A 'royal family' essay, the 808 the King, the 1020 the new Prince and heir?

Published by at

Marc, from the PureView Club, in the Netherlands, has been a fan as I am of Nokia's imaging expertise in the shape of the Symbian-powered N8 and 808 and then the Windows Phone-powered Lumia 1020. Which is why I'd recommend his veritable essay on the pros and cons of the 808 and 1020 here, using a 'royal family' analogy more than once, along with suitable three-way photos(!)

Here are some comment-worthy sections from the essay:

A true masterpiece
I’m not going to lie about it, I’m not going to deny it either. As far as picture quality is concerned, I think that in Finland people sometimes curse the close to unbelievable imaging quality of the Nokia 808 PureView.

Most people adore its digital imaging capacities much more than its platform, although Symbian still has a gigantic fanbase. The Nokia 808 PureView is not just a proof of concept, it’s a true masterpiece in itself.

...I’m sure the Lumia 1020 will get better than it is. Maybe much better even. But at this moment it’s images aren’t as “perfect” as those from the 808 PureView, and the question remains if they will ever be....

Pure physics say it’s close to impossible: it’s 41MP of a bit smaller pixels and I don’t think even the smartest software can fix that simple fact. It has been a basic trade-off.

The Nokia 808 PureView was slaughtered by many reviewers not only because of its antique (“dead”) OS, but also for its size. It was often condemned for being way too “bulky” or “an ugly brick” – even when hardly testing the incredible quality of the camera. Whereas that was the reason it was that thick: the size of the sensor simply demanded it.

So in order to design the thinner device the market obviously demanded and still with a 41MP sensor, there was no other way than to choose for a bit smaller sensor size, and hence smaller pixels.

Would it have been an option to choose for say a 32MP sensor with the same pixel size as the 808 PureView sensor? I don’t know – but the “oversampling ” effect would probably have been smaller, the “zoom reinvented” concept a bit less effective.

The high resolution shots might have shown less noise than the Nokia Lumia 1020 is showing at this moment. I specifically write “at this moment” since I know over in Finland they are still tweeking the software, as they’ve done so succesfully with the Lumia 920.

Absolutely. I was completely blown away by the photographic improvements achieved in the Nokia Amber update for the Lumia 920. Leaving aside how its results were so average in the first place, it showed how much of a difference a simple firmware update can make.

It's pretty much a given that the Lumia 1020's camera output will be improved in due course - it's already very good indeed and, as Marc says, it only remains to be seen how close it can get to the Nokia 808 in all light conditions and for all subjects.

The royal family

Marc makes a good point about the very ethos of imaging on the two devices and whether work is done on the desktop or from the phone itself:

Most important thing in my opinion is, that this is all about a clash of imaging cultures: “classic” and “modern”. The classic being the ones that like to be able to work on their shots on the PC, and/or print the very best result to enjoy it on the living room wall. The modern being the ones interested in sharing its result directly from the phone, preferably with as many as possible contacts via email and/or social media.

The 808 obviously is “classic”, the 1020 “modern”. With the 1020, you won’t use the high resolution result for a large print on the wall, but it enables you to edit the shot on the device to get a 5MP (or smaller) result you want to share. I’m not making this up as an excuse: it’s just a different philosophy towards digital imaging, or: imaging in the digital era. It’s what Nokia callsZoom Reinvented.

When I understood the high resolution shot of the Lumia 1020 is meant to edit on the device itself and not for sharing the 34MP or even 38MP result as it is, I just about completely stopped publishing them. It’s hardly useful to compare it with the full resolution shots of the Nokia 808 PureView, which quality is unique in itself. It probably doesn’t get any better than that.

It’s good though to note there will be some oversampling when saving your edit from the high resolution shot. Not as strong as the first time (from .RAW to JPG), but still. The Nokia 808 only allowed you to make a crop from the full resolution shot – without oversampling when saving what you selected.

Once you get 'into' reframing and 'zooming later', Nokia Pro Camera's functionality gets quite addictive. Yes, there's a very small loss in quality, but it makes up for it in immediate fun and sharing ability.

Also, thanks to OIS, video results from the Lumia 1020 are better, and after I finally discovered you can manually turn off the bass filter, stereo recording appears in fact to be comparable to what used to be called “Rich Recording” in the Nokia 808 PureView (I have no idea why in the standard settings of the Lumia 1020 the bass filter is set to 100KHz).

Now that's a great tip. I haven't been to many rock events recently, but I can feel a test trip coming on....(!)

Marc concludes:

So in all, is the imaging quality of the Nokia Lumia 1020 as good as or even better as the Nokia 808 PureView? No, its not that good but it’s damn good.

It’s better than any other smartphone camera has to offer, and maybe even more important, it gives you fantastic tools to edit your shots on the device itself – including the possibility to reframe or even turn them, or zoom out from the shot you actually zoomed into. That’s very innovative.

As a smartphone, I think it goes without saying the Lumia 1020 is ahead of the 808 PureView in just about all possible aspects, although some will argue it doesn’t depend on “being online” as much as the 808 PureView, which moreover has a longer stand-by time (one of the great advantages of the now “dead” OS).

I guess you want to know which one I use as my “daily driver”, and maybe you’re surprised it’s the Nokia Lumia 1020. I love the design, the platform and last but not least the quality of the 5MP results – including the ease with which I can work with my shots and share them on Twitter, Facebook and even Instagram, since it’s so easy to choose a 1:1 format (I belong to the “modern” user I guess, although it took me ages to join Instagram :-).

But I’m used to carrying more phones, so I practicallly always have the 808 PureView with me as well. To compare the results when I have time for multiple shots, and for those moments I feel the full resolution result really matters to me.

If you already own the 808 PureView and you’re completely satisfied with its imaging capacities, I guess you can stay with it, it probably won’t get any better than this for quite a while (like the Nokia N8 was King of Camphones for years).

If you have the Lumia 920 or 925 and you’re really into mobile photography, without a doubt the upgrade to the Lumia 1020 is highly recommended.

If you have to decide about a new smartphone now – and you’re really into mobile imaging – I’d choose the Nokia Lumia 1020, not just because it has a great camera with fantastic editing possibilities on board, but also because it’s running on a much more interesting platform that’s growing fast.

As far as mobile imaging quality goes, I guess the simple conclusion is the Nokia 808 PureView still is King. But it’s getting harder and harder to buy one (it’s out of production as far as I know, and has never been available at all in some parts of the world).

So now that the old King isn’t quite dead yet, but his country is shrinking fast (and it never was very large to begin with), I think it’s time to welcome and salute the new Prince, in the hope that future updates will turn him into a worthy successor of the Throne of Mobile Imaging.

You can read the whole essay here. Good stuff!

Source / Credit: PureView Club