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Nokia Puts 41MPixel Camera In a (Symbian) Phone 204

judgecorp writes "We aren't sure what's the strangest thing about Nokia's new offering, the fact that it's got a 41 Megapixel camera or the fact that it runs Symbian. It has a very high resolution sensor and uses oversampling, apparently producing good results in low light. Users can either save a maximum of 38Mpixels, or else zoom and crop for normal resolution images. Observers expected a maximum of one more Symbian phone before Nokia shifts over to Windows Phone. This suggests either a longer life for Symbian — or maybe [that] Symbian was just an easier platform to make a show-stopping device that may turn out to be more of a concept phone."
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Nokia Puts 41MPixel Camera In a (Symbian) Phone

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  • Optics (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday February 28, 2012 @10:27AM (#39184685)

    Unless it has a DSLR-type lens, the limitation is going to be optics, not resolution.


    • Look at the sample shots. 41MP be damned, those photos look goooooood. []

      Me likey...

      • You think so? I just see vibrant colors, not 41megapixels detail. With a clear blue sky like that, and plenty of light, you minimize the problems of small sensors/lenses.

        It is known that you can print up to A3 size with a 6 MP camera. So the only advantage would be when using digital zoom. If I zoom in those images I see a noisy sky. Sure, it can be a problem with jpg format. But in any case, the same picture could have been obtained with a 6MP camera.

      • Those are nice shots, but they were also taken by a professional photographer in perfect lighting conditions. The ability of the average user to reproduce these will be reduced to "Happy Accident."

        Now, a person with a good eye for composition and lighting will be able to turn out some pretty nice stuff on a consistent basis, and if you're looking to be able to make calls and play Angry Birds on your camera, more power to you.

        • Hmmm, good point. My Galaxy Nexus take barely usable shots in broad daylight but churns out murky crap at night... maybe it really is time for a bigger camera.

        • Pretty much this. An iPhone (which, until the 4S had spectacularly bad cameras) can take good pictures under optimal conditions. ANYTHING can take good pictures under optimal conditions. Especially if you're looking at it on Facebook on some random browser at 400 pixels across.

          Have the light wash out, have the subject move, put the subject close or far away, print poster size - then you're pushing hardware.

    • Yup, there's a physical limit to how much light you can get through a lens the size of your pinky nail and all the megapixels in the world won't change that.

      • Re:Optics (Score:5, Interesting)

        by Andy_R ( 114137 ) on Tuesday February 28, 2012 @11:12AM (#39185155) Homepage Journal

        That's true, but this isn't a tiny lens. The spec sheet doesn't give the actual lens size, but it does say there's a 1.5 inch sensor in there, which is a clue to the real flaw with this product. It's not really a phone with a surprisingly good camera, it's actually just a consumer level compact camera that happens to also be able to make calls. The big idea of getting rid of the optical zoom and just downsampling in the box, gaining both hardware simplicity and the advantage of averaging out noise when using less than max quality is fundamentally sound, but it probably isn't ready for real-world deployment in an actual consumer level compact camera... hence the decision to slap a phone on he back and pretend it's not a consumer level compact camera. This probably explains the decision to put symbian on it, the CPU of the camera this really ought to be probably wasn't beefy enough to run anything modern at a decent speed.

    • by mrops ( 927562 ) on Tuesday February 28, 2012 @11:30AM (#39185347)

      The point is not to take 38 megapixel images. I don't know why everyone is focusing on the megapixel, that is not the story here.

      The story here is the approach they take, 41 megapixel oversampled images processed algorithmically to produce superior 5 mega pixel images. The story may even be Symbian, definitely not the 41 mega pixel sensor.

      • by xystren ( 522982 )

        I think people are focusing on the overkill of 38 megapixel image on a camera phone. Sure, it's kind of cool from a technological perspective, but from a practical standpoint, considering the limitations of aperture, focal length, optic distortion, etc., constrained within the tiny framework of a phone is pretty pointless - even Zeiss optics have their limitations. Also, as mentioned previously, one can only allow so much light into a small and tiny lens (which is limited by the form factor of the size of t

    • by Idbar ( 1034346 )
      While optics become a limitation, the sensor size is larger in size not just resolution (thus better aperture and less noise).

      But I don't think you can have it all on your cell (I wished a F/1.4 11mm-5000mm lens but that would be kind of bulky - if possible).

      To me, the news come down to
      1. The bandwidth of the sensor to pull all that data out in a "fair experience" for the user
      1.b. The embedded processing capabilities (DSP, etc)

      2. The capability of analyzing a 41 megapixel image, with fairly low noise
      • by Idbar ( 1034346 )
        Ah.. yes. I forgot...

        3. A fairly good quality digital zoom that can crop 41MP to 4.1MP to avoid more complex optical zoom mechanisms.
        • You don't need the digital zoom - that's what all the pickles are for. Just subsample. That allows you to have simpler, better lens. Zooming is faster. It allows the 'photographer' to decide what to do with the picture later. That's important in these miserable little 'cameras' since the form factor and lack of a decent viewfinder make it hard to compose, especially when the subject is busy yorking up all the Doritos in the corner. Gotta get that special moment!

    • by rnbc ( 174939 ) on Tuesday February 28, 2012 @11:47AM (#39185513) Homepage

      Actually since this is a near diffraction limited lens working at f/2.4 the spot size is going to be about 0.56um * 2.4 ~ 1.344um on the focal plane. The cycle size is about double, or 2.688um.

      Considering it uses a Bayer array, and the pixels are spaced at 1.4um, the green pixels will be spaced at 2um (minimum distance to next green pixel). To properly sample you need at least 2 pixels per cycle (said Mr. Nyquist), but since pixels are not exactly points (they have an area) astronomers working in diffraction limited imaging advise 3x sampling in practice.

      What this means is you would need a pixel size of 2.688/3/sqrt(2) ~ 0.63um (or 0.9um if using a Foven-style sensor) to properly sample this lens. 1.4um vastly undersamples the lens, as can be seen near the central area in the available samples: they are razor sharp in the central area, and otherwise are limited by aberrations.

      A practical article describing this, with example images, can be seen here:

  • by rufty_tufty ( 888596 ) on Tuesday February 28, 2012 @10:28AM (#39184691) Homepage

    "This suggests either a longer life for Symbian — or maybe Symbian was just an easier platform to make a show-stopping device that may turn out to be more of a concept phone"
    Or perhaps the phone has been in development for some time, maybe it takes longer than Marketing announcement cycles to design and deliver new technology.

    • by suy ( 1908306 ) on Tuesday February 28, 2012 @10:46AM (#39184879) Homepage

      Or perhaps the phone has been in development for some time, maybe it takes longer than Marketing announcement cycles to design and deliver new technology.

      I can't find now the link (maybe it was on a video), but they say they have been developing this technology for four years.

      And BTW, the summary is somewhat unfair. On the announcement [] they have posted (besides some impressive photo samples) a whitepaper [] were they clearly say that is not about quantity of megapixels, is about the quality you get when you average the results given by each one. I've also seen some of the videos were you get a very smooth digital zoom without loss of quality, and is quite remarkable.

  • Shouldn't they expect a mazimum?
  • Is it really pixels or is it phonus balonus theoretical pixels?

    I have and Olympus FE-47 cheepie "14 megapixel" which has worse actual resolution than my old Nikon Coolpix 800, which only is 1 megapixel.

    • Re:Question is.. (Score:4, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday February 28, 2012 @10:40AM (#39184815)

      Sensor is much larger than a traditional 5MP phone cam sensor:

      • Ditto that - salient point here is a much larger sensor which has a big effect on reducing noise. It's still not anywhere near the size of a DSLR, and at least in the pics I saw (all taken in daylight), there was a lot of "smearing" at 100% ... so diffraction is coming into play here.

        Note also that the samples were all "wide-angle" - the "telephoto" is not optical - basically just using a subset of the sensor to do it electronically. So makes the device much simpler (no moving parts), but in essence is d
        • Reading the article, it states that the sensor size is 1.5 inches. (38.1mm) If we assume that the measurement is like other camera sensors, that is the diagonal measurement and a little trig tells us that we can get a ~27mm a side right triangle from that, which is on par with APS-C sensors, or most DSLRs in production today.

          The smearing is probably coming from the focal distance between the lens and the sensor and a fixed aperture. Unless there is something they aren't telling us, the lens has to be focuse

          • And let me reply to my own post here. The whitepaper says the sensor is going to be 10x7mm, which is a little under half an inch diagonal. Nothing about that sensor can equal 38mm, so I'm wondering which measurement is a misprint.

    • It is actual pixels. Have a look at the whitepaper on the technology. In essence, it can be used for digital zoom where you still have a decent resolution on the final image: []
    • by Andy_R ( 114137 )

      According to the product briefing, it's actually very odd. There really are 41 megapixels, but you can't use more than 38 megapixels at any given time. You can shoot either 16:9 images that chop off the top and bottom or 4:3 images that chop off the sides of the full 41. This means the corners of the sensor are never used, as they are always cropped off, so the lens doesn't need to be big enough to let light into the very corners.

      • by PybusJ ( 30549 )

        It's not all that odd. Panasonic already do the same trick with some of their Lumix cameras. It makes a lot of sense as all lenses produce a circular image.

  • Diffraction limited? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by ControlFreal ( 661231 ) <> on Tuesday February 28, 2012 @10:34AM (#39184751) Journal

    Your average phone has a ~4 mm (diameter) lens. This yields an Airy disc [] of some 1.15 minutes of arc [].

    Even at a wide field of view (say, 60 degrees), this yields a maximum lateral resolution of some 3200 pixels. Isn't thus any camera with more than ~10 MPixels diffraction limited by the tiny lens, and not sensor limited?

    • You are correct in your calculations. That also assume perfect optics, so the actual value will be lower than this. However, if you'd RTFA you'd see that the lens is much larger than 4mm.

      But expect a whole host of replies agreeing that 41MP in a phone is ridiculous.
      • by MozeeToby ( 1163751 ) on Tuesday February 28, 2012 @10:53AM (#39184953)

        Summary is terrible and misses out the parts of the camera that are actually exciting. First, they never intend for people to use the 41MP setting, instead, they intend you to use 5MP and let their fancy new pixel averaging do it's thing to dramatically reduce noise levels by averaging out 8 pixels into one. That will allow higher iso settings, better low light pictures, etc. The other interesting thing is the size of the sensor, 10x7mm, which is ludicrously large for a phone, about 4 times more surface area than the latest iPhone's sensor. Heck, it's larger than the vast majority of point and shoots. Now obviously, just like megapixels, I imagine that sensor size could be artificially inflated just like any other number, but the example pictures they have posted look pretty incredible for a camera phone.

        • by ArcherB ( 796902 )

          That will allow higher iso settings, better low light pictures, etc.

          That is what I want to see. I'm tired of having to turn on every light in my house and open all the blinds to get a good picture on my child doing whatever it is that she may be doing. And even then, if she is moving at all, it's going to come out blurry. Most of the time, I give up and go grab the DSLR and take the picture that way, but it certainly doesn't help when I'm on the road.

          I want good, clear, low-light pictures of objects that were moving when the photo was taken. I simply don't think that is

    • by jmv ( 93421 )

      Exactly my thought. I've got a 10MP DSLR and even then I get the impression that the limitation is still the lens. Sure you can do averaging with lots of pixels, but then you can just use fewer, bigger pixels.

      • What lens is it? Lots of the lenses that come with DSLR's are terrible. The 10MP models that come to mind are the Canon XTi (400D) and Olympus E-410/420/510/520. The lens that comes with the former is sort of a stinker, the ones that come with the latter (especially the 40-150mm) are not bad.

        • by jmv ( 93421 )

          I've actually got a Sigma 28-300 lens to replace the one that came with my 350D (8 MP actually). So the lens is pretty good, but when you look at the image carefully, you see that there's still a bit of blur between adjacent pixels.

  • Get the facts (Score:5, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday February 28, 2012 @10:34AM (#39184757)

    I strongly recommend reading the white paper:

    • Really, just please read the whitepaper.

      And if that is too much, then here is an abstract.

      The sensor is 41MP. Then they use a technique they are calling oversampling wherein multiple pixels are used to calculate a perfect average pixel and as far as I understand the final res of the saved image is configured. For an example, they say a 5 MP image.

      Pretty cool stuff and as an engineer "Doh" moment stuff.

      And yes, Mod Parent up.

      • This isn't terribly new -- I do it every day when I display the 4000x3000 images from my camera on my 1920x1080 screen. My image display software does some fancy averaging to make fewer pixels out of the average values of the pixels in the original jpeg.

        The only difference here is that you're doing it in software *before* you save the image to the card, rather than in software when you go to *display* the image later. But even that's not revolutionary -- most digital cameras have a mode that does pixel aver

      • by ceoyoyo ( 59147 )

        The "whitepaper" is marketing. "Oversampling" is just pixel averaging, and it has well known effects. You're better off having more pixel area and NOT averaging.

        The sensor resolution does give them flexibility to do things like not include an optical zoom, etc. but the image quality will not be better than a sensor with fewer, bigger pixels.

        They do get nice images, because they've put a big lens and a big sensor in a cell phone. But if you believe their claims that because of some marketing speak you're goi

    • The paper is good and clears up a lot but it does not indicate any solution to the maximum resolution of this lens size. Albeit a Carl Zeis lens helps, there are reasons a small lens will not get this resolution (other /.-ers are far more capable of explaining this, and have done so in this topic)
  • ARghhhh (Score:5, Funny)

    by ciderbrew ( 1860166 ) on Tuesday February 28, 2012 @10:35AM (#39184765)
    I'll look forward to getting 20 of those pictures in an email. Thanks mum, the 10 gig of pictures with nothing but the food you ordered whilst on holiday are great.Oh - I can see some bugs you missed in the salad :) / fires up Photoshop - Mwwhahahhaaa.
    • by 21mhz ( 443080 )

      Depending on the defaults in mom's camera app and the mail app that might impose its own preferred resolution, you will get the same compressed jpegs with e.g. 5 megapixels of effective image data.

  • by Kjella ( 173770 ) on Tuesday February 28, 2012 @10:44AM (#39184859) Homepage

    This suggests either a longer life for Symbian - or maybe Symbian was just an easier platform to make a show-stopping device that may turn out to be more of a concept phone.

    Or as most of us have figured out, Nokia has been a rudderless company and this is probably the work of the "let's turn Symbian into a smart phone" faction and this is just to recover a little bit of all the money they've wasted, just like the pathetically few N-series phones they released. They probably jumped on the wrong ship when they went all in on Windows Phone, but at least that one is going somewhere. Nokia never managed to agree on one thing and then actually do it well, so Apple and Google ate them for lunch. Epic management fail, if you ask me.

  • sample pictures (Score:4, Informative)

    by jcupitt65 ( 68879 ) on Tuesday February 28, 2012 @10:49AM (#39184911)

    Some sample pics, apparently: []

    They look OK, and amazing for a phone.

  • by FaxeTheCat ( 1394763 ) on Tuesday February 28, 2012 @11:04AM (#39185073)
    The blog here: [] has bot a brief explanation of how the pixels are used and some sample images. Same images as in the zip file in the previous post.
  • sigh, i see this thread devolving into flames by pixel peepers who will find the most minute issue to pick at while failing to just look at the damn pictures admit that they look quite nice. The kind of folks for whom photography has little to do with the actual content of the picture. I think the samples look pretty good considering they came from a cell phone with "fake" 41MP sensor and a lens that's "too small".

    Nice job Nokia. Would have been nice to see this tech a few years sooner when you still we
    • by Jagen ( 30952 )

      Yes, the pictures look "quite nice", so what?
      Do they look significantly better than what Sony, Samsung or Apple have in their top end phones? Not really, and none of those phones are nearly 2cm thick at the camera module.
      It's an interesting tech demo, but that's really about it at the moment.

      • by 21mhz ( 443080 )

        This is not how you properly bash camera quality in a Nokia phone. Learn from this fellow []: the iPhone photos are clearly better, because the little piggies are more vividly pink! And the white background is pink too! The dull picture from the Nokia just does not deliver it the way the user wants to see his porcelain piggies!

  • by kalpaha ( 667921 ) on Tuesday February 28, 2012 @11:25AM (#39185285)

    Keep making fun of Nokia ignorant yankees. One of the main reasons Nokia is non-existent in US is because it tried to stand up to the telcos and protect consumer's rights by not crippling the phones as per the request of your greedy-ass cellular carriers. I guess it won't be making that mistake anymore.

    The 808 just goes to show that some companies still employ engineers instead of designers. I mean, Apple has to rip off that patented technology from somewhere. ( [] )

    I'm not new here, so I know it's a lot to ask, but in addition to reading the fucking article, I encourage everyone to read the white paper too: []

    Also check out the sound quality of the 808 recording (listen with good headphones or speakers to really appreciate the difference) []

    • by janimal ( 172428 )

      I know noone's going to read this, but you might kalpaha:

      You seem to be knowledgeable about Nokia (and a bit frustrated). Im a Nokia fan myself, but lately it's very difficult to remain one and it is difficult not to blame bad management for it. Here are my reasons:

      1. Can the lack of a decent camera on the E7 be explained by anything other than management failure? A business phone is sometimes used as a crude document scanner. This is not a nice to have these days, as everyone snaps pictures of offers, cont

  • Obliged []

  • now we will end up seeing way too much. TMI.

  • I've put a ferrari motor on my lawnmower. Now it can go superfast and I could do races with it, but I still use it mainly for what it was design for, mow the lawn...

Bell Labs Unix -- Reach out and grep someone.