Nokia 41 MP Camera-Phone

This week,  at Mobile World Congress 2012 in Barcelona, Nokia announced a couple of new smart phones that they plan to enter that market with.  However, one in particular stood out among the rest – as it comes equipped with a 41MP camera sensor (and you thought the 8MP on our iPhone 4s was impressive!).  The sensor and custom glass for this camera-phone (camera?) were custom designed by Carl Zeiss.

Is this yet "just another gadget" or a watershed moment in camera/phone history?  

Well – only time will tell (and probably the former.)  It does being forth some interesting questions however.

What IS clear is that the lines between camera phones and still cameras is starting to blur (just as the line between 5K cinema cameras producing 14MP stills and still cameras started to with the RED Epic camera a little over a year ago.)    More specifically: point and shoots are seriously being threatened by them.  I hear that sales of point and shoot cameras across all brands a PLUMMETING…  This totally makes sense to me, as I seldom use a point and shoot camera anymore.   But apparently sales of point and shoots are plummeting at an alarming rate, so much so that camera companies are struggling to replace that line with newer lines of cameras… 

My iPhone 4S’s camera does the job nicely 90% of the time for my personal photographs…   On a recent vacation I found that the photographs taken by my sister and mother with their iPhones stopped me in my tracks on several occasions.   A few of them were worthy of being published in magazines if I do say so – and neither one of them were "professional" or even trained photographers…  a great camera combined with great apps can really start to produce some pretty amazing photographs (albeit randomly and more often than not by luck.   If you want a strong picture on demand – you better higher a pro that will guarantee such a result every time…)   

Now I’m not in any way saying that cell phone cameras and their users are going to replace professional photographers by any measure!   But I am suggesting that the public’s perception of what a professional photographer does vs what THEY themselves can do is changing as these cameras become better.  Many of us have already all seen this trend happen overt he past few years unfortunately.   I’ve seen amateurs call themselves "professionals" just days after buying a DSLR and 70~200mm 2.8 zoom lens… and I’ve seen professionals revert to shooting medium format black and white film "so that my client wouldn’t say his daughter shoots w/ the same [Canon 5D MKII] I do on assignment for them…"  (That’s an actual quote from a war photographer acquaintance of mine.)

So while I doubt that a 41MP camera phone can compete with a digital SLR in the hands of a professional photographer – I do wonder where this is all taking us (and why anyone needs a 41MP cell phone!!! (except for me of course…)

According to the press release – the PureView 808 actually maxes out at creating a 38MP image – but this means that you can size and re-crop your image without almost any loss of detail.  And if you don’t want to store incredibly large image files on your phone – you can still take incredibly sharp images at standard resolutions (2/3, 5, and 8 MP).  Apparently the phone uses a pixel oversampling technology, which condenses multiple pixels of information into one.  Besides creating incredibly sharp images, this allows the user to use a lossless digital zoom when taking photographs.  The lossless zooming also can be utilized when recording with the phone’s 1080p video function.  And in addition to that – it also comes with CD quality recording capabilities and Dolby Digital sound playback.

The verdict is still out on release and price – but speculation is that the PureView 808 will be out in Mid-May, with a price tag of roughly $600.00.   The downside?  apparently the phone comes equipped with the less-than-popular Symbian Belle operating system.  So for the meantime – I will likely stick with my iPhone.   But maybe I’ll have one of these in my other pocket…