Camera Analysis

Camera quality has almost always been Nokia’s strongest suite, and the Lumia 900 isn’t an exception. The device builds on the Lumia 800 by including the same 8 MP rear facing camera module with 28mm effective focal length (in 35mm ‘units’), F/2.2 aperture, Carl Zeiss branding, and built around a 5 plastic element optical system. Like a number of other new Nokia phones, the Lumia 900 also includes a 4:3 and 16:9 option with unique horizontal field of views for both. Switch into the 16:9 mode and you get a wider field of view which uses the full horizontal extent of the sensor at 7 MP (resolution), or use 4:3 mode at 8 MP (resolution) and use the full height of the sensor. For example, I've uploaded a photo of the same scene taken in roughly the same position with both 7MP (16:9) and 8MP (4:3) for your perusal.

Where the Lumia 900 builds on the Lumia 800 is inclusion of a 1280x720 (1 MP) front facing camera for video calling.

Like other Windows Phones with front facing cameras, the primary camera application can switch between the front and rear camera for shooting photos and videos, but on the front facing camera settings go away. The rear facing camera still includes all the settings options that I’ve seen on previous Lumias - recall that this is one of the Windows Phone menus that does change between vendors depending on their camera emphasis.

To tackle image quality, we've turned to our standard image testing suite which consists of photographs taken at five locations in our test bench (3-7), our lightbox tests with the lights on, and lights off, and photos of an ISO12233 chart, a GMB color checker card, and finally a distortion chart. I've also taken miscellaneous photos during my limited time with the Lumia 900 which I've put in a gallery below. 

The Lumia 900 ends up performing very close to the 800 (unsurprisingly) and has great optical quality. In the distortion chart there's limited distortion, and in the test bench photos things end up nice and sharp pretty much everywhere. It goes without saying that obviously Nokia continues to have a dominant position in the smartphone camera space, even when it isn't building phones around the camera like with the N8 or PureVision 808.

Where the Lumia 900 does seem to struggle is white balance, as pretty much all the Lumias have weird color rendering in the lightbox test with lights on, creating a strange washed out cast. I would wager that this is more an outcome of the older ISP onboard MSM8x55/APQ8055 than anything else, and it's entirely possible that things will get better in later updates as Nokia continues to mess around with the sliders on Qualcomm's ISP. In addition, the preview image sometimes contains the colored center dot chromatic aberration we've seen on other phones, though the lens shading ISP does seem to fix it when you look at the actual captured images. As an aside, this is really another area where eventually moving to dual core SoCs will make a difference - the successors to 8x55 have better ISP. 

Video quality on the Lumia 900 is very good. Video on the rear camera is encoded at 14 Mbps 1280x720 at 30 FPS in H.264 baseline with CABAC and 1 reference frame, as opposed to the CAVLC I’ve seen on a number of other devices. This is also a pretty high bitrate for 720p, and the result is subjectively very good quality. Note that none of the Windows Phones can record 1080p yet due to the devices all using single core Snapdragons whose encoder only can handle H.264 at 720p or below. Eventually we’ll see 1080p as Windows Phone adopts dual core SoCs with the rumored Apollo update which include 1080p encoders that will even encode high profile video. Audio on the rear camera is stereo AAC at 86 kbps with 48 kHz sampling, it’s good to see the Lumia 900 doing stereo audio using those two microphones onboard.

Front facing video is 1.5 Mbps VGA at 30FPS with the same audio quality. One thing I did notice about the front facing video is that it doesn’t seem to obey the rotation or orientation. Even if the camera UI is rotated properly, video shot on the front facing camera is always portrait orientation (480 x 640). This is pretty annoying but probably just a bug.

I’ve done the usual thing and uploaded samples straight from the device to YouTube, and made them available for download if you want to look at quality without YouTube’s transcode.

720p Rear Camera Video

 

VGA Front Camera Video

 

Again, the Lumia 900 video looks good even if it’s just 720p thanks to a generous bitrate, and inclusion of stereo audio is also a plus. Eventually Windows Phones will do 1080p30 video encodes, but that’s something which will come with even better SoCs.

Performance Analysis Display Analysis
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  • name99 - Wednesday, April 04, 2012 - link

    "However the labeling here is actually hilarious - AT&T’s WCDMA “4G” marketing carries over to the Lumia 900, so selecting “3G” from the drop down will score you a “4G” indicator in the status bar. Likewise selecting “4G” from the drop down gets you “LTE” in the status bar. Finally, a concrete example of where AT&T’s re-branding marketing has resulted in an actual namespace collision!"

    We have been through this a dozen times, Brian. You are just being immature if you keep pushing this point even after the relevant engineering issues have been explained to you many times.
    If there is a name space collision here, it is because Nokia or MS are too stupid to understand that LTE is not the same thing as 4G, not because of an ATT fault.

    ATT are major league dicks --- there's plenty about them to complain about honestly, without complaining about stupid non-issues.
    Reply
  • Impulses - Thursday, April 05, 2012 - link

    Seems like a valid complaint to me, at least from the point of view of the average consumer, regardless of whose fault it is. If AT&T can influence even Apple to change their connection indicators, surely they could force something less confusing here. It's not a coven to me, but the average consumer barely knows or cares what LTE & HSPA+ are, if they did the iPhone wouldn't be selling very well right now. Reply
  • leexgx - Friday, April 06, 2012 - link

    MS naming (nice that they let you set the speeds 2g 3g and 4g speeds to bad you cant just force it to stay on one but that be asking to much)
    3g/H/H+ as 3g (WCDMA / UMTS / HSDPA / HSPA) and 4g as 4g (LTE or LTE-ADV) as it should be seems right to me (miss selling 4g when its not 4g is bad in the USA, hope Three in the UK do not start miss selling quite sure they Not be allowed to)

    2g best signal and power bat life
    3g lower bat life and calls and text may some times not work
    4g more power drain less bat life (depends if its been used as LTE should have way better power use then 3g+ spec)
    Reply
  • DarkUltra - Wednesday, April 04, 2012 - link

    I think you should dig some more into WP7. I would not have bought a Lumia 800 if I knew about these:

    - Deleting gmail mail archives mail instead of deleting it
    - Read, delete and move email operations is not pushed or synced immediately. Kinda disruptive and unnerving when you sit down in front of the computer and have to do it all over again
    - international characters turn into æøå after a reply from a gmail account ruining the threading (could be issue with gmail but worked fine on my first gen iphone)
    - no text wrap in ie9 so text on certain websites like anandtech and techreport is redicously small in portrait mode and uncomfortably small in landscape mode.
    - no Find on Page
    - no copy and paste in calendar
    - no every other week timing in calendar
    - no Other and custom phone numbers support in contacts
    - If you set your locale to something like Norway, you get SV: and vs: instead of the regular Re: and Fwd: email subject abbrevations. After a bit back and fourth with people abroad the subject line ends up like this:
    Re: SV: Re: SV: Re: SV: Smörgardsbord på Lørdag
    - no native PDF support, must use a slow and unresponsive 3rd party reader that lack zoom to picture/paragraph and search
    - Other and custom phone numbers in contacts
    Many phone numbers from Outlook and Google doesn't show up

    Othervise I really love this phone and its live tiles.
    Reply
  • Klimax - Friday, April 06, 2012 - link

    Corrections:
    "Deleting gmail mail archives mail instead of deleting it"
    Setting in gmail.

    "Read, delete and move email operations is not pushed or synced immediately. Kinda disruptive and unnerving when you sit down in front of the computer and have to do it all over again"
    Again, setting in gmail.
    Reply
  • Impulses - Thursday, April 05, 2012 - link

    "I don't know that there's still a lot of iPhone/Windows Phone cross shopping, but a trend towards even cheaper on-contract prices for high-end smartphones is absolutely welcome."

    I agree with the latter statement... But as far as consumer choice, I think there might be more iPhone/WP cross shopping than iPhone/Android or even WP/Android. MS seems to be straddling this line between Apple's platform approach and Google's, and right now I think they're leaning slightly towards the former.

    I think it's great for the market overall, and it's probably a winning strategy in the long run (something MS knows all about)... But right now I think Google's got more of the bargain/value market and the spec/geek market while Apple's carved itself a big chunk in between from average consumers looking to spend more but not necessarily focused on specs or sheer capability.

    I'm definitely excited to see where WP & Nokia go next, despite being heavily invested in Android... Nokia needs MS more than MS needs Nokia tho, and WP isn't gonna budge from 3rd place if Nokia is the only OEM producing flagship type devices. Could be worse tho, they could be RIM!
    Reply
  • PeteH - Thursday, April 05, 2012 - link

    You make some good points, but I disagree that the MS approach is necessarily a winning strategy. If this was April 2010 when the smartphone market wasn't so mature I would completely agree that Windows stands an excellent chance of becoming (along with iOS/Android) a third dominant mobile platform. Unfortunately for MS it's April 2012, and it may be too late for Windows to be anything other than a niche player.

    I think the key question is can MS attract developers so that a strong stable of quality Apps can be built up rapidly. If they can it will greatly increase their chance of success.
    Reply
  • Impulses - Thursday, April 05, 2012 - link

    Meh, there's a lot of race still left to run imo, the smartphone market may be maturing rapidly but it's still in it's infancy... It's like in the stage the PC market was in the 80s imo. Reply

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