News · Opinion

Regarding the 41 megapixel sensor on the Nokia 808 PureView

Nokia has just announced the Symbian-based 808 PureView at MWC and as you may already know it has a stonking 41 megapixel sensor. In this post I’ll try to explain briefly how the 41 megapixel sensor makes sense and that how Nokia is not out of its mind. 

In a regular digital camera, the number of “pixels” on the sensor are equivalent to the number of pixels that are found in the final image. That is, each of the pixels on the sensor ends up contributing one pixel to the image. 

In low light conditions, not enough light reaches the pixels on the sensor, which results in noise being visible on the final image. Also, as you add more pixels to a sensor without making it larger, the pixels on the sensor become physically smaller and are hence able to capture less light, resulting in noisy images. 

To take care of this situation, phone manufacturers these days use larger sensors and aperture to get in more light on their high resolution sensor. 

What Nokia has done here is use a 41 megapixel sensor, that despite its high resolution count, isn’t exactly that much larger than most phone camera sensor. Which means that the individual pixels on the sensor are even smaller. So how does it all work? 

It’s simple. What Nokia is doing here is called pixel binning, where they combine multiple pixels on the sensor to create one pixel in the final image. In case of the 808, they are using eight physical pixels on the sensor to create one pixel in the final image. So if you divide the 41 megapixels of the sensor by eight, you get 5 megapixels, which is what the actual resolution of the final image will be. 

So how is this better? The answer is in front of you. When you look at an image on your phone or your PC without zooming it 100%, you are recreating a similar effect as pixel binning. That is, you are using multiple pixels of the final image to fill up a single pixel on your phone’s display or your monitor. Because of this images look sharper and noise-free when zoomed out but when you zoom in at 100%, those things become visible. 

Because Nokia is using the information from 41 megapixel to create a 5 megapixel image, the images will have a lot more detail in them and the noise, although present in the original 41 megapixel image, won’t be visible in the final 5 megapixel image because, to put it simply, it has been zoomed out. 

You can try this effect out right now on your PC. Take an extremely high resolution image and downsize it to a much lower resolution, say, VGA. That image will look much sharper and will be more detailed than the one shot natively at VGA resolution. 

So even though 41 megapixels sounds crazy at first, there is a method to this madness. 

Update 1: One major thing I forgot to mention before is zooming. Most phones these days have digital zoom, which basically takes existing pixels and performs a 200% (2x) zoom on them, resulting in a mess, which gets worse as you continue zooming. On these phones, you are operating on a 1:1 scale, that is each pixel of the sensor contributed one pixel to the final image, so there aren’t many (or any) pixels to spare for zooming.

On the 808, the camera uses eight pixels to produce one pixel in the final image, which means there are plenty of pixels to spare. The camera can crop a small portion of the main image and then zoom it and even then each of the pixels in the final image will be made up of several pixels on the sensor. In fact, there are so many pixels on the 808 that you can zoom up to 3x without seeing a drop in quality. If you do that you will still have two pixels on the sensor making up one pixel in the final image. The quality won’t be great anymore but it will still be a lot better than conventional digital zoom.

For something without optical zoom, this is the best way to zoom on a camera. This is digital zooming done right. 

Update 2: You also have the option of using higher resolutions wherein the pixel binning effect is toned down as you go up. The max resolution is 38 megapixels, where I assume no amount of pixel binning is taking place. I saw a few samples at that resolution and they look pretty good but they’re all in bright sunlight. I’m assuming low light performance at that resolution won’t be so great, in which case it would be best to dial down the resolution. Also, zooming with either not be available or be of poor quality at that resolution. 

Opinion

Want a powerful and compact Android phone? Tough luck.

I was talking to my friend and ex-colleague Frazier today about the Galaxy Note when he said something that I found both sad and interesting. He told me about how he cannot upgrade from his HTC Desire to a new powerful Android smartphone because all of them were gigantic. 

This made me think: what does a person who wants a powerful Android smartphone, but one that isn’t too big, buy? The answer was surprisingly ‘nothing’. There is not a single high-end Android phone out there that isn’t the size of a fucking skateboard. Think about all the high-end Android phone out there right now. Galaxy S II, Galaxy Nexus, RAZR, Sensation XE/XL/XXL/XV/ABC/WTF/BBQ, etc. They are all massive. And then there is King Kong himself, the Galaxy Note. A ‘phone’ so big you need the wicket keeper’s gloves just to hold it. 

Why aren’t Android manufacturers making high-end smartphone for people with normal hands? What is a person who wants a dual-core Android smartphone but one with a display that is less than 4-inches supposed to buy? Does a dual-core phone have to be double the size of a single-core phone? 

And then people wonder why the iPhone sells so much. It’s the only dual-core smartphone out there that does not require two people to carry it around. Apple could have snuck in one of their Cinema Displays into the iPhone if they wanted to and people would have still bought it. But they stuck with that display size for so long and that’s because it makes sense. Meanwhile, everyone else is making massive phones to compensate for the size of their tiny dicks. 

Wasn’t the whole point of buying an Android phone to get freedom of choosing whatever you want? The only choice here that I see for a high-end Android smartphone buyer is choosing a phone that is ridiculously large or a phone that is ridiculously large. Most people then just go with the one that is ridiculously large. 

Videos

The Man Who Laughed At The iPhone

The idea that Apple might get into the TV business is apparently making Samsung laugh. This reminds me of an incident that happened a while ago. There was a man called Steve Ballmer, who once laughed at the iPhone.

Here he is, producing the aforementioned laughter from his smug face. 

You know what happened to that man? He got his ass handed to him by Apple. Not only did his precious Windows Mobile fail, even the new Windows Phone is having a hard time. All this from a company that not just Ballmer but many other believed couldn’t succeed in this segment. 

And now we have Samsung laughing at the yet to be announced Apple TV. This is the same Samsung, by the way, that is getting its ass torched in almost every field Apple operates in, including smartphones, tablets, MP3 players and notebooks. 

I’m going to file this under my own claim chowder folder. Couple of years down the line, we’ll see who’s laughing. 

Opinion

The iPad 3 conundrum

When I first sat down to write this post, it was supposed to be a list of things I thought the iPad 3 was going to have. I was going through all the different things such as the name, size, processor, etc. But then I reached a couple of points and I was having a hard time deciding whether or not they will be in the iPad 3. Those two things are the Retina display and LTE. 

In the first version I had actually written that the iPad 3 won’t have a Retina display and that it won’t be possible for it to run it, particularly in 3D games, even with the updated quad-core processor and if it did the battery life would be shitty. But then I realized that if Apple puts in the display from the current iPad 2, what would be the point of the quad-core processor? Wouldn’t it be wasted running the same device with the same screen with all that power? And the iPad 2 is already pretty powerful so it’s not in any real need for any more power. So if Apple was putting in a more powerful processor there was bound to be a higher resolution display to make use of it. 

And I’m fairly certain there will be a more powerful processor. That’s one thing that Apple almost always updates. The only time I remember Apple didn’t upgrade the processor on its iOS device was with the iPhone 3G and the latest iPod touch. 

Also, if there are concerns of increased battery consumption then there are rumors that the iPad 3 will have a larger battery, indicated by its thicker shell. Not to mention the fact that the new A6 will be more efficient that the A5. So I go back on my previous, unpublished prediction that the iPad 3 won’t have a Retina display, even though I’m struggling with the idea of a mobile processor running a display of that resolution. 

But what about LTE? In my previous post I wrote that LTE will be present in the iPad 3 and it made sense given that all three of Apple’s carrier partners now have LTE networks. But will Apple be able to run a high resolution display, a processor powerful enough to run it and an LTE radio, even with the bigger battery? I don’t see how. 

LTE is an extremely power hungry feature. Smartphones with LTE struggle to last even half a day. Tablets are a bit better off, but those tablets don’t have a power hungry display and processor to leech off the battery. 

Apple already has a major feature on its hands. The Retina display alone will be able to sell the iPad 3. (Heck, they can probably run the iPad 2 for another year and still have people lining up for it.) On top of that they will also be adding Siri, higher resolution rear camera for 1080p video, higher resolution front camera for FaceTime HD. They don’t need LTE to further distinguish it from the iPad 2, which by the way, will also be sold along side as an 8GB model for $399 and $529 (3G). 

So that’s basically my prediction for the iPad 3. Faster processor, bigger battery, Retina display (still not completely sure about this), Siri, new cameras, no LTE and an identical design to the iPad 2, which will be sold at a lower price. Let’s see how much of that turns out to be true. 

Opinion

Top Gear isn’t funny anymore

People watch Top Gear for two things, the cars and the humor. All automobile shows have cars in them. That’s expected of them. But Top Gear was the first to mix in a large dose of humor into the mixture, which is what makes the show so popular, even among those who usually aren’t much interested in cars. 

But the humor is fading, the gags are getting tired and the jokes aren’t funny any more. 

I personally am a huge car buff so I mainly watch the show for the road tests. The features are something I have always been less fond of but it was still something I could sit through. But in the latest episode, the feature where Clarkson and Hammond help a TV show film the stunt scenes, was cringeworthy. Throughout the whole thing I was just waiting for it to get over. Even the road test in that episode wasn’t particularly good, which is not surprising with Captain Slow at the wheel. The only redeeming aspect of the show was the Star In A Reasonable Price Car segment, with Ryan Reynolds as the guest, who was delightfully hilarious and somewhat made up for what the rest of the show lacked. 

But it’s not just this episode. The show has been going down in terms of the number of laughs per minute for quite a while now. Earlier I was a too much of a fan to see it but now it has become hard to ignore. The jokes aren’t funny and it is the same stuff that they have been doing for years. The scripted sequences are now far less believable than they used to be and even the studio banter lacks the old charm. The humor is now too forced and I’m surprised they haven’t added a laughter track, yet. 

I think it would be nice to bring the focus back to the cars, like in the first episode of the current season (18). Episodes like that are the reason why I watch the show because they show exotic cars driven to their limits on some terrific roads, something we don’t get to see often. That’s what I think Top Gear should be about. Not three old men talking about each other’s penis.