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Conclusion - Pros: 

  • Excellent detail resolution in all modes
  • Very good image quality - detailed, colorful JPEGs
  • Impressive photographic feature set - controllable ISO, WB, scene modes et al
  • Generally reliable AF and metering
  • Automatic white balance works well in all but the trickiest of light
  • PureView allows 'zoom' without penalty in image quality
  • Excellent video quality (and sound)

Conclusion - Cons: 

  • Highlight clipping problematic in scenes with wide tonal range
  • No automatic HDR/dynamic range expansion function (but bracketing is available)
  • Metering can be rather wayward in bright light
  • On-screen histogram only available while exposure compensation dialog is open
  • Interface somewhat dense in 'creative' mode
  • Obscure on-screen icons for ND filter and white balance in creative mode
  • On-screen ISO indication just shows 'M' when any setting other than Auto is selected
  • Non-optical 'zooming' doesn't allow control over depth of field
  • No image stabilization in still capture mode
  • Red-eye can be an issue in flash shots (but red-eye reduction works well)

Overall Conclusion 

Considering the 808 is a phone first and a camera second, it's pretty impressive. The user interface is a little fussy (I'd prefer less obscure icons for ISO and white balance on the left-hand control panel, for one thing, and a proper live histogram would be useful) but it doesn't take too long to get used to. I don't much like the Symbian 'way of doing things' but this is as much about my unfamiliarity with the soon-to-be-defunct operating system as much as it is about the weaknesses of Symbian itself. 

In PureView mode, zooming in and out using vertical swipes soon becomes second nature. I'm an iPhone user normally, but zooming with the iPhone's pinch gesture has never felt natural to me (admittedly there is also a tiny zoom 'bar' on the iPhone too, but it's very fiddly). But more importantly, when you zoom in on the 808, you don't have to pay a huge penalty in image quality. Because images aren't upscaled, pixel-level image quality at the extent of the 808's 'zoom' in any given PureView mode is basically the same as it is at 38MP, which is to say that it's not bad at all.

For the majority of shooting situations, the 808's method of simulating an optical zoom works very well, allowing for a degree of flexibility over framing that is simply impossible when taking pictures with other smartphones. While you can get a degree of background blur in images from the 808, its actual (as opposed to effective) focal length of 8mm means you have to position your subject very close to the lens to see it. This isn't always possible (and with portraits, rarely flattering).

The only major issue that I have with the 808's is highlight clipping. Blown-out highlights are very obvious in scenes with a wide tonal range, and this first-generation PureView phone doesn't offer an equivalent to the 'automatic' dynamic-range expansion and HDR functions that are becoming commonplace on other smartphones and compact cameras. In virtually every other respect, the 808 gives excellent image quality considering the type of device that it is. Pixel-level detail is high at low ISO settings and acceptable even at ISO 1600 for non-critical applications. In terms of sharpness and detail, the 808 is more than a match at low ISO settings for most compact cameras (and some DSLRs). 

The Final Word

There are inexpensive compact cameras that offer more photographer-friendly features than the 808, but as a cameraphone, the Nokia blows its competition out of the water, and significantly narrows the gap between dedicated cameras and portable communications devices to the point where ultimate convergence seems all but inevitable.

Nokia didn't release the 808 PureView in the hope of making much of a dent in the smartphone market - the Symbian operating system is obsolete, and Nokia's future plans are focussed on Microsoft's Windows Phone OS. If you want an 808 in the USA, you'll have to pay full price ($699) since no carrier (to date) is subsidizing the hardware through contracts on this side of the Atlantic. But while the Nokia 808 might not be an iPhone or Samsung Galaxy killer, it is a fascinating and compelling product, and one that has added a definite shine to Nokia's reputation in the tech industry, which was looking a little tarnished, to say the least. 

The 808 proves that Nokia can innovate, and its PureView oversampling technology has piqued the interest of serious photographers, being one of the most important innovations - arguable the most important - in mobile photography since the smarphone era dawned five or so years ago. As such, the 808 is intriguing not just in itself, but because of what it represents. 

DXOMark Mobile Score
77

DxOMark Image Quality Assessment

To quote the DxOMark image scientists the 808's camera
"is the best tested by our Lab so far with a Photo Mobile Score of 81." With excellent detail, low noise and pleasant color, the 808 is only really let down by poor close range and low light Autofocus. Video is great in bright light, but far less impressive in dimly lit conditions, with noise, focus and stabilization issues bringing the score down to 68
. For more detailed analysis, visit www.dxomark.com.

Photo Mobile Score 81   Video Mobile Score 68
Exposure and Contrast 78   Exposure and Contrast 81
Color 80   Color 88
Autofocus 73   Autofocus 40
Texture 84   Texture 78
Noise 88   Noise 59
Photo Artifacts 89   Video Artifacts 92
Flash 81   Flash 39
9.0

The Final Word

The Nokia 808 PureView is quite simply, in a class of its own when it comes to its photographic abilties. The highest-resolution capture mode (the 38MP figure that grabbed the headlines when it was released) is only part of the story. PureView oversampling means that the 808 gives truly excellent image quality in its 3, 5 and 8MP capture modes, and we love the amount of manual control over shooting parameters. The 808 is let down by less than perfect color and white balance, and occasional focus issues.

Sample Gallery

There are 35 images in our Nokia 808 samples gallery. Please do not reproduce any of these images on a website or any newsletter / magazine without prior permission (see our copyright page). We make the originals available for private users to download to their own machines for personal examination or printing (in conjunction with this review), we do so in good faith, please don't abuse it.

Unless otherwise noted images taken with no particular settings at full resolution. 

Nokia 808 PureView Review Samples
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Comments

Total comments: 27
Henrikas

For such price it is amazing camera, + you can make phone calls on it

0 upvotes
mehran langari

its like dslrlike camera but no zoom effectiv flash ofcours so expensiv ....

0 upvotes
vv50

the Nokia 808 PureView's effective flash range is virtually maintained at all zoom levels, rather than being significantly reduced as the zoom increases.

http://press.nokia.com/wp-content/uploads/mediaplugin/doc/nokia-808-pureview-whitepaper.pdf

1 upvote
Pedrocas

Here is the issue I have with this. You don't need 38MP on a mobile phone, zoom or not. As you can see from the images above. You could walk a few meters and stand on the river bed to take the 3.6 x zoom photo. The high resolution has completely taken full focus of the communications when it should be about extending the capabilities of the phone lens, image processing and the great work on the sensor size.

0 upvotes
vv50

it's also a videocam with a fixed f/2.4, 12x lossless zoom at 360p

Comment edited 13 seconds after posting
1 upvote
Max Thunder

@h2k - There is a powerful led light too, used for video. You can also use it as a torchlight via dedicated apps... :)

0 upvotes
vlad0

Or just by holding the lock slider down for a few seconds ;)

Comment edited 12 seconds after posting
0 upvotes
h2k

I'd wish to have an Android phone with this kind of camera.

Reading there is a Xenon flash, i figure there is no torchlight on the phone (an LED flash instead of Xenon could be used as a torchlight). That's a pity, i find the torchlight on my phone highly useful. (Or is there a permanent light source on the 808 to be used for video? Then it would be usable as torch.)

I think you should mention the screen resolution and dpi or pixels per cm or something like that in the specs. It is not exactly about photographic quality, but of high interest to photographers anyway. You also discuss resolution in your tablet reviews.

0 upvotes
keeponkeepingon

Nice review but.....

where are the full res test scenes?

Early in the review you state that the large mp pixel count is "no gimmick". If that's true, then where are the test scene samples shot at the full no gimmick resolution?

You are comparing a 40mp camera against 8mp cameras and you gimp the 40mp camera by making it shoot in 8mp?

What the heck? How's this help us decide between an iphone 5 and a pureview if you only provide the pureview samples at iphone resolution?

Comment edited 21 seconds after posting
1 upvote
zodiacfml

Crap, they removed the Pureview in the Studio Comparison tool in the dpreview site. In summary, there's no compact camera can come close in terms of detail and ISO performance of the 808. So, Canon s100 or Panasonic's LX5 doesn't stand a chance and any phone should be miles away from the 38MP mode.

1 upvote
Charles Laigo

In your opinion zodiacfml, what camera (enthusiast, DSLR, etc.) comes closest to the image quality of the Pureview?

Comment edited 43 seconds after posting
0 upvotes
zodiacfml

It's hard to tell since I haven't tried to reduce the image size to match some cameras but it's like a Nikon D800 then blur it by an amount to match it. IMHO though, it's not relevant as long it beats carrying a compact camera. Now, I just want this with a modern operating system.

0 upvotes
vlad0

The problem is.. most "modern" operating systems can't support the 808 tech, they need to be further modernized in order to do so. So in a sense.. the modern ones are still catching up to the old.. outdated one.

Comment edited 14 seconds after posting
0 upvotes
vlad0

I don't see the point in shooting in full resolution mode.. the whole point of the projects was to provide zooming (cropping in real time from the full res image) and also combining pixels, in order to get more detail and less noise.

The system works very well overall.

You might want to take a look at this:

http://www.mediafire.com/view/?s7rlaa88o263oz2

it helps a lot.

0 upvotes
Anepo

NO it is NOT like a nikon d800, only a retard or an utter moron would claim so, you have dropped the IQ of everyone here down by 50% with your ignorant statement.

0 upvotes
vlad0

Great review! DxO's report is impressive ..

0 upvotes
cesaregal

Excellent detailed review. Very good integration with DxO data.
Good black test on white background.

0 upvotes
GuySonic

This new 'camera' is kinda cool having full HD video features. NOT so clear if the stereo minijack serves as Stereo mic input as it should, but no mention so far and no labeling can be seen in the photo galery on the NOKIA site. As always, devices of this complexity would only last a few hours working as a camcorder, but external power remain an option for longer continuous or or extra batteries for non-continuous video recording run times. I usually custom fabricate external battery solutions for many different recording device models when required. While the internal stereo mic is very clean sounding to say the least, it lacks consistant stereo imaging. Very interested to see how this camera/phone works with a special stereo-surround mic I've custom made for personal an industry pro projects. That is, if it works at all with external audio input. See what has been possible with other cameras having external audio input at sonic studios . com / videomic . htm

0 upvotes
EasycapExpertti

What! Nokia 808 doesn't need any kind of special stereo-surround mics, because it has 2pcs HAAC mics and it support 5.1 surround sound recording. Here is TOP +200 Nokia 808 PureView Music Concert Videos. Enjoy distortion free sound & low bass: http://nokia808recordings.blogspot.fi

Comment edited 30 seconds after posting
0 upvotes
Lan

Did you also take the test chart at full resolution? I can only the 8MP Pureview mode, and that doesn't (quite) capture all the detail that comes from the full resolution shots. At least not in good light.

My #1 criticism is that it doesn't have optical image stabilization. Although, I'd say #2 is the lack of dynamic range.

For the price, I'd have liked the lens cover case thrown in too...

Just, at long last, finally been offered the firmware update. Time will tell whether it can fix the occasional dark images with manual ISO.

Comment edited 2 times, last edit 4 minutes after posting
0 upvotes
TKYSP

The range of ISO should be 50-1600 instead of 80-1600...

0 upvotes
EasycapExpertti

Excellent review - thank You.

I got a new firmware update FP2 last week to my Nokia 808 and it improves and fixes many things on this operating system and now I feel this is a real allover competitor against iPhone 5, Samsung S3 and HTC One X or soon coming new Nokia Lumia, Samsung and HTC WP8 phones. You tested Nokia 808 with its old Nokia Belle FP1 OS - right?

I agree that Nokia 808 blows its competition out of the water at photos and videos because its huge image sensor, oversampling technology and lossless zoom. Besides that 808's quality of the recorded audio is unbeatable - thanks for its HAAC (High Amplitude Audio Capture) microphones (2pcs) the audio is never distorted even at the loudest heavy metal concerts. Its rivals (also iPhone 5) have nonHAAC mics and so the audio is many times distorted. 808's Rich Recording technology can also produce very naturally the low bass sound which these rivals can't do.

1 upvote
S a m i

Was there some particular reason to use different shutter speeds? There's also a huge difference (1/3-2/3 stops) in exposure.

0 upvotes
mattleech

Also using 808 as primary smartphone and primary camera.

She's a tough little thing too :)

Could do with auto-HDR (mentioned in review), panorama (other than the one in the Camera Lover Pack app which isn't very good) and still image stabilisation (also mentioned in review). Other than that, it's brill!

Thanks Nokia, Symbian and DD's team!

0 upvotes
Rage Joe

" findings for the iPHONE 5 were" !!!!!!!! / You have left a typo in your text :

"Noise & Detail Perceptual scoring

DxOMark engineers don't just point camera phones at charts, they also take and analyse scores of real-world shots and score them accordingly. Their findings for the iPhone 5 were:"

0 upvotes
Barney Britton

Sorry about that, fixed now. Just a copy-paste error.

0 upvotes
vlad0

I've been using an 808 as my primary smartphone, and my primary camera for over two months now.. its great, I don't think I will ever go back to buying a dedicated P&S camera again.

3 upvotes
Total comments: 27
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