Nokia 808 PureView: introduction

The Nokia 808 PureView exists because smartphones have made compact cameras all but obsolete. A 41Mp camera strapped to a dated Symbian smartphone, the Nokia 808 PureView is a strange mix of awesome and awful, probably best viewed as a compact camera with low-end smartphone functions attached. (It's like when I had a £300 satnav and a £200 car. But I never bundled them together and sold them as an expensive car.) See also: Group test: what's the best smartphone?

There's nothing wrong with Symbian, of course, but it is on its way to the grave which means the relative lack of apps is unlikely to improve, and you shouldn't expect any OS updates. And next to iOS, Windows Phone and Android, Symbian looks what it is: outmoded. Which means that those looking to shell out £500 for a smartphone should look elsewhere. This is a phone for people in the market for a camera. Albeit those who are prepared to shell out £500 for a compact camera. You can't buy the Nokia 808 PureView on contract, right now.

Compared with other cameras the Nokia 808 PureView has an intuitive interface, compared with other high-price smartphones... not so much. The multiple home pages resemble older iterations of Android, as does the series of app icons along the bottom of the screen. But unless you are a Symbian fan - and we're sure you exist - this is a smartphone hamstrung by a less than polished OS. We don't know whether Nokia is planning a Windows Phone version of the 808 PureView, but that could be the phone to wait for if you are desparate for a cameraphone that is more camera than phone.

Nokia 808 PureView: the OS

Symbian BelleThe Symbian Belle OS utilised by the Nokia 808 PureView will be a pleasant surprise for anybody who hasn't used Symbian for a while. (Or, to put it another way, everyone.) It looks dated, but it is a perfectly functional and responsive touchscreen operating system. The lack of apps is made up for by the fact that most major functions are catered for out of the box: functional web browser, social app, QuickOffice and so on.

One thing we did like about the Nokia 808 PureView was the way you can manage if from your PC. Without installing any applications you can simply drag and drop to add and remove media. It's totally straightforward, which is more than can be said for some manufacturers' synching systems.

There's a built-in FM radio, as well as Nokia Drive for getting around. And because Symbian is a lightweight OS, the relatively low-spec hardware isn't a problem. On which note...

Nokia 808 PureView: hardware and build

The Nokia 808 PureView is chunky and built to last. The lens and flash are recessed and protected by a lozenge of shiny metal. This is a heavy phone, at 169g. It's not an unpleasant weight, and it makes the Nokia 808 PureView feel pretty indestructable, but you'll feel it after a lengthy photo session. The PureView is naturally weighted toward the side with the lens in it, but not outrageously so. In fact, credit where it is due, it's fairly well balanced, and the weight makes it easier to hold steady. The finish of the back and sides of the PureView is a little plasticky, but it is easy to maintain a grip.

Nokia 808 Pureview

The front of the 808 PureView is alomost edge to edge glass, with a chunky bezel at the top which holds the speaker, and a thin white sliver of casing all the way around. As well as the 4in AMOLED touchscreen display the front of the 808 PureView hosts a power button that also allows you to access a phone menu to put the phone in offline mode. There's a home key and a green 'phone' button with which to make calls. There's also a red 'hang up' button. It's a nice little step back in time, but inoffensive in its way.

Up top there's a USB socket for charging and data transfer. You also get a headphone socket and mini-HDMI output.Other hardware controls include a volume rocker - this is the zoom control when you are using the camera (although pinch and zoom on the screen works better). There's also a lock key and a dedicated camera button. The latter is situated on the bottom right of the 808 PureView handset when you hold it in portrait mode, and serves both to wake up the camera and to take photos once the camera is in use.

Nokia 808 Pureview

The back of the Nokia 808 PureView is, as we mentioned, a little plasticky to the touch. SLip off the back cover and  you'll find a removable battery (hurrah!) and a microSD socket (double hurrah!). Here's where you also input your Micro SIM.

The 808 PureView has 512MB of RAM and a 1.3GHz processor. Combined with the relatively light footprint of Symbian this makes for a perfectly zippy handset.

Nokia 808 PureView: camera

The Nokia 808 PureView has a 41Mp camera. Yes, you read that right: in a world where most compact cameras now sensibly eschew the megapixel arms race, the PureView has a frankly ludicrous number of pixels. But don't be put off by this. The Nokia 808 PureView also boasts a reasonably sized 1/1.2in sensor. It's why it feels heavy in the hand, and has an unsightly bulge around the camera lens. It's also why, in combination with all those lovely megapixels, the Nokia 808 PureView takes great photos.  

Such a well-sized sensor means your photos have more detail and less distortion. Even blown up, you shouldn't see grainy images, and you should get decent depth of field too. The Nokia 808 PureView has a decent 8mm focal length and a large f/2.4 aperture, and the 41Mp camera uses pixel oversampling to cram all that detail into normal sized shots, meaning that images are crisp and sharp.

It's a proper camera, alright. The Nokia 808 PureView uses Carl Zeiss-branded optics, and there's a large Xenon flash that works well. You can take photos via both onscreen touch button and a hardware button under your right forefinger as you hold the PureView to take a picture. And although the zoom is digital, the large sensor means that it is in effect lossless. Even if your camera is simply taking a closer look at the image in front of you, there are so many pixels to play with that the final image will still have sufficient resolution to look good at a decent size.

By default the PureView captures 5Mp images. You can choose to take 8Mp or 2Mp snaps, although at the top end the 808 PureView can capture up to 38Mp photos in 4:3 or 16:9 aspect ratios.

NEXT PAGE: using the camera, and picture quality >>

Our Nokia 808 PureView review continues with a look at the camera in use, and some test shots that show off the picture quality.

Nokia 808 PureView: using the camera

We found it fairly simple to get to grips with the 808 PureView, even without the helpful hints and tips that come up in contextual menus. Because of its smartphone pretensions, as a camera it is exceptionally easy to use. There are a host of manual controls adjusted via the touchscreen, but the Automatic settings work pretty well too. And because this is a camera in smartphone's clothing, the ability to make minor adjustments using the touchscreen is much more intuitive that that of the majority of dedicated cameras.

You choose from three shooting modes: Automatic, Scenes and Creative. As we previously mentioned the point-and-shoot Automatic mode works well, getting you straight into 5Mp shooting mode. For most compact camera users, this is the apogee of their ambition, but we'd wager that those shelling out £500 for the Nokia 808 PureView likely want more. The next step up is the Scenes mode, in which you choose the type of photo 'Portrait' or 'Night-time' and let the camera do the rest.

Proper photographers and weekend warriors will choose Creative. Here you can customise pretty much everything, from exposure and contrast to ISO level, aspect ratio, saturation and sharpnes. Once you've found a series of setting that you like you can save them as a preset. Most of the 808 PureView's manual settings are adjusted using on-screen sliders that allow you to see results in real time. You can add basic effects such as black and white, and sepia, also in real time.

Nokia 808 PureView: picture quality

PureView test shot

Using automatic settings, the 808 PureView brings out good levels of detail in the foreground - an area on which it exclusively focused

PureView test shot

Colour reproduction was faithful on a rare sunny evening in London. Again, using automatic

PureView test shot

The dedicated landscape preset captures nice detail over a large area

PureView test shot

Back using the automatic preset, colour reproduction is good and focus intuitive - but the background is a little too blurry for our taste

PureView test shot

Even in low light detail is sharp using automatic settings

PureView test shot

This shot was incorrectly taken using the macro preset at too great a distance, but it is still far from a poor shot

Nokia 808 PureView: Specs

  • GSM 850/900/1800/1900
  • HSDPA 850/900/1700/1900/2100
  • 123.9 x 60.2 x 13.9 mm, 95.5 cc
  • 169 g
  • AMOLED capacitive touchscreen, 16M colors, 360 x 640 pixels, 4.0 inches (~184 ppi pixel density), Corning Gorilla Glass
  • 3.5mm jack
  • microSD, up to 32 GB
  • 16 GB storage, 1 GB ROM, 512 MB RAM
  • GPRS, EDGE
  • HSDPA 14.4 Mbps, HSUPA 5.76 Mbps
  • Wi-Fi 802.11 b/g/n, DLNA, UPnP technology
  • Bluetooth 3.0 with A2DP
  • NFC
  • USB
  • Primary 41 MP (38 MP effective, 7152 x 5368 pixels), Carl Zeiss optics, autofocus, Xenon flash, check quality
  • 1/1.2'' sensor size, ND filter, up to 4x lossless digital zoom, geo-tagging, face detection
  • 1080p@30fps, lossless digital zoom, LED light, check quality
  • VGA
  • VGA@30fps video recording secondary camera
  • Nokia Belle OS
  • 1.3 GHz ARM 11
  • Broadcom BCM2763
  • Accelerometer, proximity, compass
  • SMS (threaded view), MMS, Email, Push Email, IM
  • HTML5, Adobe Flash Lite
  • Stereo FM radio with RDS
  • FM transmitter
  • GPS
  • Java
  • Li-Ion 1400 mAh (BV-4D)
  • GSM 850/900/1800/1900
  • HSDPA 850/900/1700/1900/2100
  • 123.9 x 60.2 x 13.9 mm, 95.5 cc
  • 169 g
  • AMOLED capacitive touchscreen, 16M colors, 360 x 640 pixels, 4.0 inches (~184 ppi pixel density), Corning Gorilla Glass
  • 3.5mm jack
  • microSD, up to 32 GB
  • 16 GB storage, 1 GB ROM, 512 MB RAM
  • GPRS, EDGE
  • HSDPA 14.4 Mbps, HSUPA 5.76 Mbps
  • Wi-Fi 802.11 b/g/n, DLNA, UPnP technology
  • Bluetooth 3.0 with A2DP
  • NFC
  • USB
  • Primary 41 MP (38 MP effective, 7152 x 5368 pixels), Carl Zeiss optics, autofocus, Xenon flash, check quality
  • 1/1.2'' sensor size, ND filter, up to 4x lossless digital zoom, geo-tagging, face detection
  • 1080p@30fps, lossless digital zoom, LED light, check quality
  • VGA
  • VGA@30fps video recording secondary camera
  • Nokia Belle OS
  • 1.3 GHz ARM 11
  • Broadcom BCM2763
  • Accelerometer, proximity, compass
  • SMS (threaded view), MMS, Email, Push Email, IM
  • HTML5, Adobe Flash Lite
  • Stereo FM radio with RDS
  • FM transmitter
  • GPS
  • Java
  • Li-Ion 1400 mAh (BV-4D)

OUR VERDICT

Nokia's 808 PureView is best described as a camera with a phone in it. And that 41-megapixel camera is impressive. The question is: do you want to spend £500 on a camera with a Symbian smartphone attached, when you could get a top level compact camera for that amount of money? If you are not bothered about having the latest smartphone technology, the savings entailed in buying just one device to fulfil both smartphone and camera functions will make the PureView a bargain. Everyone else should look elsewhere, however.

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