaxy S5 - Blue houseNext you’ll see the 640 x 360 crops I chose from parts of the shot, presented in 5MP, 16MP and 34MP. Note the Samsung Galaxy S5 gives you its highest resolution in 16:9 format. And note the 34MP shot coming from the Nokia Lumia 1020 is not (or hardly) using any “oversampling”.

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More (much more!) about the Samsung Galaxy S5 – compared with the Nokia Lumia 1020

Here’s my second post about the Samsung Galaxy S5, which may as well be the best Samsung camera smartphone so far – not counting the S4 Zoom which was more like a compact camera with GSM functionality.

Before you are tempted to ask me: yes, I would like to compare it to the HTC One M8 as well, but I don’t have the review sample yet – and I don’t want to wait for it either. Same goes for the Sony Xperia Z2 by the way.

In this post you’ll read some more about the S5 and you’ll find a few shots to compare it with the Nokia Lumia 1020 – generally excepted as the best smartphone camera of our time.

Camera Interface
Let me start by writing something about the new camera interface Samsung put in the new Galaxy S5. First of all, it’s fast – starting it up (just by swyping the camera icon on your locked screen) is a lot faster than starting up the Nokia Lumia 1020, but then again: which smartphone camera isn’t.

It’s something we just have to learn to live with since we appreciate the results that are really worth waiting for. But for fast snapshops or a fast sequence of shots, the Lumia 1020 simply isn’t the best smartphone in town and we know it.

Second, Samsung’s camera user interface is much improved, as you can see in the screenshot below – this is what you reach in one click once you’re in the camera module. You see it’s quite easy to change a lot of different settings, and if you’d like a icon somewhere else you can just drag it there.

Also note you get the maximum resolution of 16MP in 16:9 aspect ratio (5312 x 2988), which I haven’t sseen on any other smartphone before (usually, you’ll need 4:3 to get maximum result). And you’ll see ISO is not highlighted: you will have to turn Picture Stabilization off before you can manually change the ISO settings.

Screenshot Galaxy S5

HDR
Then of course, the remarkable way Samsung implemented HDR . Again, I’ve never seen the result you may expect from HDR in the screen before even capturing the shot. I really wonder how Samsung does stuff like that, but it works like a charm. I posted about it earlier, here’s another example.

Something in the foreground of a pretty light sky is bound to become dark, as you can see in the first shot.

Samsung Galaxy S5 no HDR 2

Using HDR, it sudddenly is like someone hit the light button.

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First impressions Samsung Galaxy S5: HDR comparison (with the Nokia Lumia 1020)

I’ve been working with the Galaxy S5 for just about a day now, and I think that as far as its photography goes, it super easy to use HDR functionality will become very popular on this device.

As I’ve shown in my first  comparison, the way Samsung managed to implement HDR in its camera is  impressive. Normally you’ll have to hold still and make a sequence of two or three shots – not so on the Galaxy S5: you’ll even see the result in your screen before you make the shot.

This is just a very quick comparison test to show you what the effect of HDR is, compared to using a dedicated HDR application in the Nokia Lumia 1020. The scene is from a church, partly in the sun, partly in the shade – quite ideal for HDR shots like these.

First, I’ll show you the Lumia 1020, focussed on the bright part of the scene, the sunlit tower – you’ll see it’s the best shot so I’ll use it as reference.

Nokia Lumia 1020 1

In fact, I’m surprised by what I got from the Lumia 1020 in this case – it didn’t look as detailed on the phone itself when I captured the scene – I did expect the windows in the shadow to be hardly visible.

Next, you’ll see what happens if you focus on the dark part of the scene: that becomes must more visible of course, but you’ll burn the sky.

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