Nokia's camera guru criticizes the camera on the iPhone 4S

Nokia's camera guru criticizes the camera on the iPhone 4S
It’s no secret that the iPhone 4S takes pride in its 8-megapixel camera. Actually, save for the dual-core A5 chip, the 4S doesn’t have much novelties to boast with in the hardware department except for the snapper. It seems, though, that the 8-megapixel camera which Apple touts as “the you-can’t-believe-it’s-on-a-phone camera“ and “it just might be the best camera on a phone” falls short when compared to the camera on the year-old Nokia N8.

Nokia’s camera guru Damien Dinning was quick to dispel some misconceptions about the iPhone 4S camera. First, though, let’s make it clear that this is not just about the overhyped megapixel count, which hardly tells what the actual performance of a camera is, but is rather about the size of the sensor. 

As we know, sensors in cell phones are smaller due to size restrictions, and if you increase the pixel count, while keeping the sensor at the same size, you’d just be making the pixels smaller. The end result would be more noise rather than better performance.

So how does this relate to the camera on the iPhone 4S? Dinning points out that Apple increased the aperture value to f/2.4 to compensate for the larger megapixel count resulting from a small sensor and a higher pixel count. But still the camera on the year-old Nokia N8 has a sensor that’s 77% larger and which captures 124% more light. The 4S also falls short when compared to the MeeGo-powered N9, which still gets more light.

While Dinning criticizes the light-gathering abilities of the 4S, he doesn’t challenge its claim to have the fastest camera on a smartphone. Finally, though, we wouldn’t take a phone camera out of the context of its platform, but if Nokia delivers N8-quality optics on Windows Phone, it might well have a competitive advantage over the iPhone 4S.

Related phones

iPhone 4s
  • Display 3.5" 640 x 960 pixels
  • Camera 8 MP / 0.3 MP VGA front
  • Processor Apple A5, Dual-core, 800 MHz
  • Storage 64 GB



1. XiphiasGladius

Posts: 813; Member since: Aug 21, 2011

I agree with the guy, but as of the moment Nokia's only(maybe) selling point is their superior camera performance, on the software department they're still on the catch-up game. . .

2. jasongohjr

Posts: 75; Member since: Sep 26, 2011

That is why they have chosen wp7 as their main platform...

6. XiphiasGladius

Posts: 813; Member since: Aug 21, 2011

Though I'm an Android user at the moment I'm actually curious with their WP7 phones. . .

9. Stoli89

Posts: 333; Member since: Jun 28, 2010

I'm also looking forward to a Nokia WP Mango product, but the Symbian Belle UI has a very nice Maemo look to it and it runs very smooth, even on older gen hardware.

15. SuperAndroidEvo

Posts: 4888; Member since: Apr 15, 2011

As an Android user a Nokia WP7 Mango product with a killer camera does appeal to me. The WP7 OS is ultra smooth & very responsive. Now if Nokia can get together a dual-core with 1.5GHz or higher, with an AMOLED 720p edge to edge HD screen at 4.7" to 5.0", with 1.5 to 2.0GB of RAM, have a 10 to 13MP camera with a Carl Zeiss lens & all wrapped up in a thin metal design I would definitely get that phone. No if's and's or but's.

16. Synack

Posts: 688; Member since: Jul 05, 2011

Dang you like big phones don't you? WP7 doesn't need all of that RAM or processing power to run its OS and it doesn't have any games that would ever need it. Anything above 8MP on a phone is serious overkill......

17. G-Reg unregistered

Agreed with the 8mp, but as for not "needing" such high end specs in a windows phone.... really?? Ill most likely never use a WP7 phone, but specs sell Mr. Synack. Granted they will never be droids, but let the option of haveing some crazy sh!t eventually exist. Hell, have a doc that adds some mem, cd/dvd/bluray drive, and a hard drive and turn it into a desktop.

21. SuperAndroidEvo

Posts: 4888; Member since: Apr 15, 2011

I want those high-end specs to future proof the phone. If I had that exact phone, I would not need another WP for at least 1 1/2 to 2 years. That is why I was alluding to those high specs. Also if the 4.7" to 5.0" edge to edge screen was a reality then it would be no bigger than lets say a Samsung Galaxy S II Epic 4G Touch. Who knows it may be even smaller because of the edge to edge design. For me I love taking pictures & I would love to take a 13MP panorama, blow it up & frame it. If my 13MP camera phone could do that, then that would be one less thing I can carry. It seems like over kill but when you think about it, not so much!

31. honkj unregistered

the reason the iPhone4s has a better camera than the Nokia phone, or any other phone, is because it will actually be in your pocket, where I can guarantee that you will not find a nokia phone in your pocket or anyone else's that are serious about a smartphone.

34. SuperAndroidEvo

Posts: 4888; Member since: Apr 15, 2011

Really, that is completely WEAK!

3. Erwin Balflear unregistered

iPhone 4S and Xperia Arc's cameras are pretty similar. Means something...

4. XiphiasGladius

Posts: 813; Member since: Aug 21, 2011

The 4s' image sensor is better, but the difference is only noticeable when you crop the image. . . But for most regular users its hardly noticeable. . .

20. Nathan

Posts: 85; Member since: Jul 14, 2011

Its because Sony is the manufacture of the iPhone 4S camera.

26. r41nier

Posts: 71; Member since: Oct 13, 2011

I think it's OmniVision and not Sony. Read the news about it. Sony sensors will likely be used in iPhone 5.

32. honkj unregistered

OmniVision makes the sensor for the iPhone4s, not Sony, and it is not similar to the xperia arc... you can compare the Nokia N8 with the iPhone4s photos now, you do not have to wait. you can download full res untouched pictures from Apple's own site,  and Nokia N8 pics from smugmug  (however the N8 pictures are enhanced,  meaning they were tweaking their software for each shot)... what you can easily determine is the reason Nokia N8 has a larger aperture is because it has more pixels to deal with,   12mp  vs 8mp..    the net result is a complete wash in the "letting in more light" department despite what Damian says.   what is even more clear is that the iPhone 4s has a far superior lens setup...  making extremely sharp photos...   you can easily determine this by putting the photo's into photoshop and zooming in. in otherwords,  if the iPhone4s had a 12mp sensor,  it would not even be close in which smartphone is better at taking pictures,  but since the N8 has a 12mp sensor it actually is close.   the iPhone4s has much better color rendition though and much better and faster image processing....  so it does come out on top.  Damian is comparing image sensor alone,  but not the whole set up, including the lens and the built in hardware image processing.    the iPhone4s is by far the better choice,  and the main real reason for that is that you will find only Nokia salesmen and engineers with a Nokia smartphone in their pocket,   where everyone else in the world will NOT have a Nokia smartphone in their pocket.   So this isn't very close in the taking into account everything department.

5. ReturningToNokia

Posts: 130; Member since: Jul 09, 2011

Damian Dinning made that tweet BEFORE the N9 started showing up in people's hands to actually use and take photos with. There are uploaded images taken from the N9, and while the image quality is OK, there are devices out there with the same specs that will have the same or better image quality. He jumped the gun making the tweet, imo. Until there are actual real life images taken with the iP4s, HTC Amaze, and other similar spec devices uploaded, reviewed, and compared against one another, he really has no way of knowing how other newly released cameraphones are performing. Right now, he only has specs on paper. I am personally looking forward to Phonearena's cameraphone comparison (if they decide to do another one).

10. Stoli89

Posts: 333; Member since: Jun 28, 2010

Anecdotal N9 pics are not going to set the record straight IMO. There needs to be a controlled environment, with a competent photographer, to provide a balanced review.

11. bluechrism

Posts: 99; Member since: Sep 09, 2011

I find it hard to believe that the major mobile manufactures, including Nokia, don't manage to get their hands on a few competitor products every now and then.He may well have seen the phone and used it in person. It still amazes me though that a year old phone is still so widely considered as having the best camera. I'm not sure there are many features that came on a phone a year ago, and the year old device is still considered to do that feature better than newer models.

27. XiphiasGladius

Posts: 813; Member since: Aug 21, 2011

And what features exactly? The name of the game when it comes to cameras is the "Image Quality" which at the moment the n8 is the best at it. . .

33. honkj unregistered

the N9 is a step down from the N8, the N9 is not going to have better image quality than an N8. and the iPhone4s is being compared to the N8 which it should be, since the N8 is the only thing that comes close, (although it doesn't really need to be compared to the N8, since no one has an N8 smartphone) by the way, when they say "Carl Zeiss optics" you can safely ignore that as something that means anything... Carl zeiss optics is not very good, compared to competing lenses of today....

35. kulas unregistered

my cousin owns an n8. two of my classmates own an n8. So please stop these sweeping comments same"(although it doesn't really need to be compared to the N8, since no one has an N8 smartphone)"

7. Eingild

Posts: 203; Member since: Apr 19, 2011

Most users won't give a s**t about this camera specifications. They don't understand that not so many users are technically versed when it comes to things like this.

8. enemyisyou

Posts: 44; Member since: Jul 04, 2009

I just hope the shutter speed is good. I take A LOT of pictures and video of my kids on the phone, but they're quick little buggers!! My Incredible does an ok job of keeping up with them, but a lot of pictures end up blurry and the fact that I supposedly have 720p video capture capabilities that don't even work (the video is choppy) makes me want to throw the phone at a wall. Looking forward to seeing the UPS man tomorrow...

12. Stoli89

Posts: 333; Member since: Jun 28, 2010

The EDoF cameras actually do a good job with action shots because the asymetrical lenses provide full focus of everything in the FOV (when its 40cm or greater from the camera). With 30fps, you're also not likely to get choppy video. However, EDoF does need well lit conditions to work well.

18. G-Reg unregistered

Check your sd cards class.. If its not a 6 or better, its your card, not the phone. Class is show with a small number(2,4,6,10(8 is very very rare)) that has a partial circle around it. The class determins how much info can be written to it at one time. With hd video, you obviously need a higher class to be able to record all that data at one time.

13. aries.phills

Posts: 161; Member since: May 17, 2011

Too bad, my SGS2 comes last. But hey,give me another chance to make a choice, I'll go with my SGS2. Thanks.

14. speckledapple

Posts: 902; Member since: Sep 29, 2011

As with any company they claim they might be the first in this or the best in that (at least until patent suits) but in the end all it represents is a marketing point. The only reason why Apple has drawn more attention is because they are a popular company with a popular device, if they say something that is not true, it will be disputed. The IPhone 4S really only had a software update not so much with the hardware and its fact so yea.

22. iwebdroidberry7

Posts: 230; Member since: Jan 17, 2011

Which is why it is the fastest phone in the world with the highest memory capacities, and one of the nicest cameras on the market?

23. box unregistered

I'd rather have a MicroSD card expandability than spend $200 over the price of the base model for just a bit more storage that 1) I'll likely never need and 2) that if got filled up that much would slow down the "hard drive", and 3) I'd rather be able to swap out my external memory with whatever it would be that I'm doing that requires that much storage, be it documents, music, apps, or even using my phone as a "mule" to move stuff from one device to another

19. lubba

Posts: 1313; Member since: Jan 17, 2011

Even though i support you and wp, i don't think this is the time to criticize. Rather bring out the big guns and show that Nokia phones have something better.

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