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
This article is over a month old, voting and posting comments is disabled
Why invent terms?
2/29/2012 10:30:07 AM
"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."
Um... that happens every time you scale down an image in a program like photoshop. The algorithm (say bicubic - sharper) will look at the data from neighboring pixels, and merge them to create a smaller image. What I'm hoping they are talking about is binning, which is reading out pairs of pixels at the same time, which treats them as one large pixel. Binning is always done in multiples of 2, so 2 by 2, or 4 by 4, or 6 by 6 etc.
I wish more cameras supported binning, because usually the way they create a smaller image is by dropping pixels. Only reading out every second pixel, or only reading out every 4th pixel etc.
"It's okay. The scenarios aren't that clear. But it's good looking. [Steve Jobs] does good design, and [the iPad] is absolutely a good example of that." -- Bill Gates on the Apple iPad
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