Slapping a Fancy Name on Nokia's New Smartphone Cameras Won't Make Them Good

Image: Getty
Image: Getty

Nokia’s smartphones have long been known for having great cameras. Classic devices like the N95 (2007), 808 PureView (2012), or Lumia 1020 (2013) all had industry-leading camera tech on board. But will Nokia’s upcoming Android smartphones be just as great now that HMD Global is manufacturing them?

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This week, HMD Global announced a partnership with Zeiss Camera that “aims to set new imaging standards within the smartphone industry.” The partnership will cover several facets of the camera experience on Nokia devices, including software, screen quality, and optics. Although this seems promising, because previous Nokia phones were equipped with Zeiss lenses, it’s important to recognize this as more marketing than substance.

No matter how reputable Nokia and Zeiss’ names are, sometimes branding does nothing to improve the actual performance of a smartphone’s camera. We saw this recently when Leica-branded cameras on the Huawei P9 turned out to be OEM garbage.

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Camera components are obviously really important to smartphone cameras, but a brand name isn’t what makes them good. What made Nokia’s old models so good was that they used the company’s own image sampling technologies, which gave the devices a competitive edge in the oversaturated smartphone market. Meanwhile the iPhone and Samsung’s Galaxy S8 currently lead the pack on smartphone camera tech with no fancy camera branding at all.

HMD Global’s new smartphones might have the Nokia branding and the Zeiss lenses, but importantly, they lack the software DNA that made Nokia smartphones good phone cameras. It’ll be interesting to see what the smartphones specifics are once HMD decides to reveal more information on the new Nokia line.

So far there’s only been a leaked video of possibly the rumored Nokia 9 with dual rear cameras, but it doesn’t have Zeiss logo on the back. The new partnership might help HMD upgrade the model prior to launch.

[HMD Global]

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DISCUSSION

lollercoaster1
lollercoaster

The smartphone camera arms race is over. They’ve gotten to the point where innovation in the space has such marginal quality improvements that most people just don’t care.

The fact is you can get a mediocre smartphone that takes pretty stunning pictures nowadays. Name dropping and number whoring are no longer exciting, because barring some massive upheaval, no one’s going to be able to tell the difference.