If the sample Lumia 920 photos you’ve seen look too good to be true, that’s because they were shot with professional cameras, not a camera phone. Nokia’s new Lumia 920 features a PureView camera that should be better than any iPhone or Android phone camera on the market, even if it’s only have as good as the camera in Nokia’s 808 PureView. But apparently that’s not good enough for Nokia’s marketing material and the company’s resorted to posting images shot with a professional camera, photo crew and lighting.
The Nokia Lumia 920 is the company’s next-generation Windows Phone, which Nokia and Microsoft hope will sell much better than previous Windows devices. Some pundits are calling the next series of Lumia phones Nokia’s and Microsoft’s last chance to get back into the smartphone game, which is increasingly dominated by the iPhone and a smattering of Android phones.
The Nokia Lumia 920 features an advanced 8 megapixel camera with optical image stabilization (OIS), which is designed to stabilize video and reduce motion blur in photos. Nokia published the above video yesterday to demonstrate the technology, but it was soon discovered that the demo video was shot with professional equipment, not the Lumia 920 as the video implies. You can read more about the video debacle and Nokia’s apology here.
The faked Lumia 920 video called the photo into questions. A quick glance at the Lumia 920 OIS sample photos in the video and elsewhere in Nokia’s marketing materials looked suspicious. In the second half of the video Nokia shows images shot with OIS turned off and on. Just about everything’s blurry in the images with OIS turned off. Then, magically, everything is sharp in the equivalent images with OIS turned on. What caught my attention is that studio lighting appears from nowhere in the ‘OIS On’ images and the scene is simply too steady compared to the ‘OIS off’ images. You can tell that the shutter was open for a relatively brief period because the passing cars leave short light trails. Either there was physical stabilization, such as a tripod, additional lighting or both.
It turns out, that Nokia didn’t just sue additional lighting and a tripod for the ‘OIS On’ photos, but they used a DSLR with what appears to be a portrait or zoom lens. Youseff Sarhan, a blogger who’s lived in Helsinki where these images were shot, dug deeper into the Nokia video and pointed out that the diffractions (stars) couldn’t have been produced by the Lumia 920. Diffractions are the starry halos we often see in night photos shot with DSLRs. He also pointed out that the lighting was impossible…at least if it relied on existing light as the promo video implied. Sure enough, a Hacker News user shared a photo with Sarhan showing exactly how Nokia shot the Lumia 920 demo images. As you can see, there’s a full photo crew, lights, reflectors and a tripod-mounted camera with a large lens poking out of the left edge of the image. You can clearly see the fron two tripod feet to the bottom left of the image.
These kinds of shenanigans call all of the Lumia 920’s demo photos into question. I’m pretty certain that the demo shots of the model in a park at night are faked as well.
Nokia posted the above image on its PureView landing page to show how awful the competition is. The flash looks unnatural and the background is underexposed. This is something we’re used to seeing when friends share party shots on Facebook, Twitter and other sharing sites.
The image that’s supposedly shot with the Lumia 920 looks fantastic. But it appears that Nokia’s cheating again. Note the color temperature of the light on the tree and on the ground, including the path to the left of the tree. That light appears to be the color temperature of strobes. If this shot was simply a long exposure, the camera phone would pick up the same light and color temperature as the park lighting, which is yellowish, as you can see in the background. There is no way that the light/flash is coming from the Lumia 920 as the angle is all wrong. The light was placed to the left of the Lumia 920, if that was even what the above image was shot with.
Some people may say that this is just advertising and we shouldn’t be surprised, but I disagree. The PureView camera is the Lumia 920’s best feature. It’s what may get some iPhone and Android fans to switch. In other words Nokia’s faking its way through its best feature and using fraudulent tactics to make its products look superior to the competition.
Nokia’s going to need to do something big to right this wrong, starting with another apology and some realistic photos samples and comparisons. I’m in the midst of reviewing the Symbian-powered Nokia 808 Pureview, which has the best camera of any phone I know of and was really hoping a similar camera would show up on a Windows Phone. But I wasn’t hoping for Nokia to dig itself in a deep hole before it sold a single Windows PureView phone.