Nokia Lumia 1020 vs Nokia 808: PureView video comparison

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While working on my review of the video capture side of the new Nokia Lumia 1020, I took the chance to do some back to back comparisons, on my phone jig, with its PureView predecessor, over on Symbian, the Nokia 808. The side by side footage is below, for your interest, covering quality, colours and zoom capability. Summary: the Lumia 1020 footage can be classed as 'better' overall, but there are pros and cons on each side and in the end it's the OIS system that pulls the 1020 ahead. Interesting stuff!

For video capture at least, this is perhaps the showdown that you've all been waiting for - the camcorder comparison with the Nokia 808 PureView, the previous phone video capture champion.

For video use, the cameras in the Nokia Lumia 1020 and 808 break down like this:

Nokia Lumia 1020 1/1.5" BSI 34MP sensor (in 16:9 mode here), 4x lossless zoom at 1080p, stereo audio capture, Optical Image Stabilisation, all real time image processing via the SoC/main processor, to provide some sharpening.
Nokia 808 1/1.2" 34MP sensor (in 16:9 mode here), 4x lossless zoom at 1080p, stereo audio capture, dedicated real time image processor handling over 'a billion pixels per second' to oversample each video pixel.

Commentary as I go in audio form, and note that at roughly the 3:50 mark I erroneously refer to zooming in by a factor of "3x" - this should be "4x", of course, in 1080p mode (and 6x in 720p mode):

In the clip above (forgive the little AAWP plug at the end!), we have:

  1. Churchyard scene, slow panning and then walking, testing colour, detail and OIS, etc. - with no PureView zoom used, the OIS only makes a small difference. Picture quality is comparable, I'd say.
  2. Another slow pan, noting significant differences in colour rendering particularly. Interestingly, the stonework is definitely grey in real life, as per the 808's version, so the 1020 is definitely adding its own 'golden' colour cast to proceedings(!) I do like the crispness of the BSI-sensored, OIS-stabilised Lumia 1020 version though.
  3. Down at the lock, a slow pan and then using the 4x PureView zoom on each device. Two things leap out here - firstly, the stability of the video from the Lumia 1020, even when zoomed, is extraordinary, while the 808's video wobbles all over the place. Secondly, the 808 copes better with the exposure change on zooming, plus there's better detail, helped by the superior real time oversampling from the 808's dedicated image processor. If there's a winner, I'd pick the 1020 though, that OIS makes such a difference to watchability.
  4. Another gentle pan, with honours even until I zoom near the end - just look at the stability difference near the end. The OIS is astonishingly effective.
  5. Switching from a modest macro subject to something further away and then back again. This particular test wasn't a huge success because, mounted on a jig, it was virtually impossible to keep the central focus point the same for both devices. I'm pleased with the 1020's performance here though. I then zoom in again on a distant boat. Having PureView zoom available means that you can shoot video on your smartphone that you wouldn't think of bothering with on a traditional smartphone camera. Yet again note the slightly superior video picture quality from the Nokia 808, with its hardware-assisted rendering, but the massively smoother footage from the 1020, it's as if everything's being shot using a camcorder on a steadicam(!)
  6. The boat leaving the lock, starting fully zoomed in this time. And, to try and level the playing field, I turned on the Nokia 808's software-based video stabilisation. This looks at details in the frame and adjusts the latter to keep details steady if possible. The zoomed video is certainly better here on the 808 than it was with no stabilisation, but it still can't match that on the 1020. And, as usual, turning on software stabilisation on any phone camera degrades the quality a tiny bit. 
  7. Low light shots of trains, first as-is, so some benefit from oversampling, and then zoomed in, to show the raw levels of noise and performance from the sensors. Surprisingly, I'd say that the 808's non-BSI sensor produces slightly better video, but the difference is marginal. Also note that I again had the 808's software stabilisation turned on.

Audio throughout was varied from device to device when editing (as shown in the captions), both are high quality, though the 1020 skews the sound of my voice off to one side slightly more.

Viewing the montage several times, as I have, it's hard not to give the Lumia 1020 the win overall, if I'm honest. Yes, the colours are more accurate in the 808 footage and yes, there's very slightly more clarity and detail in some of the scenes, thanks to the real time hardware-accelerated oversampling. But the presence of a really decent OIS system in the Lumia 1020 makes a huge difference to video capture. I'm even warming to the 1020's slightly 'richer than life' colour casts - hey, every day should glow like this!

Your comments welcomed though.