[MWC 2019] Hands on with the Nokia 9 PureView and its five cameras

MWC 2019 is the stage for a lot of announcements in regards to smartphones, and HMD used the event to present a whole range of new members of the Nokia family. These range from the lowest end of the spectrum to what might be one of the most interesting phones of this year. At the show floor, we got to take a close look at the entire lineup - including the Nokia 9 PureView. Here's what we learned about it.

The Nokia brand has long been known for the imaging capabilities of the camera in its phones, and in trying to bring back the glory days of old, HMD Global has made one of the most unique smartphones out there right now. The Nokia 9 PureView has a total of five traditional camera sensors on the back, plus a time-of-flight sensor.

The five main cameras don't work as most smartphones do today, where only one or two of the sensors is actually used when taking the pictures. Here, we have two full-color and three monochrome cameras, which all fire at the same time when you take a shot. The reason for the monochrome sensors is that they capture more light than RGB ones, so when all five pictures are brought together, you get a lot more detail than you would otherwise.

By capturing and merging all five pictures (which add up to 60MP being captured) at the same time, not only do you get more detail, you get an insane amount of depth information, with the phone being able to detect as many as 1200 planes of depth in a shot. This allows you to get depth effects and bokeh like you wouldn't on any other phone, and this can be adjusted after the fact.

You can set the focus to any part of the picture, and the blur effect will be applied more aggressively to objects further away from the plane of depth you chose. This isn't ideal for pictures taken in very close proximity to objects, but if you get a far enough field of view, watching the blur effect change as you change the focus point is amazing.

The camera can also capture and save images in RAW format so you can use professional editing tools to edit the image with all that additional data. As you'd expect, you'll need a lot of storage space if you want to use this frequently, as one of the samples was just under 40MB in size. Nokia is actually partnering with Adobe to promote Lightroom for editing. The app won't be pre-installed since Nokia sticks to its Android One philosophy, but when you set up your phone with a Google account, you'll get an e-mail recommending you to download it.

One thing you'll notice whenever you take a picture with this phone is that it always takes a few seconds to process after you've taken the shot, and you'll see this happening if you jump into Google Photos right away. This led me to ask why Nokia chose to use a Snapdragon 845 from last year instead of an 855, and if it wouldn't be faster to use the newer chip.

As it turns out, it wouldn't. Nokia partnered with a company called Light for the technology behind this camera, which you may know for their work in multi-camera setups, as seen with its L16 device a couple of years ago. All of the image processing here is done by a dedicated chipset from Light, and that means you don't have to worry about the phone slowing down or messing up the process, as the image processing will keep going no matter what you're doing.

Otherwise, using an older chipset lets Nokia make the phone much cheaper than other competing flagships. High-end chipsets offer a lot more performance than most users need, so this choice is understandable.

Aside from that, the Nokia 9 PureView is pretty standard flagship material. You get a glass sandwich design with a metal frame, a 6-inch Quad HD+ display, 6GB of RAM, 128GB of storage, a 3,350mAh battery, and, for the first time in a Nokia phone from HMD, support for Qi wireless charging. Also for the first time in a Nokia phone, there's a fingerprint sensor under the display. That all comes in at $699/€699/£549, which is well below most flagships coming out in 2019. In European countries, you can already pre-order it, and availability is planned for March.

Neowin is at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona taking place between Feb 25-28 to bring you coverage direct from the show floor, click here for our other articles at the event.

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