Nokia recently announced the Nokia Pureview 808 mobile phone with a never before seen 41 megapixel resolution camera. Off-course, we’ll knew this would happen someday but not expected it to happen so soon. Take example of consumer DSLR camera’s which at moment are offering superlative image quality while keeping megapixel count in check. It leaves a big question mark as to why, Nokia decided to make a phone cramming it up with 41MP? Has Nokia lost it after taking a beating from its competitors?
There was a time, when camera manufacturers were pushing the megapixels as huge marketing gimmick. People mistook their words, that more the pixels, better the image quality. This megapixel race did not last long as people became aware of the fact that its not the number of pixels but the size of sensor & quality of optics which dictate the resultant quality of the photograph. According to specifications, Nokia Pureview 808 seems to have a effective maximum resolution of 8MP, the 41MP image is obtained by a clever software tricks known as “Software Binning” & “Interpolation”. Here the pixels are multiplied by a software algorithm resulting into a higher resolution photograph but what suffers is the picture quality. Have a look at the digital cameras from cheap brands & you’ll know what I’m talking about. Off-course, over the time, the software algorithms to carry out the pixel binning process have improved by leaps & bounds but still there is no way one can get away with putting very few photo-sites(pixels) on the sensor.
To make the process of pixel binning actually work, Nokia had to put a good quality lens(optics) on Nokia Pureview 808. They did just that. The lens is made up of 5 elements in a single group certified by Carl Zeiss. No doubt here, Carl Zeiss has given us impressive optics in past & they continue to do so. It would have been impossible for Nokia to offer 41MP’s if they would have used a low grade optics in production. To help the matters, Nokia made a smart downgrade from 12MP on their Nokia N8 to 8MP for Nokia Pureview 808. This reduction in pixels enabled them to implement pixel binning with ease & not much loss in image quality as the pixels are now considerably lesser(hence bigger individually), if one considers the sensor to be of exact same size physically(Its not, as we find out ahead).
Finally, the imaging sensor of Nokia Pureview 808 is bigger than Nokia N8(which has sensor bigger than most camera phones) which is renowned for its imaging capabilities. The sensor on Nokia Pureview 808 measures at 1/1.2” which is way bigger than what most cellphones have. This is a good thing considering it is allowing the Nokia Pureview 808 to offer zooming while shooting videos & stills without sacrificing on the image quality. This is accomplished by using the centre pixels over the larger sensor than by what most phones did – Zoom Digitally. Also the larger sensor area, allows for a improved light collecting abilities when coupled with the fast f/2.4 lens.
Going by the above, the Nokia Pureview 808 should perform well. However, it won’t take time before it gets trounced by other camera phones which offer a modest resolution hike along-with optical zoom & larger sensors. Off-course the 41MP is still a too far-fetched claim to be made. I feel most users(casual & mobile photo bloggers) don’t require such high resolution photographs from their mobile phone. After-all, who will take the pains of resizing such bloody huge photo into a smaller size just to share on social networking sites or post to their photo blog. Mobile phone camera’s are generally used for documenting & most will use a capable standalone camera separately for their high end photography demands. Apart from this, the phone is coupled with a hardware which doesn’t shines but its just modest & with an OS whose future is already in dark. Nokia shot its own foot by not putting Windows 7 OS on this which would have been a deal maker.
As a photographer, I would not go for this phone. There are far better alternatives in form of iphone 4S or even the old but trusty Nokia N8(Since it will fall in price with the announcement of Nokia 808). I would never shoot with 41MP camera phone offered by interpolation. Keep the pixel count to modest, make the sensor bigger, couple it with good quality optics & photographers(like me) would embrace it.