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 - How To
One of the services which many of us had relied on for ages, Microsoft Exchange sync of PIM data with Google, stopped working for most of us back in 2013 (though some with paid Google Apps accounts may still have access), prompting an article from me on switching to Microsoft for cloud PIM sync. However, as teased in the original news posts about Google's plans, there's a third party solution that restores full two-way sync to the Google cloud to Symbian handsets for 2014 and beyond. Here's a walkthrough...
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.
Due to the large sensors, wide angle optics and relatively long focal lengths, Nokia's 808 PureView and Lumia 1020 haven't traditionally been thought of as great for 'macro' photography, i.e. this is seen one of the only weaknesses of these two 'PureView' cameras. However, it's worth noting one top tip for achieving great results anyway - and, thanks to our friend Olivier Noirhomme, we have some stunning examples of the technique in action, as proof!
With components like Weather stopping working recently from the Nokia Maps suite in our Symbian smartphones, a very good question to ask yourself is what would happen if Nokia took its map servers offline too? Hopefully they'll be in place until 2016, but you never know, especially with the Microsoft takeover. Which is why I've been investigating how to back up your downloaded offline country maps.
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.
So you have a Nokia 808 - and you want to shoot a panorama? Yes, you could utterly cheat, as I did recently, but if you want the real thing then you'll be disappointed by the lack of an official Nokia/Symbian panorama application in the rapidly icing over Nokia Store. Actually there is, but you have to know how to get it - as I'll explain below, along with some examples of output on my 808...
I had a crazy idea a while ago, after trying to get a decent 'panorama' shot on my Nokia smartphone and finding the stitching flaky and the resolution low every single blessed time. Yes, yes, calm down Apple fans, I know the iPhone does this out of the box, but here I'm talking Nokia. Symbian and Windows Phone, and the 808 PureView and Lumia 1020 specifically, since the high resolution available (typically 7700 pixels-ish wide) opens up the possibility for a huge, massive cheat. As [cough] detailed below.
The photos from the Nokia 808 PureView are often said to be less striking than those from the competition, whether it's a Lumia 1020, iPhone 5S or a Samsung Galaxy S4, however much purists would say that the 808's output is more 'natural'. One advantage the 808 has in its armoury is a Creative mode which lets users apply the saturation and sharpness, so beloved these days. Here, in a followup to my earlier piece 'How to: Set the Nokia 808 up to satisfy '2013' photo preferences', I look at the practical differences in output a few sliders can make.