Having a 'proper' Xenon flash in your smartphone (we're talking Nokia 808 and Lumia 1020 here) doesn't necessarily give you better low light shots of people - you have to know how to use the technology to best effect too. After criticism from some quarters about 'missed shots', I thought a 'how to' guide to Xenon might be in order, whichever of Nokia's flagship camera phones you own.
Recent Features - Hardware
No, not quite the same as Nokia's famous "More than your eyes can see"(! here's that pop video) - more, in this case, matching what your eyes can see. As someone who swaps devices on a fairly regular basis, I have observed something in my own behaviour, about how and when I use the camera in my smartphone. Judging from the comments of a few others in the tech world (notably James Pearce), it seems that I'm not alone in having my photographic imagination realised by the hardware in my pocket.
As the resolution and quality of cameras in smartphones has risen dramatically in the last five years, it's easy to forget that these devices aren't just for snapping people and things around us right now. With the technology now included - here demoed on the especially capable Nokia Lumia 1020, but this also applies to any other decent camera phone, of course - it's perfectly practical to archive and transfer printed images from older times. In this feature, I explain a use case that made a lot of sense to me and I pass on a few tips.
It's all very well seeing phone manufacturer after phone manufacturer adding faster image processors and (ever so) slightly larger sensors in their smartphone cameras. It's all very well them proclaiming in their marketing "the best phone camera ever". And, in extreme cases, even adding two lenses and two sensors. But, ultimately, physics wins. It always wins. Never mind the tiny sensors used in even the likes of the brand new Samsung Galaxy S5 and Sony Xperia Z2, use a large sensor like that in the Nokia Lumia 1020 and photos are immediately better, especially when allied to Optical Image Stabilisation (OIS) and (when needed) also to a proper Xenon flash.
I didn't think this comparison would happen, due to the QX-100's price and availability, but we've been kindly loaned one and I set out to pitch it, chained to an Android smartphone, against the best of Nokia past (the 808 PureView) and Nokia future (the Lumia 1020). The QX-100, in case you hadn't been following the tech buzz, really is the guts of a high end standalone camera in a form that can be used directly by any compatible smartphone. Let battle commence!
Yes, yes, these colour combinations are getting crazy.... With the Lumia 1020 (on Windows Phone) having started to get its long awaited 'Nokia Black' firmware update, and with the imaging enhancements in this update essentially targetting lower digital noise and more accurate colours, there has been a lot of demand for one (really) 'final' imaging showdown between the 1020 and the Nokia 808 PureView, famed for the purity of its images, with almost no noise. Can the 1020 really match the 808 in this essential attribute? With Black under its belt, how does the Lumia 1020/Nokia 808 balance sheet now stand?
Perhaps matching the debate on sealed vs replaceable batteries as a design trend for our time is that of sealed memory. In other words, flash storage for applications, files, documents and media, which is of a fixed size and with no options for user expansion. Is sealed memory ultimately acceptable and, if so, is it possible to calculate a healthy minimum for 2014 devices?
Imaging enthusiasts like me live and breathe resolutions and jargon like 'oversampling' and 'Back Side Illumination', but it's easy to lose track of more mundane questions and issues from those for whom their smartphone camera isn't one of the biggest features. In this case, I'd had emails in asking why their 12MP (i.e. 12 megapixels) camera was only outputting 9MP and their 8MP device outputting 6MP. Why were their smartphone cameras performing under par? I thought a little clarification was in order.
Most readers know me as someone prepared to enter into debate on the subjects of form factor and smartphone design, but also having my own distinct preferences. You'll remember an in depth feature I did on the subject of sealed vs removeable batteries? It's fair to say that, personally, I come down on the 'removeable' side of the fence - yet I find myself, in December 2013, using a sealed design for my primary device. In this feature, hopefully of interest to both AAS and AAWP readers, I examine my objections to 'sealed' and ask which of them, if any, are still showstoppers.
You love smartphone camera shootouts - you know you do. Especially with champions in both the Symbian and Windows Phone world. We've compared most of these devices to one of the Android world's camera champions before - the Sony Xperia Z1, but that device was hampered by poor initial firmware and reports of the most recent Z1 update have been promising. Which means (in conjunction with reader Adam Pino) a new head to head: Nokia N8 (12MP, Xenon flash, Symbian), Nokia 808 (5MP oversampling, Xenon, Symbian), Nokia 1020 (ditto, Windows Phone) and the Z1. Fight!