What I learnt in Dubai: Cameras!

madbilly Super User
edited January 2019 in Phones
Hi everyone,

Following on from my previous posts about what I learnt in Dubai here's a post dedicated to cameras. I'm no expert on cameras, and my memory is now a little hazy but I hope that I manage to share with you some interesting things which are news to you. (note that all my photos were taken with a Nokia 8 on latest (at the time) Android 8.1 with stock HMD camera on auto mode). @SeqTre, @nitheesh, @sajwaz, @singhnsk, @wilson shrestha, @juho lemmetyinen, @nokianchetan and @shaunmoroz , you were there too, did you learn anything else? Please also tag others who were there.

In the Q&A with Juho he compared the HMD app to the GCam:
  • Daylight performance is a case of personal taste - some may prefer what GCam produces, others may not
  • HMD don't want to over process or colour-pop
  • In my opinion (not Juho's necessarily) the HMD camera produces more natural and photographically correct images than GCam does, in daylight
  • In low light there is a clear difference however
  • HMD consider below 100 lux as low light - for info, this is probably higher than the lighting we had in the room where we discussed with Juho, see below photo:
  • GCam has machine learning powered processing which helps with low light; HMD don't have this
  • Gcam solution is very powerful, HMD are working on making theirs comparable; Juho is not happy with the current status quo
  • In the Nokia 8.1 the significant sensor improvement compensates for low light so there is not so much need for AI on this new phone
  • (Personally, I'd prefer if HMD just gave us bigger lenses and better sensors and didn't spend time on AI, but that's my personal opinion)
Also in the Q&A with Juho he explained that some Android apps, e.g. Facebook, don't actually use the whole image processing pipeline! They use a shortcut. This is obviously bad for HMD publicity, but why isn't it also bad for Google and other camera vendors? I presume that if some of the pipeline is missed out that the phones with the best optics then look the best, which is where Nokia phones with ZEISS optics should do well! Shouldn't they? :confused:

At the launch event after the Q&A I spoke with a gentleman from the MENA region office and asked a few questions which he was reluctant to answer (!). One was about the PureView trademark, which is publicly known is now owned by HMD (see EUIPO website) but for some reason he only wanted to talk about the Nokia 8.1 and not future unannounced possibilities... I can't imagine why?! :D (it was the launch event of the 8.1, so it's understandable). However, he did explain that there was a gentleman from ZEISS elsewhere in the experience zone so that is where I went next...


  • I love this. It's awesome, So insightful. Just like the other posts in the series :))
  • madbilly
    madbilly Super User
    @stipe1906 consider it my little contribution trying to return the favour to you and the Nokiamob bunch, plus Steve Lichfield and all the others over the years who've given me lots of news and insight into Nokia phones :smiley:
  • @madbilly
    Hehe, no problem :) I admire everything you documented. You (and others, too) were like a sponge in Dubai. Great idea from HMD to bring fans. Hopefully it will continue on next events, too.  
  • madbilly
    madbilly Super User
    I totally agree, I hope that HMD can do this for each of their launch events.
  • petrus
    petrus ✭✭✭✭
    edited January 2019
    I enjoyed most of this, and I'm excited about this article. Thank you @madbilly  :)
  • naufrago
    naufrago ✭✭✭✭
    Thank you @madbilly
    I think you walked around with a recorder. I would never be able to come back with such an information load.

  • naufrago said:
    Now, In real life situation currently normal people don't like to get into this mumbo jumbo of the Pro Mode, they just want to take out their smartphone and click and get the nicest picture. They don't care about the process behind this and surely don't want to spend time in it. This is where the Google Camera outshines because it appeals to the masses with its magical AI and computational photography. Even professionals praise Google Camera for its simplicity.

    @wilson shrestha

    I am 100% agree on this.
    Thank you @naufrago:)
  • madbilly
    madbilly Super User
    edited January 2019
    @wilson shrestha I agree that people, in general, don't want to mess around with the Pro mode. Especially at a party. A party is the use case we're all talking about here isn't it? Low light, little time, just want to point and click and get a good photo.

    I may be remembering with rose-tinted spectacles but I think I could do that with my N8 and Lumia 925. I'm certain it was possible with the 808 and 1020 PureViews. That's why I say I want better hardware, because those cameras were better than the current HMD cameras (maybe N8 wasn't overall better, but the Xenon flash helped a lot; and maybe the 925 depended on the PureView software to get it's results, so I agree it's not all about hardware).

    I'll also be very happy to have better software! Especially software that actually works as advertised and doesn't contain bugs and broken features...

    I may be misunderstanding something as well. When people talk about "AI" in photos what do they mean? Do they mean machine learning? If so, how is this used in the camera app? It could be used at the point of taking the photo, to determine the current scene and choose appropriate settings to make the end photo pleasing to the viewer. Or it could apply to post-shot processing which is done before the viewer sees the photo. In practice, I think that Google use both, whereas most other phone manufacturers have historically only used the first one. In any case, the machine learning must have been done offline in advance by Google, it's not done on the phone itself is it? What does it learn from? The photos we delete? I don't know all this though, it's only my opinion based on thinking about it.

    If by "AI" people just mean computation photography, like HDR, then that's different from machine learning, although the phone's upfront "AI" in auto mode can determine how to use HDR.

    So, when I wrote "Personally, I'd prefer if HMD just gave us bigger lenses and better sensors and didn't spend time on AI, but that's my personal opinion", I was mainly referring to the use of machine learning in the post-shot pre-view stage, as this is the part which stops photos looking natural and starts to make them look overprocessed, AFAIK.

    Please don't take any of the above as truth, it's only what I currently think based on my current understanding - if you know different then please explain how it all actually works, I'll be very happy to learn :smiley:

  • naufrago
    naufrago ✭✭✭✭

    A good read on computational photography:

    Actually, there are tons of different area of study on deep learning. Here is interesting one;

  • madbilly
    madbilly Super User
    Oooooh! That will keep me busy for a few nights! Thanks @naufrago :smiley:
  • madbilly
    madbilly Super User
    I forgot to add this above. In the experience zone there was a demo of how much of an effect OIS has, I took a video; the camera on the left has OIS and the one on the right does not: https://photos.app.goo.gl/m2apzCabjwviQdQ3A
  • madbilly
    madbilly Super User
    @petrus yes Stipe from NokiaMob contacted me to ask if he could write about my posts and link to them, very polite. It's a very nicely written, well written article, a good summary.

    @naufrago maybe indeed! I was also wondering which other prominent Nokia news journalists are on the forum here...
  • nitheesh
    nitheesh ✭✭✭✭
    edited January 2019
    Thanks @madbilly for the useful information. Again you wondering us <3 . I have no words, you explained everything. A big salute for your contribution.
    Nice shots. I bookmarked your photo gallery.

  • madbilly
    madbilly Super User
    @nitheesh thanks for the link to your photos!

    Which reminds me, we still don't have those photos which were taken of us with Florian. Maybe @edo knows where we can get them? (I'm off topic here, but since I started the topic I'm taking OP prerogative!)
  • nitheesh
    nitheesh ✭✭✭✭
    edited January 2019
    @madbilly yes, that's the only one remaining. Thanks for the reminder. Hope @edo can help us :)
  • @madbilly Thanks for sharing.
    I was really interested in the discussion you had with that ZEISS guy. You were so much into it that you didn't even notice me trying to tell you that we were leaving back for the hotel.

  • Good job! I also have a lot of insights and fun conversations with the HMD staff, but I'm too lazy to update my experiences.. :/
  • madbilly
    madbilly Super User
    @SeqTre I know! Sorry about that :blush:

    @juho lemmetyinen Oh come on! Please? At least just add in the comments to mine what other things you learnt - we all want to know! :smiley:
  • wyk
    wyk ✭✭✭✭
    thanks @madbilly for telling us the secrets from HMD's kitchen... excellent conversation excellent narration.. 
    i feel HMD should revamp the camera UI first as it feels cluttered ...when we can swipe shutter button up to launch pro mode so why a different tab for pro needed. In GCam
    Google also defines auto exposure..  exposure compensation. . HMD parameters according to user this makes the app stand out from others. 
  • @madbillyThanks for your excellent work here. Folks like you and Steve Litchfield raise the standard of discussion to where it belongs. 
    To others who were in Dubai: please do comment and/or add your own stuff.
    HMD seems to want to listen to users/fans, although why some of the basic failings of the Nokia 8 have not yet been fixed beats me.
    I have no issue with picture quality (I frequently take whole series of photos with the standard camera app and the pixel app); I'm referring to horrible EIS 720/1080 video and the video focus issues. My 8 plays 4k video perfectly, BTW. Just can't edit it in-phone...
  • JPTizon
    JPTizon ✭✭
    edited January 2019
    This is my Review of Nokia 5.1 Plus, that's before Android Pie update..


    i was a bit disappointed  about the Camera, but after Android Pie update, it tooks better photos, better HDR and a pro-mode.. Low - Light also improve.. kudos to HMD for doing great on updates.. i hope they keep on doing this .
  • madbilly
    madbilly Super User
    edited January 2019
    Woah! To be compared to Steve Litchfield, that's an honour! Thanks @hughmnyksj :smiley:
    Thanks @wyk glad you enjoyed it!
    Thanks for sharing @jptizon that's interesting to hear about the improvement you've seen with the 5.1+ camera after upgrading to Android 9. And thanks for reminding me about your site, I will add it to my RSS reader :smiley:

  • nitinkachare
    nitinkachare ✭✭✭✭
    edited January 2019
    @madbilly hmd can keep it natural images which they does on Nokia Camera i.e.HDR Or Normal Mode, no problem.But They Can add feature like google camera hdr+enhanced where they can enhance images by AI i.e.Machine Learning Same As Google Camera Works.Some Of The Images are very eye catching and beautiful when Google Camera used in HDR+Enhanced.By doing this They can work on both normal hdr and Enhanced hdr.