Nokia's 41 MP Super Phone to Sport Symbian, See Euro-Only Launch
February 27, 2012 2:32 PM
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Phone is a mobile photographer's wet dream, but poor decisions abound with this one
Leave it to Finnish phonemaker Nokia Oyj. (
) to offer up one of the most consecutively exciting and frustrating smartphone announcements in the last couple months. The company today showed off an amazing 41 MP smartphone, but then smashed the public's dreams, revealing that it would carry a variety of the
Symbian OS and would only launch in Europe (for now).
I. Redefining the Smartphone as a Camera
The camera was among the first features to define what we today know as a "smartphone". Before apps and app markets took off, before smartphones became the next generation of MP3 players, there were camera phones.
In the smartphone era, some phones -- such as Apple, Inc.'s (
-- offer pretty good images. But most of these phones pack small 5 or 8 megapixel sensors. Some -- like Sony Corp. (
) have promised 16 MP (or greater) sensors, but such wonders have thus far not been available to U.S. consumers (for example, the 16 MP Sony Ericsson S6006 saw release in early 2011 -- but
only in Japan
But Nokia has wowed the world with
its "Pure" announcement
. Today at the
2012 Mobile World Congress
it unveiled an unprecedented imaging vision -- a 41-megapixel smartphone, dubbed the Nokia PureView 808.
First, the bad news: the cutting edge smartphone doesn't run Microsoft Corp.'s (
) latest and greatest
Windows Phone 7.5 ("Mango")
, it instead runs Nokia's
soon-to-be-defunct Nokia Belle
(formerly Symbian Belle) operating system. It seems silly to pack an OS of the past in a phone of the future, but at least the Belle release takes a fair bucket of polish to the old homely Symbian, which long stood as the world's most-used smartphone operating system.
The new phone packs a decent overall spec and price-point (weak points highlighted in red, strengths in green):
(Click picture to view in full screen)
II. A Superb Sensor
To understand a bit better what the phone's resolution number means, consider the 41 MP to be a "raw" metric of sorts. While you can take 34MP images when shooting 16:9 images (7728×4354), or 38MP at 4:3 (7152×5368), there's also an "oversampling" setting, which in essence pre-converts your photos down to a more digestible resolution, taking 7 pixels and merging them into a single improved pixel. In that sense, the new camera can act as a 5 MP camera "on steroids" with two resolutions.
Here's a white paper
[PDF] on the technology.
The CMOS image sensor itself is a relatively massive 10x7mm (0.3937x0.2756 inches). Unfortunately the aperture is a fixed f/2.4 -- one place where even the best smartphone camera optics lag digital cameras.
For the non-photography inclined, the f-setting stands for the aperture settings. This essentially fixes you to a large depth of field, but limits your artistic expression. (A pretty good crash course on aperture settings and depth of field can be found
Here are some (scaled) sample images from the insane sensor:
(Click picture to view in full screen)
up online. Or grab some
[zip; large] direct from Nokia.
Now, back to the last piece of bad news -- the phone is set to launch in Europe in May 2012, but no U.S. release date has been announced. U.S. photography buffs may consider an import, but for the rest of us, we can only hope that Nokia trickles down this marvelous lens/flash package into a high-end U.S.-available Windows Phone. If it does that, it may have an international hit on its hands.
Launch colors will be red, black, and white.
Nokia [press release]
Engadget [Image Gallery
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RE: Hype or something else?
2/27/2012 5:12:00 PM
from what i understand, nokia's goal here was to make the digital zoom worth using.
while with a conventional digital zoom the phone (or computer) simply blows up the image, thus destroying detail and sharpness; with this phone you could take a normal 5MP image but when zooming in on a part of the photo, the phone could show you the enlarged portion at a good resolution, since it did take the pic with more detail than is normal.
it's essentially a neat trick to get around the problem of having no zoom lens on a fairly flat phone, and the digital zoom being worthless. it takes a high-res pic, shows you a lower res one, and then shows details under zoom at the original, 41MP high res.
but you are right, this many pixels on such a small sensor is asking for trouble. my own sony a35 has 'only' 16MP on an APS-C sensor. two and a half times as many pixels on a tiny sensor like that, and you are bound to lose some detail and introduce noise.
on top of that, symbian is de facto dead, and the phone's built-in screen is so low-res, it makes you wonder why they bothered.
RE: Hype or something else?
2/28/2012 4:01:17 AM
That's basically it.
The pixel size though, is comparable to current smartphones so they're not losing any.
Hmm...this is going to be an expensive P&S with less dynamic range.
"A politician stumbles over himself... Then they pick it out. They edit it. He runs the clip, and then he makes a funny face, and the whole audience has a Pavlovian response." -- Joe Scarborough on John Stewart over Jim Cramer
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