Sunday, March 20, 2016

Nokia 808 Macro

Outdated Smartphone TRIGGER WARNING

Steve Litchfield, who ran one of the biggest Symbian fan sites, decided to compare the Samsung S7 and Nokia 808 cameras. His photographic shootouts are mostly a waste of time because he conducts them haphazardly with arbitrary scoring that typically favors the latest hyped "imaging" phone.

One of his tests shows the S7 with superior macro capabilities. Not a surprise as the 808 is somewhat known to be weak in that area. But one of the responses by Bigley Ling showed a much better macro result for the 808 and so I decided to take a *cough* closer look.

The following image shows a number of the latest smartphones at their closest focusing distance. These images are not mine but are from a review from I've added in a shot I took with an 808 at closest focusing distance. It's not as nice but you get the idea.

You can see that the 808 doesn't get nearly as close which caused many reviewers, including GSMArena, to assume it had mediocre macro capabilities. But that's only half the story.

The 808 is capable of much higher resolution than the others, so the question is whether that resolution advantage can offset its rather large minimum focus distance. To find out, I've cropped, rotated, and resized the original files to make comparison as equal as possible. However, the author of the original piece states that focus was difficult with the Apple, Huawei, and Microsoft smartphones which probably disadvantages them.

I used a tripod and digital zoom to ensure proper focus for the 808.

Normalized Close Focus Roundup

 Apple iPhone 6s Plus

Microsoft Lumia 950

Samsung Galaxy S7

Nokia 808

The S7 and 808 are definitely ahead of the Microsoft and Apple smartphones. The Huawei wasn't included because it was obviously the worst. Between the S7 and 808, I'd have to say the 808 produces a superior result. However, it might just be that my coin has less wear.

And although the S7 does have infinitely better autofocus than the 808, the 808 has much greater working distance* and field of view! 

Finally, I decided to digiscope the 808 to the Pentax Papillio IIs which increases the working distance to 60cm. However, it is hard to align optically and the image is generally inferior to the stock 808. Field of view is also reduced on account of vignetting.

At closer view, however, it can resolve a bit more detail which you can see if you compare George Washington's sideburns. None of the images gain from zooming in the images, but even higher magnification is available if you open the images in new tabs.

Nokia 808 with Papillio II

* The minimum focus distance is 20cm compared to around 7cm for the others. If a system is able to take similarly detailed close up shots as the 808 clearly is, then the 20cm is actually an advantage. You can be about three times further away and capture more background. It's a clear win-win.

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