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". 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 saying "Pureview 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 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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