DPReview reviews the Nokia Lumia 920 camera

DPReview has taken a look at the Pureview camera of the Nokia Lumia 920, and generally liked what they saw.

They had some criticism however, finding the camera button a bit stiff to avoid shake induced by pressing the button, and also did not like that focus was not locked during a half-press of the button.

They also did not like that exposure metering was for the whole scene rather than the area being focussed on.

They also complained that the camera menus were somewhat clunky, for example offering video camera settings when in Photo mode and that the settings were in a normal app menu, rather than the more traditional on-screen buttons as found in other camera and camera phone interfaces.

They also lamented the absence of HDR modes and Face detection, though noting these are available in lenses apps, but with less control over the camera.

They were happy that the camera sensor was a real multi-aspect ratio sensor, offering fewer vertical and more horizontal pixels than in 4:3 mode, giving you a genuinely wider field of view, which they note feels almost panoramic.

The tested the camera after the Portico update, and noted that while the pictures were sharper, they were now also noisier.  They were better but still not brilliant. They did however find the colour rendering and exposure acceptable. They were happy enough with the dual-LED flash, saying it was capable enough for casual portraits.

They concluded that while daylight pictures remained merely average, the phone camera really came into its own in low light.

They say:

…the 920 routinely delivering sharp images at 1/3rd of a second shutter speeds. You can see the OIS in action before you take a picture: the system kicks in when you half-press the shutter, and the preview image immediately snaps into a spooky steadiness, floating ghostly and immune to the usual micro-movements of your muscles.

The urge when given OIS is to push it to the extreme, and we did. The system hugely increases the number of sharp shots you’ll get at very slow, sub-1/10th of a second shutter speeds. That means you can afford to lower ISO for cleaner images, or in very low light, just get photographs that would be otherwise impossible to capture.

Here we’ve set ISO to 200, forcing the 920 to use a slow shutter speed of 1/3rd of a second. The result is as tack sharp as sensor noise allows. The 920’s image stabilization massively increases the number of useable shots you can get at such slow shutter speeds.

They found video quality is good, saying “the 920’s optical image stabilization provides an unusually steady image that’s familiar in dedicated cameras but a novel luxury on a phone.”

They concluded:

The Nokia Lumia 920 sports a very capable camera. Thanks to its optical image stabilization, it can capture clear images at low shutter speeds that would elude any other phone on the market. This makes it an ace at low-light photography of stationary objects, and partially addresses the Achilles heel of every phone camera on the market except Nokia’s own 808: poor low light performance. OIS also helps with borderline shutter speeds that non-stabilized phones routinely use anyway. While they simply hope for the best, the 920 stands an excellent chance of delivering a sharp image.

The multi-aspect-ratio sensor combined with a wide angle lens also gives the 920 a uniquely broad view of the world that will tickle anyone who feels stymied by their phone’s boxy, narrow outlook.

Unfortunately, the 920’s daylight performance is only OK. There’s at least as much noise as much of the competition, if not more. So much engineering has clearly gone into the 920’s camera unit that we’d hope for class-leading sensor performance, but it seems to be middle of the pack. The good news is that with 7 or 8 megapixels to play with, a lot of the sins visible at 100% disappear at more realistic magnifications.

The 920 is a solid offering, especially at $99 on contract from AT&T in the U.S. Nokia’s innovation around the camera takes mobile photography into new levels of darkness, but don’t expect miracles from the phone’s typically-performing sensor.

Read their full review here.

Thanks Darren for the tip.