Nokia shocks tech world with 41 megapixel smartphone

But first PureView handset runs tarted-up Symbian

Nokia 808 PureView

Nokia 808 PureView

After days of teasing in advance of the Mobile World Congress (MWC), Nokia has announced the 808 PureView, the first smartphone to feature a sensor capable of snapping images up to the extraordinary resolution of 41 megapixels.

The highest resolutions currently on offer from even the most expensive smartphones sit around the 12 megapixel mark so for Nokia to leapfrog this by such a margin was totally unexpected. Even non-professional digital cameras max at around 16 megapixels.

The sensor inside the 808 PureView is capable of using its native 41 megapixel sensor to turn out images of 38 megapixels in size at a 4:3 image ratio, or 34 megapixels at 16:9. This sort of data will seriously challenge not only the memory capacity of most data cards but buffering and write performance too.

Consequently, users can opt to over-sample seven pixels into one to create lower-resolution images at three, five and eight megapixels which the company claimed would combine with Carl-Zeiss optics to produce pictures rich in detail and low in noise.

The most surprising element to the 808 announcement is that the phone runs a revamped Symbian and not Windows Phone 7, although the same PureView technology will appear in future handsets on all platforms, the company indicated.

The sound technology is also worth mentioning, featuring Dolby Digital Plus chipset that can deliver 5.1 channel surround sound. Video performance is impressive, offering full H.264 HD at 1080p/30fps or 720p at the same frame rate for smaller files.

In other departments, the 808 is fairly standard for a high-end smartphone, combining 16GB of storage, 512 RAM and a single-core 1.3 GHz processor plus AMOLED screen.

Questions remain about the striking 41 megapixel sensor, not least what sort of photographic performance it can really deliver.

As important as resolution is thought to be by most consumers, other factors are also hugely important including optical capacity (the lens size, which affects the volume of light reaching the sensor) and quality, colour balance and exposure accuracy and sensitivity.

Putting down the megapixel marker is clearly Nokia's attempt to boost the photographic reputation of smartphones which are routinely claimed to be displacing consumer digital cameras without much evidence that they ever take better than barely mediocre pictures.

More importantly, the announcement has put Nokia's name back at the forefront of mobile technology. Only months ago, the company looked to have lost that mantle for good.

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John E Dunn

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