Nokia's 41MP camera is “utter nonsense”, says Olympus

The world certainly got a bit of a surprise when Nokia announced this week that its new 808 PureView smartphone is packing a camera with a gobsmacking 41 megapixel sensor. But not everyone was won over. Many believe that there’s simply no need for such a camera on a phone; others believe that Nokia is simply chasing headlines with big numbers.

Olympus wasn’t impressed, as their UK marketing manager made clear. Mark Thackara told TechRadar that “it’s an interesting attempt to get around the problem of cropping images on a phone”. The absence of optical zoom lenses on phone handsets limits the ability of these devices to capture a narrower field of view without having to resort to inferior digital zoom, or having to crop and resize the picture once it’s been taken.

The Nokia 808’s party trick is to capture a large field of view, and then condense up to seven pixels into one better-defined pixel; as a result, the 38MP photo that you just took can be reduced to a 5MP shot with extraordinary definition and quality.

Thackara wasn’t buying it: “It sounds like utter nonsense. The size of the lens means that the overall quality of the image will be restricted.” The photos themselves surely tell the story though – presumably Olympus has had time to review shots from the 808 PureView to see what they’re like, before offering an opinion? Errr… no. Thackara added: “It is difficult to say too much without seeing the results though.”

Having judged the product and dismissed it as “nonsense” without having actually seen what it’s capable of, Thackara at least left the door open for more objective considerations. “Let’s have a shootout under a number of different conditions," he said, "and see which one wins – let’s try it out against a half-decent camera.”

Olympus is currently embroiled in a massive financial scandal in Japan, where executives recently admitted to having been covering up financial losses for the last twenty years, making it one of the largest such scandals in Japanese corporate history. Last month, Reuters reported that the disgraced company was in the bizarre situation of suing six of its own current executives for up to $47m as part of efforts to clean up its act.

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The Megapixel game is a marketing game. It has more to do with the size and quality of the lens and the size of the ccd or cmos. Once the pixels in the ccd or cmos get too small, they are narrower than the actual wavelength of the light and introduce vast amounts of noise. An old 4MP Nikon with a full size 35mm CCD will produce photos far superior to any of these cameras with a lens the size of an M&M and a cmos that is even smaller than that.

Mike Frett said,
I'd rather have a basic phone, u know, to make CALLS. I have a damn camera already. pfft.

In that case, you probably have an Mp3 player, a laptop that browse the web, a gaming console, a video player, an FM tuner.
Tape together all that stuff and share the picture, let's see how portable that is.

I like Olympus (as an innovative micro 4/3 camera company). But they are wrong here - they didn't bother to read the details. Yes, normally 41Mpx is nonsense and useless gimmic, but not in this case. (BTW, Normally photos are downsampled 8 times - to 5Mpx)

First they ignore you, then they ridicule you, then they fight you, then you win. by Mahatma Gandhi

“Let's have a shootout under a number of different conditions," he said, "and see which one wins - let's try it out against a half-decent camera.”

Let's see if your camera can make calls, use apps and surf the web. *rolls eyes*

He wasn't criticising the quality of the phone itself but the camera and lens. As for the lens he's quite right - no magical trick from Nokia will fix the fact that it has a prime lens and comes with the innate disadvantages of it.

As I have had a friend who is a professional photographer look at the available sample photos he told me the quality is 'insane'. And he meant that in a good way.

He actually analysed the photos on professional software and came to the conclusion that the images are truly top quality. He is dying to get his hands on a device to do some work himself..

I think that Olympus is worried that phones/smartphones will take over completely the job of doing photographs instead of having a specialized camera we all now are more and more using our phones. Kodak has gone from a once giant company to now trying to stay in business, I feel that Olympus has "seen the writing on the wall" and feels that specialised cameras may be next to go.

One major problem I have with the 808 PureView is the massive and incredibly ugly camera module. Yes, it's necessary for the photos, but it looks freaking awful; not to mention the low-res display.

Anyway, maybe it'll like it more once (and if) I try it for myself

Scorpus said,
One major problem I have with the 808 PureView is the massive and incredibly ugly camera module. Yes, it's necessary for the photos, but it looks freaking awful; not to mention the low-res display.

Anyway, maybe it'll like it more once (and if) I try it for myself


I'm ok with the bulge. Its only a bit more thicker than N8. I don't like really thin phones. Yes the display is nHD but is not that bad. Its a CBD AMOLED like the one on E7 and that display was not bad.

The thing is, while the sensor is 41Mpix Nokia is very clear that this isnot saying they are taking 41MP images and explain how this sensor is being used.. Unlike many others which would only do so in the small print.

Also if it were Apple announcing this all the world would go 'Hail Apple, what great innovation'.. But then, Apple would never be able to come up with innovation like this. They would have to buy some smart*ss company and then present the technology as their own development and invention..

Most of the pundits are actually missing one important aspect of 808, decent optical zoom is not workable yet on a smartphone due to size constraints and digital zoom found on other devices is utter crap. 808 PureView solves this by using a very high resolution sensor so it can just crop the high resolution image it has to get results closer to an optical zoom. 808 PureView only does this losless zoom, it doesn't have digital zoom where the device tries to enlarge the shot without having actual data resulting in crappy pictures.

I think Nokia should take part of the blame for all this confusion. The MWC presentation by Jo Harlow was just mediocre. 808 was presented as if it was just another Asha phone so as not to threaten their present principal smartphone platform. In my opinion Damian Dinning should've been the one doing the presentation and Nokia should've made it clear that Belle is really good. But I guess Mr. CEO didn't want that to happen.

FoxieFoxie said,
LOL, Olympus is mad

Like yeah, because the "utter nonsense" has a bigger sensor area than any of their point-and-shoot cameras.

Looking at the photo samples from it, I definitely think there's a "need".

These photos easily seem to rival those of the iPhone 4S, another market leading phone as for photo quality, and I think we may see more of this technology in the future. (although I'm sure this system is patent encumbered like hell)

For Nokia to spend 5 years in R&D for this technology, I doubt they were throwing away that funding on something that only presented a cool "41 MP" figure on paper. They'd be able to do that far more easily if they had only wished to get at the numbers. Of course they had analyzed the potential gains from this technology before getting to work; that's part of the planning stage.

Olympus' problem here is that they still market many of their cameras with the MP count, an inrceasingly poor measure of quality. This kind of move by Nokia may completely throw that strategy out the window. About time. MP counts are no longer relevant. They only tell how large the images will be, not which quality they'll be. In Nokia's case, the end result will be ~5-8 MP photos, but using new technology to shoot at 41 MP.

Edited by Northgrove, Mar 1 2012, 8:24am :

Rival the 4S? I think you're very much understating the quality of the photos the Pureview makes personally if it's just rivalling. More like, clearly obliterates

Northgrove said,

These photos easily seem to rival those of the iPhone 4S, another market leading phone as for photo quality, and I think we may see more of this technology in the future.

Rival the iPhone 4S? It blows the N8 out of the water with a 2.5 times bigger sensor and a twice as powerful xenon. It doesn't have any competition in the smartphone space.

~Johnny said,
Rival the 4S? I think you're very much understating the quality of the photos the Pureview makes personally if it's just rivalling. More like, clearly obliterates

Yes' if dynamic range and details in both shadows and light areas is somthing that doesn't matter to you at all in photos, then yes.

HawkMan said,

Yes' if dynamic range and details in both shadows and light areas is somthing that doesn't matter to you at all in photos, then yes.

Frankly I see good dynamic range a shadow detail In the sample photos... certainly better than the iPhone 4S pictures I have literring my hard drive right now.