Happy with your phone's 8MP camera? Surely 41 of them would be preferable? Nokia thinks so, and is trying to prove the point with the 808 Pureview.

Nokia 808 PureView – big

In order to accommodate that sensor, the 808's shell takes on the look of a welder's mask. The Carl Zeiss lens and xenon flash bulge out to add significant millimetres to what is already a slightly embarassing girth. In your hand or your pocket, its sharp corners and rough edges emphasise those doorstop proportions.

Nokia 808 PureView – Symbian

Before we get into the camera, we feel obliged to make it clear that the 808 is running Symbian 3, not Windows Phone as featured on Nokia's latest flagships. More on that later...

Nokia 808 PureView – test shots

So, 41 megapixels is a lot, although you never actually get to use them all at once. Choosing a 4:3 ratio gives you a maximum of 38MP while 16:9 photos come in at 34MP. The main advantage of the higher resolution is the extra scope for cropping into your shots. Take a look at our test pictures below to see how far in you can get. The cropped sections are at 1:1 pixel ratio.

Nokia 808 PureView – zoom

Cropping like this is fine for close-ups, but don't expect to be pulling out distant objects from the horizon. There's no optical zoom, and because you're shooting through a wide-angle lens, closer objects take most of the pixels while distance subjects are pushed to the centre of the image.

However, the sensor allows the 808 to perform a digital zoom effect while maintaining respectable detail levels. In fact this is really just cropping into the image, but it's done in realtime as you frame your shot. The zoom range is roughly equivalent to a 3x optical zoom on a compact camera, but this increases when shooting video.

Nokia 808 PureView – video

In reality the zoom effect is easily beaten by any half-decent compact camera, but there's no denying the quality of the stills and hi-def video. Touch-to-focus is swift and can create some pleasing depth-of-field effects, especially with video. It's a shame there isn't better image stabilisation nor a 50/60fps mode for video, but otherwise it shoots excellent movies. The camera app itself could do with an overhaul. Outside of the Auto setting it's way too complex but you'll get the gist of it after a while.

Nokia 808 PureView – the OS

Elsewhere the 808 is less impressive. That Symbian 3 OS looks and feels very much like Android, and that's fine. You get sliding homescreens, widgets, icons for apps that you can drag and drop wherever you like, and there's even a pull-down notification menu. However, it often feels unfinished, sometimes refusing to respond as you'd expect, and has a sprinkling of minor glitches that stack up into a heap of irritation.

Nokia 808 – music and video

It's a shame the music player is tad buggy because it sounds ace. If you feed it the right video formats the 808 does a nice job of playing them back, but browsing can be sluggish and text rendering is slightly jaggy on what is now considered a low-res screen, bright and colourful as it is.

Symbian's app store covers the basics and includes some worthwhile games, but this is not the place to be for the latest and greatest apps.

Nokia 808 PureView – summary

So would you use the 808 in preference to a compact camera? That's very unlikely. Would you use the phone in preference to a similarly priced, or even much cheaper Android handset or an iPhone? Again, it's hard to imagine that scenario.

That makes the 808 PureView hard to recommend. We really quite like it, but as a curiosity. However, if Nokia puts that camera into something like the Lumia 900 we could be in business.

Stuff says... 

Nokia 808 PureView review

A remarkable camera bolted onto a remarkably old-fashioned phone