By CHONG JINN XIUNGbytz@thestar.com.my
Will a 41-megapixel sensor make the latest phone from Nokia a winner?
NOKIA made a splash during this year's Mobile World Congress in February when it announced the Nokia 808 PureView, a phone with a whopping 41-megapixel sensor.
Even most cameras don't have a sensor with such a high megapxiel count which made us wonder if it is just a gimmick or if the PureView is the smartphone shutterbugs have been waiting for.
The PureView looks nothing like a modern slim smartphone but this can't be helped because the bulk is mainly due to the camera's protruding f/2.4 Carl Zeiss lens.
It has a solid build quality and feels good in the hand. The only problem is that the back is too smooth and doesn't give a good enough grip.
The 4in screen is protected by Gorilla Glass but it has a noticeably low resolution of 360 x 640-pixels which is surprising by today's standards. When looked at closely images and text tend to look pixelated.
Despite this the screen isn't all that bad - it has decent viewing angles and the colours are quite vibrant and bright.
It may come as a surprise to many but the PureView actually runs on Nokia's aging Symbian Belle platform instead of Windows Phone 7.
Symbian just feels old and outdated compared to many of the modern operating systems (OS) in the market.
No doubt it has many of the features found in the newer OSes like the drop down notification menu and multitasking but we found it unresponsive at times and a little clunky to use.
Typing with the virtual keyboard is a chore as we constantly made mistakes and the OS even lacks autocorrect and text prediction features.
Browsing the Web is also not one of PureView's strong points.
The browser feels dated and it renders pages badly, often not showing the entire webpage due to the low screen resolution.
You often need to zoom out to see everything on a webpage. However, the browser performs better when viewing the mobile version of websites.
There are better browsers available for Symbian like Opera Mini and Mobile but you can't escape the feeling that you are using an old OS with limited features.
In terms of battery life, the phone lasted a day when used for light surfing, sending e-mail messages and making phone calls.
Using the camera over extended periods will, of course, drain the battery faster.
The PureView's headline-grabbing feature is its camera. To snap pictures, you can use either the onscreen icon or dedicated shutter button on the side. It takes about two to three seconds for the camera to start up from sleep mode.
Just like a regular compact camera, the shutter button has a two stage press - you can half press the shutter button to focus before depressing it fully to take a shot.
The interface is simple and gives you a clear view of what you are shooting without too many icons cluttering the screen.
Although the camera has a 41-megapixel sensor, it shoots only at 8-megapixels in PureView mode by default using a technique called pixel oversampling.
The reason for this is that it allows the camera to digitally zoom without any loss in image quality. This also applies when recording videos.
The camera is also capable of producing 38- or 36-megapixel resolution images but the digital zoom feature will not be available. The benefit of shooting at such a high resolution is that you get detailed images which you can crop and edit to your heart's content on your desktop computer later.
The quality of pictures were quite impressive and when we examined them up close at 100% crop the details were amazing and the exposure was accurate.
The Xenon flash isn't very bright but it can light up close subjects with surprisingly pleasing results.
The only issue is the automatic white balance which occasionally produces weird colour tones when shooting indoors or under artificial lighting.
The PureView comes with plenty of options such as a creative mode that allows you to apply filter effects like vivid, sepia or black and white. It's cool that you can save up to three different creative modes for quick access later.
The camera's noise performance is no different than most compact cameras - expect to see things become blurry and less detailed as you bump the ISO above 400. By ISO 1600 the image becomes so bad it looks like a mosaic painting.
The PureView also performed well at HD video recording and the ability to use lossless zoom to get up close to subjects is very handy.
Without a doubt the Nokia 808 PureView smartphone has one of the best cameras. It is a little chunky because of the 41-megapixel but the trade off is well worth it.
The camera shoots detailed and high resolution pictures and the lossless digital zoom in PureView mode is just great. Plus, it also shoots HD videos really well.
It is, however, let down by the operating system. We didn't enjoy using Symbian Belle - its interface is clunky and the built-in web browser is barey usable.
Overall, the PureView has a fine camera and it's great for taking casual shots. After all, the best camera is the one you have with you at all times.
Pros: Good image and video quality; lots of options for shooting photos; lossless digital zoom.
Cons: Outdated operating system; web browser is barely usable; no autocorrect.
NETWORK: GSM 850/900/1800/1900, HSDPA 900/2100
OPERATING SYSTEM: Symbian Belle
DISPLAY: 4in AMOLED (360 x 640-pixels)
CAMERA: 41-megapixels with autofocus, Xenon flash
CONNECTIVITY: Bluetooth 3.0, NFC, DLNA, WiFi 802.11b/g/n, microUSB port, HDMI out
EXPANSION SLOT: MicroSD
STANDBY/TALK TIME: 525 hours/6.5 hours
OTHER FEATURES: WebKit 2 open-source browser, Nokia Maps, A-GPS, stereo FM radio tuner, 1080p HD video recording at 30fps
DIMENSIONS (W x D x H): 60.2 x 13.9 x 123.9mm
Review unit courtesy of Nokia Malaysia, 1-300-88-1600