Nokia's new flagship Symbian handset packs a whopping 41-megapixel camera, which is larger than the shooters found on most advanced compact cameras. And now that we have our hands on a review model, we wanted to see how it fared against the iPhone 4S.

Since it would be impossible to evenly compare photos shot with the 808 PureView at full resolution (there are no other 41-megapixel camera phones), we chose an 8-megapixel resolution to match that of the iPhone 4S. Keep in mind, though, that the Nokia handset uses a "pixel overlay" technology in which seven pixels are combined to form one pixel in a photo. The company claims that this keeps "virtually all the detail, but filter(s) away visual noise from the image." For more on how the phone works, read Nokia's white paper (PDF).

Here's a sample shot of a photo wall at the Nokia office. The two cameras seem to perform equally well in terms of noise and white balance.

Click here to view the images at full resolution. Note that these are the original pictures that we obtained from the iPhone 4S and 808 PureView and were not compressed or edited in any way.

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Photo by: Jacqueline Seng/CNET Asia / Caption by:

A closer look at a 100 percent crop of the previous image -- this is where the Nokia handset really shines. You can see a lot more detail in the woman's hair and the building behind her.

Note also that the iPhone's image shows more noise. If you're a photography enthusiast, you probably aware of the iPhone 4S' 35mm focal length. The 808 PureView, on the other hand, gives 28mm in 4:3 mode (26mm in 16:9 aspect ratio), which gives it a wider field of view.

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Photo by: Jacqueline Seng/CNET Asia / Caption by:

In our standard outdoor macro test shot, the iPhone 4S photo had vibrant colors, contrast, and saturation. On the other hand, the 808 PureView photo seems to have more pronounced "bokeh" (the aesthetic quality of the blur), although the image is a bit darker.

Click here to view full-resolution images.

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Photo by: Jacqueline Seng/CNET Asia / Caption by:
Yet, on a 100 percent crop, the 808 PureView produces a sharper image, while the iPhone 4S introduces some noise.
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Photo by: Jacqueline Seng/CNET Asia / Caption by:

In a lowlight test with the snack machine at Nokia's office, the 808 PureView produced a sharper image. As also seen in the outdoor image, it tends to produce cooler tones.

On the other hand, the iPhone 4S produced an image with colors that are warmer.

Click here to view full-resolution images.

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Photo by: Jacqueline Seng/CNET Asia / Caption by:

Again, on a 100 percent crop, the 808 PureView produces a sharper image, while the iPhone 4S introduces some noise. The text on the packet is sharper, and the jagged lower portion appears more defined in the Nokia handset's image. Oh, those Cheezels snacks look pretty good right about now.

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Photo by: Jacqueline Seng/CNET Asia / Caption by:

In this last shot, the 808 PureView's image is somewhat underexposed, though it handles the contrast between light and dark areas better.

When shooting in difficult light, remember that each handset brings different features to the table. Unlike the iPhone 4S, the 808 PureView lacks a High Dynamic Range (HDR) mode, but it does have a bracketing mode, a feature found in most dSLRs. You can take a maximum of five images at up to +/-2 stops, then process them into HDR photos using additional software. If you prefer a strict HDR mode, however, check out the HTC One X. It performed well in our camera shootout against the iPhone 4S.

We'll be spending more time with the Nokia handset and taking more photos, so do look out for a full review soon.

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Photo by: Jacqueline Seng/CNET Asia / Caption by:
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