Damian Dinning narrates the Nokia 808 PureView story - noisy optical zoom phone prototypes to blame
Apparently the long-rumored optical zoom Nokia phone existed in various prototype forms since 2006. It's precisely the disadvantages of folding optical zoom lens for image quality that pushed Nokia to pursue another angle with which to solve the lossless zoom puzzle in compact devices like smartphones.
Even the most compact optical zoom modules introduced unacceptable bulk to the prototype devices, diminished image sharpness and introduced noise while zooming in videos. Around that time Nokia created its Camera Simulation Environment, allowing it to virtually test different optics, sensor materials and shooting scenarios. A Nokia engineer shared over lunch with his camera buddies that he read an interesting article how satellite images are taken with a giant sensor, then we only see a small portion of that image, which keeps an amazing level of detail, as if zooming in without losing quality.
Long story short, this idea resurfaced after a ten-hour engineers' meeting in a Tokyo hotel bar, and Nokia decided to solve the zooming issue another way, getting together with the Carl Zeiss optics people, as well as reps from the camera modules and materials companies it has been working with to crack the conundrum. Damian dinning reflects on those times:
It all resulted in the PureView Pro technology we witnessed last week in the Nokia 808 PureView with its Rich Recording audio, and will likely be developed further into other flagship cameraphones from Nokia, eventually making its way to Nokia Windows Phones as well.