The Technology Behind Nokia’s 808 PureView 41 Megapixel Sensor

As many of you no doubt know by now, Nokia has unveiled a new cameraphone which resolves up to 5 megapixels. The catch here is that the sensor can capture up to 41 megapixels of data. This is no doubt the largest sensor ever made on a consumer camera phone (or indeed, any camera phone ever), but what prompted the team that worked on this phone to put such a large sensor on it?


In a word, the answer is ‘zoom’. To implement optical zoom and keep a thin and light form factor on the phone was proving to be extremely difficult and well nigh impossible:-

We had been working for a long time (on) optical zooms and had learned the hard way how difficult it is to achieve good performance in smartphones. Their structure is very complex and hard to manufacture.

The answer came to Nokia, like all those genius answers of yore, in the dead of night. What if they could implement a large sensor on a phone, zoom digitally, and throw away the unneeded pixels (by a process called ‘oversampling’) to make an impressively high res image? The rest (about five years of work) is history, so to speak, as AllThingsD says:-

One of the key advantages is it lets you zoom in three or four times in either photos or video and still have a sharp image. The picture of the camera, here, for example, is taken from the same wide shot of the camera and its sensors. In videos, the technology allows one to zoom in close while still maintaining an HD resolution.

Another plus is that the camera uses so called “oversampling” to shrink the image while still making use of the information in the large number of pixels. Nokia said it can create a better 5-megapixel image by using the data in the seven extra pixels to inform which single pixel it uses.

Some sample pictures have been released by Nokia. While they do not hold a candle to the most basic dSLR in the market in terms of picture quality, they definitely beat the hell out of much of the competition.

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