Almost as soon as cameras started to arrive on smartphones (the Nokia 7650 was the first - I still have mine!), bright minds started to wonder if it would be possible to not only snap a scene, but actively zoom the shot before capture (as you would on a standalone camera). Early approaches were terrible, of course, but then we had a succession of interesting approaches, most of which are grouped in the photo below. And, a decade later, in late 2015, is there a consensus, a winner?
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My last camera phone comparison for over a month, I promise(!), the arrival of the much-praised (in terms of its imaging) Xperia Z5 prompted another comparison across a range of test shots against the classic (Symbian) Nokia 808 PureView and the (Windows 10 Mobile) Nokia Lumia 1020 and Lumia 930. Apologies if you're not interested in camera-centric features (in which case move right along), but (with the very latest iPhone 6s here too) the opportunity was too good to pass up - a genuine 5 way shootout between some of the best camera phones in the world from the last few years.
The next time you look at your on-device application store, with a progress bar showing that an update to, say, Photos is taking an outrageous 30 seconds to apply, here's a cautionary data point from a decade ago...
The debates have raged over the years, of course. Phone cameras acquired flash units, first LED and then, on some Nokias, Xenon, though the bulk, expense and power requirements of this technology meant that, despite the possible advantages, it never really took off in the phone world. However, 2015 marks the point in the sand where technology is eliminating the need for a flash in a camera phone at all. Soon, the only thing you'll use it for is as a torch to find your way to the car from the pub!
There's a sweet spot for everything, whether it's the quantity of beer you buy in one go (e.g. a 'pint'), the number of children your family has (2, in the West, allegedly!) or, indeed, the number of megapixels in your captured photos. There will always be exceptions and regional variations, but taking the megapixel example in the context of camera phones, the tech world is now moving into uncharted areas of what I've often called the 'megapixel myth'. From this point onwards, it's mainly pain and little gain, I contend, unless manufacturers start to do cleverer things with all those pixels, in the manner of PureView classics like the 808 and 1020...
In this specific group test. I look at capturing high decibel music on a variety of new and classic smartphone cameras, four of which also have OIS to help keep the picture steady too. Add in low light conditions and a dozen factors trying to throw auto-focus out and you have the recipe for a decent multi-device group test. In the ring here were the Nokia 808 PureView, Lumia 1020, Lumia 930, Microsoft 640 XL, Google Nexus 6 and LG G4. Four of the six have OIS, at least three have HAAC microphones, and one has hardware oversampling per frame in real time. Game on!
Guest writer Stuart Peters provokes thought of the (higher than expected?) worth of a Nokia 808 PureView, 'the ultimate Symbian phone', in 2015. See below for his take on the 808 and a modern approach to use case of the device and its OS, even if it can't be recommended to the masses.
I've had a lot (ok, two or three) of requests for pitting 'ye olde' Nokia 808 PureView against the LG G4, brand new and the hottest thing in camera phone technology, and for good reason, it just won out against the Lumia 930 and 1020. But what about the venerable Nokia 808 with its massive 1/1.2" sensor? Time for a few data points, at the very least... [Updated with a new test shot, oversampled, under sunshine!]
With eight years since the classic Nokia N95 was selling in the mainstream, with one of the first five megapixel cameras in the phone market and the best, with 1/2.5" sensor and 'Carl Zeiss' optics, I thought it would be interesting to see how far the technology has come. After all, the Lumia 930 occupies pretty much the same photo-enthusiast consumer spot, at least in the Windows phone world, yet it outputs at a nominal 5MP still. But how different would the pixels themselves be, with eight years of sensor, optics and processing tech improvements under the 930's hood?
I've had many requests for a camera head-to-head between the Nokia Lumia 830 and 930, not least since they're now about the same price at some outlets. But I thought I'd wait until they both had Lumia Denim and the new camera software. And then, heck, I couldn't resist adding in the Lumia 1020 and Symbian-powered Nokia 808 PureView into the mix. Plus an Android imposter, just to add an extra reference point. Gulp! So much to analyse and comment on below.