Nokia 808 - a photography miracle

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ProLeica Dan New Member • Posts: 4
Nokia 808 - a photography miracle
3

I recently got a hold of the old Nokia 808 to test and play with for a few months now.

I have been doing photography as a hobby and for pro work for more decades than I care to remember. I spent hundreds of thousands of dollars over the years on all sorts of cameras and glass ranging from leica rangefinder films to hasselblads medium formats and briefly dabbled into large formats but found the weight penalty too much to handle.

my current gear includes the leica M8, M10, the hassies X1d, and the very old olympus E1. I also carry some old film slrs (OM1, om2n) that I shoot and develop every once in a while.

With this introduction, let me emphasize that I am not advanced technologically. I am just a guy who loves photography and anything related to the process. Let me also add that I have quite a quirky taste to say the least. I for instance prefer the output of the Oly E1 and the M8 over the much more advanced M10 due to the Kodak sensor's  color tonality and film look. I am saying this so you take everything I say here with a grain of salt if you are in the hi tech camp.

This said, let me also emphasize that I never judge cameras' output based on the way photos look on a computer screen. I always print poster sized photographs on high end printers to judge the final output. i find the output on screens subject to too many variables including the color gamut and the color calibration which i dont bother to fix.

i was given a few months back the Nokia 808  that remained in my drawer as I didnt (and dont)think highly of smartphone cameras as the owner of the lackluster iphone 11 pro with its extremely ugly oversharpened photos. In mid march I decided, what the heck, lets try this little thing...the only initial appeal was that too familiar Zeiss glass name on the back.

I went on shooting at full resolution for a few months -not pureview mode- as I honestly dont understand all the pixel binning stuff going behind the scene. I am not dissing the function, I am simply too gullible to get the idea.

I printed some large photos begining of June and below is my modest feedback about the whole experience:

I will start with the cons first:

1- you obviously dont expect the shallow depth of field you are accustomed to with your MF hassies as they are simply impossible to achieve

2-No live histogram unless you adjust the exposure compensation

3- screen brightness doesnt reflect the scene...i.e, if you increase the exposure compensation by 1 or 2 full stops the screen would not adjust its brightness accordingly...hence, you have to be very careful exposing properly which makes the live histogram all the more very important.

4- The dynamic range is limited but the ND filter (yes there's one) can marginally help in tricky lights

5- auto focussing in dim light is lagging to say the least

done with the whining..

I dont know if this phone was reviewed before or not, I personally dont read reviews as they are mostly done by technical people more than photographers except the very few that you can find on this site..

Now to the meat of this review:

This is a camera that Cartier Bresson would have given his kidney to own and shoot street photography with (using the hyperfocal setting) at full resolution.

The prints from this little thing are reminiscent of my long gone contaxes with Zeiss fitted on them on some of the best Kodak Portra films.

The Zeiss lens is slightly on the cold side (most Zeiss glass is) unlike the leica warm colors- (difference is same between hassies and Leica due to this glass behavior)

The prints are simply outstanding and up to A3 sizes is indistinguishable from the best gear I have if you overlook the dynamic range and the depth of field.

The ease of use of this little thing is incredible...I turn the Hyperfocal function on and everything (to my eyes) over 3 meters is in perfect focus.

The color accuracy is in a different plateau from anything I used short of mf.

The details resolved are amazing for such a tiny sensor with almost no sharpening artifacts...

Needless to say that I only used at the 28mm focal with full resolution the way I used my contax with 28mm prime Zeiss

The lens matches the sensor beautifully and show no color fringing of any sort and very little distortion

yes, there is noise at all ASAs but it takes the character of film grain with no color blotching all the way to asa 400

If you treat this as a contax with a 28mm fixed lens, the prints will blow you away.

For fast focus, I constantly use Hyperfocal mode which is a dream come true for street photography.

The people who designed and executed this little marvel must have been avid photographers rather than techies...

I dont even know if anyone still uses this little thing but I am blown away by the results.

Dan.

Hasselblad X1D Leica M10
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Jostian
Jostian Veteran Member • Posts: 4,584
Re: Nokia 808 - a photography miracle

ProLeica Dan wrote:

I recently got a hold of the old Nokia 808 to test and play with for a few months now.

I have been doing photography as a hobby and for pro work for more decades than I care to remember. I spent hundreds of thousands of dollars over the years on all sorts of cameras and glass ranging from leica rangefinder films to hasselblads medium formats and briefly dabbled into large formats but found the weight penalty too much to handle.

my current gear includes the leica M8, M10, the hassies X1d, and the very old olympus E1. I also carry some old film slrs (OM1, om2n) that I shoot and develop every once in a while.

With this introduction, let me emphasize that I am not advanced technologically. I am just a guy who loves photography and anything related to the process. Let me also add that I have quite a quirky taste to say the least. I for instance prefer the output of the Oly E1 and the M8 over the much more advanced M10 due to the Kodak sensor's color tonality and film look. I am saying this so you take everything I say here with a grain of salt if you are in the hi tech camp.

This said, let me also emphasize that I never judge cameras' output based on the way photos look on a computer screen. I always print poster sized photographs on high end printers to judge the final output. i find the output on screens subject to too many variables including the color gamut and the color calibration which i dont bother to fix.

i was given a few months back the Nokia 808 that remained in my drawer as I didnt (and dont)think highly of smartphone cameras as the owner of the lackluster iphone 11 pro with its extremely ugly oversharpened photos. In mid march I decided, what the heck, lets try this little thing...the only initial appeal was that too familiar Zeiss glass name on the back.

I went on shooting at full resolution for a few months -not pureview mode- as I honestly dont understand all the pixel binning stuff going behind the scene. I am not dissing the function, I am simply too gullible to get the idea.

I printed some large photos begining of June and below is my modest feedback about the whole experience:

I will start with the cons first:

1- you obviously dont expect the shallow depth of field you are accustomed to with your MF hassies as they are simply impossible to achieve

2-No live histogram unless you adjust the exposure compensation

3- screen brightness doesnt reflect the scene...i.e, if you increase the exposure compensation by 1 or 2 full stops the screen would not adjust its brightness accordingly...hence, you have to be very careful exposing properly which makes the live histogram all the more very important.

4- The dynamic range is limited but the ND filter (yes there's one) can marginally help in tricky lights

5- auto focussing in dim light is lagging to say the least

done with the whining..

I dont know if this phone was reviewed before or not, I personally dont read reviews as they are mostly done by technical people more than photographers except the very few that you can find on this site..

Now to the meat of this review:

This is a camera that Cartier Bresson would have given his kidney to own and shoot street photography with (using the hyperfocal setting) at full resolution.

The prints from this little thing are reminiscent of my long gone contaxes with Zeiss fitted on them on some of the best Kodak Portra films.

The Zeiss lens is slightly on the cold side (most Zeiss glass is) unlike the leica warm colors- (difference is same between hassies and Leica due to this glass behavior)

The prints are simply outstanding and up to A3 sizes is indistinguishable from the best gear I have if you overlook the dynamic range and the depth of field.

The ease of use of this little thing is incredible...I turn the Hyperfocal function on and everything (to my eyes) over 3 meters is in perfect focus.

The color accuracy is in a different plateau from anything I used short of mf.

The details resolved are amazing for such a tiny sensor with almost no sharpening artifacts...

Needless to say that I only used at the 28mm focal with full resolution the way I used my contax with 28mm prime Zeiss

The lens matches the sensor beautifully and show no color fringing of any sort and very little distortion

yes, there is noise at all ASAs but it takes the character of film grain with no color blotching all the way to asa 400

If you treat this as a contax with a 28mm fixed lens, the prints will blow you away.

For fast focus, I constantly use Hyperfocal mode which is a dream come true for street photography.

The people who designed and executed this little marvel must have been avid photographers rather than techies...

I dont even know if anyone still uses this little thing but I am blown away by the results.

Dan.

Yip we have done many comparisons here in the forum, I did one a few months ago, comparing the Nokia 808 vs Samsung, Huawei, iPhone in terms of SOOC jpegs and the Nokia 808 is still way ahead in terms of detail rendering (most natural, least processed look). I guess this confirms Nokia's goal where they said they purposely looked at developing the jpeg processing to resemble DSLR jpegs. Remember that Nokia developed the 808 camera module over a 5 year period, also partly why its as good as it is. Sure its HDR is not as great, and there is no OIS etc but the Xenon flash is amazing and the jpeg processing is without equal, mainly because Nokia developed the jpeg processing algorithms to produce jpegs like DSLRs do, which is very different to what current OEMs prioritise (computational wizardry, HDR) and not getting their jpeg rendering to look natural.

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OP ProLeica Dan New Member • Posts: 4
Re: Nokia 808 - a photography miracle

Thank you...I didn't think anyone still used this beast...I agree with you on all fronts...I didn't realize it took them 5 years to develop...in all frankness, it shows....I never use jpegs, but in the case of Nokia, they are very well processed....

Jostian
Jostian Veteran Member • Posts: 4,584
Re: Nokia 808 - a photography miracle

ProLeica Dan wrote:

Thank you...I didn't think anyone still used this beast...I agree with you on all fronts...I didn't realize it took them 5 years to develop...in all frankness, it shows....I never use jpegs, but in the case of Nokia, they are very well processed....

I use it every now and again just to compare and sometimes as a backup small camera, its jpegs are really that good I agree.

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Stevan G Contributing Member • Posts: 625
Re: Nokia 808 - a photography miracle

I use it as a backup phone for my Nokia 6 that has quite average camera. This way I have two phones(one modern with all functions) and a good camera in a relatively small package.

IQ wise only Panasonic CM1 (which isn't really a phone but a camera with phone functions) and new Huawei P40 Pro+ can be comparable. 8 years later other phones finally caught up...at a >$1000 price.

albero Regular Member • Posts: 332
Re: Nokia 808 - a photography miracle

Thanks for your introduction. I recognize myself in the sentence. Some days ago I decide to give a try to the Huawei  P40 PRO because I find myself to use more and more the smartphone to take pictures and the P40 seems to be one of the best smartphones around for photography.

After some test shots I can say that the quality of images is astounding specially if you shot in raw. Shooting raw no one of those smudging algorithm is applied and all details  (and noise) remain. The  three lenses impresses for definition also in the corners.

No other phones I have used come close and this  cameraphone  rivals for flexibility proper digital camera I owned like Sony A7Rii and Nikon Z6. Manual controls, filters, ND filter simulation, stabilisation, are all available.

For me this smartphone is a game changer like when I switched from analog to digital photography or from compact cameras to full frame. Seriously mindblowing!

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Panino Manino
Panino Manino Regular Member • Posts: 414
Re: Nokia 808 - a photography miracle

Resorting to raw, even low end phones deliver impressive results.
Some weeks ago someone posted a comparison between a Panasonic camera and a Motorola phone with a 1/2.8" sensor and the results were very close.

OP ProLeica Dan New Member • Posts: 4
Re: Nokia 808 - a photography miracle

thanks for the input folks...as my experience is quite limited with smartphone photography, i haven't used any of the ones you recommended...I only used the huawei p30 pro but only in Jpeg..quite frankly, the results didn't appeal to me as they were largely and over sharpened mess and lacked colour fidelity compared to the nokia 808...admittedly, i haven't used the raw output which i will try now based on your recommendations and will give a more informed opinion.

markyboy81 Veteran Member • Posts: 4,332
Re: Nokia 808 - a photography miracle
1

The 808 was indeed a photography miracle and 7 years or so on there isn't any smartphone on the market that has matched it in terms of pure IQ, in my opinion.

I would recommend giving it a go in 5mp pureview mode as the pixel binning is genuinely revolutionary and really makes a difference - images are much cleaner.

Still miss my old 808..

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albero Regular Member • Posts: 332
Re: Nokia 808 - a photography miracle

Panino Manino wrote:

Resorting to raw, even low end phones deliver impressive results.
Some weeks ago someone posted a comparison between a Panasonic camera and a Motorola phone with a 1/2.8" sensor and the results were very close.

Sorry but this is not true... I compare my Samsung note 9 of two years ago with the Huawei P40 PRO and the raws of these two devices show an abyss of difference!

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Jostian
Jostian Veteran Member • Posts: 4,584
Re: Nokia 808 - a photography miracle
1

ProLeica Dan wrote:

thanks for the input folks...as my experience is quite limited with smartphone photography, i haven't used any of the ones you recommended...I only used the huawei p30 pro but only in Jpeg..quite frankly, the results didn't appeal to me as they were largely and over sharpened mess and lacked colour fidelity compared to the nokia 808...admittedly, i haven't used the raw output which i will try now based on your recommendations and will give a more informed opinion.

Just remember, that Huawei is the only OEM that gives you jpeg directly from RAW, just go to Pro mode in camera app and make sure that RAW is selected in settings, the jpeg you get in that mode is directly from RAW, no overprocessing etc. Just tweak sharpness and color and you are good, thats the reason I use Huawei as they are the only company that has this feature.

See 100% crops below, in the top one, the crop on top is normal auto mode and the bottom is the jpeg from RAW direct from phone. massive difference, the jpeg from RAW is way more natural looking, getting to closer to that 808 look, and in the 2nd picture the left is auto mode and right is jpeg directly from RAW done on phone.

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Groot Regular Member • Posts: 272
Re: Nokia 808 - a photography miracle

It's somewhat true when there is good light...until you discover GCAM.

Once you use gcam, you get a whole different world of jpeg processing which IMO is better than of the 808.

I currently use Mi 10 Pro + GCAM.

Jostian
Jostian Veteran Member • Posts: 4,584
Re: Nokia 808 - a photography miracle

Groot wrote:

It's somewhat true when there is good light...until you discover GCAM.

Once you use gcam, you get a whole different world of jpeg processing which IMO is better than of the 808.

I currently use Mi 10 Pro + GCAM.

No way, I used GCAM on my Note 9 and G7 and its good, better than other OEMs but definitely not as good as the 808 SOOC jpegs.

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Groot Regular Member • Posts: 272
Re: Nokia 808 - a photography miracle

Jostian wrote:

Groot wrote:

It's somewhat true when there is good light...until you discover GCAM.

Once you use gcam, you get a whole different world of jpeg processing which IMO is better than of the 808.

I currently use Mi 10 Pro + GCAM.

No way, I used GCAM on my Note 9 and G7 and its good, better than other OEMs but definitely not as good as the 808 SOOC jpegs.

That's your experience, not mine.

Keep in mind that gcam isn't a one time install and forget. You need to search for the best version and fine the best XML for it. I should have better details on my current phone than a 808. Do you have a link for a 808 jpeg ?

Jostian
Jostian Veteran Member • Posts: 4,584
Re: Nokia 808 - a photography miracle

Groot wrote:

Jostian wrote:

Groot wrote:

It's somewhat true when there is good light...until you discover GCAM.

Once you use gcam, you get a whole different world of jpeg processing which IMO is better than of the 808.

I currently use Mi 10 Pro + GCAM.

No way, I used GCAM on my Note 9 and G7 and its good, better than other OEMs but definitely not as good as the 808 SOOC jpegs.

That's your experience, not mine.

Keep in mind that gcam isn't a one time install and forget. You need to search for the best version and fine the best XML for it. I should have better details on my current phone than a 808. Do you have a link for a 808 jpeg ?

See crops below, from GCAM on my Note 9 that I had and after much xml tweaking etc. I think part of the difference is also the quality of the Nokia 808 lens, that Zeiss lens was in a league of its own, so the difference may not just be processing but the great lens on the 808 also helped. Anyway see crops below, all at 100% so rather unforgiving, I tried to match scale as best possible, but you ca see the fine detail rendering of the 808 is easily better, GCAM on left Nokia 808 on right.

The GCAM looks great but still a slightly plastic/crunchy look when looking at 100%, the fine leaf detail in the top crop, the fine hair on the tennis ball etc in last crop, and the foliage is better from Nokia 808.

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Groot Regular Member • Posts: 272
Re: Nokia 808 - a photography miracle

Jostian wrote:

Groot wrote:

Jostian wrote:

Groot wrote:

It's somewhat true when there is good light...until you discover GCAM.

Once you use gcam, you get a whole different world of jpeg processing which IMO is better than of the 808.

I currently use Mi 10 Pro + GCAM.

No way, I used GCAM on my Note 9 and G7 and its good, better than other OEMs but definitely not as good as the 808 SOOC jpegs.

That's your experience, not mine.

Keep in mind that gcam isn't a one time install and forget. You need to search for the best version and fine the best XML for it. I should have better details on my current phone than a 808. Do you have a link for a 808 jpeg ?

See crops below, from GCAM on my Note 9 that I had and after much xml tweaking etc. I think part of the difference is also the quality of the Nokia 808 lens, that Zeiss lens was in a league of its own, so the difference may not just be processing but the great lens on the 808 also helped. Anyway see crops below, all at 100% so rather unforgiving, I tried to match scale as best possible, but you ca see the fine detail rendering of the 808 is easily better, GCAM on left Nokia 808 on right.

The GCAM looks great but still a slightly plastic/crunchy look when looking at 100%, the fine leaf detail in the top crop, the fine hair on the tennis ball etc in last crop, and the foliage is better from Nokia 808.

I see your point... then again, the S9 isn't in the same league as my current Mi 10 Pro , or even my previous LG V30 in my opinion. Great focus system, but that's about it.
In any case, I was analyzing the full size 808 samples here in DPR.
In ideal lighting, yes, the 808 is stunning. Incredible even.
In any other situation, gcam mostly takes the lead.
I don't think it matched the Mi 10 Pro. The stock camera of the 808 is a lot better than the stock camera of the Mi 10 Pro, but doesn't quite match the gcam results. Edge sharpness looks better on the 808 though , probably the Zeiss lens.
I wish I had an 808 with me to make a real comparison.

Gcam aside, the 808 "destroys" most of today's flagships.  Stock vs Stock.

albero Regular Member • Posts: 332
Re: Nokia 808 - a photography miracle

ProLeica Dan wrote:

thanks for the input folks...as my experience is quite limited with smartphone photography, i haven't used any of the ones you recommended...I only used the huawei p30 pro but only in Jpeg..quite frankly, the results didn't appeal to me as they were largely and over sharpened mess and lacked colour fidelity compared to the nokia 808...admittedly, i haven't used the raw output which i will try now based on your recommendations and will give a more informed opinion.

Take a Huawei cameraphone, shot in PRO MODE enabling raw and give a look to the generated jpeg image: you remain suprised of the great amount of details because this jpeg is not cooked like when you shoot in standard mode. This is true with Huawei smartphones only...as  farI as I know. I learned this from Jostian. Thank you so much for your input Jostian!

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OP ProLeica Dan New Member • Posts: 4
Re: Nokia 808 - a photography miracle

Jostian wrote:

Groot wrote:

Jostian wrote:

Groot wrote:

It's somewhat true when there is good light...until you discover GCAM.

Once you use gcam, you get a whole different world of jpeg processing which IMO is better than of the 808.

I currently use Mi 10 Pro + GCAM.

No way, I used GCAM on my Note 9 and G7 and its good, better than other OEMs but definitely not as good as the 808 SOOC jpegs.

That's your experience, not mine.

Keep in mind that gcam isn't a one time install and forget. You need to search for the best version and fine the best XML for it. I should have better details on my current phone than a 808. Do you have a link for a 808 jpeg ?

See crops below, from GCAM on my Note 9 that I had and after much xml tweaking etc. I think part of the difference is also the quality of the Nokia 808 lens, that Zeiss lens was in a league of its own, so the difference may not just be processing but the great lens on the 808 also helped. Anyway see crops below, all at 100% so rather unforgiving, I tried to match scale as best possible, but you ca see the fine detail rendering of the 808 is easily better, GCAM on left Nokia 808 on right.

The GCAM looks great but still a slightly plastic/crunchy look when looking at 100%, the fine leaf detail in the top crop, the fine hair on the tennis ball etc in last crop, and the foliage is better from Nokia 808.

Judging solely by these crops, the 808 is in a different league. I truly can’t figure out how they fit such a sharp and tiny Zeiss  into this body. Ever so slight distortion at 27mm but incredible sharpness edge to edge. Resolving at least in the high 20s MP in the corners. Not far from a full fledged Zeiss glass on a Contax.

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