Nokia’s attention to imaging starts from the chipset

The Lumia 925 seems further evidence that Nokia remains focused on reaching its customers by appealing to their mobile photography needs. We wanted to understand more about how Nokia is working to boost smartphone camera performance so we asked both Juha Alakarhu, Head of Imaging Technologies, and Samuli Hanninen, VP of Software Program Management, about the company's strategy.

 Both camera hard- and software of the Nokia Lumia 925 have been designed in-house, giving Nokia best possible control over the process.

Nokia’s in-house approach to device design allows it more control than most manufacturers.

“We are one of the only companies with the full vertical stack, with both the hardware and software designed in-house,” Hanninen told us.

He explained that Nokia is working from the chipset level to build its devices, overseeing its own processing algorithms and other minute detail. By being able to control both imaging algorithms and the camera hardware itself, Nokia hopes to continue to push imaging performance forward.

When building the Lumia 925’s camera, Alakarhu said, they aimed to achieve a natural effect in all lighting conditions.
“Now we boost the maximum ISO to 3200 from 800, so this means that you can go obviously to even much lower light conditions and still get nice results, and also gives you more flexibility of you want to use a shorter exposure in certain conditions. That is a big improvement in low light,” Alakarhu said. “We were also working really, really hard to get the daylight photos much better. The details and overall noise level are much nicer [than the 920].”

The software improvements seen on the 925 will also result in an upcoming software update, called Lumia Amber, for Nokia’s other Windows Phone 8 smartphones which will introduce the new Nokia Smart Camera app features to those models.

The Lumia 925 is also relying on hardware improvements to boost camera capabilities. The F2.0 lens gains an extra element, and is now a 6-element design. The 8.7-megapixel CMOS sensor remains unchanged and the 925 also has optical image stabilization.

"I think we are the only in the smartphone market to it the way we are doing it,” Alakarhu explained Nokia’s OIS system. “We are moving the lens so that it stays parallel to the sensor at all times, for example, not tilting it unlike some other systems, because when you are tilting it means the corners become blurry and that seriously limits the power of the optical stabilization. So I think the OIS we have is really unique and the amount of time and effort we’ve put in building it and optimizing it, I think the result is there.”

Unfortunately for mobile photography enthusiasts the Nokia representatives would not comment on whether we can expect Nokia 808 camera technology in a Windows 8 phone any time soon.

And while the two Nokia executives wouldn’t comment on a possible Windows Phone 8 device with the Nokia 808's camera technology, they remain enthusiastic about the potential for the 925.

“I think it’s all about finding the balance, usually when you get better at one attribute, you get worse at something else, and I think now with the 925 the guys here have found a balance so that we have amazing sharpness and we have even better low light [performance] than before,” Hanninen said.