The Lumia 1020: a new approach to PureView

Food for thought. Some Nokia 808 PureView owners appeared to be disappointed by the results that have been shown from the Lumia 1020. The colors are more saturated, the full resolution results show more noise. Is it "just" the software and can it still be tweaked? Is it because of the smaller pixel size? Or is it another new approach to PureView in general?

PureView 1
The birth of PureView was all about oversampling and lossless zoom. You were supposed to make your PureView shot in either 2 or 3MP, 5MP or 8MP. The fact that you could actually realize and keep a full resolution shot on 34MP or even 38MP was like a bonus. My guess is Nokia never expected that the full resolution thing would be so attractive to mobile photographers.

Here's an example: a house I captured with the Nokia 808 PureView near the beach in Bergen, The Netherlands. It has a poem in Dutch on it you'll see cropped from the full resolution original.

Nokia 808 PureView - house 640 x 360 PVC

Nokia 808 PureView - house crop

But no matter how much we all loved the Nokia 808 PureView, it was the white raven of smartphones and will become even more so. All too many smartphone lovers hated its OS, and no matter how impressed professional photographers were, they'd never leave their DSLR for it. In fact, it's a miracle the PureViewClub has such a relatively big following (there are thousands of visitors at the club every day).

The 808 PureView has been on the market for more than a year now - that's a very long period, even compared to Apple standards - and it's out of production as far as I know. If you want one, I suggest you watch the second hand market closely since it seems to be the last of its kind.

PureView 2
The second kind of PureView has been much criticized since it had nothing to do with the gigantic camera sensor. We have all seen the stunning results from Optical Image Stabilization - in lowlight photography, and in much more steady videos.

First with the Nokia Lumia 920, later with the Lumia 925, where Nokia introduced Nokia Smart Cam. And although it has its flaws (you don't want anyone moving in the night shot when you are trying to make it without flash), it was a different but very useful approach to PureView, and you'll find it on the Nokia Lumia 1020 as well.

Here is one of the nightshots I captured in France with the Nokia Lumia 925 (in night mode).

Lightning France PVC

A next generation concept
So what about the approach of PureView in the Nokia Lumia 1020? It appears it's not "just" the combination of PureView 1 + 2, of lossless zoom and OIS. There's more, I believe.

The Nokia Lumia 1020 has a 41MP sensor. The pixels are a little bit smaller to make the sensor smaller, to be sure the device wouldn't become too thick (we all know how many laughed at the size of the 808).

But still, it's a 41MP sensor, so the ones so enthusiastic about the full resolution results the Nokia 808 PureView captures (including myself), expect the full resolution result of the Lumia 1020 to be the same, if not better since it's a next generation device. But it's also a next generation concept.

Ferrari 458 Italia - 7 (8MP)

Zoom. Reinvented
Many owners of the Nokia 808 PureView cropped their way into reality and loved to share the incredible details they found in their 38MP shots: the "raw" material Nokia never expected to be as important as the concept of "oversampling" and "lossless zoom". Fanatic users just loved to show what they got from the phone even more than its oversampled results.

That obviously inspired Nokia to think of the "Zoom. Reinvented" slogan. But it's not like they simply copied the unexpected behaviour of the users of the 808 into smart marketing lingo. They really changed the  concept again. How? For one thing to really focus on the possibility to work with your shots on the device itself. The Lumia 1020 is much more consumer oriented.

Let's face it: nobody will ever need a 38MP shot to print unless you can afford your own extremely expensive wallpaper in your living room. Lots of owners of the Nokia 808 - including me - have been using the full resolution result to share detailed crops. But most of the cropping was usually done afterwards, on the PC, not on the phone itself.

I know you can edit and crop on the Nokia 808, but it's not as easy and versatile as it is now on the Lumia 1020. On the Lumia 1020, using the high resolution shot, you can zoom in on a subject after you made it. And not just that, you can change the aspect ratio, turn the shot to adjust the horizon or choose a completely new way to show your subject.

Salamander edited PVC

If you'd like to go even further you can open your cropped shot in Creative Studio and change the color balance, brightness, clarity, fix red eyes, blur your shot, etc. etc. Parts of this cropping and editing can be done on the 808 as well, but you won't be able to zoom in and out of your full resolution result and even turn the shot to exactly create what you like.

It's fast, it's fun to do (more fun than I have using Nokia Smart Cam to be honest) and it's incredibly versatile. And when you are done working on which detail you'd like to show from the high-resolution original, you can save the shot and will still have the original file to keep or work with later on. Also, you can share the result directly, by email or WhatsApp or whatever social network you want.

One thing to remember though (and somewhat of a drawback for me): when you edit a shot more than once, you will only find your last edit on the phone - and your previous edits on SkyDrive. I'm not sure why it won't save all your edits on the phone as different versions, but it doesn't. I do like SkyDrive as a back-up utility, but I'm not too fond of having to go there to get my own edits.

Pipi - cropped and turned 640 x 481 PVC

Conclusion
In testing the Nokia Lumia 1020, no wonder I first did what I always do: focus on the full resolution shot and compare that to what I got from the 808. But the 1020 is not about the full resolution shot itself, it's about how you are able to work with it directly on the phone and share the results. I didn't see that until recently. It made me realize what concept Nokia really had in mind with "Zoom Reinvented".

That's why the colors are more saturated and the the shots appear sharper: it's much more about an "instantly pleasing" result, ready to edit, easy to share. Maybe in the five years Damian Dinning and his team worked on the Nokia 808 PureView, they concentrated on getting the purest shot possible to give you maximum headroom (dynamice range) to work with it later. Many complained its colors were too "cold" though, although they were true to reality.

If you want to print your shot (when was the last time you did that?), a 5MP oversampled result should really be more than enough. To publish it on a website you will have to resize it. And you won't see much noise at all in what you get from the Lumia 1020 in its 5MP result. You will see more noise in the "high resolution" result than you were used to with the Nokia 808, but in this case you'll only need the high resolution shot to zoom in and - like Nokia puts it -  "tell a new story". On your phone.

The standad color setting and full resolution result may not be as  "perfect" as on the 808, but I really think it's a very effective new approach to mobile photography. Remember there are many people that never even heard of the 808 in the first place, and what the Lumia 1020 gives you beats anything the competition has to offer, not only in quality, but also in the way you can now work with your shots.

Nevertheless, I would like to see a bit less saturation. I'm sure that can be changed with a next software update - it can be tweaked, and I think it should be. Maybe not to get the exact same "cold" color setting the Nokia 808 PureView has, but I'm sure less saturation will give even more directly pleasing results. Another option would be to make the colors as real as on the 808 and add an easy option to change the saturation afterwards.

And talking about adding easy options: Nokia, please include a button on the picture screen to quickly change from 16:9 to 4:3. Thank you.

To conclude this long post: here's a shot I captured yesterday in a large Catholic church in Hilversum. It's the 5MP version of the Nokia Lumia 1020, only resized to fit this post. I'm really looking forward to your reactions.

Nokia Lumia 1020 - St. Vituskerk Hilversum - 1 640 x 1137

 (Click photo to see original on Flickr )in 1152 x 2048 pixel)

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