HMD Global unveiled a new challenger in the smartphone space, stealing headlines with five cameras on the rear of the phone. But while tech fans get themselves into a fluster about the number of cameras, it's not really about the numbers at all.
"All I care about is that you take a picture and find it's stunning," Juho Sarvika, HMD Global's chief product officer, told us at Mobile World Congress 2019, when Pocket-lint asked if this camera was going to be too complicated for your average phone user. "That concept is easy to understand, I actually don't even care about anything else," said Sarvikas.
But in the development process of the Nokia 9 PureView, it's clear that it was not about the number of cameras on the rear of the phone. In the pursuit of quality, HMD Global has foregone many of the consumer features that you'll find on other flagship phone rivals, like the Samsung Galaxy S10, launched the week before, with wide-angle and zoom lenses.
"We've done some tele, wide, configurations where it's more like a Swiss Army Knife than anything else and the cameras don't really collaborate across one another. What we wanted to do here was just give you the best image quality," Sarvikas continues.
It's a bold move in a market dominated by big brands offering more and more camera features, as HMD Global revives the sprit that saw devices like the Nokia 808 PureView and Lumia 1020 receiving wide acclaim. This isn't the first time that Nokia has chased the spectre of smartphone camera supremacy.
"We did a lot of studies into what possible camera configuration would give the best possible outcome and also how to integrate that into the design … what we discovered was that somewhere between 4-6 1.25µm sensors should give the finish quality that we're looking for."
"Even in the development build when we already had hardware builds out, we ended up changing the placements and the number of colour sensors vs the black and white," he details. HMD Global and Light - the company with which the new PureView system was developed - settled on using high-quality 12-megapixel Sony sensors.
A big part of the process, of course, was ensuring that you're not sacrificing the phone for the sake of the camera alone - because you still need it to be a device that people want to use. "One thing we didn't want to do was build something that was too alien for you to consider as your daily smartphone."
That brings with it other challenges: "if you occupy too much space with the camera array and with the associated cooling system, you quickly get to a point where you can't fit the battery in any more," but the result was hitting that "sweet spot" in an 8mm thick device.
The result is that the Nokia 9 PureView is different to other phones on the market. The singular pursuit of image quality as resulted in the phone that stands out - not just because of the number of cameras on the back, but because of the purity of its offering. It's designed to be an aspirational flagship for the rest of Nokia's handsets and blow the competition out of the water.
The Nokia 9 PureView is now available on pre-order for £549.
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