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