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Battle in 8MP – comparing the Nokia 808 PureView, Sony Xperia Z1 Compact and Jolla

After I learned it actually is possible to change the settings of the Jolla’s camera to 4:3 (in general settings, not in camera settings!) I knew it’s possible to use it to its full potential – the 8MP resolution. So time for a camera battle once again.

This is a short but – I hope – remarkable battle between three smartphone cameras shooting in 8MP. The Jolla, the Nokia 808 PureView using oversampling as we all know. And the Sony Xperia Z1 Compact, manually set to 4:3.

I’m not sure if the Sony Xperia Z1 Compact uses oversampling, since I can’t use the “Superior Auto” setting in 4:3 (I know it’s possible on the Xperia Z2 and I hope the camera software of its predecessors will be updated by Sony). So I can only guess it oversamples the 20.7MP results to 8MP.

Anyway, this morning I chose three scenes. First, a close-up of one of my favorite artefacts: a Mexican mask presenting the Cycle of Life (it has been hanging outside for at least 10 years and the colors never changed much). Second, a shot of an abundant forsythia bush and third of a path in forest this Sunday morning.

You’ll see the resized versions of all scenes here, followed by the crops I made. I’ll do it in alphabetical order this time, so Jolla first, Nokia next and Sony last.

1 Jolla - Mask

1 Nokia 808 PureView - Mask a

1 Sony Xperia Z1 Compact - Mask

Since in all shots I focused in the middle, I made the crops from the middle as well

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An open letter to my friends from Nokia USA

Update 29-03-2014

Well, it’s not every evening you get a phone call from Nokia HQ in Finland. It happened to me yesterday, after Nokia USA sent me the message they were willing to try and support me.

The caller from Finland explained the limitations for review units for operator-exclusive products like the Lumia Icon, which like we all know is available only at Verizon in the US. It’s a shame, but I get it and I’m okay with it – at  least I tried and almost succeeded :-) 

Now I’m looking forward even more to what Nokia have in store next week at the Microsoft Build Developer Conference next week!   



Dear friends from Nokia USA,

After using Twitter to send several kind requests your way (and to Verizon, which seems to be on a different planet) I read you can’t send me a review sample of the Nokia Lumia Icon, since:

Nokia US

Come on…

True, this is a Dutch based site (raving) about Nokia’s PureView imaging qualities, but it’s not in Dutch because it’s way more effective in English. In fact: by far most of the PureViewClub’s visitors are from the United States.

Runners up are the Ukraine, China, Germany, The Netherlands, Great Britain, India and France. But in terms of visits, the US is at least twice as big as number two and it has been like that for a long time. I have the stats to back it up, too.

Sure: the PureViewClub’s reach doesn’t even come close to huge sites like The Verge or Engadget – they have a staff I might add, dozens of people that actually live from writing there.

Nevertheless, the PureViewClub’s “one man army” (me) had close to a million visitors last year. And I sat front-row during this year’s Nokia’s press conference in Barcelona, even though it was highly unlikely to expect any PureView news…

I wasn’t invited there, I just went. I was there because of Nokia. I wrote about and shared a shot from the Nokia XL. I could play with the Lumia Icon for ten minutes. I even could make this shot (below) and share these, coming from the Icon. Ten minutes I was grateful for. But you’ll agree it’s not quite enough for a serious test.

Nokia Lumia Icon 640 x 360Maybe you’re not aware of the effect the PureViewClub has had on many customers deciding to buy a Nokia smartphone – based on my shared experiences. I’m not bragging, many people actually wrote me they decided to buy a Nokia PureView device because of this site and of all the shots I shared, be it my own or by others.

For two years now, I’ve been a critical, but passionate ambassador of the PureView technology from the Nokia 808 and onwards. I’ve been showing OIS was really effective in the Lumia 920, cheering the moment when Nokia managed to port the 41MP sensor technology to Windows Phone with the Lumia 1020. Raving about the Black update.

I’ve been more than happy to proudly share the results from all available PureView devices – but at least I have to be able to test them, see what it’s like to work with them. Of course, I can’t make calls with the Lumia Icon over here. But who cares about making calls these days? :-)

Meanwhile, I’ve been trying to get a Lumia Icon through Nokia in The Netherlands, but that proved to be impossible – no wonder, they simply don’t have any commercial sample since it’s only sold in the US. Did I mention I have most of my readers over there?

I only asked for a review sample – I didn’t even ask you to give me one. It’s not like sending a parcel overseas will make you go bankrupt.

So after all this, Nokia USA, could you please reconsider and send me a Lumia Icon so I will have a very interesting device to write about for all my readers from the United States – and beyond? They’re all ardent Nokia fans who appear to like my content – and I’m getting fed up with copying other site’s reviews, if you don’t mind.

I’m really looking forward hearing from you.

Yours truly,

Marc Wielaert
marc at pureviewclub.com
The Netherlands

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Nokia’s PureView flagships, Samsung Galaxy Note 3, Sony Xperia Z1 Compact and: Jolla (2)

Let’s go outside for a change. To a very small general aviation airport in my neighbourhood.  Carrying three Nokia PureView devices, the Samsung, Sony and Jolla.

Yes, I know the comparison isn’t completely fair, the Jolla being cheaper and never “camera centric” and all that. True. But its camera sotware has been recently updated and the Jolla still costs you €400: you might expect a pretty good smartphone camera module for that kind of money as well I guess?

There has been some confusement about the amout of MP the Jolla’s camera has – and I’ve been adding a bit to it as well, I’m sorry to say. Based on a too quick glance on the internet  I thought 3264 x 1840 pixels equals 4MP – but obviously (just do the math) it’s 6MP.

Now why is Jolla mentioning 8MP for its camera? Probably because the sensor is that big – you know, like the 808 PureView and Lumia 1020 have a 41MP sensor, but you will only get 38MP in 4:3 and 34MP in 16:9 aspect ratio.

Like – for instance – the Samsung Galaxy Note 3 has a 13MP sensor but will only give you that in 4:3, and “only” 9.6MP in 16:9. The Jolla gives you 6MP in 16:9 and you can’t change the aspect ratio to 4:3. So I guess it’s 8MP when you would have had the possibility to use 4:3 – maybe after a future update.

Enough numbers. Let return to the small aviation airport. The light was bright, it was a clear afternoon and the clouds on the horizon made for an impressive scenery. All camera settings were on automatic – I didn’t change the white balance, didn’t put any focus to “infinity” (although that might have been wise in this case).

The shots aren’t very interesting from an artistic point of view (although the clouds are beautiful). But to see how the different cameras cope with the contrast of the bright sunlight and the darker foreground – I think that’s what makes these shots worth your while. And the 640 x 360 crops, of course, showing which offers you the best detail.

First the two smallest resolutions, 5MP coming from the Nokia Lumia 1520 and 1020 (shown in that order). Both devices chose ISO-100, the difference is remarkable – the light was exactly the same.

7 Nokia Luma 1520 Sky

7 Nokia Lumia 1020 Sky 5MP

Now one might argue the grass looks very green in the last shot, but on a very bright sunlit afternoon, it actually looks this green. I think the 1020 has done a better job here – maybe because of the bigger sensor? Who knows… You’ll see quite a bit darker shade of green in all the other shots though.

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The Verge on the new HTC One (M8): “HTC Improved Everything But The Image Quality”

I don’t know about your Twitter timeline – if you have one – but mine is filled with news, the first hands-ons, reviews and some pretty strong opinions about the next HTC One (M8). I wasn’t present at the announcement in London, so I can’t share anything like a first impression – let alone first shots.

But it’s pretty big news in the mobile space and I kind of admire HTC for getting so much attention in an Android world that is dominated by Samsung, Sony, LG, Huawei, Motorola, etc. The first HTC One has been a very impressive device and even the best selling according to HTC’s CEO Peter Chou, and it has won quite a few prestigious awards. But still: you hardly ever see it – I know only two persons who own one in fact.

So although as a smartphone it has a fantastic reputation, it didn’t seem to have sold as well – not as well as other brands, like Samsung, at least. That makes the once quite successful company a bit like the “underdog that has to fight back” – and we all know which company that reminds me of.

HTC One sample shot The Verge

Now for the PureViewClub I’m really looking forward to test the camera(s) of the HTC One (M8) myself, but judging from what TheVerge published today, I don’t need to hold my breath in hope of spectacular results I’m afraid. In an otherwise raving review David Pierce writes about the camera as well, and it’s no good news so far. I’ll quote that part from his review in full:

“The One really only has one major flaw left, and it’s a big one: its camera is still pretty bad. It’s the same UltraPixel camera HTC debuted last year, which trades resolution for pixel size so as to collect more light at a time. The idea is certainly sound, but the execution was wrong then and it’s wrong now. And the changes it did make are either niche features or interface changes attempting to disguise the device’s basic shortcomings.

There’s a new simple icon-based settings menu that lets you switch between Selfie mode, Camera mode, and HTC’s cool-but-pointless Zoe mode, which makes a sort of hacky animated GIF out of your photos. Manual settings like white balance and ISO are only one tap away, and there are filters and effects galore; there’s even a surprisingly powerful image editor, which let me either fix photos or do truly terrifying things to my own face.

Most of its camera features are gimmicks, but the coolest one, the one we’re sure to see in a commercial before long, is UFocus. It uses the second lens on the back of the new One as a depth sensor, recording data alongside the image you shoot. Put together, they let you refocus your photos after you shoot them, Lytro-style, and even play with a slight 3D perspective shift. The effect isn’t perfect and requires some real staging, but it’s endlessly fun to refocus a shot in the gallery app.

I love the One’s camera interface, I love what it lets me do with my photos. I just don’t like most of the photos I take. The UltraPixel sensor sees remarkably well in the dark, able to capture a usable picture in virtually any situation, but my praise for the One’s pictures rarely goes beyond “usable” in any situation. Photos are mushy and soft, as if nothing’s ever quite in focus.

Even the 5-megapixel front-facing camera, the ultimate selfie machine, is better in a lot of situations. And it has higher resolution than the rear camera, which makes no sense to me. The new One does do far better than last year’s camera, which took almost hilariously bad photos in spots — color depth is particularly improved — but this is not a good camera.”

HTC One sample shot 2 The Verge

Well, that’s a bit disappointing, but not really surprising after having seen what the “Ultrapixel” technology has proven to be able to do the first time (see my comparison here and on Flickr). What is surprising is to read that HTC only added a second camera to get the “Refocus” aspect in the hardware, not the software like Nokia did.

I get the impression it’s about as effective as on the Samsung Galaxy S5, giving you two different points to focus (front and background), but what’s the point of adding an extra camera for that? In my humble opinion, that’s just expensive hardware going to waste.

Being able to change foreground and background is fun, sure - but it’s a gimmick, not more. And Nokia Refocus even gives me 5 points to focus – not just two like Samsung and now HTC (check this post if you haven’t seen my best Refocus shot with the colorful pegs).

You can have a look at the shots The Verge got from the HTC One (M8) in the Gallery they published today, but unfortunately you can’t see the full resolution result. I borrowed the two shots you’ve seen in this post (crops from screenshots I made on my PC).

Mind you: I do realize there is more, much more to a smartphone than “just the camera”. But this site is about smartphone camera technology. HTC has made quite a fuzz about the UltraPixel technology in the past and has been quite disappointing. Now someone concluding that HTC has improved everything in the phone but the image quality is even more of a letdown – especially after HTC adding an extra lens…

But that’s just my two cents for the moment, based on someone else’s opinion. So I’m still looking forward to test the HTC One (M8) myself – and do some serious “pixel peeping” – but my expectations aren’t driving me crazy after this review at The Verge.

Update: you’ll find the fist shots Engadget got from the HTC One M8 in a dedicated set on Flickr, but you can’t seem to download the originals. PS: You can in fact download the originals, I just wasn’t used to the new Flickr I now know. Sigh.

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Great PureView footage from Rio de Janeiro

Nokia is doing some great PR for its Lumia PureView devices lately. The Guardian recently wrote about the fashion magazine Centerfold that shot its entire 10th edition with the Lumia 1020, and now on Nokia Conversations. you”ll find a post about photographer Stephen Alvarez, who is “capturing the seven natural wonders of the world – using Lumia smartphones” – the 1020 and 1520.

For their complete story, see here (and don’t miss the possibility to win a Nokia Lumia 1520 before april 15). I’m not too fond of sharing these marketing driven stories anymore, but the footage you’ll see in this video is just spectacular.

In the reactions on this video I read the whole thing was shot on the Lumia 1020/1520 as well, but I’m not 100% sure - coming from Nokia and National Geographic, it would surprise me if they would use any other gear for a pomotional video like this though.

So enjoy: choose FullHD if your connection is fast enough, set your PC to fullscreen, and enjoy!

On YouTube

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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

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