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HTC One vs Nokia Lumia 920 vs 808 PureView

Andrew Williams

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PureView or UltraPixel?
Nokia Lumia vs PureView

The HTC One has just introduced a new type of camera into the mobile market. HTC calls it UltraPixel, and it uses larger sensor pixels to offer much better low-light performance. But how does it compare to the PureView tech we saw in the Nokia 808 PureView and Nokia Lumia 920? Let's take a closer look.

Let’s Cut the Nonsense

Both HTC’s UltraPixel and Nokia’s PureView are marketing terms. They have no inherent meaning, which means that – like Apple’s “Retina” screens – what they define is flexible. This flexibility is doubly important when you look at the difference between the cameras of the Nokia 808 PureView and the Nokia Lumia 920. Both use PureView tech, but their cameras are entirely different.

Each tech takes its own approach to producing above-average photos without just piling on the megapixels. But which approach will be more successful? Let’s take a look.

Sensor size

HTC One – 4.3MP 1/3-inch CMOS BSI

Nokia Lumia 920 – 8.7MP 1/3-inch CMOS BSI

Nokia 808 PureView – 42MP 1/1.2” CMOS BSI

Looking at the pure sensor stats, the HTC One sounds positively awful, doesn’t it? The same size sensor as the Nokia Lumia 920 but with far fewer pixels – who would want that?

Although they’re touted as rival-bashing next generation camera, both the Nokia Lumia 920 and HTC One use sensors the same size as many of 2013’s biggest phones, such as the Sony Xperia Z. By traditional camera standards, they are tiny.

Conversely, the Nokia 808 PureView has a genuinely large sensor. At 1/1.2in, it’s a good deal larger than that that of most compact cameras. Of course, it’s also quite different from most “proper” camera sensors because it has to pack-in so many sensor pixels – 42 million.

All three sensors are back-illuminated, which aims to give better low-light performance. However, BSI sensors like these are common nowadays, used in most big-name expensive phones including the iPhone 5 and Google Nexus 4.

Pixel size

HTC One - 2.0 µm

Nokia Lumia 920 – 1.4 µm

Nokia 808 PureView – 1.4 µm, or up to 4.1 µm virtual

Pixel size is where the differences of the HTC One and Lumia 920 start to show more clearly. While the HTC one has far fewer pixels, they’re much larger than the average size, letting them take in far more light than a normal-sized phone sensor pixel. HTC claims 300 per cent more light.

This should result in much better low-light performance, although it could also result in worse pictures during daytime unless HTC’s picture processing is particularly good.

It is at the pixel level where the Nokia Lumia 920 looks pedestrian. With 1.4 µm pixels, the teeny-tiny components that make up its camera sensor aren’t anything out of the norm.

Once again, the Nokia 808 PureView excels with its over-the-top mega-sensor. The pixels that feature are actually the same size as those of the Lumia 920, but there’s a ridiculous amount of them. There’s an image processing engine built into the camera that lets the 808 downsample images, making pixel clusters essentially function as a single pixel.

For example, when shooting a 5-megapixel image, the 808 PureView’s “virtual” pixels are more than twice the size of the HTC One’s.

Why use virtual pixels instead of much bigger ones? This lets the Nokia 808 PureView offer much better digital zoom than any other phone camera, because it can simply crop into the sensor, reaping a high-resolution even when using just a fraction of the entire image sensor.

We’ll have to see whether the true larger pixels of the HTC One perform better than the Nokia 808 PureView’s virtual ones when we get a review sample in.

Lens Properties

HTC One – f/2.0, 5-element construction, 28mm focal length equiv.

Nokia Lumia 920 – f/2.0, 5-element construction, 26mm focal length equiv.

Nokia 808 PureView – f/2.4, 5-element construction, 28mm focal length equiv.

The focal lengths and element construction of the three phones are pretty similar. Each uses a 5-element lens with a wide focal length. The Nokia Lumia 920 is slight wider, with an equivalent focal length of 26mm against the 28mm of the Nokia 808 PureView.

Where the Nokias and the HTC One differ is in their lens apertures. We judge the lens by its f-stop rating, which indicates how “fast” it is, how much light it can take in within a certain exposure time. Suprisingly enough, the HTC One and Nokia Lumia 920 are slightly higher faster than the Nokia 808 PureView.

The two quicker phones both use f/2.0 lenses, while the Nokia 808 PureView is an f/2.4 lens. F/2.0 lenses are particularly quick among currently-available mobile phones, and even some of this year’s top mobiles are stuck a worse apertures, such as the Sony Xperia Z’s f/2.4 rating.

Extra features

HTC One – Live HDR video recording, integrated HDR, image stabilisation, simultaneous video/stills capture, LED flash

Nokia Lumia 920 – “Lenses” camera modes, LED flash, image stabilisation

Nokia 808 PureView – Xenon flash

So far the Nokia Lumia 920 seems pretty ordinary. It has a decent sensor and lens, but what’s so special about it? The phone uses optical image stabilisation to let it use longer exposure times, by compensating for the small movements we unavoidably make when… doing anything.

Of course, the downside to this method of improving image quality is that it doesn’t account for movement on the other side of the camera. If whoever you’re snapping is jumping around, expect blurry results.

This stabilisation is found in the Nokia 808 PureView and HTC One too, so while it differentiates the Lumia 920 from the smartphone pack, it’s nothing too exciting within this crowd.

The HTC One marks itself out here with some hardware-intensive software modes – most exciting of all is live HDR video. This merges two exposures to increase detail in captured images. This is a mode you can use for stills too. The Nokia Lumia 920 and PureView 808 do not offer HDR modes as standard, which is a bit of a bummer.

The Nokia 808 PureView exits stage left with one last stand-out feature, a Xenon flash. This is the kind of flash “proper” cameras use, while the Lumia 920 and HTC One make do with the LED “torches” you’ll find on common smartphones.

PureView or UltraPixel - Which is the best?

As this article should make abundantly clear, Nokia has already diluted the meaning of its PureView technology with the Nokia Lumia 920. It features little of the photo magic of the Nokia 808 PureView, even if it does offer significant real-world photographic benefits in low light.

The HTC One is technologically much more interesting than the Nokia Lumia 920, offering all of its photo benefits with larger pixels that dramatically change the way it captures photos. However, for our money the Nokia 808 PureView’s snapper is still the most intriguing of the bunch, enabling a decent-quality digital zoom and excellent photo quality. Roll on the Nokia EOS, which is rumoured to use the same photo tech as the 808 PureView, but with Windows Phone 8 software in place of Symbian.

Mark

February 20, 2013, 2:03 pm

As far as I understand, the Optical Image Stabilisation (OIS) on the HTC One is software simulated. The OIS on the Nokia Lumia 920 is physical. That is why the Lumia 920 is thicker that the One. So, the HTC One does not really offer the real deal and will be most likely of a lesser quality as compared with the Nokia Lumia 920.

antipopsuperstar

February 20, 2013, 2:31 pm

It's funny to see a review of cameras without actually seeing any photographic evidence of... well... anything.

Andrew_TR

February 20, 2013, 2:40 pm

Hi Lina, We're seeking clartification on the HTC One's stabilisation.

NTN Labs

February 20, 2013, 2:53 pm

There is a mistake in last paragraph. "HTC Lumia 920" must be a really great phone ;)

Andrew_TR

February 20, 2013, 2:54 pm

This is what happens when you finish an article just before lunch...

Vlad

February 20, 2013, 3:10 pm

Two more errors: 1. the image caption (Lumia vs Pureview) and 2. not listing OIS at Lumia 920 (but listing it with an O on HTC's image stabilization)

Andrew_TR

February 20, 2013, 3:49 pm

Hey Lina, We've been informed that the stabilisation is actually hardware rather than software based in the HTC One.

Andrew_TR

February 20, 2013, 4:04 pm

Sadly we haven't had the chance to take the HTC One out for a proper photo test drive. But when we do we'll make a proper comparison with phones like the iPhone 5 Lumia 920 and... any requests?

Tomboxe

February 20, 2013, 4:49 pm

You should have just taken pictures with each phone and let us compare. All these stats and specs show nothing really.

Yanbo JIA

February 20, 2013, 5:38 pm

hey, does it mean that the whole camera assembly is also suspended by springs? Or HTC came up with something new?

dannyR

February 20, 2013, 5:45 pm

Really. Busted Reviews

Andrew_TR

February 20, 2013, 7:02 pm

I couldn't get any further info at this point, but we'll look into it.

Andrew_TR

February 20, 2013, 7:02 pm

We will do, although it may be a couple of weeks until an HTC One is ready for us to play with properly.

robchan

February 20, 2013, 8:17 pm

The 808 I hope, and if possible a phone from every major phone brand.

lin55

February 21, 2013, 1:44 am

nokia 1000

ccsvchost

February 21, 2013, 10:32 am

just want to add that the Nokia N8 had a 1.8 micrometre pixel size which is pretty close to the HTC One. Anyway HTC always did a bad job on their cameras, I don't think their implementation will be very good.

Guarulhos

February 21, 2013, 4:02 pm

Erroneous And Incomplete Information !

Technichal Specifications Digital Camera 808 PureView PRO:

* Optical Assembly: Carl Zeiss Vario Tessar Wide Angle 26 mm

* Construction Lens: 5 Elements, 1 Group. All Lens Surfaces Are Aspherical

* Features Lens: One High - Index, Low - Dispersion Glass Mould Lens / Mechanical Shutter With Neutral Density Filter

* F-Number / Aperture: f/2.3984375

* Focal Length: 8.02mm

* Focus Range: 15 Cm - Infinity

* Iso Sensitivity: 50 - 1600

* Shutter Speed Minimum: 2,7s

* Shutter Speed Maximum: 1/2747s

* Flash: Xenon (3rd Generation) And Led (2rd Generation)

* Reach In Shooting Of Flash: Up To 4 Meters
* AF Light: Yes (Single Led 2rd Generation)

* Sensor: CMOS FSI TOSHIBA HES9

* Format: 1/1.2”

* Surface: 85,36mm² (10,67 x 13,33mm Or 8mm Diagonal)

* Pixel Size: 38 MP (1.4 Microns) / 8 MP (3.07 Microns) / 5 Megapixels (3.91 Microns) / 3 MP (4.89 Microns)

* Total Pixel Are Used: 7728 x 5368 - 41.4 MP

This Clarified, Understand:

Image Sensor 808 Is FSI, No BSI !

Pixel Size Is1.4 µm, Or Up To 4.89 µm, No 4.1 µm !

Lens Features Is f/2.3984375, 8.02mm, 26mm focal length equiv., 5 Elements, 1 Group. All Lens Surfaces Are Aspherical !

P.S: Therefore, Correct Information !

Matthew Paul

February 21, 2013, 6:09 pm

Well, the 808 Pureview definitely does not have OIS hardware.

Also, you forget to mention that the Lumia 920's OIS works 1/3 whereas the HTC One's works 1/7.5. That is a big difference.

Plus, the Lumia 920 has dual LED flash whereas the HTC One only has one. What is even more important is that if you did more research into their cameras you would find out that the Nokia Lumia 920 has short pulse high power LED's. This technology basically means that the LED's can act in a similar fashion to a Xenon flash.

Finally, where is the mention of Carl Zeiss? The quality of the lens and its construction is a big factor to take into account.

jdpatl

February 23, 2013, 5:39 am

And (when you get the test units) can you please make available the full size pics from both devices, and a reference shot from a proper DSLR, so that there is an additional point of reference?

Thanks!

rene

February 23, 2013, 11:54 am

Excuse my innocence, but the tittle suggests it is about phones.

How did we end-up discussing 'on-paper' picture quality?

Niggatron300

March 5, 2013, 10:14 pm

1/8 shutter speed is still not great tbh.. And I love how HTC thinks 1/48 shutter is amazingly quick

Niggatron300

March 5, 2013, 10:15 pm

Just to add, the Lumia 920 can actually do a full 1s when in night mode.

Rocky

April 2, 2013, 11:36 am

HTC = GARBAGE

CyberAngel

June 26, 2013, 8:57 am

sensor only

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