It’s easy to understand our excitement about the camera performance of the Nokia 808 PureView, so we will be making this part of the review much longer than usual, with subsections that highlight the different abilities of the best-in-class PureView camera.          


The 41-megapixel sensor is still with 1.4 micron pixels, as on most smartphones and compact cams, but its size is the whopping 1/1.2”, which is 2.5 times bigger than the 1/1.83” one in the previous smartphone record holder - Nokia N8. It’s also much larger than the average sensor used in most compact standalone cameras, thus able to capture more photons on its surface, which makes for excellent low light performance.

Also, the handset has a dedicated ISP attached to the sensor, which is keeping the staggering amount of pixels and frames manageable for the processor. In fact, Nokia said it had to wait until mobile processors reached their current strength, so they are able to cope with the PureView sensor workload. The presence of an in-house ISP explains how we get fluid 1080p video with only a single-core CPU, for example.


Nokia chose to do a gigantic 41MP camera sensor, because it would allow it to not only achieve lossless zoom, but also something called “pixel oversampling” in the PureView camera technology white paper.

Oversampling combines the myriad of neighboring pixels that the gigantic sensor produces, and makes one “super pixel” out of several – seven when in Automatic mode. These pixels are binned together into what Nokia claims is the perfect one, using its proprietary algorithm to keep the highest amount of detail and average out the noise that all of the pixels carry.

That is why the automatic mode, for example, shoots in 5MP, keeping speed and file size in check, but using the staggering amount of info from the 41MP sensor to create a picture Nokia says is times better than your average smartphone or compact camera, because of the pixel oversampling. Naturally, the more you zoom in or the higher the resolution you shoot in, the more of the oversampling effect is lost, that is why Nokia recommends to stick to the Automatic or the 8MP PureView modes.


Nokia didn’t stop here, however - it has long wished to put real zoom in its phones. There were prototypes with optical zoom, but the added bulk and the noise that these solutions produced while zooming into the footage meant a no-go. The big breakthrough came once a Nokia engineer thought about the way satellite imagery is done, and the lab decided to use resolution unheard of for a smartphone, in order to achieve lossless zoom without moving optics, and the associated distortion and aberrations.

In PureView mode you can do up to 3x lossless zoom for stills, while in video mode you can go up to 12x, depending on the video definition. When you shoot in full resolution with the 38 or 34 (16:9) effective megapixels you can’t zoom, of course.

Naturally, the more you zoom in, the more of the pixel oversampling effect is lost, and the table above shows the oversampling ratio at each level of zoom and resolution. Still, the quality lost while zooming in is much less than with that useless interpolation digital zooming brings on other smartphones. Think of it as instead of blowing up a small crappy photo (digital zoom), you just cut a piece of a bigger, quality poster to get the same scene in the Nokia 808 PureView.


Shooting modes - Automatic:

Just like the phone's design, the camera interface also puts function before form, and is pretty Spartan-looking, with only some transparency used for a good measure. There are three modes - Automatic, Scenes and Creative.

The automatic mode is for quick snaps, allowing you to adjust only the flash status. Nokia’s Damian Dinning, its camera guru, explained that they took a bit different approach in automatic mode this time, compared to the Nokia N8. The main goal with the N8 was to achieve more natural looking scene, that profi photographers are so fond of, leading to less appealing for the average user photos at first look, since most cameras strive for jolly, oversaturated colors and higher contrast than what’s in reality, because that’s what consumers like.

This has been repaired in the Nokia 808 PureView 5MP automatic mode, which Damian says produces slightly more appealing colors and contrast than the more professional Creative mode, where the phone switches to strictly natural color reproduction, unless you manually adjust the settings.

Shooting modes - Scenes:

Scenes has a fair amount of preset settings that Nokia deems perfect for different situations that may arise, like Portrait, Night Portrait, Night, Macro, Landscape, Snow, Sports, Spotlight and so on. You get the same 5MP 16:9 shots as in Automatic mode.

Portrait and Night Portrait emphasize on flesh color, for example, focusing on the faces in your subject group, while Snow ups the exposure a bit, so reflective environment like snow, beach sand or ice doesn't get darker than it is, which often happens with high ambient reflectance. Spotlight would be perfect for a concert or a theatre play, where the light shines directly on the performer, and so on. You get to preview how the scene looks like under the various Scenes in the viewfinder.

Scenes takes you one step further than the fully automatic mode, sort of a station on the way to the fully manual, or the so-called Creative mode, yet frankly the Automatic mode is sufficiently intelligent when it comes to choosing settings on the fly depending on the situation.

Shooting modes – Creative:

Here you can unleash the full potential of the 41MP PureView camera, and manually set it at full 38MP resolution in 4:3, or 34MP in 16:9 ratios. Alternatively, you can use the PureView mode in 3, 5 and 8MP with 4:3, and 2, 5 and 8MP with 16:9 aspect ratios, while setting the JPEG quality output as Normal or Superfine.

A very handy feature of the Creative regime are the three custom mode buttons C1, C2 and C3 – they remember the last combination of settings you've made, so you can quickly set up three macros that suit your photographic needs for the moment, and are very easy to get to quickly.

Here you can set different levels for saturation, contrast and sharpness with the provided sliders. The next details you can tinker with are the color tones - Normal, Vivid, Sepia and B&W. The Vivid mode is roughly what you get from most consumer cameras and smartphones, with higher than normal saturation and contrast, which makes for extremely eye-pleasing results, yet nothing gaudy as so often is the case.

The last variable while in Creative mode is Capture - there is the usual Self-timer at 2, 10 and 30 seconds, then comes Interval capture. Interval shooting allows you to fix the phone somewhere, and tell it to shoot 2-1500 pictures in 5 seconds to 30 minutes intervals – perfect for time-lapse photography.

The other capture regime is Bracketing - you can take 3 or 5 images with a preset range of exposure adjustments, such as -0.3/+0.3, -0.7/+0.7, -1/+1, and -2/+2 steps. Sadly, you have to combine them yourself, or use an app, as there is no HDR mode out of the box. Of notable absence is a Panorama mode in the camera interface, too, something that comes by default now with Android 4.0, for example, but you can turn to Ovi Store for help.

Last, but not least, you are still left with many variables accessible via five shortcuts on the left side of the viewfinder in Creative mode. These are the flash mode, exposure adjustment (which brings up a handy histogram to help you choose the correct setting), white balance (cloudy, sunny, incandescent, fluorescent and automatic), ISO (50-1600), and the ND filter (on/off and automatic).

We also have a Neutral Density (ND) filter built-in, which is one of the few moving parts in the camera body, and sometimes kicks in to prevent overexposure in bright light scenarios. The good thing is that it can also be turned on and off manually to achieve effects like motion blur during longer exposure/slow shutter times, making for beautiful waterfall or wave shots, for example.

A feature worth mentioning here is the sleep-to-snap mode, which allows you to press the dedicated shutter key while the phone is locked, go into the camera app, and immediately take a photo, all for about a second or two, like on the Sony Xperia NXT phones. Focusing and taking a shot are almost instant, save for the Full Resolution mode, which takes a second or two, depending on the lighting conditions.

Finally, for continuous shooting you simply hold the physical shutter key, and the phone takes one snap after another every second or so until you release it. Still, the speed of capture here is much less compared to the zero shutter lag Android flagships this season, which can take multiple photos per second, so it can hardly be called burst mode.

Image quality:

And after the lengthy interface review, we come to the juiciest part – the picture quality. Nokia recommends shooting in the Automatic mode, which gets you 5MP photos with 16:9 aspect ratio. The Automatic mode is the perfect one for the casual photographer, since the resulting pics are less than 1MB, compared to the 2-3MB in 8MP, or 10-12MB at full resolution. These 5MP ones are easy to post on Facebook, Flickr, or shoot with an email, and the phone provides these sharing options. Yet you can still get high quality prints up to 10.2/5.7” (26/14.6cm) from them, if that’s your thing.

Still, we know you are itching to see the big resolutions as well, so after taking the shot in automatic mode, we took it in 8MP PureView and one with the full 38MP resolution. For added perspective, we covered some of the shots with a Panasonic DMC-GF2 in fully automatic mode as well – a good 12MP consumer camera on which we had 14-40mm lens kit.  

Outdoor shots:

Photos are simply great, and no other phone comes even close to what the Nokia 808 PureView is able to photograph. From the stunning amount of detail, through the excellent color reproduction, to the spot-on exposure and white balance even in mean lighting conditions, the sharp and clean shots below speak for themselves. We’d recommend shooting Automatic or turning on the Vivid mode, if you think colors are too natural for your taste, then you’d have the perfect vacation shot without any need for post-processing. Speaking of which, shots with the full resolution are simply a treasure trove for plugging into Photoshop, and making wonders out of all the photographic info hidden in them.

The only time there are issues with the Nokia 808 PureView is in Close-up mode, or when you try to focus on a nearby object. Nokia says focus is from 15cm to Infinity, but you’ll have issues focusing on anything closer than 20-25cm, and in excellent lighting at that, as with that great macro shot we did by the seaside. On the other hand, with the lossless zoom you can always focus from further away, and zoom in on the subject with similar effect, yet it won't be as good as the macro that the iPhone 4S or the Galaxy S III produce.

Indoor and low-light shots:

With the Nokia 808 PureView we finally have a phone that produces excellent results in low light. The sensor is so big, that more than enough photons get in even as light gets dimmer, and only at full-res photos in low light one can start noticing the noise. Moreover it is the preferable luminance noise, rather than the splotches produced by most smartphones and compacts. That solution is in line with Nokia’s strategy to let some noise in to avoid doing any software noise reduction and smear even a modicum of detail, which experts agree is the correct path to take. Indoor and low-light pictures are a great achievement indeed. We get clean, well-defined shots even when the light goes all the way down. The Xenon flash is twice more powerful than the one in the Nokia N8 even, and provides great illumination up to 12 feet.

With night shots, sometimes the phone chooses too slow of a shutter speed, so in your typical “holding with two hands and bated breath” scenario, the shots get less clear than they should be, as you can see in the night shots of the cathedral, compared to the bulkier, but steady Panasonic. As a rule of thumb you can manually up the ISO a notch in Creative mode to get the best results for night shots - maybe a little noisier, but sharper - since otherwise the phone will most likely choose a slower shutter speed, and there is no way to set that manually.


Video is shot in 1080p Full HD in Automatic mode, with consistent 30fps and sports continuous autofocus, which can be toggled on and off even while filming. Clips are recorded in the popular MPEG-4 format with 20Mbps.

Video capture has Scenes mode too, with Low Light, Spotlight, Sports and Snow settings – that last one should be used at the beach as well, or anywhere there is a lot of ambient reflectance.

The Creative mode from the pics is present for shooting video, and allows for 1080p, 720p and 360p definition settings, with 15, 24, 25 or 30fps. In the default 1080p mode you have four times lossless zoom, which becomes 6x if shooting at 720p, and the whopping 12x lossless zoom at the screen’s nHD 640x360 resolution.

Another setting is the color tone – we get the default Normal, and also Vivid, Sepia and B&W. Saturation, sharpness and contrast levels can be adjusted with individual sliders before video capture in Creative mode as well. There is digital video stabilization in Preferences that is off by default.

Video quality:

The automatic mode shoots excellent, fluid videos as you can see below, with an incredible amount of detail, zippy exposure adjustment while panning around, and very natural color reproduction. Yet, we would get into creative mode and bump the color saturation a notch to get the perfect imagery.

The only trouble we saw was with the overzealous continuous autofocus (CAF) which constantly adjusts something while panning around, and is on by default in all modes. Yet when you bring something closer than 20-25cm the phone can’t hook onto it, but keeps focusing on the background, instead of the nearby object front and center. This is easily overcome with the Touch Focus feature, which turns off CAF the second you tap on the screen, and focuses on the object of your choosing. The downside is that you have to tap again to switch focus to the background, or turn on CAF on the fly.

Nokia Rich Recording is the new name of the 128kbps stereo sound with 48kHz sampling while capturing video, which is touted to be with CD quality, very clean thanks to the noise-canceling mics, and with a strong volume. Nokia says the microphones are able to capture clean more frequencies than any other mobile solution available. It can also capture very loud sounds - the astonishing 140dB - meaning that you will still be able to record crisp sound without distortions on your next night out clubbing or at a concert. In fact, it’s the best stereo audio we’ve ever recorded with a smartphone, but don’t take our word for it, just listen to the samples.

We played back a YouTube music clip, at about 90dB (moderately loud level), and captured the sound on video, to demonstrate how the Nokia 808 PureView's "Rich Recording" compares to the iPhone 4S and the Galaxy S III.


Symbian’s music player is pretty good looking and versatile with its Cover Flow-like album art, song categorization, a few equalizer presets, and in this phone with Dolby Mobile surround sound in headset mode.

The tune progress bar and the controls are large enough to allow easy finger operation, yet not overly so to look ugly. The loudspeaker is pretty great, very strong and with a clear output, carrying over that commendable tradition from the Nokia N8.

The video player, while with the most basic interface imaginable, runs everything, including DivX/Xvid and MKV files out of the box, and up to 1080p definition. It’s another story whether Full HD is needed on this 360x640 screen. At least the AMOLED technology with its flashy colors makes video more enjoyable to watch.

Just like the Nokia N8, there is a pretty capable photo editor on the phone, allowing you to do basic and not so basic alterations to your pictures. You can crop, resize, stitch, post-process colors, contrast and so on, as well as add frames, text, clipart, and multiple color effects.



1. PhoneArenaUser

Posts: 5498; Member since: Aug 05, 2011

The problem of Nokia 808 PureView is that there is no 'balance' between a phone and camera. Good camera and not so good phone - no balance.

3. PhoneArenaUser

Posts: 5498; Member since: Aug 05, 2011

Anyway, nice to see innovations in mobile handsets. :)

6. goesoer

Posts: 15; Member since: Nov 22, 2011

yeah, Nokia is always made innovations,, do you remember the camcorder-like-mobile phone?? it recorded briliant video on that time

28. Extraneus

Posts: 121; Member since: Jun 02, 2012

Stupendous camera, good phone, not so good gaming machine, you mean? If you need to make calls, send text messages, listen to music and take great photos, this phone will do it better than any other - the only place it falls short is on the app-front, but... Don't you own a tablet?!? ;)

35. PhoneArenaUser

Posts: 5498; Member since: Aug 05, 2011

If your needs are only to make a calls, send text messages, listen to music and take great photos, then I agree with you. But in many, many cases Symbian Belle isn't so 'flexible' OS and it is not about the gaming.

93. neutralguy

Posts: 1152; Member since: Apr 30, 2012

But that's the definition of a phone. For calling and SMS, you should've said that 808 is a good camera, good phone (nokia handsets are one of the bests in terms of phone quality), and not so smart.

96. PhoneArenaUser

Posts: 5498; Member since: Aug 05, 2011

"...(nokia handsets are one of the bests in terms of phone quality), and not so smart." Agree.

100. markamps

Posts: 4; Member since: May 04, 2012

"not so smart". So 808 is just a dumb phone with excellent camera?

126. agferrari

Posts: 2; Member since: Jun 26, 2012

Hey, can you tell me what is the thing that Android can doe but Symbian Belle can't do. Have do you use Belle?

136. PhoneArenaUser

Posts: 5498; Member since: Aug 05, 2011

Symbian isn't so 'flexible' like Android. For example hacking, go to, how much hacks for Symbian do you see? Zero! Have you heard about Google ADK and Arduino? Or can you show me for example such thing like a Symbian PC System, I guess you can't. But here is such thing like Android PC System and only for $49:

142. stylinred

Posts: 50; Member since: Mar 03, 2012

have you visited dailymobile ever? no hacks? wtf granted most of the old guys moved on to different os' but the community is still thriving as for pc system, thats why Nokia made Maemo a linux based os like android but its been around longer and Android likes to copy from it (like the drop down notification bar)

144. PhoneArenaUser

Posts: 5498; Member since: Aug 05, 2011

"have you visited dailymobile ever? no hacks? wtf granted most of the old guys moved on to different os' but the community is still thriving" So where is Symbian + Hardware hacks??? Do you even understand about what I'm talking about? "as for pc system, thats why Nokia made Maemo a linux based os like android but its been around longer and Android likes to copy from it (like the drop down notification bar)" Don't go off-topic! We are talking about Symbian, not about Maemo!

147. stylinred

Posts: 50; Member since: Mar 03, 2012

im reminded of Jackie Chan asking Chris Tucker "do you understand the words coming out of my mouth?" and Chris Tucker replies "don't nobody understand the words coming out of your mouth man!"

148. PhoneArenaUser

Posts: 5498; Member since: Aug 05, 2011

Seems that you are out of arguments. Next time get some knowledge before talking and don't go off-topic.

150. stylinred

Posts: 50; Member since: Mar 03, 2012

no... just seems like i made a point and you replied with "oh but you dont know what im talking about" that clearly shows that either a) you're incapable of getting your point across or b) you've got no argument and are just doing the back n forth babbling that we're currently involved in

154. PhoneArenaUser

Posts: 5498; Member since: Aug 05, 2011

Have you visited links that I have posted because your talking not about the same things.

149. Hlorri

Posts: 40; Member since: May 07, 2008

What kind of idiotic criteria are these? Symbian can certainly be hacked. I, for one, am running my own custom firmware on my N8, an plan to do the same with the 808. Little tweaks like allowing the file manager to access "protected" files and folders, or allow it to install unsigned applications. But again, why is this even considered? Fewer people hack Symbian, because it is more flexible out of the box than Android or iOS. (Consider, for example, all the various connectivity options for sending/receiving files via Bluetooth, USB, WebDAV, Nokia "Big Screen" for a nice interface to your HDMI enabled TV, built-in support for bluetooth mouse and keyboard, etc). In itself, Nokia phones could be used as "ultra-portable" computers ever since the N95. Instead, as far as I see it, there are three areas where Symbian have fallen behind by now: - Applications (not many developers want to develope for an OS whose main backer has declared it dead) - Support for multi-core processors (only supports one). - Screen resolution (limited to WVGA, 640x360). Other than that, it is still the most powerful and flexible mobile OS on the planet.

153. PhoneArenaUser

Posts: 5498; Member since: Aug 05, 2011

"Symbian can certainly be hacked. I, for one, am running my own custom firmware on my N8, an plan to do the same with the 808. Little tweaks like allowing the file manager to access "protected" files and folders, or allow it to install unsigned applications." I'm talking not about such kind of hacking... "What kind of idiotic criteria are these?" If you don't understand about what I'm talking about, don't say it is idiotic.

171. nissin

Posts: 2; Member since: Jul 19, 2012

Thing is, most people don't use arduinos! I know it's a disadvantage for those that do, but it sadly wouldn't be a part of the market the phone is aimed at. If the OS grows further because of this phone and the microsoft link, we might just see such an addition. I for one wouldn't hold my breath and would continue to use wifi to control my arduino bots :)

181. jsboy

Posts: 1; Member since: Sep 09, 2012

then what kind of hacking DO you mean?

176. lamborghini666

Posts: 2; Member since: Aug 13, 2012

crappy :(:(:(:(:P:P

32. nak1017

Posts: 328; Member since: Jan 08, 2010

If they build this camera into a win8 phone, I think you'd have a pretty decent combo

45. -RVM-

Posts: 331; Member since: Oct 19, 2011

Well, Belle FP1 is more powerful OS than WP8.

38. Roomaku

Posts: 278; Member since: Feb 06, 2012

Its so ridiculous how people want the best of everything. I mean it makes phone calls, texts, and you can check the web and it has free offline maps. Seriously it has all that yet because the OS is not as intuitive as Android/iOS/WP7 it's considered bad? Come on people it does the basics and then some, and it has the best camera on a phone available today, so it's time to give it a break on the phone part or rethink what you really need on a "phone".

43. PhoneArenaUser

Posts: 5498; Member since: Aug 05, 2011

If your needs are only to make a calls and send text messages, then you need a phone not smartphone. :)

64. Roomaku

Posts: 278; Member since: Feb 06, 2012

Yeah agreed. I just think it makes an okay phone too.

65. PhoneArenaUser

Posts: 5498; Member since: Aug 05, 2011

It is ok, it is your opinion. :)

132. markamps

Posts: 4; Member since: May 04, 2012

Agree. And people must not only know the difference between a smartphone and an ordinary phone, but also the difference between the standards of today's smartphone and the smartphone of prehistoric age.

83. Stoli89

Posts: 333; Member since: Jun 28, 2010

Actually, Belle with FP1 is very similar to Android, IMO. The problem is that it lacks certain apps, such as Kindle. In terms of hardware features, the phone is packed with goodies. Of course, it using older CPU tech, but this doesn't matter because Belle needs less resoruces to operate than Android. Bottom line, it's a very capable phone...but is limited by an app ecosystem hovering around 70,000 apps. The browser is OK, but still not up to Opera level. In any event, you can download Opera too.

146. dxbjan_2008

Posts: 1; Member since: Jun 29, 2012

Correct..!! Good points..!! :)
808 PureView
  • Display 4.0" 360 x 640 pixels
  • Camera 41 MP / 0.3 MP VGA front
  • Storage 16 GB + microSDHC
  • Battery 1400 mAh(6.50h 3G talk time)

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