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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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Samsung Galaxy S5 vs Nokia Lumia 1020 – first comparison based on a few shots

You might have read I’m more or less enjoying a short “time-out”, but some shots are just too “important” not to share I guess. Like these ones, coming from the Nokia Lumia 1020 and the brand new Samsung Galaxy S5…

Please correct me if I’m wrong, but I think this is the first comparison with shots coming from the Samsung Galaxy S5. Today I was happy to be invited to an event called the Samsung Experience Day here in The Netherlands, and I asked if I would be allowed to take a few shots with the Samsung Galaxy S5 (and take those with me) and to compare them with a Nokia PureView device.

There was not a doubt in their mind, and since it would be necessary to take a few shots outside as well, they even let me borrow the brand new Galaxy S5 from the national Marketing Manager. You’ll understand I couldn’t take that with me for a very long time (and they didn’t let me leave the building alone either :-). So although I only had a few minutes to make these shots, I’m very grateful for their trust and the opportunity they’ve given me to share them here.

But not without a few disclaimers first (you know me by now).
- First, maybe I should have grabbed the Lumia 1520 with its 20MP sensor, for a more “fair” battle with the 16MP results of the Galaxy S5. I didn’t, I guess I just wanted to compare the Galaxy S5 to the best smartphone camera at the moment.
- Second: light outside was awful (nothing but grey clouds).
- Third: for some weird reason my Lumia 1020 reset itself (for the first time ever, great timing), while making shots, so I appear to miss one high-res shot. Since I have only a few, I decided to share them all nevertheless.
- Fourth: I guess I was so excited to be able to give the Galaxy S5 a try, there are quite a few things I forgot to capture (like screenshots of the different camera settings).

So although this post is limited in some ways, it will just have to do for now.

HDR
To start, first two shots only from the Galaxy S5 itself – one with HDR off and one with HDR on. The difference is obvious, the effect fantastic, but the really great thing is that you will see the effect of using HDR in the screen even before you make the shot. No need to explain why that’s great – and I could add that there (still) is no direct HDR option in Nokia Camera (why not?).

Samsung Galaxy S5 Test HDR - offSamsung Galaxy S5 Test HDR - onJust one test with two shots, and I think the result speaks for itself. Like I said: you can immediately see the difference in the screen before capturing it. I really think that’s a great feature and moreover, there’s a direct button in the screen to control HDR (on/off).

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Time-out (charging the battery)

You’ve noticed I haven’t been able to post for quite a while – apart from a short quiz lately, which might prove to be the start of a new series about Nokia’s uniquely designed phones. But this post is not about that.

This club has become so much more than the fruit of my passion for mobile photography: it has grown into a worldwide and very lively community – and I’m so proud to be your “bartender” at the Club, serving literally thousands of you every day!

But now, after about two years of posting (even during my holidays), I notice I don’t lack passion or inspiration – I simply don’t have enough energy to keep doing all this next to what I’m supposed to do in daily life. Like: a full time job, and being a husband, a father and a son.

I’ve recently written I’ve been very busy with doing all that, and since this blog has become even more personal than I ever thought possible, I just wanted to let you know I simply need some sort of time-out, to “charge the battery” so to say.

Am I closing the club temporarily? No way, of course not – there are still hundreds of posts I believe are still worth your time to read (check the archives! :-). Will I stop posting? No, not that either – but I simply can’t keep posting as often as you might be used to by now. Not for the time being that is.

Isn’t this post somewhat unprofessional? Well, maybe – but the club is in fact costing me more than it’s making me. In two years I’ve discovered that either I’m the worst marketeer on the planet, or it’s really very hard to find commercial partners when you blog in a different language than your own.

The PureViewClub seems to be too international for Dutch companies, and simply too small for international ones. Is that frustrating me? Well – sometimes, to be honest. So if you’re a CEO or Head of Marketing of a company reading this and you feel you can do something about it, you’re more than welcome to.

In case you’re seriously interested: last year there were 445K unique visitors, 964K visits and more than 2.6 million pageviews. That should count for something, right? It might be an interesting opportunity for your company – and it won’t cost you a fortune either :-)

Anyway: the PureViewClub will stay open 24/7 and all posts are on the house as always. I will be posting on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, etc (see the links below). I’ll keep sharing great PureView shots by others, hopefully a few of my own as well. And I’ll try to post new content here as often as I can. But I simply need more time than ever to do so. I hope you’ll understand!

Meanwhile, feel free to make a donation if you’ve been appreciating what I’ve been doing here for the past two years – you’ll find a dedicated button at the right hand side of this page. Thank you very much in advance, you’ll even be mentioned here :-)

Bhudda small

PS: this is a crop from a Lumia 1020 picture from a poster of a painting I saw in a friend’s house. The lights were low, I didn’t use any flash, of course. Yes, I really am passionate about PureView technology, that’s not going to change either :-)

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Just a little quiz. PureView shots from a Nokia device – which one? (and the winner is: Angie!)

I’ve been extremely busy for the past days, so I didn’t find any time to write any of the posts I have in mind – I’m really sorry. Not sure when I will have some more time and peace of mind, so you’ll have to be patient still I’m afraid.

In the meantime, let’s play a little game, shall we? I’ll share some crops until you’re sure which Nokia device you’re looking at, okay? Here’s shot number one… Let me know what you think this is below :-)

Nokia detail 3

These were to be the next hints I had in mind to share…

Nokia detail 1

Nokia detail 2

Nokia detail 6

Nokia detail 4

Stop reading here for a minute… Would you have recognized it by now? I don’t think I would have if I didn’t know it already…

Nokia detail 5

Nokia speaker

So, would you? :-)

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