Nokia PureView to lead camera-phone tech, but where's everyone else?

Ginny Mies

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Nokia's next Windows Phone may represent a big leap forward in camera tech, as the company is placing its PureView technology front and center.

According to unnamed sources cited by The Verge, the phone is codenamed the Nokia EOS, and it will reportedly have a camera similar to the 41-megapixel shooter in Nokia's Symbian-based 808 PureView phone. The technology will be part of a new design cycle for Nokia, and the phones will encased in aluminum instead of polycarbonate plastic.

Ginny Mies
Nokia's Lumia 808 PureView was the first phone with a 41-megapixel sensor.

Nokia also used the PureView name in its Lumia 920 Windows Phone, but that device only featured an 8.7-megapixel camera. Nokia said that the PureView name applied to the phone's low-light performance and mechanical stabilization system.

The 808 PureView camera was different. Its staggering megapixel count meant that users could digitally zoom in on a subject and still have a good-looking, high-resolution photo. Although a high megapixel count doesn't guarantee great photos, from what we've seen the 808 PureView was capable of taking sharp, zoomed-in images without noise or pixellation.

Robert Cardin
The PureView-branded Nokia Lumia 920 had an 8.7-megapixel sensor.

Because the technology was five years in the making, Nokia wasn't able to bring PureView to Windows Phone right away. The company has always said it would do so eventually.

If The Verge's sources are correct, Nokia could give the smartphone market a much-needed breakthrough in camera tech. Although smartphone cameras have gotten a lot better over the last few years, the last major hardware advancement that comes to mind is the addition of an LED flash in 2009 and 2010. You could argue that backside-illuminated CMOS sensors have been just as important in enabling improved low-light performance, 1080p video capture, and shooting modes such as HDR and motion panorama, but those features are generally less noticeable to the average user.

A smartphone camera that could mimic a zoom lens would be a pretty big advancement--one that might finally help Nokia (and Windows Phone, for that matter) stand out from the pack. It may even motivate other phone makers to find their own solutions for zoom, so instead of just getting more software features and higher pixel counts, we'll get fundamentally better smartphone cameras.

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