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The Nokia 808 PureView smart phone is a top-notch camera

Consumer Reports News: August 01, 2012 04:38 PM

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At 41 megapixels, the Nokia 808 PureView has one of the highest pixel counts of any digital-imaging device, including most basic and advanced digital cameras. And according to our lab testers, it produces the best image quality for video and still photos that we've seen among phones—including the iPhone 4S. I borrowed this smart phone specifically to shoot photos and video, and I found the camera features on the 808 PureView to be impressive.

Read on for my results. (And for a review of other features on the Nokia 808 PureView, see "Hands on with the Nokia PureView 808 at CTIA.")

Zoom: Like almost all phones—and unlike most cameras—the 808 PureView doesn't have an optical zoom lens. It does have a digital zoom, but those typically cause degraded image quality.

Instead, the phone has that 41MP sensor, which can help you create the effect of optical zoom without an actual built-in lens. According to our testers and the camera specs, your photos will be either 38 or 34 megapixels, depending on the aspect ratio you use.

You can also set the camera on a lower-resolution setting of 8, 5, or 3 megapixels, to save on memory and storage space. You also must set the phone on one of these lower settings to use the digital-zoom feature, which offers 3x zoom.

The 808 PureView can also capture full-HD resolution video at 1080p. And for video, you can zoom up to 4x digitally.

Image size: When you're creating such large images, storage can be an issue. For example, I compared the sizes of the shots I took with the 808 PureView to one I shot on a digital camera. I was startled to find that the file size of a JPEG photo I shot on the 18-megapixel Canon Rebel T4i, the company's latest consumer-level SLR, is 8.5MB in size, but the phone's 38-megapixel JPEG was larger, at 11MB.

This means that if you set the 808 PureView on its highest-resolution setting and take lots of photos, you could eat up storage space pretty quickly—even more quickly than you would if you used an SLR.

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Ease of use: I found that the 808 PureView was simple to use for taking photos or video. It has a straightforward interface and a shutter button on the edge of the camera, which is handy for shooting still shots.

The touch screen worked pretty well too, although at times I had a little trouble scrolling down on the menu screens, and when turning various settings on and off.

Image quality: I shot a lot of photos at various resolutions, and I found that the images were crisp and mostly noise free.

One feature I particularly liked was the 808 PureView's strobe: It performed very well, better than the rather weak LED flashes on many smart phones. The 808 PureView's strobe sends out a strong burst that provides ample illumination for subjects several feet away.

I also thought indoor video footage was exceptionally clear and noise free. And when I engaged the digital zoom, the image quality was impressive; thanks to the extra megapixels, it didn't seem to degrade as I zoomed in. But since the phone isn't image-stabilized, as are most full-size camcorders, video footage can be jittery unless you have very steady hands or mount the phone on a tripod.

Bottom line: The Nokia 808 PureView has impressive still-photo and video image quality for a smart phone--in fact, it tops all other phones we've tested in that regard. If you're shooting at the highest resolution, though, be aware that you'll be creating large images and videos that will need a lot of storage space.

Our testers are still running this phone through its paces in our labs; check our smart-phone Ratings soon to see the full results—not only our photo and video scores but also for other smart-phone features.

Terry Sullivan

   

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