It's no secret that phone imaging features online (not least at AAS and AAWP) are hugely popular. And for good reason, we all take loads of photos on our phones and we want them to be the best that they can be. But just how far do we take our definitions of 'best' here? And when we start involving manual/Pro settings adjustment, tripods, RAW files and Adobe Lightroom, haven't we gone a bit too far? Between casual snaps for Instagram and "just take a DSLR instead" there has to be a happy prosumer medium, surely?
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MWC 2019 has wrapped, but not without echoes of MWC 2012, where Nokia took the wraps off something it had been working on for five years, the 808 PureView, much to everyone's astonishment, not least that it ran Symbian, considered 'old' even in 2012. The big reveal was the use of a 41MP sensor, of course - and here I want to reminisce about the aims of 'PureView' and the resurgence of the brand and also the technology. Not necessarily in the same phones!
Back in early 2010 I was part of a panel of people giving feedback on different aspects of phone functions, software and hardware, run on behalf of Nokia. The latter section was about handling a variety of unmarked (non-running) prototypes and saying what we thought about the physicality. Two, in particular, caught my eye, with QWERTY keyboards and slide'n'tilt displays. One went on to become the Nokia E7, running Symbian, the other (larger, which I preferred) went on to become the Nokia N950, running MeeGo. And now, in 2019, inspired directly by these designs, we have a new Communicator, shown off at MWC.
Guest writer By Michael 'Mivas_Greece' (surname withheld by request) brings us the first part of a tale of prototypes (one of which he has access to) and what might have been, featuring some of the various uses of Nokia's 'Pre-Touch' technology. A Lumia 1030 anyone? Part two of this feature will be published in due course.
A debate on Twitter earlier in the week (see below) put up one of THE most frequently asked questions about phone imaging. Why do I/we both pixel peeping when most phone-shot photos are only ever seen on 5"/6" phone screens? It's a good question, but I think I have a great answer. If you're a phone imaging enthusiast then you'll know where I'm going with this already, but for the casual user, here's why I do what I do and here's why enthusiasts care...
With the Pixel 3 in for review for a short period, and with a glimpse of sun here and there in November in the UK, I wanted to pit PureView phase 1 (Nokia 808) and phase 2 (Lumia 1020, adding OIS) with the Pixel's (as good as) PureView phase 3, doing all the pixel combination in the time domain rather than across a high-res sensor. There's a lot to compare, it's our biggest and longest imaging comparison piece ever, so let's press on and do allow time for the page to fully load!
One of the reasons why there has always been a big debate as to what exactly constitutes "a smartphone" is that the definition itself keeps changing. Once we had dumb phones, then high end communicators and touchscreen multimedia gadgets for geeks, and then - by 2010 or so - enough people had what we had been calling 'smartphones' that they became mainstream and just 'phones'. But just what functions got added in each era, where are we now, and where do the different platforms stand?
My camera (phone) comparisons over the last few years have been gradually stymied by manufacturers choosing to over-sharpen, to edge enhance, and to reduce noise. All in the name of producing 'wow' images for social media. Yet, living in the UK, greenery - so trees and grass - and nature generally form part of many test scenes. And it's nature itself, with all its incredible textures, that proves hardest of all to capture using modern camera phones. By way of some data points, I investigate!
Over on AAWP, I've been doing detailed shootouts between the Huawei P20 Pro, with its 40MP sensor and under the guidance of one of the original Pureiew co-creators, Eero Salmelin, and the Lumia 1020, but over and over again I've had requests to pitch the P20 Pro against the Nokia 808, the original PureView camera phone. Can the 2012 imaging tech match that from 2018? Let's find out.
Zoom is one of the few really diffentiating factors in phone imaging these days, with 'simple' photo taking now being mastered in almost all light conditions. However, no sooner do I mention a telephoto zoom lens in a smartphone, such as the iPhone X or (here) the Galaxy S9+, than people pipe up with requests for comparisons to 'zoom champions' of the past. I maintain that, classy though these might have been, there's an element of rose-tinted memories creeping in. But let's find out, with some examples of camera phone zoom under a wide variety of situations and use cases.