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Nokia’s Pureview flagships, Samsung Galaxy Note 3, Sony Xperia Z1 Compact and: Jolla (1)

Thank you for your patience all. I’ve been enjoying “some” peace of mind, but I’ve been walking around with six smartphone cameras lately nevertheless. The three Nokia PureView flagships of course (808, 1020, 1520), the Samsung Galaxy Note 3, Sony’s Xperia Z1 Compact and one (more or less) new kid on the block: the Jolla phone.

Jolla: a short introduction
Before I go on with my first comparisons, let me explain a little bit about Jolla. I won’t write a review of the Jolla phone here – it’s not what the PureViewClub is about, but I will provide you with some background information before I share some of its shots – and compare it with some of the big guns out there.

Jolla 3

First of all, for those who don’t know, Jolla was formed by about 80 ex-Nokia employees who started the bold adventure to take “the road not taken”. After Nokia took the decision to leave Symbian and choose Windows Phone, they started their own company to create a new smartphone based on their own OS called “Sailfish”.

It will remind you of MeeGo when you see it for the first time, but there are differences, for instance in the way you “swype” your way through the menu. I found their initiative brave and inspiring (I have a natural sympathy for the underdog I guess), so I decided to order one and show my support.

Jolla 11

To be able to offer more applications than available in the original Jolla Store, you have the possibility to use Android stores like Yandex for applications – interestingly enough, it’s the exact same route Nokia now takes with it’s “forked Android” Nokia X devices.

As I already own a few Android devices, I’ve been waiting for the Jolla Store to grow, which it apparantly does, but as an average user, you will still need to turn to Android I guess. Without wanting to offend anyone, I think the Jolla phone still is a bit of a “geeky” device. I have the Jolla for a few months already to be honest, but I’ve been waiting for updates before writing anything about it.

Jolla 14

Jolla has been a somewhat disappointing experience for me in the beginning, although I really did like its design from the start: in a worldwide market loaded with different brands that all have their own devices, it’s no small achievement to think of a design that is genuinely new and original.

The Jolla slogan is “we are unlike” and that is very well chosen. You’ll recognize a Jolla smartphone directly by it’s looks and the same goes for the Sailfish user interface: there’s simply nothing like it (apart from MeeGo maybe, which never was a very large OS).

Jolla 8

You can even buy a different “other half” – a new back cover that will directly change the way your Jolla screen looks like – and there are more “other halfs” to come, putting a different emphasis on the way you use your device. Only thing is I find these other halfs quite expensive at €29 (but I will get one if they think of realizing one that is centred around the camera functionality :-)

After its recent, important update to “Ohijärvi” the Sailfish OS has left the beta stage. Also, the (only 4MP) camera has seen a major impovement in terms of settings etc. Now you can adjust Light sensitivity (from ISO 100 to 400) and choose different white balance (Cloudy, Sunny, Fluorescent and Tungsten).

You can tap to focus or set it to infinity or continuous autofocus. You can set a delay up to 10 seconds. Still, it’s no more than 4MP: 3264 x 1840 pixels in 16:9, and you can’t shoot in 4:3. Here’s a shot I captured from the Jolla settings menu.

Jolla Camera Settings

After this introduction I think it’s safe to compare what I got from the Jolla phone compared to the ones you’ve already seen here featured before: “the big guns” as I’ve called them already. They all are a bit or even a lot more expensive than the Jolla phone you can order for €400 – with one exception, the Nokia 808 PureView.

It will even be quite hard to buy the 808 PureView new, but it’s not impossible and over here you’d pay a bit more than €200 for it (and if it’s a good smartphone camera you’re after, that’s a no-brainer).

First comparison
I took the six phones to the large store where they don’t mind at all when you use their great interior collection as subject for your shots (I’ve been sharing shots from that store here and here earlier). They do appreciate it if you ask before you start though.

And it’s almost Easter, so I captured the fluffy Easter bunnies first :-) Let’s start with how the 6MP camera of the Jolla captured the sweet scene inside.

1 Jolla Easter

Since I just mentioned the only “cheaper” alternative, here’s the 5MP result from the Nokia 808 PureView.

1 Nokia 808 Pureview Easter

You can see there’s not just a difference in size (6MP vs 5MP) but also in focal length: the Nokia 808 PureView will give you much more in your shots (as always, I didn’t move an inch).

The other smartphone with the longer focal length is the Sony Xperia Z1 Compact, so let’s have a look what it captures from the same scene (in 8.3MP).

1 Sony Xperia Z1 Compact Easter

I think it’s safe to say its focal length is somewhere between the Nokia 808 PureView and the Jolla. The Xperia Z1 Compact is more expensive than the Jolla by the way, with a suggested retail price of €549 over here (and ₹36,990 in India for instance).

Another device from which we already know it has longer focal length (so showing less of the subject in the shot) is the Galaxy Note 3. Much to my surprise, it shows even less of the scene than the Jolla…

1 Samsung Galaxy Note 3 Easter

And here”s how the Lumia 1020 and Lumia 1520 captured the same scene in 5MP PureView

1 Nokia Lumia 1020 Easter 5MP

1 Nokia Lumia 1520 Easter 5MP

Now all devices were on automatic, and you may notice the Jolla phone gives the most “pink” result, whereas the Lumia’s give a bit “cooler” impression of the shot.

Now, let’s have a look at the crops I got from these shots – starting with the lowest resolution of 5MP (the 808 PureView and both Lumia’s). Fourth crop is from the 6MP (Jolla), followed by the 8MP (Xperia) and 9.6MP (Samsung in 16:9). Hover your mouse over the shots to be sure which camera was used. 

1 Nokia 808 Pureview Easter

1 Nokia Lumia 1020 Easter 5MP

1 Nokia Lumia 1520 Easter 5MP

1 Jolla Easter

1 Sony Xperia Z1 Compact Easter

1 Samsung Galaxy Note 3 EasterWell, as far as “fluffiness” goes, it’s obvious the Jolla isn’t really able to show much details. The “fur” of the Easter bunnies appears to have turned into a mushy substance with its 6MP camera. It’s even downright embarassing in comparison, but hey – it’s a relatively “cheap” smartphone as well…

The Nokia 808 PureView and Lumia 1020 offer the best result, obviously profiting from their 41MP sensor and PureView oversampling As may be expected, the 5MP result from the Nokia 808 PureView even shows the most detail (most likely due to its bigger sensor size).

But the differences aren’t that large. Moreover (I have to be honest with you) I just now discovered the Nokia 808 PureView was still on ISO-200 in just about all shots I made with it during these comparisons. Now you see that “keeping the last settings” so many wish to see on the Lumia 1020 may be a disadvantage as well…

The 5MP result from the Lumia 1520 isn’t far behind, but does show a bit more detail than the Xperia Z1 Compact – which oversamples from 20.7MP to 8MP.

No oversampling is used in the Samsung Galaxy Note 3. You’ll just “zoom” into its 9.6MP result (in 16:9 aspect ratio) much closer in a 640 x 360 crop. Comparing that to the Sony Xperia Z1 Compact, I think it’s obvious it clearly loses in detail.

There is much more – I have five more different scenes, so that means thirty shots, crops and screenshots for you – but I think this first post has become long enough as it is with my short introduction about Jolla.

I hope to be able to post the next comparisons later this week, and I hope that you found this one revealing to begin with. I think it’s already pretty obvious you won’t spend your money on the Jolla for its camera – but I reckon you didn’t expect that to begin with.

Update: after I learned the Jolla doesn’t shoot in 4MP like I first thought (for some reason), but 6MP in fact, I corrected that above. Also, I changed the order in which I presented the crops. With a 6MP resolution, the cropped results even look a lot worse than I was willing to “forgive” a 4MP resolution.

You’ll find all the original shots in a dedicated set on Flickr. Please don’t hesitate to share what you make of all this. And please join the PureViewClub

on TwitterFacebookFlickrGoogle+ and/or Instagram.

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31 Responses

  1. Steve

    If your going to shoot 5 mp shots the 1020 will almost always do a better job then the 808, This case is no exception. I’ve started shooting all my photos on the 808 with the sharpness slider all the up, you should give it a try I think it improves the images on the 808. Thanks for the bunny post Mark.

    • Marc @PureViewClub

      Interesting, the shot I used from the 808 is 5MP PureView as well. And although you say this case is no exception to the 1020 doing a better job, I do see some more detail in the 808 crops – even without turning the sharpness slider all the way up… But I’ll give that a try as well, thanks!

      • MF

        I think that depends on which part of the picture you are looking at. The 1020 has more details and is sharper for nearer objects like the bunnies but the 808 is better for the background. Could be focus / depth of field effects.

      • steve

        Well Mark, this certainly is an odd position I am taking, defending the 1020 against the 808 but I think the bunny’s look clearer in the 1020 photo. If you focus your attention on the yellow fabric on the front of the bunny’s you will see the threads in the fabric clearly on the 1020 picture and not so clearly on the 808. If you don’t agree it’s ok though. I think both phones are very good as cameras.

  2. Navvarr

    I bought the ‘Jolla’ right back at the preorder stage and received it around mid December.
    I preordered it, since, lke you Marc I really like to support a new device ‘the underdog’ as you said- but to be honest, I never liked Sailfish – and the phone was too unfinished for me at the time.
    I played about with the phone for a couple of weeks, tried it to see if it would grow on me, but ended up just going back to my Nokia 808 and just sold the Jolla for a profit to someone else.
    The camera never impressed me at all- very poor resolution – I seem to remember it was 8MP -are you sure its only 4MP?

    • Marc @PureViewClub

      Hi Navvar,

      thank you so much for correcting me on this one. In fact it’s not 4MP, but it’s not 8MP either – it’s actually 6MP in 16:9 aspect ratio. Don’t know what exactly fooled me, but it did.

      This means 1. the original order of my crops was wrong (changed that by now), and 2. it wasn’t the focal length that made the Jolla crop look so much closer: it simply appears to be the higher resolution…

      Guess it shows I’m getting rusty, but I still have my readers to keep me on track, thanx :-) Also, it clearly shows the Jolla camera is this far behind the competition it doesn’t seem likely it will ever be able to keep up. It will make a few nice snapshots though, nothing wrong with that in itself.

    • Marc @PureViewClub

      As far as “unfinished” is concerned, the Jolla still isn’t quite there yet – and with the hardware specs it has, the question remains if it will ever be.

      But still, somehow I like to be on that journey and I’m impressed to see how fast Sailfish is developing. The most recent update has brought quite a change indeed. And no, it won’t ever be my favorite smartphone camera. But I didn’t ever expect that to happen.

      • taniwha

        Turning to Jolla from an 808. I made it my phone since I got it. I never put back the sim card into the 808. But I’d never go out on a walk without it.

        I gave myself until the end of April until I switch back to the 808 or update to the 1020.

      • Bilgy_no1

        The Jolla was never meant to be sold as a photo oriented camera, so comparing it to these imaging powerhouses is somewhat skewed.

        Nevertheless, even compared to regular phones the Jolla cam is nothing special. It has one special feature, compared to my previous HTC One S: seemingly no Noise Reduction.

        The Jolla is a showcase device for the OS, and being sold in small numbers and at a reasonable price it can’t be expected to have the high end camera modules of the high end phones.

        I’m using the Jolla (next to a high end Android for work), and I like seeing it mature. It’s not for everyone at this stage, but by the time they have the second generation device it should appeal to more users. I also expect better specs all around, including the camera.

        • Marc @PureViewClub

          Well, I like seeing the Jolla mature as well and I agree with your comment. Putting the focus on Jolla in this respect seems a bit “unfair”, although I have written no-one ever expected the first Jolla to have a great camera and it still is the “cheapest” device of all included in this comparison.

          After the major update Jolla has seen lately, and given the fact the camera interface has become a lot better, I thought I’d give it a try. So far, the outcome is even more disappointing than I feared – and I think it’s not a bad thing to write that, is it?

          I will publish some more comparisons, including the Jolla, but the big competitors in this case are of course Sony and Samsung. In this comparison you might have noticed Sony is doing a better job by the way. Like I said, there’more to follow.

          Thank you for your kind reaction. I hope Jolla will ever be able to produce a second generation device.

  3. Freak

    1020 is the best. Then 808.
    Text is more clear on 1020 than 808. Details are same.

    • Nikhil Joshi

      We’ll I sold my 1020 , as I already had 808 and 808 was the one I used more and more

      • MF

        @freak is referring to the bunny images where the 1020 came off the best.

        As for your anecdote, I have an 808 and 1020. No question which one I use more – the 1020. I’m far happier with the images I’m getting from the 1020 compared to the 808. To each their own.

  4. Javier

    Very good job Marc! I like the comparison a lot and think you have explain all very well. =)
    I still think the 808 takes better quality, more details and less noise than the 1020 (and obviously than the others) but all lumia pureview devices did a good job here!
    Like a lot the way you compare them ;)

    Well done Marc!

    • Marc @PureViewClub

      Thank you. I hope you liked the easter bunnies as well :-)

    • MF

      I’m not sure that is the case for those sample images here.

      Again, the big improvement of the 1020 is the OIS, this is the point that nearly everyone chooses to forget. As someone who has taken too many blurry lowlight pictures with the 808, I greatly appreciate the benefits of having OIS. I’m sure I’m not the only one who doesn’t carry a tripod around.

  5. Excellent comparisons of some great phones, but gotta ask: “the three Nokia PureView flagships”? Aren’t there four? The 920 also has the PureView branding! I suppose it’s no longer a flagship and isn’t “PureView” in the same way as the 808, 1020 and 1520 are, but it’s camera still impresses me, at least.

    • Dave

      I would argue that there is only one genuine pureview flagship (the 808), with the 1020 being a pretender to the throne but sadly getting too many things wrong to justify placement as the flagship.

      The 920 was never a flagship imaging device.

      • Marc @PureViewClub

        That’s not entirely true, Nokia introduced OIS on the 920 as a “second kind of” PureView.

        • Javier

          I agree with you Marc, it may not be the same pureview as the 808 or 1020 but it was the first mobile with OIS (and a good one) =)

    • Marc @PureViewClub

      No, the 920 introduced OIS, but I don’t consider it to be a flagship anymore, really. And I can’t possibly include all PureView models, would have to bring the 925 and 928 as well – or the Lumia Icon – which I all dearly miss in my collection.

  6. yoon

    the third crop is that the 808 or the 1020?
    text is better on the third.

    • Marc @PureViewClub

      Third crop is from the Lumia 1020, as you can see when you hover your mouse over it.

    • Javier

      It is true that the text seems to be better there but 808 photo is less contrasted (moving the settings of sharpness and contrast you could achieve better result in the text). And also the 808 picture as Marc says, is in ISO 200, and the ISO in the 1020 photo is 100 so the 808 has a little disadvantage in my opinion here, than if the photo would be at ISO 50 or 100. =)
      Anyway both phones took best photos in this comparison (I think) and I love the details in 808 picture. ;)

  7. fish

    Thank you Marc for another excellent comparison!

    Nokia still haven’t fixed the white balance problem on their pureview phones, have they? They got it right on the 808, used a different OS and bam, it was a mess. With the experience Nokia have in making camera phones, it shouldn’t take them that long to fix it.

    • Marc @PureViewClub

      Wow fish, you’re fast – I didn’t even tweet about this post yet. Think the white balance is a problem? Well, I’m not too sure about it, really. I see quite a bit of difference in all the shots, I’m actually not sure which one is “best” (being closest to reality, whatever that may be)

      Like I wrote, there are many more shots to come in this comparison (including the Jolla that is). I wouldn’t call it “a mess” at all to be honest: the Lumia 1020 and 1520 give me the best results in this first test, that seems to have been won by the 808 PureView (even in an ISO 200 setting I wasn’t really aware of).

    • Dave

      After a couple of months with the 1020, I would tend to agree.

      Overall colour balance on the 1020 is in effect “wrong”, even with the black update. Sure, there are times when its nice to have colours that are slightly unnatural and pop – on the 808 you have reasonable control over the colour. On the 1020, no control at all.

      I’m not exactly wound up by the 1020 camera, its pretty usable. But it isn’t a patch on the 808 :
      - 1020 camera startup time is actually pathetic (808 can start the camera, take a picture, be back in the pocket while the 1020 is just waiting to start)
      - no colour balance controls
      - sunlight usage – 808 screen is just easier to read in bright sunlight

      I’ve now decided to start taking the 808 out for pictures, and its getting more use than the 1020.

      • Marc @PureViewClub

        Well Dave, that’s all up to you of course. I still carry the 808 with me, but do use the 1020 a lot more in fact. It makes fantastic shots and it’s easier to “work” with them (zoom, crop, turn, whatever). Moreover, I do like the screen of the 1020 better than of the 808. Matter of personal preference I guess. As a smartphone, using the 1020 more often than the 808 is a no-brainer nowadays I’m afraid. As smartphone camera, the 808 still is a fantastic, even incredible milestone – even after almost two years (lightyears in this industry).

      • MF

        In theory the 808′s camera may load faster but in practice half the time it will suffer from some inexplicable lag or hanging which results in the shot being missed.

        • banerjee

          Not quite… Though 1020 is a much much better smartphone, the camera startup and operation time is much sleeker on the 808… no denying that… and I don’t know why, but I have always loved the result of three 1020… kinda gives a ‘WOW’ factor to the pics…I agree 808 IS better with bigger sensor and all that, but I just love the 1020′s result… :)