Nokia's Lumia 920 is the camera-in-a-phone to beat
In addition to offering a sharp 4.5-inch display, a dual-core processor, and built-in wireless-charging capabilities, the new Nokia Lumia 920 apparently wants to be your everyday camera. Announced today at an event in New York City, Nokia's flagship Windows Phone 8 handset offers a few camera specs we haven't seen before in a smartphone.
Two of those distinguishing factors have to do with the Lumia 920's lens: It offers a maximum aperture of F2.0, which means that the camera should capture better-than-most images in low light, and it's also the first smartphone I've seen to bolster its optics with a mechanical lens-shift stabilization system.
The maximum aperture of F2.0 is something you normally see in premium point-and-shoot cameras (read: cameras that cost upwards of $400). Bear in mind that your average standalone camera offers a bigger sensor and a girthier lens, so you probably won't see the shallow depth-of-field effects you'll get with a premium compact. That said, it's still a very nice feature to have in a smartphone camera, and if the sample shots shown at the event were to be believed, that wider-than-most aperture does run laps around most mobile-phone cameras in dark lighting.
According to Nokia, the camera's "floating lens" stabilization system helps with low-light photos and capturing video while walking, as well. Rather than having individual elements in the lens move to compensate for camera shake, the entire housing for the Lumia 920's lens is steadied by a spring-buffered system, helping the camera use slower shutter speeds in dark environments with less visible blur. It won't correct the blur you see when capturing a subject in motion, however; the system is built to compensate only for shaky hands, not fast-moving subjects.
The Lumia 920's in-camera shooting modes are designed to help with that task, judging from two of the phone's features demoed at the event. A high-speed burst mode (dubbed Blink Lens mode) captures several still images in a second, while a "Smart Shoot" mode creates a composite image out of successive shots, allowing you to remove moving objects in a scene.
It looks like Nokia and Microsoft are addressing the relative scarcity of Windows Phone apps (compared to Android and iOS, at least) by offering some camera-specific "Lens" apps. Among them are a Windows 8 Phone version of the Photosynth panorama-stitching app, as well as a still/video hybrid app called Cinemagraph that looks mighty similar to the Cinemagram app I wrote about here. And, of course, you'll get a range of Instagram-like filters built into the camera.
For now, it looks like the Lumia 920 is the camera-in-a-phone to beat, but Apple's iPhone 5 is looming next week. Apple's latest smartphone is bound to feature improved camera specs, and we'll see if it can match or raise the bar set by Nokia's new Windows 8 Phone.