Nokia: alpha and omega of the camphone

The Nokia 808 PureView is not just a sensational highlight in the history of digital imaging, it’s a shining crown on the tenth anniversary of the camphone. The first camphone in Europe was Nokia’s 7650. Since the Nokia N8 there has been no better camphone for two years, and now the 808 PureView makes a quantum leap to a new dimension.

Nokia 7650
2001, november 19. During a press conference Nokia’s CEO Jorma Ollila announces a revolutionary development, and he compares it with television after radio: MMS, multi-media messaging. After the unexpected success of SMS he predicts people will want to share images with their friends and family. The next year will see the first smartphone that offers MMS on the European networks: the Nokia 7650.

It runs on Symbian Series 60, has a large color display and offers a VGA-camera with a 640x480 pixels. The pictures it makes are about as a classic picture postcard. The 7650 makes a big impression. Tech-savvy users love to have a camera in their smartphone, but many people don’t really understand how it works, also because not all operators support MMS directly. The Nokia 7650 has been a reasonable success, but especially the beginning of an extremely important technological innovation.

The multimediacomputer
A whole range of smartphones with built-in VGA-cams follow, among them the first UMTS-terminal, Nokia 6650. Nokia reaches the megapixel (MP) in 2004, with the stylish 7610. The same year we see an 1,3MP-camera in the Nokia 6630. Nokia launches the 6680 a year later, the very first smartphone with a frontcamera to enable videocalls.

The N-series “multimediacomputer” marks another revolution. First, the N91 cam was introduced as musicphone, the N90 as camcorder. The N70 was the first Nokia to offer 2MP resolution. And because only the amount of megapixels isn’t everything, Nokia chooses to collaborate with Carl Zeiss. The huge N90 in 2005 is the first to offer this quality lense.

The years to follow show two more camcorders: the N93 and N93i (photo). The design gets better every time, but still, the device itself stays quite big. But not with the N95, one of the most successful ‘multimediacomputers’. The resolution has grown to 5MP (after the N80 en N73 already offered 3,1MP). The huge success of the N95 leads to a new black version with 8GB internal storage. The resolution grows to 8MP in 2009 with the N86.

Nokia N8
2010 marks a peak in mobile digital imaging with the N8, with its 12MP-camera, Xenon flash en a big optical sensor. For two years, it has been considered the best camphone ever. It looked like Nokia didn’t see any reason to develop a smartphone with yet a better camera. It has seen several software updates and can now be considered a nice touchscreen device. But of course, most impressive is the picture quality of the N8.

Still, behind the scenes, Nokia was working for years on a revolutionary new technique that would lead to the Nokia 808 PureView. Until the announcement at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona this year, nobody knew about this device. There hasn’t been any rumour about it, absolutely nothing – it was simply top secret. That’s why the announcement was a jaw dropper if ever I saw one in this business.

All the days I visited the Mobile World Congress, I couldn’t stay away from the stand where they demonstrated the Nokia 808, including the sensational results from the Rich Recording technology.

Now ten years after the Nokia 7650 and after Nokia has been holding the first position for two years with the N8, the Nokia 808 PureView jumps to a new dimension in digital imaging and no doubt will hold the number one position for years to come.

PS You've probably already seen this movie about the Nokia 808 PureView being five made in the making. But if not, here's your chance!