How to make HDR shots with the Nokia 808 PureView

I've been working with the Nokia 808 PureView a lot as you have seen, but until now one of the big mysteries was how to make HDR shots on the Nokia 808 PureView.

Via the PureViewClub Forum and via Flickr, I got to know the Dutch photographer Peter Meijs - also know as Pixelpeter - who is very experienced in HDR photography. At my request, he was willing to write an article about it for the PureViewClub. So ALL credits for this article go to Peter Meijs and I'd like to thank him in advance for all this time and effort writing all this! I really hope you'll enjoy this as much as I did!

Bracketing
One of the great  features of the Nokia 808 PureView is bracketing. In bracketing mode the camera automatically takes 3 or 5 shots with different exposures. For that you only have to push the release button one time. With these 3 or 5 consecutive shots you make your HDR picture. In this article I show some  HDR pictures and tell what to do (and what to avoid) working with your Nokia 808 PureView.

Usually 3 different exposed shots are enough for a good result. Here the settings are: Pure View with 8 MP in Creative mode. Bracketing set to -2.0 / + 2.0. The shot left is the so called “zero shot”; the exposure is “normal”. This shot is for the midtones. The shot in the middle is the “minus 2.0” shot. Normal exposure is lowered by 2.0 to capture all the details of the highlights of the scene. The shot right is the “plus 2.0 shot”. Normal exposure is increased by 2.0 to capture all the details of the shadows.

HDR is for scenes with big differences in brightness, I mean deep shadows and very light areas. In the illustration above you see left how a normally exposed single image looks. The picture is not bad but if you want to see all details of the shadows parts and all the details in the highlights the HDR at right, composed with 3 shots, clearly is the winner.

SETTINGS
You go into Creative Mode and make the following settings:
Sensormode: PureView. Resolution: 8 MP, 5 MP or 3 Mp. Ratio: 16:9 or 4:3. JPEG quality: Superfine.  Colortones:  Normal. You touch Bracketing mode and set 3 shots -2.0/+2.0. You leave Saturation, Contrast and Sharpness on their default values (zero).

The nice thing is that you only have to do these settings one time, because you can save all settings in one of the Custom Settings C1, C2 or C3. Now you push the release button halfway to go to the camera settings.

Set the Flash to “off”. Reset the AE compensation to default (zero). Reset the whitebalance to automatic. Set the ISO on 100 and the ND-filter to “off” or “on” depending on the general light situation. Important; for HDR bracketing never set the ISO and the ND-Filter to their default (automatic) settings, because this would spoil totally your intention to get different exposed shots. Keep in mind that in automatic mode and in scene mode HDR is not possible.

Other HDR PureView samples
Before coming back to the rest of the workflow I first give some other HDR pictures made with the Nokia 808 PureView.

This is a “classic” HDR scene. Look from the inside out. Inside and outside both well exposed. Bracket: zero, -2.0 and +2.0. This is in 34 Mp mode and image quality is outstanding.

A simple bracket of zero, -1.0 and +1.0 creates an interesting picture.

Taken under difficult light conditions at Schiphol Airport Amsterdam. HDR really helps to cheer up this picture!

The HDR approach and the wide angle of Nokia’s 808 PureView (at 16:9) makes this picture intriguing. Taken under Calatrava bridge in Nieuw Vennep.

A “holy” picture. HDR easily captures the enormous light differences in this scène.

This is by no means a scene for HDR because it's raining cats and dogs. Nevertheless this HDR aproach demonstrates that even under this conditions the Nokia 808 PureView’s bracketing feature can lead to attractive colorful pictures.

Car inside and landscape outside both well exposed.

Hand held or tripod?
For the Nokia 808 PureView it very much depends on the sensor mode PureView or full resolution, whether you need a tripod. HDR software has to combine 3 (or even more) shots to get the result you want. Therefore the HDR software has to align those shots and that’s only possible if they don’t differ too much in pixel content. Camera shake and moving people or objects are problem areas.

Without a tripod you have to keep your smartphone steady while you shoot your bracket. Fortunately the Nokia 808 in the PureView 8 MP, 5 MP or 3 MP mode writes  pictures to the phone’s mass memory rather fast. That speed enables you to keep your device steady. It helps to lean with your body against a wall, a tree or something. Or you can perhaps sit down which often also gives an interesting view for your pictures.

Shooting with the full resolution mode of 34 MP or 38 MP definitely requires a tripod. You could use Nokia’s HH-23 tripod mount but take care to prevent  that your precious smartphone slips out of the clamp. Using a tripod also gives the opportunity to use the AE Compensation setting of the camera to get your shots with different exposure. You don’t need then the bracketing feature of the camera. You simply take your first shot with – 2.0. Then you change to + 2.0 and reset to the default of 0.0 for your third shot. You can do this in 8MP, 5MP or 3 MP but also in full resolution 34 MP or 38 MP.

From 3 shots to one picture.
You need a HDR program to merge your 3 shots and make your HDR picture. With your PureView or full resolution shots you can use all HDR programs. The best I know is Photomatix. A newcomer is Oloneo PhotoEngine. You can download trial versions of both. I recommand to take Oloneo because their 30 day trial is fully functional and allows you to save your results. The Photomatix trial is not restricted in time, you can also save your work but the program puts a watermark over your pictures. I don’t like that.

Using these HDR programs perhaps looks difficult but it is not. In most programs you can simply draw your 3 bracketed shots into the program then you use the default settings and the program merges them to one picture. You have to “tonemap” that picture to get your end result. Again “tonemap” sounds complicated but all programs have preset buttons.

In Oloneo PhotoEngine those preset buttons show you in real time how your picture will look. Make your choose and save. I strongly recommend that in the beginning you don’t touch any sliders. There are many of them but most of the time you don’t need them. Playing with presets is really fun. Here some examples with different presets.

Bracketed shots: “zero shot”, -1,-2,+1,+2

Tonemapped with preset “default”.

Tonemapped with preset “colorful”.

Tonemapped with preset “fantasy”.

Follow up
I think I have sufficiently demonstrated that HDR is perfectly possible with the Nokia 808 PureView.
But of course there was HDR before this Nokia smartphone.
To see pictures in my own classic HDR style go to  AMSTERDAM IN SPIJKERBROEK
Or for more photorealistic HDR pictures go to  SICILY
And a small recent set various HDR go to  VARIOUS

In my article I focussed on the Nokia 808 PureView. On the web there are tons of general info about HDR. One of the best sites I know is HDRlabs with an extensive  FAQ

For a trial of Oloneo PhotoEngine click  OLONEO
For a trial of Photomatix click PHOTOMATIX

I wish you much HDR-fun with your Nokia 808 PureView!

Peter Meijs