This year, smartphone manufacturers are not only attempting to differentiate their camera offerings on hardware, but also on software and Nokia is the latest to do so with its recently announced Nokia Lumia 925 flagship, which floated by the code name of Catwalk in the past. The Nokia camera-centric high-end Windows Phone 8 device has all the hallmarks of Nokia’s hardware imaging technology and PureView prowess, but this time Nokia is adding smarter software to appeal to consumers and make everyone a more capable photographer.
The battle for the best smartphone camera this year is tough. Sony started the year at CES with its Xperia Z smartphone, focusing on the hardware behind its 13-megapixel Exmor RS sensor. HTC forged a different path, abandoning the megapixel war by going with 4 larger megapixels, dubbed Ultrapixel, in the war and highlighting low light photography and an optical image stabilization mechanism. Moreover, HTC added its HTC Zoe software to capture short video clips that show a bit of motion and audio to make for an interesting slideshow with some artfully created effects. It’s an elegant package overall that’s simple and understated in sophistication. And Samsung, with its Galaxy S4, chose to go with its own 13-megapixel sensor that captures details and vivid colors in bright outdoors lighting. The Galaxy S4 also comes with a wealth of scenes mode, similar to that available on a point-and-shoot, and Samsung says that it was inspired by the Galaxy Camera smart camera. It also features some smart tools as well, such as the ability to erase photobombers, capture and stitch a sequence of action together in one shot, and a dual-camera mode that allows users to capture photos and record videos using both cameras simultaneously to include the photographer into the frame so no one is left out of the picture.
We have yet to see what features Apple will pack into the rumored iPhone 5S that’s slated for a fall release.
On the latest Lumia 925, Nokia, which has been known for creating quality camera hardware, is innovating on the software front like rival Samsung. However, where the latest Lumia 925 seems to excel is in the simplicity department.
On cameras on competing phones, you’d have to plan for the shot in advance. Some of the scenes, like sunset mode or bright beach or snow days aren’t too bad to plan for as you can just leave the setting on unless the scene changes. However, the Eraser mode on the Galaxy S4, for example, may be a bit more gimmicky as you likely won’t remember to use it unless you know for sure you’re going to want to erase someone walking through your frame when you’re capturing the image. It’s a bit of fortune telling and a bit of planning to use that mode.
On the Lumia 925, you’ll just be given a Smart Camera mode that you can activate by default every time you launch the camera. Smart camera takes a burst of 10 images on the Lumia 925–available via software update to older Lumia models–and then allows users to edit the photos using the appropriate mode and tools after the shots were taken. Users can apply Best Action, Best Shot, or Motion Focus after the shot was taken to get the desired effect. It requires less planning and eliminates the need for fortune telling when you’re going to snap your image.
But software isn’t the only advantage to the Lumia 925. Nokia’s hardware is still excellent, with a highly praised optical image stabilization mechanism, low light photography capability without the need for a flash, and shake-free video. The Lumia 925 also benefits from a new 6-element Carl Zeiss lens design, besting the 5-element optics on the iPhone 5.
The only problem with the Lumia range is that despite the excellent and highly praised cameras, consumers still want a venue to share their photographs. Despite tightly integrated Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter integration, Instagram is still no where present on Windows Phone 8 for consumers to share these captured images.
For now, though, as a consumer, you’ll not only have more hardware choices to consider (megapixel count versus Ultrapixel, Carl Zeiss on Lumia versus Sapphire glass on iPhone, Xenon flash on Lumia 928 versus LED flash on Lumia 925, etc), but you’ll also have software to choose from (HTC Zoe versus point-and-shoot style Mode dial on Galaxy S4, selecting the right mode pre-shot or choosing the right effects after the shot). The hardware capabilities are there, and it’s up to consumers to choose and take their phones out for a photoshoot.
The Lumia 925 will be arriving in the U.S. with wireless carrier T-Mobile.
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