Interview: Juha Alakarhu, Head of Imaging Technologies at Nokia

My interview with Richard Dorman was the first of a series I will be working on for the next months. These are short interviews, done by e-mail, but I hope they will give some interesting background information.

I must admit I'm quite proud to present Juha Alakarhu, Head of Imaging Technologies at Nokia, as my second guest. With him I chatted about some of my thoughts concerning the development of the Nokia Lumia 1020 after the first experiences of Nokia's imaging team with the Nokia 808 PureView. It's a very simply play of question and answer.

With the release of the 808, all focus was on "oversampling" (being PureView). Back then, didn´t you think of the full resolution result more like a "bonus" possibility?

Back in 2007, in the original napkin concept that we drafted with Eero Salmelin and I, we did not consider the full resolution capture. Even though we had a couple of beers in that invention evening, the idea of saving tens of megapixel files to a mobile phone did not seem feasible. So, the original concept was all about oversampling and zoom.

Later during the project, we of course started thinking whether saving the full resolution images would be also possible. The full resolution and oversampling capture were interesting challenges both technically and from the user experience point of view.

And as we all know, we decided to include full resolution capture to the original Nokia 808 PuveView and have now extended that to dual capture in the Lumia 1020.

The must see video of how the Nokia 808 PureView came to be

Suddenly, many people appeared to be cropping from this full res result from the 808: to what extent did this inspire you to think of the concept of "zoom reinvented". What was the concept to make flexible cropping possible on the device (1020) itself?

We were not sure whether people would prefer using oversampled or full resolution capture in the Nokia 808 PureView. So it has been very exciting to talk to different users on how they use it, and of course see all the amazing photos. We of course took that feedback to Lumia 1020.

Personally, I was using both full resolution capture and oversampled capture with the Nokia 808 PureView. But I found it annoying that I had to make that decision at capture time. Sometimes when I had been using 5MP capture with the Nokia 808 PureView, I realized later that there could have been another story if I had zoomed in or frame the image in a different way.

I think dual capture is the perfect solution because it gives so much flexibility after capturing the photo. It is kind of simple concept but enables amazing creative opportunities. This is the first time you are able to zoom back or sideways after capturing the photo. It is similar thinking as we have in Smart Camera – you just capture those 10 frames first, and later you can do all the fun stuff with them. 

It also uses PureView oversampling in the post capture zooming. However, the algorithm is slightly different as the starting image is jpeg. But, you can re-frame as many times as you like without losing the quality because it always uses the original full resolution jpeg as the starting image!


(portrait of Juha Alakarhu on the right, shot by Jenifer Hanen, click pic to see original)

To what extent was Nokia Pro Cam developped with the Lumia 1020 in mind?

We have been developing the ideas for a long time. We had one team building event where we were brainstorming our dream camera already a few years back. We had a large number of ideas and inventions both in capturing and sharing. Actually Pro Camera has lots of those ideas, so I can say that we have now our dream camera in the product!

Of course, we have received a lot of feedback from the users, e.g., regarding the Nokia 808 PureView camera application. That has been very helpful. And a note to all the people who asked us to include the manual exposure time control: there you have it now!

Listing the ideas of a camera is one thing, but maybe even more important is putting those together so that the camera stays simple, beautiful and powerful: the simplicity without sacrificing creativity! The Lumia 1020 was the perfect product to introduce Pro Camera.

Are you still working on the software of the Lumia 1020, looking at aspects like sharpness and saturation?

Of course, we are continuously listening the user feedback and improving image quality.

Juha Alakarhu 640 x 945

I'd like to thank Juha Alakarhu for his time in what must have been a very hectic period at Nokia headquarters, no doubt. I hope it has given you some interesting insights about the Nokia 808 PureView and the Lumia 1020.

And I'd like to thank Ms. Jen for her permission to use her great shot of mr. Alakarhu, taken on july 11 in New York during the Zoom Reinvented Event - with the Nokia 808 PureView.

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