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.