With the Pixel 3 in for review for a short period, and with a glimpse of sun here and there in November in the UK, I wanted to pit PureView phase 1 (Nokia 808) and phase 2 (Lumia 1020, adding OIS) with the Pixel's (as good as) PureView phase 3, doing all the pixel combination in the time domain rather than across a high-res sensor. There's a lot to compare, it's our biggest and longest imaging comparison piece ever, so let's press on and do allow time for the page to fully load!
I've talked before about how Google's HDR+ software is effectively the latest generation of Nokia's original PureView concept. Except that instead of amalgamating pixel data from a high resolution to a lower resolution, all with a single exposure, HDR+ takes pixel data from many separate exposures at the same resolution. The former is - in theory - superior. But put the latter together with a modern fast chipset and all of a sudden multi-frame PureView becomes practical and with decent results. Taking the Lumia 950 as my modern era gold standard for imaging, can the brand new Google Pixel 3 really compete?
One of the reasons why there has always been a big debate as to what exactly constitutes "a smartphone" is that the definition itself keeps changing. Once we had dumb phones, then high end communicators and touchscreen multimedia gadgets for geeks, and then - by 2010 or so - enough people had what we had been calling 'smartphones' that they became mainstream and just 'phones'. But just what functions got added in each era, where are we now, and where do the different platforms stand?
My camera (phone) comparisons over the last few years have been gradually stymied by manufacturers choosing to over-sharpen, to edge enhance, and to reduce noise. All in the name of producing 'wow' images for social media. Yet, living in the UK, greenery - so trees and grass - and nature generally form part of many test scenes. And it's nature itself, with all its incredible textures, that proves hardest of all to capture using modern camera phones. By way of some data points, I investigate!
A few days ago, in part 1 of this feature, I looked at the imaging specifications of the new Huawei Mate 20 Pro, relative to the 'benchmark' Lumia 950 XL. My conclusion that the former outgunned the latter and I went into some detail, especially looking at the 5x hybrid zoom. But in this, part 2, I go through a dozen or so test cases, lighting and subject scenarios. Can the Lumia's imaging 'purity' win out over the 2018 flagship's higher horsepower and extra lens options? PS. Please be patient while this page loads - there are LOTS of test images!
One of the last great strongholds of Windows Phone and then Windows 10 Mobile is imaging, of course, thanks to the insane work done by the Nokia engineers in creating the Nokia 808 PureView, the Lumia 1020 and then the Lumia 950/XL (the latter under Microsoft branding). To such an extent that the Nokia 808 was five years ahead of the competition and even today the three year old Lumia 950 camera is beating off most of the 2018 competition. But PureView tech's creators have scattered, to Apple and Huawei notably, with Eero Salmelin heading up imaging for the latter and here's his latest creation, the Huawei Mate 20 Pro.
Back in April 2018, six months ago, I looked at imaging on the (then) new Samsung Galaxy S9+ versus the champion Lumia 950 XL and concluded that the 'tipping point' had been reached. Sure, the Lumia held its ground for regular images in all light conditions, but the telephoto lens on the S9+ gave it a vital overall edge in terms of distant detail. And now we have the S9+'s bigger brother, the new Note 9 (I refuse to write 'Note9', as PR people would have me do!) - the Note 9 has the same camera hardware as the S9+ but claims extra processing and a 'Scene Optimiser' intelligence. Will this take the device further away from the Lumia or does the AI stuff get in the way?
The New York event last week, where the new Surface variants were announced, was also notable for the demonstration of a feature that isn't in Windows yet but soon will be - Android application mirroring, letting you see and use apps from a connected Android phone on your Windows 10 'Desktop'. This is just the latest of several steps seeing Microsoft align itself with Android as its effective preferred mobile OS.
Yesterday I pitched the LG G7 ThinQ (now at £450 ish) as a great upgrade in terms of hardware from the flexibility of a Lumia 950/XL. But I mentioned then that imaging was close, with the Lumia just edging it - so where's the proof? Right here, with a variety of lighting scenarios.
The search goes on for a flagship phone on another platform that can fully replace a Lumia 950 XL without any showstoppers. I said earlier this year that the Galaxy S9+ and Note 9 are great options, but they're also pricey. The LG G7 offers almost everything that the Galaxys do, yet at (now) well under £500 all-in. So how does it stack up?