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Tuesday, 28 February 2012


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I'm realizing I'm an slr guy and a phone guy, not a compact camera guy. Just as notebooks, ipads and... phones, there's scale and overlapping scale. I find compact cameras are not good enough to cover my quality demand when I want it, and phones are starting to make compacts redundant when I don't.

When those European scientists announced neutrinos moving faster than light, many physicists said that they'd made a mistake -- the skeptics had no proof of a mistake, but they argued that the world doesn't work that way. It appears that they are right.

I would suggest to you that Nokia's announcement of a small 41mp sensor with good low-light response falls into the same category of claim at the FTL neutrinos. If Sony, Canon, Nikon, Panasonic, Kodak and other companies with huge research budgets in this specific area haven't been able to come up with a 41mp sensor even on FF sensors, that are good in low light conditions, then I claim that Nokia hasn't been able to do it, either.

Like the skeptical physicists, I have no proof -- it's just that the world doesn't work that way. Lots of different companies could make 41mp sensors, but 41mp sensors, one-eighth the size of FF sensors, with good low-light capability? Or, as Nokia puts it, "makes it possible for anyone to capture professional looking images in any conditions"?

My bullshit meter is clanging like a cowbell.

Where does that one leave one in terms of equipment? Seems to me as soon as something new comes out it is almost totally obsolete. If I don't want to be driven completely insane perhaps I should go back to/do more film?!

All 41MP will be useless when the lens is covered in fingerprints and scratches because there's no sliding cover.

Some advanced photographers like the iPhone 4S as a carry-everywhere camera and to me the shots from the 808 look better, so it may be the next thing. The bugbear with camera phones is the user interface, and it's hard to imagine one bettering the Canon S95 in that regard (comparison made because the S95 is an excellent carry-everywhere).

It does look like camera phones are the future of consumer photography, and the 808 is one giant leap for camera phones.

« Nokia unveiled a forty-one-MP cameraphone »
I am wondering if there needs to be a shift in the jargon used. most people are getting the impression that it is a 41MP camera... meaning that the photo is also 41MP.

but now, oversampling implies that MPs in a sensor is not the MPs in the photo.

not sure if Nokia will release if this is a sensor based on Compressive Sensing (an oversampling technique that is quite good in image processing), thus necessitating the hardware processor to do the "downsampling" to 8MP — which seems to be the suggested photo size.

quite interesting and hopefully, more will be revealed about this processing engine required — Compressive Sensing "reconstruction" can be quite computationally extensive, indeed.

ps the white paper can be downloaded [ link ]

Last night I watched once again the Top Gear Viet Nam tour which features Jeremy Clarkson falling off an Italian two wheeler. And last night I once again laughed out loud over and over.

How long do you suppose it takes to edit (and all the other technical stuff) all the video into a single 90 minute show?

According to a certain Dr Eric Fossum, all the big advances in sensor tech and image processing are in the camera phone area. The big lumbering sensors we get in SLRs have so much real estate that they don't really need very high tech fabrication methods at the chip level, most of the cost is in the AA filter and microlenses.

What's impressive about this phone is not the sensor, its an image processor capable of pixel binning a 41MP image in a package this size. That is frankly amazing.

If this is not the beginning of the end it is surely the end of the beginning of P&S cameras. Most of the users of P&S just want something that is good enough (to e-mail or keep on a computer. Surely this is good enough. Only camera enthusiasts and pros will want cameras with interchangeable lens capability.

FWIW, The Artist was not a silent movie (it had sound/score throughout). In fact, ambient sound is a key plot device at the moment in the film when 'talkies' are introduced to Hollywood.

It travels many of the same paths as Mel Brooks' wonderful Silent Movie (which had one line of speech, by Marcel Marceau who declines an offer to be in the modern Silent Movie Mel is attempting to launch. He declines with an emphatic 'Non!' and the studio chief asks Mel what Marceau's response to the offer was, Mel replies "... I don't speak French")

Of course, today's photographers will complain about The Artist in that it was shot in the so-called Academy Aperture aka 4:3.

Best movie? I dunno, but it was certainly very enjoyable and will likely hold up as a minor classic in ways many Best Picture winners don't. The best film I saw last year, however, was a Portuguese film adapted from an 1840 novel, directed by an Argentine ex-patriot who lives in France. It was called Mysteries of Lisbon and was 4:30 long (the theater offered free coffee at the intermission). Imagine a melange of Barry Lyndon, Tom Jones (the fielding, not the singer) Ridley Scot's The Duelists.

Couldn't have said it better Max.

I like the idea of a pocket-friendly camera with a largish sensor and a fastish lens that's enough of a general-purpose programmable computer that I can install on it whatever interface and and whatever automation scripts I want.

If for some reason it maintains the pixel pitch of tiny-sensor compacts and relies on a lot of pixel binning, that's just fine if the results are good, and pretty ridiculous if they're not.

If it happens to also be able to make phone calls, I guess that's tolerable.

This particular offering appears to have an ill-chosen OS, and the lens is a little wide for my tastes, but otherwise it all sounds reasonable enough.

Dear Mike,

"...it also has a sensor a little larger than a quarter the size of 4/3..."

Ummm, it behooves us to be clear and say, "...it also has a sensor a little larger than a quarter the AREA of 4/3..."

"Size" is an ambiguous and, these days, frequently misued word.

Just sayin'...

pax / Ctein

Reading some details it seems that the default mode would be combining several adjacent pixels in one to get a 5MP image. I guess optimistically the output result could mimic a 5MP foveon sensor in pixel quality and at the same time kill a lot of the noise present in the original 41MP image (it could even get by without an AA filter?). That sounds a lot more believable, a soso 41MP sensor that delivers great 5MP images through software massage. And the lens is an f:2.4 fixed 24mm equivalent Zeiss, that sounds nice.

Forgive my ignorance if this ain't so-- but wouldn't the tiny lens in this new phone camera limit the actual resolution achievable, because of diffraction?

". . . if the cameraphone and the digicam are going to meet each other on the sidewalk one day and pass each other . . . ."

This seems to be the common wisdom, and maybe the sales numbers bear this out. It certainly makes sense. However, My wife and I went to a wedding of 20 somethings recently. All of the couple's friends were taking photos all night long. We were surprised to see that they were making those photos with compact cameras, some of them very nice. Nary a smart phone in the lot (for picture taking). And all of them had those too, for talking and Facebooking and whatever.

We old folks were the only ones using our cell phone cameras! They also had a photo booth rigged up with a Canon DSLR in it, printing photos in black and white. It was in use all night.

Maybe they are all waiting for something like this Nokia, or a Canon S95 quality camera in a phone.

Most people's first reaction is that 41 megapixels is ridiculous. But the Nokia 808's sensor is much larger than that of normal cell phones, while each pixel is about the same size. The point isn't to create noisy high-resolution images, but rather to provide zooming with a fixed lens. It's actually an intriguing idea.

Speaking of movies, does that picture of the 808 remind anyone else of Hal 9000?


Note that the phone *does* also have a full resolution setting.

GRD is in danger

Surely that's a 4.1 MP sensor... I bet someone just forgot the point somewhere along the line and Nokia is riding the waves for a few days before they admit the mistake.

I've just had a thought. The Hubble Space telescope is - in systemic terms - a camera phone. Lens, sensor, processing, communications. Maybe my initial reaction about the wisdom of this product was too judgemental. Maybe Nokia is going to try to take over from NASA? (joke).

Nokia need to decide if they are a phone company or a camera company. Either way, they have a bit of catching up to do!

This is the first time that I've ever considered buying a phone that can do something other than make phone calls.

My source at Canon tells me that that 5D mk iii will have a phone in it.

Here are three, allegedly straight-out-of-camera shots from the camera:

shots here

The dimensions of one of the shots is: 5368x7152, which adds up to ~38megapixel. From what I've read, the camera will ship at 5mp (and use all 41mp to make the smoothest possible 5mp images) with setting options that can set it to 8mp OR to full 41mp. If these shots are legit and if the camera DOES have the ability to be set to produce images at the full 41mp, then I think it would be unfair to dismiss the camera as "not a true 41mp" or accuse it of "downsampling."

Also, check out the red shorts in one of the picture. Look at he fine detail (such as fabric texture and stitching). Capturing that much fine detail of anything red is often pretty difficult for digital cameras, something about color-resolution and diffraction, I guess.

I am really impressed by this camera's ability to capture detail!

Silly thought - 4 microsd card, 4 processor, 4 imaging chips like this (just each 1/4 the size of m3/4) ... you got a 160Mpixel camera reduce to 40Mpixel by binning to becomes a m3/4 basic camera ... each pixel will have full RGBlum info for conversion to full color or some other effects

No need to do anything, just give some basic mount and basic camera body Nikon FM ... done it.

Better using 8 of everything ... 80 Mpixel for APS-C frame

May be using 16 of everything ... 160 Mpixel for 35 full frame

Seems doable not that silly


anyway still have to carry a phone and hence whilst I do not expect iphone move in that direction, no reason why I cannot see an android move into there. Waiting ...

Dear Zeeman,

Lens size doesn't determine resolution, it's the f/ratio (aperture relative to focal length) that does. A diffraction-limited f/2.4 lens can deliver better than 500 line pair/mm, of everything were just right. A good match for a camera with 1.2 micron pixels-- that's 800 pixels/mm = 400 line pair/mm).

pax / Ctein

Hope this means Leica S2's will now be going cheap, cheap, cheap on eBay. . .

From what I've seen on the web, I believe there's no reason for ILC owners to worry:
I have no qualms about people shooting with mobile phones, and the extra resolution of the 808 is good news to them, but this is no substitute for a decent camera. Certainly the day photojournalists and studios replace their cameras with cell phones is not forthcoming.

Dear Ctein,


I guess I'll skip the new 36mp Nikon D800e and wait for the following generation.

I'd be interested to know how much this is going to cost...

This is a camera with a top quality lens, and a top quality sensor (sample images look at least comparable to my LX3). This could be a new price low for this kind of image quality.

Oddly I don't find this surprising at all, I have often dreamed about owning an A900 or A850, because I felt like either of those cameras would've been the best 6MP "full-frame" dSLR of all time.

In a lot of my shooting I use my 10 MP dSLR as a 2.5 MP camera. It's a slightly older chip so shooting at ISO3200, down sampling to 2.5 MP is the way to go. It's still way more than enough for on screen work, which is where 90%+ of images wind up these days, and you can easily get 4x6 or 5x7 prints out of them. 8x10s are quite possible too, really depending more on technique and subject matter than pure resolution.

A for-example: If you shoot with a large format 10 x 8 camera, you will take photographs that you would not, in some cases could not, take with for example a 35mm SLR. And vice versa. So if you never use a 10x 8, or never use a 35mm SLR, there are certain types of photographs that you will never take, that will not be available to you. I'm not talking about stuff Mr Ctein can print on his 3880 and talk about "quality" - I'm talking about types of images. If all anyone is interested in is pixel quality or resolution, then all photographs would end up looking like they came out the same pea-pod.

The best commentary as always is at (with Albert Theuwissen and Eric R. Fossum).


Looks like the sensor is "developed with Toshiba and other Nokia partners".


A couple of other points from the white paper. It's an interesting mix of technical insights and marketing BS.


It's constant diagonal angle variable aspect ratio sensor (like Panasonic LX3 and LX5) too so the 41Mpx sensor can generate 38Mpx 4:3 images or 16:9 34Mpx images with the same diagonal angle of view. It's not really designed to put out 38Mpx images. Cropping or decimating is the order of the day. Even more so in HD video where you get a "lossless" 3x zoom "for free".

The lens is very interesting: f/2.8 with 5 elements in 1 group. All lens surfaces are aspherical(!). One high-index, low-dispersion glass mould lens. That's ten aspherical surfaces! And one ED element. The aspherics surfaces are to eliminate (reduce) distortion. Interesting as a lot of lens designs will leave simple distortion to software to correct. I wonder if they do any distortion reduction in software? If not they're bucking the trend in camera lens design.

It has a mechanical shutter. Almost all phones use an electronic shutter.

It has a neutral density filter to deal with brighter scenes (extends dynamic range) as it doesn't stop down the aperture. They don't say what this filter's density is (3X? 4X?). That would depend on the DR of the sensor.

It's an odd way to think about it but "digital zoom" keeps a constant aperture though the zoom range even at high crops (equivalent to "long focal lengths"). It also keeps the shutter speed high.

Quote: ... oversampling eliminates Bayer pattern problems. For example, conventional 8MPix sensors include only 4Mpix green, 2Mpix red and 2Mpix blue pixels, which are interpolated to 8Mpix R, G, B image. With pixel oversampling, all pixels become true R, G, and B pixels.

This is the trend in 4K and 8K movie camera sensors too. It will reduce false color (moire and edges) as well as improve noise and DR.

Still this is a very interesting basic idea in a rather odd (Symbian in 2012?) cellphone. And it works (despite the cynics above) as Ctein shows.

It may also have an impact on compact cameras too. For example, Kirk Tuck has an interesting take on the Canon G1X where the lens is an issue with a big sensor.


This really shows the problems of putting a larger sensor in a small camera with a zoom lens. I think some people are going to have to think about this (go for a prime lens? A poor mans X100 would appeal only to enthusiasts). Nikon might have a better bet with the CX sized sensor in a similar camera for a different feature balance (slightly lower DR and IQ but faster AF and faster frame rates). Perhaps the bigger sensors with lots of pixels (like the N808 cellphone) with a prime lens along with good UI to interpolate the shot to a smaller image and use digital zoom might be a way to square the circle. That way you get a good prime lens camera with "zoom". For the enthusiast it would need some raw support and a decent UI.

Imagine a Ricoh GRD like camera that uses this sort of technology? We'ed get our "enthusiast compact" with prime lens and 10Mpx RAW (binned) images without Bayer artifacts. And they could sell it to other folks with the digital zoom and decimated JPEGs.

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