Nokia Lumia 920 Pureview Camera: bad ads or bad camera? New evidence suggests the former.

The Nokia Lumia 920 Windows Phone's Pureview Camera turned a lot of heads this week with it's very impressive low light and stabilizing features. The demo video and still images gave hope that a "knock your socks off" camera was heading to the Lumia Windows Phone line. But the video and still images have been dissected more than a High School science project with accusations that Nokia faked it all and the camera isn't as grand as Nokia would like us to think. But is this a case of bad advertising or a bad camera?

We think it's two separate issues and too many nay sayes are trying to mesh them together to make the Lumia 920 look bad. We believe this because the specs on paper lead credence to the camera's touted performance and most importantly because we've seen the camera perform up close and personal.

We believe the Pureview Camera will be a solid performer based on two things, specification and personal observations. On paper the Lumia 920's Pureview Camera has a 8.7mp camera that is fitted with a 28mm f2.0 lens. The sensor is a BSI sensor that has the wiring behind the receptors to allow for more light to hit the sensor. The optical housing is stabilized by a series of springs that allows for more stable operation when using slower shutter speeds. Having used similar technology on other devices and based on my experience as a photographer, all these elements combined gives the Pureview Camera the potential to be a better low light performer than other smartphone cameras.

There is always a chance that what is on paper doesn't translate as successful in real life. There is always a possibility that the Pureview Camera could fall flat on it's front element but we've seen it up close and personal in action and the performance quality is there.

New image samples from the Verge shows the 920 still out-performing the competition

To further bolster the low light performance of the Lumia 920, an old friend who used to haunt these parts was given the opportunity to take the Lumia 920 out for a nighttime test drive. Dieter Bohn from over at The Verge compared the Lumia 920 to the Samsung Galaxy S III, Apple iPhone 4S, the HTC One X and the Lumia 900. Dieter's conclusion,

"The Lumia 920 takes very good low-light images, the OIS compensates for enough hand shake to take in light to create a photo in situations where you'd expect none are possible. In near darkness, we will say that it took a relatively steady hand to get a shot without camera shake — but that's a very small complaint. While we were getting blur on the 920, we were getting vastly darker and grainier images on the rest."

I had to raise an eyebrow when Nokia apologized and admitted the footage was a simulation of what the Pureview Camera could do. Based on all that I know, I discounted the critics and felt the videos and stills were legitimate. The performance and quality results made sense. Then I remembered that most advertisements are simulations to grab your attention and it's not that uncommon.

From "Bounty being the quicker picker upper" to car ads that show mini-vans conducting high speed maneuvers. They are all simulations of performance with one exception. Most of these ads will have fine print disclaimers letting everyone know what they are watching is a simulation. Not having such clarification doesn't help Nokia and the footage and photos should never have been shown without such a disclaimer.

But that omission should reflect poorly on the ad agency, not the camera. Due to our competitive nature we try to associate one poor decision as an indictment on the whole.

Consider this, this isn't Nokia's first ad blunder. Remember the Beta Test ad campaign? Where Nokia boasted that they had finally gotten the smartphone right? Then a few days later the data connectivity issues surfaced on the Lumia 900 and it was obvious that Nokia didn't get it right. Nokia jumped on the issue, fixed the problem and while the ad campaign didn't make Nokia look good, the Lumia 900 is still a quality Windows Phone. We think the same will hold true on the Pureview Camera.

With the Lumia 920's Pureview Camera we know that it has the potential based on the specifications and we have a two reliable sources who have witnessed it's performance. That's enough for me to cut Nokia some slack for a bad ad decision and still believe that we'll see a fantastic camera on the Lumia 920.


Video footage and photo sample via The Verge (opens in new tab)

George is the Reviews Editor at Windows Central, concentrating on Windows 10 PC and Mobile apps. He's been a supporter of the platform since the days of Windows CE and uses his current Windows 10 Mobile phone daily to keep up with life and enjoy a game during down time.

  • Wow that photo is amazing. Low light and it looks like it was taken during the daytime
  • Indeed it's powerful, and the battery seems good too and it may finally lets us spend the whole day without charging it I hope :D I can't wait to have my hands on the Lumia 920
  • Not that charging will be a chore. Right now I'm sitting at about an 85% mindset of this will be my next phone and if that's the case by keeping a couple of conductive charge options sitting around where I tend to sit around I may rarely see less than half juice in my battery.
  • Impressive low-light yes. Hardly impressive though if all low-light photos turns into unnatural "daylight" photos. I hope it takes accurate light readings and expose right without the need to fiddle with settings to get a "true photo".
  • Those photos are amazing, but I think its a little unfair that they didnt include the photos of other cameras when they was set to 'night mode' which makes it a more even fight, which the 920 still won.
  • I wonder if the same person that thought up those beta commercials was involved in these ads?
    Seems to be an issue in marketing for Nokia and sadly, it is their fault if they stumble out of the blocks. 
    People can reference iPhone's siri about lying in ads and all taht stuff, but Apple has a market share, Nokia/windows phone doesn't. 
    I am sure the camera will perform well, i just hope whatever marketing strategy they implement during the release will not focus on what their competitors do bad, but focus on what they do good.  Those potshot ads about other phones will not work for Nokia, true demosntration of what their product/phone can do is the only way they can create buzz about their product. 
    Simple, no more stupid, "funny", humerous ads, more focus on the product itself!  Please!
  • Damn Nokia. Never use the 3rd party who filmed those marketing videos, never.
  • I think those videos would have been perfectly fine in the US if Nokia had just placed the word "simulated" in light text on the video. They're trying to explain the concept of OIS to the general public and you have to do it in a way that is extremely clear and appealing. By not indicating the OIS was simulated they created an ethical problem.  
  • I'm impressed. Also - good for theverge to give the Lumia920 a real test and good reaction on Nokia's side.    
    Badly done by the advertising agency, though. ... I'm asking myself ... aren't the ads getting a last review - a user acceptance test by the customer which in this case is Nokia - before going public?
  • "I'm asking myself ... aren't the ads getting a last review - a user acceptance test by the customer which in this case is Nokia - before going public?"
    That's why this is so dumb. It's one thing to say the ads are wrong, shouldn't have been done. It's another to say the camera does not live up to the hype. Ultimately, this will be in people's hands in six weeks. It will be OBVIOUS if Nokia was fibbing. This ain't moon-landing conspiracy stuff where you have to "prove" something that we can't really prove... Part valid criticism with a huge heaping of internet drama.
  • Only six weeks? What do you know you aren't telling? ;)
  • Interesting only six weeks :D
  • Don't read too much in that...but if it's Nov 2nd that's like 4 weeks in October, 3 weeks for September but my bet is some of us will get review units a week early.
  • I am going to get mine earlier because I will win the FB contest!!! (Hopeful)
  • Plus 1 week to get to November. ;) But, yeah, I expect press to get their pre-general release devices a little early.
  • Except November 2nd falls on a Friday on the last week of October so you really don't need to add a week for November. Daniel's math is correct based on the rumored November 2nd release.
  • Yeah but with big bad Apple in the midst you want all the help you can get!
  • Nokia probably does check the ads. But how many people noticed the alternate camera in the bicycle ad before it was pointed out? I sure didn't. And had Nokia slapped a "simulation" disclaimer in the video, you know the critics would have nailed them for that. It was a lose-lose situation no matter how you slice it, because an actual 920 wasn't used to make the video.
  • I disagree. A disclaimer would've saved Nokia from having to apologize for anything.
  • Okay, so how is Nokia's simulation different than any other recorded demo or ad that features an interface, video footage, or pic?  For goodness sake, an iPad demo video showed Flash working on the New York Times web site.
  • I agree with you but Nokia can't aford these types of mistakes. Apple can get away with it a bit for sure.
  • Like all thos obviously photoshopped high res images they use to show off the Retina Display on the 4S and iPad. Those photos make the screen look way better than it is. Take a photo with the device and look at it on the screen and not so hot.
  • hopefully the controversy translates into buzz
  • No such thing as "bad publicity"?
  • I really hate that Nokia's agency did this. They should have known the Tech-savvy would ahve reviewed the video intensely. Any leaked photo of a device gets the same CSI treatment. A disclaimer at the bottom of the screen is all that was needed. If this was a reintroduction to the market it was shotty. The other presentations didn't work that well. One guy even said he was being saved by Elop when was done. In this market presentation is so key and this could be much more significant then folks may want to admit. 
    Let's see what are people walking away with in their minds: Sexy Hardware - nice colors. Where's Cyan? How much is it? What carriers? The video was a fake? If you're gonna play with the big boys and girls please bring your A-game or sit this round out.  A polished presenatation and ending it with "Oh and they're going on sale in a week" would have been absolute gold. I understand the logistical issues but marketing has been terrible throughout this entire effort.
    BTW, love, love Windows Phone but this just frustrates me to see this platform and the excellent devices suffer becuase of stuff like this.
  • At least during Nokia's presser had a few "wow" moments.  I mean, it's not like they pulled a complete Motorola or something....
  • It's been a bit since I've seen the video but did Nokia ever claim that said video was shot with the Lumia 920 or that it made use of of the PureView tech that will be found in the Lumia 920?
  • Exactly, I never recall this being said and it was a teaser video so they were just teasing the feature.
  • Something tells me that Apple will have a good laugh at this next week during their event.
  • They might, but it would be a very hypocritial laugh
  • Guarantee it. I mention this phone and 90% of the people with iPhones already say, "is that the phone that faked everything".
  • Wonder if they used a Tango'd Lumia 900. That was disheartening seeing it do the worst.
  • I have no doubt in my mind that the cameras can do what the ads show. ...which is why it sucks that they didn't use the cameras and avoid all this fiasco.
  • As a lot of others have already mentioned, this definitely appears to be a pretty big blunder on Nokia's part. Definitely have to agree with Wall Street on the knock down on stock price simply based on just execution alone. Nokia is in a fight for their lives and to me needs to fully execute with almost perfection in everything they do over the next 1-2 years to give themselves better opportunities to leverage the small market we have for WP. This was definitely a step in the wrong direction imho.
    I also think that from a marketing perspective they are not doing themselves any favors by only going with the 8.7MP camera because all the average consumer (dumb as it may be) is looking at is what's the MP on the camera, ohh the Lumia has 8 ok thats cool, ohh the new iPhone/Android phone has 12/16 well then it must be better!! Of course we know that's often not the case but when you are selling in stores what do you think catches the eye of the customer if you compare the two things together and "whats a pureview camera" does the average consumer even know?
    The 920 looks great, I have supported WP since it came to market end of 2010 and will continue to do so but I would not say that Nokia "Wow'd Me" with either the presentation or the actual phone specifications themselves either. I for one am waiting to see the iPhone5 specs before I make any kind of decision about the next phone I will be purchasing and dare I even say potentially considering making a change if apple knocks the ball out of the park with it......
  • Everything with the videos was fine up untill they showed it at the press event.
    They should have said:
    'The past few days we released a number of teaser videos to show you what new technology we were bringing to these devices. One of these is OIS and this video was shot to show the effects of OIS. Both videos you are about to see were shot with a professional camera to demonstrate the technology and is not intended to show the Lumia 920 in action.'
    Case closed, no issue here..
    And everyone would be talking about the awsomeness of the camera. The extracted stills from the other video would also have been a non issue then..
  • Agreed but those idiots would have still complained "oh! if the camera is that good why didn't they use it" Apple does the most deceptive commercials most of the time without disclaimers but hey it's 'HIS MAJESTY KING OF THE FRUITS' so they are allowed to get away with it. The situation now is like the crab and the scorpion. They are like brothers but one is hated so much and we are always quick to crucify him but the other is perceived to be cool so we can always take him home. This stupid injustice is about to change with windows 8.
  • They could easily turn this attention to their advantage by dupliucating the same teaser with a 920 and an "I told you so".
  • They didn't SAY that the Lumia 920 did the video, it wasn't needed. Look again, its obvious that we should think it was used, "Pureview", OIS, the camera view etc... If you see an car ad or something else, you know its been altered,
    because most ads have been. But this wasn't really an ordinary ad, it was a teaser, Nokia wanted to show of the new Pureview camera. Didn't we all took for granted that is actually was the 920 in the video? Even after the proofs of the fake, WP fanboys denied it was a fake until Nokia admitted. So who did the worst job? The ad agency which made the fake ad or Nokia for publishing it and hoping we didn't notice the fake? But yes, so far the camera looks really good. To bad the release was far froom good.
  • I don't care what they say
    .. Im still buying a lumia 920.
    .people forgot we are talking about a phone!!!!!
  • Good of Nokia to invite The Verge for a real demo to show off, and good of The Verge to publish the results. This reflects what I have been saying for two days... the camera is the real deal, and is going to be impressive. Curious they didn't get to test video stabilization saying "not ready".
  • Yeah but the gave a sorta back handed compliment regarding the images.  
  • Verge tactic - good, but...
  • Has anyone noticed that those s3 pictures  in night mode seem  almost same as the lumia 920?
  • Actually, the GS3 isn't even close.  It looks almost as good when both are scaled down to a small size on an website, but even then you can see the GS3 got a visible amount less exposure.  When you look at the full size images the 920 blows away the GS3 with Image Quality and exposure.
  • I'm glad they did the test, but now the gripe is that the images are blurry.   Nokia did create this and took away from what seems to be a great product by having getting caught with the fake ads.  Now what they must do is produce quality images and video showing the phone outperform the competition to put this to rest.  Even The Verge, while admitting it takes better low light pictures are still finding reasons to hate based on the slight blur and lack of OIS being ready on the prototype.  
  • If you have a look of the photo that ben Rudolph has posted then you see that the camera really has a blur issue
  • seems pretty unfair to say there is a "blur issue" over one photo you can point to.
  • bleh with outdoor night shots
    let's see some indoor low light shots. food shots under crappy restaurant lighting! hehehe
  • The easiest way for Nokia to put this behind them would be to just go out and film the same commercial again on a Lumia 920 and showing us the results.
    I remember Sony having a similar issue with the game Killzone 2 (or maybe 3) where originally they release a film of 'in game action' only to have to admit afterwards it wasn't actual in game footage but just an aspiration of what they wanted it to be.  They then released the same scene with proper in game footage when the game was ready and it was pretty much the same, if not slightly better, than the original stuff.
  • No matter what Nokia does, fanboys will hate. Mark my words... One more reason why I like the fact that most, if not all smartphones today are not aimed at fanboys/geeks or whatever you call them. They're aimed at normal people and normal people don't even know that the 920 exists. I have normal people living with me and they have no idea that the next Lumias have been announced
  • I for one can't believe Nokia is up to these Google level camera tricks again. The only part of my Nokia Lumia 900 I care less for is the camera. They pushed the Carl Zeiss lens, which I guess is cool but lame technology behind the camera and it simply came up short. PureView is all the rage from Nokia and again, its BS camera tricks. Its enough to push me into the direction of Samsung, who has ALWAYS had a great camera. Someone needs to talk some sense into Nokia. Quick.
  • O_o
  • The verge is android troll site
  • When they released the original stories about Nokia's lets say slight of hand, everyone was raving about how The Verge was against Nokia and MS and are always baised, I guess they are not just showing the facts /s
  • They blocked me)))
  • Who cares it was a commercial showing what is possible. Apple commercials NEVER ate the actual experience everything is rendered and ALL images are rendered and screen motion and camera examples are 100% fake. So when Nokia foes it it makes front page new. People are stupid iSheep. Get over with it. Lumia destroys iPhone in every category, deal with it and move on.
  • Nokia Lumia has a really goos camera and it will get enough market, despite Nokia was about to ruin it's market by giving fake ads.