With Nokia's 41-megapixel smartphone camera, size matters

Just how much larger is the Nokia 808 PureView's camera? A lot.

Jessica Dolcourt Senior Director, Commerce & Content Operations
Jessica Dolcourt is a passionate content strategist and veteran leader of CNET coverage. As Senior Director of Commerce & Content Operations, she leads a number of teams, including Commerce, How-To and Performance Optimization. Her CNET career began in 2006, testing desktop and mobile software for Download.com and CNET, including the first iPhone and Android apps and operating systems. She continued to review, report on and write a wide range of commentary and analysis on all things phones, with an emphasis on iPhone and Samsung. Jessica was one of the first people in the world to test, review and report on foldable phones and 5G wireless speeds. Jessica began leading CNET's How-To section for tips and FAQs in 2019, guiding coverage of topics ranging from personal finance to phones and home. She holds an MA with Distinction from the University of Warwick (UK).
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Nokia 808 PureView sensor and module, compared
The optical sensor and camera module on the Nokia 808 PureView (far right) is magnitudes larger than that of a typical 8-megapixel camera (middle) and 5-megapixel sensor and module (left.) Jessica Dolcourt/CNET

I admit to having a certain fascination with the Nokia 808 PureView smartphone camera, which employs a much larger sensor than usual in order to take pictures up to 41 megapixels in size. Just how much larger that sensor is compared to the typical 5-megapixel and 8-megapixel smartphone sensors will impress you.

Yesterday I sat down with Juha Alakarhu, the head of camera technologies at Nokia for smart devices, who happens to be visiting the U.S. from Finland. After letting me tinker with the camera some more, he pulled out a felt-lined card studded with a trio of camera sensors and two camera modules, into which the sensors ultimately go.

The 8-megapixel sensor is larger than the 5-megapixel sensor, but not by much. The PureView's 41-megapixel sensor, however, dwarfs the other two. The two modules, by the way, match up to the 5- and 41-megapixel sensors.

Although Alakarhu didn't proffer an 8-megapixel camera module, my eyeballs estimated that you could fit at least eight 8-megapixel modules into the PureView's 41-megapixel camera module.

As much as the astounding megapixel count and lens size capture my attention, it's Nokia's philosophy behind the PureView camera that cements my admiration. Take a photo in the full-resolution mode (and your choice of two aspect ratios) and suddenly, zooming in and cropping a photo never looked so good. (CNET Editor Joshua Goldman explains why.)

And if you're wondering, I did indeed shoot the photo of the 808 PureView's camera parts using another PureView's full 41-megapixel resolution, then zoomed in and cropped to get what you see here. How's that for meta?

Watch this: Nokia 808 PureView