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

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.


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.

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.

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.

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.

Related phones

Lumia 920
  • Display 4.5" 768 x 1280 pixels
  • Camera 8.7 MP / 1.3 MP front
  • Processor Qualcomm Snapdragon S4 Plus, Dual-core, 1500 MHz
  • Storage 32 GB
  • Battery 2000 mAh(10.8h 3G talk time)

FEATURED VIDEO

46 Comments

1. maverick786us

Posts: 157; Member since: Apr 20, 2012

Can someone explain this in nutshell?

4. Victor.H

Posts: 1050; Member since: May 27, 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.

38. denied911

Posts: 361; Member since: May 31, 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...

46. joseph98

Posts: 167; Member since: Feb 03, 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.www.sefsar.com/nokia-faked-the-still-photos-too

11. aokde

Posts: 186; Member since: Jul 09, 2012

the most advanced camera found on a slim body smartphone.

17. kartik4u98

Posts: 511; Member since: May 19, 2012

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

33. -box-

Posts: 3991; Member since: Jan 04, 2012

Look at the photos, they tell the story

47. nono_pirot

Posts: 10; Member since: Jun 11, 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...

2. Vinayakn73

Posts: 207; Member since: Oct 05, 2011

yeh apple will

19. haseebzahid

Posts: 1853; Member since: Feb 22, 2012

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

3. tech-head

Posts: 133; Member since: Sep 02, 2011

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

9. Victor.H

Posts: 1050; Member since: May 27, 2011

Ha! Interesting.

40. denied911

Posts: 361; Member since: May 31, 2012

14. aokde

Posts: 186; Member since: Jul 09, 2012

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

16. tech_lover

Posts: 26; Member since: Jun 02, 2012

hahaha..gud observation man...my bad i gave a good comment to nokia!! they are already cheating with us!!!

18. kartik4u98

Posts: 511; Member since: May 19, 2012

ohh..Why nokia cheated us??

21. haseebzahid

Posts: 1853; Member since: Feb 22, 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

24. Damien_666

Posts: 37; Member since: Oct 16, 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.

28. sadaivadai

Posts: 156; Member since: Nov 22, 2011

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

39. denied911

Posts: 361; Member since: May 31, 2012

5. som

Posts: 768; Member since: Nov 10, 2009

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

6. harvinder2111

Posts: 5; Member since: Jan 17, 2012

NAAAAIIIIIICEEE!!!!

7. AppleConspiracy

Posts: 637; Member since: Oct 18, 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...

8. Vinayakn73

Posts: 207; Member since: Oct 05, 2011

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

10. Cyan3boN

Posts: 446; Member since: Feb 23, 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.

12. Bluesky02

Posts: 1439; Member since: Dec 05, 2011

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

32. Veigald

Posts: 290; Member since: Jan 13, 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.

13. boblight

Posts: 84; Member since: Jul 28, 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

42. vivzek

Posts: 38; Member since: Jul 03, 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.

15. tech_lover

Posts: 26; Member since: Jun 02, 2012

awesome!!! nokia is back with a bang!!!!!

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