REVIEW: The Nokia 808 Pureview is like an old man with a 20-20 vision

By Alexander Villafania

MAKATI CITY, METRO MANILA - When Nokia decided to “tie the knot,” so to speak, with Microsoft in 2011 to migrate to the software giant’s Windows Phone 7 operating system, the tech media opined that it could be the death of Nokia’s once-beloved Symbian OS.

But behind the curtain of co-development with Microsoft, Nokia pushed its R&D department to continue working on one of its more promising imaging technologies, the Pureview Pro.

It took five long years to work on just the imaging sensor of the Pureview Pro and it is integrated in probably the last Symbian smartphone in the market, the Nokia 808 Pureview.

During a recent media test of the Nokia 808 Pureview, Nokia Philippines Corporate Communications Manager Nikka Abes said the 808 Pureview would still hold its own against existing smartphone models, including those running Google Android.

Even with the Nokia Lumia series taking the limelight away from Nokia's pre-Windows models, she believes the 808 Pureview would just be a taste of things to come for the Pureview Pro technology and even Symbian.

As an explanatory note, the Pureview Pro is essentially a combination of a 41-megapixel super high resolution sensor infused with Carl Zeiss optic lenses. Essentially, one shot is equivalent to 7728x5368 pixels.

The entire Pureview Pro sensor already takes up nearly a third of the 808 Pureview’s weight, which is pegged at 169 grams. The weight becomes evident when trying to hold the camera in portrait mode with the upper part of the unit carrying the entire weight of the sensor.

The 41 MP sensor does not provide “true” 41 megapixel resolution because of what is called “pixel oversampling.” This means that more pixels are packed together in a smaller space. This provides way higher details from a single shot, as well as reduced noise and artifacts. When zooming, the target part of the original image still shows high quality.

During a test of the 808 Pureview, the highest resolution allowed far-off images to be zoomed in and cropped. Instead of getting image blur in a cropped image (a typical problem among digital cameras), close up image is focused, as if a mechanical zoom lens was used.

Images taken by the 808 Pureview also seem to be closer to the actual color saturation as the original image, which can be attributed to absorption of more light even at higher zoom. Grain and distortion is also greatly reduced even if there is not enough light available.

But all this detail also comes at the price of storage space: one 41 MP shot is already 11 megabytes. Of course, the 808 Pureview can still take standard shots of 2 MP, 4 MP, and 8 MP.

Apart from still shots, the 808 Pureview can also take full HD videos (1080p). However, unlike other smartphones full HD video capabilities, the 808 Pureview demonstrates higher video capture rate along with full stereo recording (some similar smartphones only record dual mono to simulate stereo recording).  The video output format is MP4 and at its highest resolution, a 30 second video is already about 72 MB heavy.

Amid all the technical feats of the 808 Pureview, the optical prowess demonstrated by the 808 Pureview is still in the body of the aging Symbian operating system. While the new Nokia Belle OS (renamed from Symbian Belle) has improved dramatically from its predecessors, the fact that only four existing Nokia models are using it tends to put into question the future of this 41 MP optical technology.

Plus, the fact that software development on Symbian has been greatly reduced in favor of Windows Phone development further indicates the dying out of phones running on Symbian (Nokia has not made new announcements for models that would run Symbian).

On the other hand, Nokia still has a loyal following of its Symbian-powered smartphones, especially with its highly successful N8 series. There could be a probability that Symbian would be relegated to the low-to-mid tier phones or even basic smartphones.

In contrast, the Pureview Pro optics technology could be a game-changer for Nokia as it could be integrated into newer Lumia models. All the years put in to a single camera technology shouldn't go to waste.

The Nokia 808 Pureview is set to be released in the Philippines in the coming weeks with a price tag of P26,550.

***

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