Nokia 808 Review: Damian Dinning of Nokia Responds

Damian Dinning is Lead Program Manager of 'Imaging Experience' at Nokia.

We were in touch with several Nokia representatives throughout the process of producing our recent review of the Nokia 808 PureView. Following its publication, Damian Dinning - Lead Program Manager of Imaging Experience at Nokia wrote to us responding to some of the issues that we raised and explaining why those decisions were made in the phone's development.


August 1st, 2012

Dear dpreview.com

Great to see the 808 PureView receiving your Gold Award – thank you. Our team are both delighted and extremely proud of their collective achievement.

I thought I’d just take some time out to share some insights/background behind some of the decisions/trade-offs we made given some of the excellent points you noted in the review.

Whilst we wanted to provide a rich set of controls which cover key elements such as focus, exposure, brightness/colour and composition especially for those who take a more involved role in the capture phase, we also wanted to keep as clean and as uncluttered viewfinder as possible. As you might imagine however, it’s very hard to get this balance just right. Personally speaking I find most of not all digital camera viewfinder/info screens are either all or nothing. We continue to seek the best balance in this regard, but equally, recognise we can never get this right for everyone.

This principle led us to a number of decisions we felt all things considered where the right ones:

Specifically…

Histogram: 

We believe not everyone uses it or knows how to use it and even fewer need/use it all the time. Our solution was therefore to provide one click access from the EV adjustment button. You can either just check it or check and adjust, it’s up to you. But then you can easily hide it too. As aid we wanted to retain as much viewfinder real estate as possible.

Slide zoom:

We felt the conventional method of 'assisted' zoom is too slow and lacks sufficient control and precision. What I mean by assisted zoom is basically anything other than manual zoom as on most SLRs. Whilst manual zoom is fast and precise it’s almost impossible to zoom smoothly, important for video of course. The slide zoom capability we're introducing for the first time with the 808 PureView provides a level of precision and speed pinch to zoom and motorised zooms are unable to provide.

Often with these methods you end up under/over shooting and/or moving the device during the operation. Furthermore, in the case of motorised controls, you’re often having to wait for the zoom to travel from one point to another. With slide zoom it allows you to frame the shot similarly to cropping in photo editing applications and then when happy with the framing, simply releasing your ginger from the display it either quickly zooms to that setting in the case of stills or in video smoothly and more slowly to the pre-set framing.

We use an acceleration/deceleration curve at the start/stop phases of zoom too, impossible with other methods and then aim to handle all those pixels as smoothly as possible. Ideally I would have liked it to be even smoother. Zooming out is more conventional. We did prototype the same method of zooming for zoom out but in trials we found it to be counter intuitive. Again based on trials we found once people had used it for a while it becomes very intuitive, fast and easy. As I think you pointed to in your own conclusion. Our own user testing showed that after this period everyone preferred it to conventional zoom methods.

ISO setting: 

We found the optimal number of touch controls along the side of the viewfinder in a screen of this size to be 5. This dictated the size of the touch targets. No doubt people will chime in and comment on this point but this was the recommendation from our usability experts to achieve good usability in the camera. This in turn dictated the area for text, which in some languages the characters used require more space than the often used English versions. However, as with all the icons we prioritised at least indicating that a function was set to a setting different to the default. Increasing the size of the buttons would have impacted more on the viewfinder which we were keen to avoid.

Exposure:

The 808 PureView uses a system which is more heavily influenced (unless faces are detected) by objects in the centre. Half press of the physical shutter release button (assuming touch to focus has not been set) locks both focus and exposure which for most situations should provide the desired results. However, this is an area I think with some small amount of innovation can improve the experience for the future.

Viewfinder:

Given there is no optical viewfinder of course we do prioritise the brightness of the viewfinder in very bright and very dark conditions to increase usability. In bright conditions we increase the brightness of the display accordingly to make it as visible as possible and in very low light conditions we increase the read time (reduce the viewfinder refresh rate) to increase the effective brightness of an otherwise dark scene. Unfortunately this results in a trade-off in such situations in the accuracy of the image as a preview which may explain some of the challenges you experienced with exposure compensation.

Thanks again, and best regards

Damian Dinning, Lead Program Manager, Imaging Experience. Nokia


Comments

Total comments: 214
12
HowaboutRAW
By HowaboutRAW (Aug 2, 2012)

The "exposure" response doesn't really explain why there's no manual exposure.

1 upvote
Damian D
By Damian D (Aug 2, 2012)

Copy and pasted from similar question above...

We agonised a lot over this area during development. The main limitation is the lack of variable aperture control (a size constraint). If you set a specific shutter speed you're either going to get over/under expsoure or the system needs to play with the gain (ISO) which may leave you with results you were not expecting. This time round we've provided user control over the ND filter so you can force faster or slower shutter speeds, dropped the longest shutter speed to 2.7 seconds (when using manual ISO) and a greater degree of exposure compensation and ISO settings. Whilst we recognise this is not ideal, this should provide sufficent control over every available variable (given the limitation of no variable aperture ) to force shutter speeds that would still result in correct expsoure.

For the future, we continue to seek ways of providing more direct control over settings applicable to such usage.

Thanks for your feedback.

Damian

2 upvotes
HowaboutRAW
By HowaboutRAW (Aug 2, 2012)

Damian D:

Okay, thank you for the response, but I often shoot actual manual with my digital camera; that's both the aperture and shutter speed set by me. Not one set (or modified with an ND filter) then the other set by the camera's exposure computer. These settings would be aperture priority and/or shutter priority--not manual.

This camera is set to compete with things like the LX5 and S95, so manual needs to be an option. And as my screen name suggests, the raw data needs to be recorded and available for me to work with.

0 upvotes
AmaturFotografer
By AmaturFotografer (Aug 3, 2012)

LX5 and S95? Isn't that too ambitious? I just don't think it is meant to replace any advanced compact camera.

0 upvotes
HowaboutRAW
By HowaboutRAW (Aug 3, 2012)

AmaturFotografer:

Yes, I'll admit that I'm going sort of by claims made in these forums. I don't have access to internal Nokia marketing plans.

But remember: More than one poster has said this 808 is better than the Canon 5D MkIII (sad really they can't get good images out of those Canon dslrs is all I can conclude) . And many have gone on about better image quality than micro four thirds cameras and the Nikon 1 series.

Given that the LX5 shoots raw and manual and is useable through ISO 1000, oh and does good video, I don't think there's any real technical competition. Sales competition on the other hand...

Not so familiar with what the S95 can do well or not, but of course raw and real manual control are a big deal there too.

0 upvotes
Sergey Borachev
By Sergey Borachev (Aug 1, 2012)

I am also impressed, by both the way the response was communicated and also by the throughful design details as explained when trade-offs have to be made. For example, the display brightness not reliable as a visual way to determine the photo's brightness in very dark or bright conditions. I think the design choice was a good one for a phone camera.

While I am happy to read such details in addendum, it appears that clarification such as these should be been sought before a review is published, to give the maker a chance to explain so that anomalies do not just look like faults, and, also to give the reviewer a chance to eliminate misunderstanding, factual errors or wrong implications in their review report and adjust them. It does not mean giving away any review independence and their right to report anything as they see fit, as the reviewer can still stand firm on any issues found and as reported, but it could make the review better, and more professional. Thanks.

Comment edited 4 times, last edit 12 minutes after posting
13 upvotes
Barney Britton
By Barney Britton (Aug 2, 2012)

With respect, manufacturers always have reasons why things that we think don't work very well, or don't turn out to be popular, are the way that they are.

The job of a reviewer is to determine the strengths and weaknesses of a product through use, with reference to competitive offerings, and communicate his or her opinion of the product accordingly.

Comment edited 11 minutes after posting
15 upvotes
gaiaswill
By gaiaswill (Aug 2, 2012)

I think followups like these are preferable. There is no need to hamper a review waiting for a manufacturer response that may never come.

9 upvotes
Sergey Borachev
By Sergey Borachev (Aug 2, 2012)

Thanks, Barney for your reply. I agree that reviewees always have excuses and often unbelievable ones. :)

It is however up to the reviewer to consider any relevant and genuine points regarding adverse findings to provide balance, which you have done by providing Mr Danning's response here. However, IMHO, it is standard practice for reviewers to double-check with reviewees just in case there are valid points before publishing and it would be better if these issues are considered while opinions are formed and written and not afterwards, and of course, it is entirely up to the reviewer to make use of or to discard what information as appropriate and fair for the best reviews.

Gaiasill, usually responses from reviewees will be sought and a deadline given for response to ensure fairness. I think most reviewees will be quite responsive if there are valid points to be made.

:)

Comment edited 4 times, last edit 6 minutes after posting
2 upvotes
Barney Britton
By Barney Britton (Aug 2, 2012)

There's a part on page 2 about highlight clipping, where I mention that I've been speaking to Nokia about the issue - I was in fact in contact with Damian.

3 upvotes
Sergey Borachev
By Sergey Borachev (Aug 2, 2012)

OK, Barney. I assume he was aware of all the negative issues that will be reported and have been given the chance to respond beforehand, so that any relevant additonal information could be considered.

No problem. I do note your communication with him and that the phone has got a Gold. :)

0 upvotes
cgarrard
By cgarrard (Aug 2, 2012)

Sergey-

For an even greater injection of awarness, I do suggest trying to post a review of a camera yourself. Not in spite, but for pure experience value alone. Sometimes its best to walk in another mans shoes, or throw the same ball he's throwing before we pass on opinions about the job they are doing.

It's just a suggestion, and one that can enlighten your perspective.

C

2 upvotes
Damian D
By Damian D (Aug 2, 2012)

From a manufacturer point of view I think one of the great things about the web and forums such as these it that it allows a response from the manufacturer. I do agree with however Barney, that the reviewers are entitled to their views, where they are presented along with supporting rationale. That’s helpful for you to understand the context of such points and whether they are valid in your own personal view. After all what I believe or Barney believes on behalf of dpreview may not represent your own preferences for example. That’s after all why we have industries with multiple manufactures producing multiple products. The world would be a boring place without such choice.

Sometimes, as in this case, dpreview were in contact with us to clarify a few points before publication. I commend and thank dpreview for checking information before publication.

3 upvotes
Damian D
By Damian D (Aug 2, 2012)

However, we are careful to keep our replies as factual as possible, the review still needs to be a reflection of dpreview's view rather than ours of course, as much as we’d like it to be ours ;)

Personally, I read a LOT of reviews and forums to gain additional insight in to what people like/dislike. However, EVERY product always has its trade-offs, you simply can't design one product to be perfect for everyone. We use such insight to where possible improve (if necessary) the current product or sometimes take that into account for the next...

Nokia encourages such direct discussion – personally I belive it’s the best way to learn more about your customers and the web provides us the capability to have such direct conversations.

Thanks again for all your feedback - keep it coming!

Comment edited 2 minutes after posting
3 upvotes
Sergey Borachev
By Sergey Borachev (Aug 3, 2012)

@cgarrard,

Interesting suggestion from you, that I write a review myself. I have never written a formal review of a camera, but I have written in my professional career countless reviews and also led review project teams for decades assessing matters that greatly affected corporations, to know the importance of checking thoroughly with the those being reviewed so as to consider all relevant information before final opinions are published. Often we weree surprised at what fresh information there was when everything could frankly discussed, in spite of the most comprehensive checks. Such consultations are more important to the reviewers IMHO and they often may lead to significant discoveries and more awareness of the issues, requiring adjusts to verdicts/ratings. There may be matters such as strategic and design details are senstive due to competition and a public reply like Damians may not be desirable, another reason besides accuracy to discuss fully and honestly review reports.

0 upvotes
Reg Natarajan
By Reg Natarajan (Aug 1, 2012)

I'm impressed by this thoughtful and intelligent response. I've never seen anything like this from the traditional camera makers.

20 upvotes
cgarrard
By cgarrard (Aug 2, 2012)

Yep, that's for certain.

1 upvote
vlad0
By vlad0 (Aug 2, 2012)

Damian is always been very informative.. I've been asking him question on twitter since I got my N8 2 years ago, and he always responds personally. If you read more about him, you will see that he is all about making photography accessible/easy.. I respect his vision, and the 808 is a great example of it.

3 upvotes
goblin
By goblin (Aug 1, 2012)

I wish I see such communication from camera manufacturers. Kudos.

24 upvotes
happypoppeye
By happypoppeye (Aug 1, 2012)

Yeah, agree, Nokia just beat every camera manufacturer out there with communication.

11 upvotes
Barney Britton
By Barney Britton (Aug 1, 2012)

@happypoppeye - as you'd expect, really ;)

10 upvotes
AmaturFotografer
By AmaturFotografer (Aug 2, 2012)

Maybe it is because Nokia is not a Japanese company while most camera makers are Japanese. They certainly have their own business traditions (e.g how to react to a customer complaint).

2 upvotes
Suave
By Suave (Aug 1, 2012)

It can give better quality than 5d3, it won't negate the fact that it runs on stillborn OS.

0 upvotes
Richard Butler
By Richard Butler (Aug 1, 2012)

Symbian and its predecessors have been used in huge numbers of devices since the late 1980s, so your characterisation is as inaccurate as it is potentially offensive.

It's an interesting technology showcase, irrespective of which operating system it uses.

15 upvotes
Joe Ogiba
By Joe Ogiba (Aug 1, 2012)

Wow, I didn't know the 5D3 is that bad. I seen studio shots of the 808 vs D800 and it was not even close with the D800 showing much more in all areas.

0 upvotes
Roger Knight
By Roger Knight (Aug 1, 2012)

I'm using the latest Symbian 'Belle' operating sytem on my Nokia E7-00 and after a day teaching it to myself I can get where I want quicker than iOS and Android but not quite as fast as Windows phone 7.5.
So Whilst I will probably look towards Windows Phone in future I would not trade for an iPhone or an Android.
The PureView camera as a second camera to my SLR gear will be a perfect pocketable compromise for when I am travelling overseas I reckon and will save me buying a SONY RX100 or similar camera because the photo quality for such an environment is terrific and will save me carrying one more device without too much picture quality compromise tradeoff.

3 upvotes
ybizzle
By ybizzle (Aug 1, 2012)

@Roger

Or you could by the RX100 for less and have better IQ and Video functionality! ;)

I get where you're coming from though. Soon we won't have to buy a secondary backup camera because the IQ on our phones will be good enough.

1 upvote
marike6
By marike6 (Aug 1, 2012)

Perhaps you've never used a 5D3 or any 5D. It's a good performing camera-phone but let's not get carried away. None of the 5Ds clip highlights so badly, nor do they top out at ISO 1600, which on the 808 is like a watercolor painting. Megapixels aren't everything and not all pixels are created equal.

As far as the OS, DPRs own review talks about Symbian being obsolete. Perhaps Suave didn't phrase his point in a polite or accurate way, but he is not alone in his criticism Symbian OS.

Comment edited 9 minutes after posting
5 upvotes
Richard Butler
By Richard Butler (Aug 1, 2012)

It's only the politeness and accuracy that I highlighted.

9 upvotes
magneto shot
By magneto shot (Aug 2, 2012)

hmm nobody ever mentioned it has better quality than 5d3...where did u pick that out from....

1 upvote
Stu 5
By Stu 5 (Aug 2, 2012)

Roger Knight the fact you have spent a day learning an operating system on a mobile phone should tell you how bad it is. With the iPhone you just pick it up for the first time and get on with it straight away. Symbian Belle has a dreadful reputation including crashing using some very basic apps.

1 upvote
HowaboutRAW
By HowaboutRAW (Aug 2, 2012)

megneto--

Don't you know that high pixel counts are all that matter---not.

0 upvotes
DarkShift
By DarkShift (Aug 2, 2012)

Nah, it could possibly outperform 5D3 only in very very limited cases.

In most cases it comes down to lack of raw, limited DR, rather weak colours and poor high ISO performance.

I bet phones being quite thin devices do not allow for much bigger sensors to be used.

0 upvotes
JWest
By JWest (Aug 2, 2012)

Despite the OP's awkward phrasing, it's fairly clear that he meant "even if it gave better quality than a 5d3, it wouldn't matter because it would still be running an obsolete OS".

0 upvotes
Biggs23
By Biggs23 (Aug 1, 2012)

If the ISO is not set to automatic the letter 'M' appears, correct? Why doesn't the actual ISO value get displayed? That seems like an easy code correction to me.

0 upvotes
vlad0
By vlad0 (Aug 2, 2012)

yes, it just shows M.. good idea, didn't even notice to be honest.

0 upvotes
Damian D
By Damian D (Aug 2, 2012)

As said, in some languages due to the characters, 1600 doesn't fit inside the icon. Similarly exposure compensation, so we remind you that you've set it. But this is good feedback, thanks.

0 upvotes
david__p
By david__p (Aug 2, 2012)

id probably never by this Nokia because i use and iPhone but i have to say that im pretty stunned and impressed that the Nokia guy came back with calm purposeful clarifications as it pertains to the review. ive been reading dpreview for over a decade an i cant remember seeing something like this before. refreshing!

5 upvotes
duartix
By duartix (Aug 2, 2012)

@Damian D: A suggestion:
If ISO
1600 doesn't fit the space, why not write it as
1.6K ? or simply...
16H as in 16 (H)undred?

4 upvotes
JWest
By JWest (Aug 3, 2012)

Or simply 1, 2, 4, 8, 16 etc.

0 upvotes
Total comments: 214
12