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PureView Phase 2, or how Nokia managed to surprise us with an 8MP camera module

Posted: , by Daniel P.

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PureView Phase 2, or how Nokia managed to surprise us with an 8MP camera module
"Oh, dear, just 8MP? How can they call this PureView?", was the question on everyone's mind when the camera resolution of the Nokia Lumia 920 was leaked and then confirmed today. Nokia's camera guru Damian Dinning was quick to counter on Twitter that "it's not the megapixels, but what you do with them", and advised patience.

Today we know why - the 8.7MP sensor resolution is far from the 41MP one on the Nokia 808 PureView cameraphone, but it represents the first step in the PureView Phase 2 technology, as Nokia calls it. It is designed for mainstream smartphones, not enthusiast niche devices like the 808 PureView, hence the requirements for a smaller module that will fit in the body of today's anorexic smartphones, where design matters a great deal for successful sales.

Although the core ingredients are the same, namely high performance optics, sensor and powerful image processing algorithms, this 2nd phase differs slightly to the 808 PureView. 

This time the sensor is purposefully of a lower resolution – 8.7mp, the optics are focused on providing the best possible low light performance in a beautiful product, whilst the image processing capacity will enable in the future new capabilities - that the combination of optics and sensor enable.
The PureView Phase 2 white paper confirms that while the 41MP sensor was developed with the maximum amount of detail and sharpness, as well as lossless zoom capabilities in mind - things that would make shutterbugs leave their DSLRs at home for imromptu shots. 

The 8.7MP PureView one has been built from the ground up with the thought to resolve the issue that plagues smartphone cameras the most, due to their smallish sensors - low-light performance. Nokia didn't achieve that by placing a huge sensor behind the Carl-Zeiss lens, like on the 808 PureView, that will capture more light, but rather went the other way around.

PureView Phase 2, or how Nokia managed to surprise us with an 8MP camera module
Its engineers managed to build a tiny spring-based system called "floating lens" around the camera unit in the Lumia 920, that keeps it steady regardless of your shaky hands - the main reasons low-light shots with phones become blurry. This true optical image stabilization is purely hardware-based, hence it allows the shutter to stay open longer, and the sensor get more light on its surface without the risk of blurring the image in the meantime.
  •  Carl Zeiss Optics
  •  Optical Image Stabiliser Barrel shift type
  •  Stabiliser performance Up to 3EV (8x longer shutter speeds)
  •  Focal length: 3.73mm
  •  35mm equivalent focal length:
  •  26mm, 16:9
  •  28mm, 4:3
  •  F-number: f/2.0
  •  Focus range: 8cm – Infinity
  •  Construction: 5 elements, 1 group. All lens surfaces are aspherical
  •  Optical format: 1/3
  •  Sensor: BSI (Backside illuminated)
  •  Total pixel are used: 3553 x 2448 – 8.7Mpix
  •  Pixel Size: 1.4 microns

A pretty clever idea to get a 1/3" sensor, like the one in the Lumia 920, perform better in certain low-light photography scenarios then the huge 1/1.2" surface in the 808 PureView. And we all know that when there is enough light, all flagship smartphone cameras perform with decent results now.

The 1/3" sensor is no larger than in your basic point-and-shoot camera, but the floating optics mechanism make its footprint in the phone larger, hence the slightly chubbier physique of the Lumia 920 than what we are used to see in today's flagships. On the right you can see the raw specs of the new module, that Nokia is entirely an in-house endeavor, developed in conjunction with Carl Zeiss as its most challenging project to date.

Instead of trying to fix individual lens elements, like with other OIS solutions, the wholel module of the camera is wrapped in spring mechanisms. These floating optics therefore allow much greater precision, correcting for up to 500 movements per second! This is precisely what allows 8x longer shutter speeds, and ensures your pictures will get much less blurry when taking them with one hand, which we so often do with our phones, and your videos won't be shaky all over.

Then comes the LED flash - instead of going with Xenon, which has some downsides in a smartphone environment, Nokia says the recent developments in LED are leaps and bounds ahead of the advancements in Xenon, so the Lumia 920 uses the modern pulse LED for a flash. It is capable of firing an intense burst of light for a very short time, that essentially freezes a moving object. Not short to the extent Xenon does it, but much better than conventional LED flash, says Nokia. Furthermore, the LED module can serve as continuous light while filming video, and of course doubles up as a torch.

In the beginning of the project, we set ourselves a challenging target to create a product with the best low light performance ever in a smartphone, even in natural light. Every single part of the system was pushed for this goal: large aperture, new image sensor technology, optical image stabilizer and new image processing algorithms. When the technologies are combined, the improvements add up, and finally we have the results in our hand.
Last but not least, Microsoft has worked very closely with Nokia to interwove the Windows Phone 8 camera software exclusively for the PureView sensor in the Lumia 920. Not only is everything, such as autofocus, auto white balance and so on, tailor-made for the sensor, but Nokia has included its unique denoising algorithms that keep the footage looking natural in low-light conditions. 

In the end, the real-life picture and video samples will be the ultimate judge if the Nokia Lumia 920 manages to perform better than the flagship Android and iOS devices in low-light scenarios, and if it does, Nokia will have achieved its product differentiation goal with Windows Phone, but also the ball will be in the others court to improve in their turn, and we can only be happy about that. 

See a few shots with a prototype Lumia 920 in the slideshow below compared to an undisclosed "competitor's smartphone", as well as a promo video for the new "floating lens" OIS technology in the slideshow below, and tell us what you think.

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posted on 05 Sep 2012, 12:24

1. maverick786us (Posts: 148; Member since: 20 Apr 2012)

Can someone explain this in nutshell?

posted on 05 Sep 2012, 12:32 12

4. Victor.H (Posts: 658; Member since: 27 May 2011)

I think Daniel did a great job explaining everything so you'd better read the whole post, but in a few words the PureView Phase II focuses around a "floating lens" and pulse LED. Floating lens is a spring-based mechanism that corrects the lens' position so that videos appear drastically less shaky. Pulse LED fires a shot burst of lights to freeze an object - imagine using a DSLR if you have, should be something like that.

posted on 05 Sep 2012, 18:38

38. denied911 (banned) (Posts: 361; Member since: 31 May 2012)

8x longer speeds, nikon's lenses some time ago could go for 8x now they have much better VR2 with 6EV (2 times better than nokias), look at pentax
moving cmos by electromagnet is the smallest solution and best compromise price, power...

posted on 08 Sep 2012, 01:17

46. joseph98 (Posts: 167; Member since: 03 Feb 2012)

We all know about the fake video but did you know guys about the fake photos of this new lumia 920 as well. follow the link and see how nokia is so fake. no wounder why there stock got beaten so bad. Very bad nokia.

posted on 05 Sep 2012, 12:36 17

11. aokde (Posts: 186; Member since: 09 Jul 2012)

the most advanced camera found on a slim body smartphone.

posted on 05 Sep 2012, 12:54 7

17. kartik4u98 (Posts: 511; Member since: 19 May 2012)

yea Daniel explained it beautifully..!
read It..

posted on 05 Sep 2012, 15:20 3

33. -box- (Posts: 3991; Member since: 04 Jan 2012)

Look at the photos, they tell the story

posted on 10 Sep 2012, 04:36

47. nono_pirot (Posts: 10; Member since: 11 Jun 2012)

rumors say that when the actual finished product of lumia 920 video sample is released, its captured video is better that what you've seen above with "OIS on" which is said to be captured with DSLR or something... how is that? just watch out...

posted on 05 Sep 2012, 12:31

2. Vinayakn73 (Posts: 191; Member since: 05 Oct 2011)

yeh apple will

posted on 05 Sep 2012, 12:57 8

19. haseebzahid (Posts: 1853; Member since: 22 Feb 2012)

too bad apple cant sue this cam tech since their cam sucks

posted on 05 Sep 2012, 12:32 12

3. tech-head (Posts: 133; Member since: 02 Sep 2011)

Lol @ the video at the 0:27 mark. It shows a person in a van with a real camera. Nokia Busted!!

posted on 05 Sep 2012, 12:35 6

9. Victor.H (Posts: 658; Member since: 27 May 2011)

Ha! Interesting.

posted on 05 Sep 2012, 18:48

40. denied911 (banned) (Posts: 361; Member since: 31 May 2012)


posted on 05 Sep 2012, 12:41 5

14. aokde (Posts: 186; Member since: 09 Jul 2012)

for those who couldn't pause:http://i45.tinypic.com/idbyn4.png

posted on 05 Sep 2012, 12:50 2

16. tech_lover (Posts: 26; Member since: 02 Jun 2012)

hahaha..gud observation man...my bad i gave a good comment to nokia!!

they are already cheating with us!!!

posted on 05 Sep 2012, 12:56 5

18. kartik4u98 (Posts: 511; Member since: 19 May 2012)

ohh..Why nokia cheated us??

posted on 05 Sep 2012, 13:00 2

21. haseebzahid (Posts: 1853; Member since: 22 Feb 2012)

if thats true their soon released phone will tell the real story why whould they lie if they cant hide it for long i think u guys can a have a break with this evidence and wait till someone else gives the screen shots on web

posted on 05 Sep 2012, 13:16 1

24. Damien_666 (Posts: 37; Member since: 16 Oct 2011)

The guy was on the right side of the girl.
No where in the video are pictures shown from that angle!

Must be a curious media guy trying to catch the action.

posted on 05 Sep 2012, 13:52 5

28. sadaivadai (Posts: 156; Member since: 22 Nov 2011)

The cameraman on the van to shoot both of them ...

posted on 05 Sep 2012, 18:47

39. denied911 (banned) (Posts: 361; Member since: 31 May 2012)

slow motion

posted on 05 Sep 2012, 12:32

5. som (Posts: 768; Member since: 10 Nov 2009)

I didn' t know Nokia made their camera sensor secretly like 41mp shock the World.

posted on 05 Sep 2012, 12:33 1

6. harvinder2111 (Posts: 5; Member since: 17 Jan 2012)


posted on 05 Sep 2012, 12:33 1

7. AppleConspiracy (Posts: 637; Member since: 18 Oct 2011)

Interesting article:http://pocketnow.com/2012/09/05/lumia-920-pureview-editorial/

It seem that it's the Beats Audio-like "brand enhancement" again...

posted on 05 Sep 2012, 12:35

8. Vinayakn73 (Posts: 191; Member since: 05 Oct 2011)

what nokia mean by floating lense is that any kind of boat???

posted on 05 Sep 2012, 12:36 5

10. Cyan3boN (Posts: 444; Member since: 23 Feb 2012)

u hear that apple. thats how u "innovate". stop buying exmor sensors from sony and built a sensor on your own with your billions.

posted on 05 Sep 2012, 12:39 5

12. Bluesky02 (Posts: 1439; Member since: 05 Dec 2011)

The leading competitors smartphones
Samsung Galaxy 3
iPhone 4s
On engadget interview Elop said the competitor shot is from Samsung Galaxy 3

posted on 05 Sep 2012, 15:18 1

32. Veigald (Posts: 290; Member since: 13 Jan 2012)

Yep, you could even recognize that "nature inspired" design in the launch video, in the jig with the L920 next to it. Man, those images made the S3 look like a child's toy.

posted on 05 Sep 2012, 12:41 3

13. boblight (Posts: 84; Member since: 28 Jul 2012)

Nice! Can really see the difference in video quality with the OIS on/off. But the photographs, wonder how sharp they are in details! Anyway, Good Job on PureView Phase 2, wondering what Phase 3 will be. The best of Phase 1 and 2 combined together? :P

posted on 05 Sep 2012, 22:45

42. vivzek (Posts: 37; Member since: 03 Jul 2012)

The videos with OID on are very less shaky and choppy as compared to when it is off. Look at the video again and you will notice.

posted on 05 Sep 2012, 12:44 4

15. tech_lover (Posts: 26; Member since: 02 Jun 2012)


nokia is back with a bang!!!!!

posted on 05 Sep 2012, 12:59 1

20. maryaaadil (Posts: 146; Member since: 07 Apr 2012)

I am thing of this rather that a note 2

posted on 05 Sep 2012, 13:01 1

22. Veigald (Posts: 290; Member since: 13 Jan 2012)

Guess we all know which one the "leading competitor smartphone" is... guess no one buys the SGS3 for the camera anyway though.

posted on 05 Sep 2012, 13:09 2

23. Damien_666 (Posts: 37; Member since: 16 Oct 2011)

Congrats on a job well done.
Your coverage of the camera improvements in 920 is the best so far !

posted on 05 Sep 2012, 13:22

25. hunted (Posts: 403; Member since: 21 Sep 2011)

what a clarity that is :)

posted on 05 Sep 2012, 13:51 2

26. antmiu2 (Posts: 312; Member since: 19 Jun 2011)

at 0:27http://i45.tinypic.com/idbyn4.png camera man inside a van.. cheated

posted on 05 Sep 2012, 15:20 1

34. Veigald (Posts: 290; Member since: 13 Jan 2012)

Did it ever occur to you that there needed to be someone taking the images of the guy and girl riding bikes?

posted on 05 Sep 2012, 13:51

27. Suts_97 (Posts: 124; Member since: 05 May 2012)

I wonder if this camera can beat a 12 or 13 MP phone camera..

posted on 05 Sep 2012, 15:22 1

35. Veigald (Posts: 290; Member since: 13 Jan 2012)

Yeah, need to check it out when it hits the stores. Guess we'll have some thorough reviews for that also, though.

posted on 05 Sep 2012, 17:45 2

37. remixfa (Posts: 14255; Member since: 19 Dec 2008)

megapixels dont mean anything about quality. That is simply the size of the image it can take. The biggest factor is hardware and software, not MPX.

If those images were not doctored, then they are in fact.. very impressive and it will most likely be the mainstream phone camera to beat.

Those night time pix with the chick by the road had a really cool effect with the cars blurring behind it.

posted on 06 Sep 2012, 04:47

45. Suts_97 (Posts: 124; Member since: 05 May 2012)

Yes, that's true...I just hope that the photos are almost as impressive, if not as the Nokia 808 Pureview.

posted on 05 Sep 2012, 13:55 4

29. Nathan_ingx (Posts: 3761; Member since: 07 Mar 2012)

Agreed, Daniel did great. I just got goosebumps as i read and went through the photos! It is definitely an advancement in cameraphone tech.
And all those whinning below about what they saw, i don't care, the photos can't be fake. Nokia has made two exclusive innovations in camera tech, and i'm glad it is Nokia. All i'm waiting for, now, is the reviews.

posted on 05 Sep 2012, 14:51 1

31. lumialove (Posts: 75; Member since: 16 May 2012)

the F/2.0 aperture is the lowest found any smartphone. Think of aperture as how “open” a lens can get—the more open, the more light comes in. That’s crucial as light is what camera’s crave and is the key to getting a good image. You want to buy an expensive lens for your DSLR? Search for one with an F/1.4 aperture—basically the lower the number, the better. Reaching F/2.0 on a camera-phone is a pretty big deal, make no mistake about it. It will also greatly help to make your photos better as the shutter speed can go faster.

back-side illuminated sensors (BSI) —it’s what is found on the iPhone, Titan II and many Samsung phones. It puts the wires behind the sensor, allowing more light to be received and once again, making brighter photos. We’ve wanted Nokia to do this for a very long time and now they have.

The Lumia 900, Lumia 920 and 808 PureView

Sensor size is also crucial. Here, the bigger the better and the fact is, most smartphones have tiny sensors. Why do some “pro” DSLRs cost so much? It’s because they have a giant sensor (it’s also why they’re so big). The Lumia 920 sports a 1/1.4” sensor that beats many phones who roll with a smaller 1/2.5”. That brings us to megapixels…

Photographers hate megapixel discussions because it’s all consumers focus on, instead of all of the above. It’s often the least important aspect as those pixels won’t improve your photo much. It’s good for cropping, yes, but other than that?

Nokia said they could have added more than the 8MP to that 1/1.4” sensor, as some of their competitors have on their devices. But as we mentioned last night, jamming more megapixels on a sensor can have negative consequences, like reduce image quality. The more pixels on a sensor, the more light you need to illuminate them all. In turn, cameras with high megapixel count tend to have worse low-light performance. That’s right folks, putting 16MP or 32MP into a camera can be a bad thing, especially if it’s on a small sensor.

No, Nokia took the good route here—the one that photographers would have preferred: larger, BSI sensor with less megapixels so there is less noise in low light conditions.

Throw in their whole “Floating lens”, which is a mechanical form of image stabilization (aka better than software based) and we’re talking a whole new category of a camera phone. I'VE seen some of the images and so far, I really like what we see. Expect more in the future

posted on 05 Sep 2012, 17:18

36. Reverence (Posts: 224; Member since: 16 Jul 2012)

@Phone Arena............I wanted a good Camera Phone......so is the lumia 920 the best?
and will Lumia 920 get all features will Nokia 808 purview has?

posted on 05 Sep 2012, 22:41 1

41. vivzek (Posts: 37; Member since: 03 Jul 2012)

The best camera that I ever saw on a PROPER smartphone.. I like it. :-)

posted on 06 Sep 2012, 02:59

43. chapizzo (Posts: 116; Member since: 13 Sep 2011)

I am impressed by those pictures. If this is the difference we shall see in actual life performance, i might just sign up for that lumia.

posted on 06 Sep 2012, 03:40

44. pikapowerize (banned) (Posts: 1869; Member since: 03 May 2012)

my next question is, does the phone has rich recording too?

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