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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  • sonicmerlin - Saturday, April 07, 2012 - link

    Also even on the S4 Android isn't smooth. Look at how much of a delay occurs between when you swipe your finger and the screen finally responds with movement. There's really just no comparison to a proper OS that prioritizes the UI thread. Reply
  • crispbp04 - Wednesday, April 04, 2012 - link

    I have the HTC titan and I use it all day every day. It's always fast, always smooth, always fun to use, and if I forget to plug it in at night I can still use it the entire next day. Android made me want to punch myself in the face after it turned to junk after 2 weeks. I was flashing a new rom on it every other day and spending hours customizing it.... now I get to spend that time actually ENJOYING my phone.

    I have never once said "I wish my phone was faster". I've never felt like my phone needed a dual core because WP7 has an awesome staff of engineers making sure the user experience is the #1 focus.

    I am getting the Lumia 900 because it has LTE and is one sexy ass phone. I'm waiting for the white one to launch though because it is absolutely gorgeous. I am going to whore out my Titan to my friends who have been dying to try out the WP ever since I got it.
    Reply
  • Beerfloat - Wednesday, April 04, 2012 - link

    The experiences you claim seem highly exaggerated at best. Is this a genuine post or more astroturf?

    http://www.moneylife.in/article/nokia-lumia-800-wh...
    Reply
  • crispbp04 - Tuesday, April 10, 2012 - link

    I can demo my phone to you if it'll make you feel better. Want me to make a youtube video for you? I have the following devices:

    1) HTC HD2 running windows phone mango
    2) Samsung focus
    3) HTC Titan
    4) Blackberry Bold (work phone)

    I went to the AT&T store and did NOT purchase the lumia only because the Ttitan II was so much better than I expected. Now I am waiting until the white lumia comes out to see if it sways me back to the lumia, otherwise I'm getting the Titan II
    Reply
  • bplewis24 - Tuesday, April 03, 2012 - link

    @ vision

    You either don't know what you're doing or have no idea what you're talking about. You should probably stop posting FUD and flat out lies.
    Reply
  • Iketh - Tuesday, April 03, 2012 - link

    I have both an Android (wife uses it) and WP device, and Android absolutely sucks. It's getting replaced as soon as AT&T allows it.

    Vision is 100% accurate.
    Reply
  • jmcb - Tuesday, April 10, 2012 - link

    The problem with vision's post is he said every Android phone he's used. Well...... every Android phone he's used does not equal all Android phones.

    I can tell you that Android doesnt absolutely suck...thats just your opinion. WP7 might be smoother, has less lag than most Android phones....but that doesnt make up the entire user experience.

    Kids mother has a Nexus S and an iPhone 4. She likes her iPhone 4 more cuz she says the Nexus S sticks, gets stuck too much. I assume she means lag. After using both....I would go with the Nexus S. Based on my wants n needs.

    One thing we gotta remember is everybody doesnt have the same wants n needs. If that was the case...we would all have iPhones now. I'm talking about before Android even came out.... we would all have iPhones.
    Reply
  • sprockkets - Wednesday, April 04, 2012 - link

    "Well, in general if Android doesn't suck so much none of us really need a quad-core phone. Clearly WP is much more efficient platform than Android today so a single-core phone can be this solid and for most people this translates to feeling faster than most Android phones that lags when apps are running and sans performance."

    It's called the GUI is GPU accelerated. Already solved in ICS. It was sorely needed, yes. But I'm willing to bet people will still harp about this even with the HTC One series and new Samsungs come out.

    "Nearly every Android device I've used today needs manual management in order to run smoothly. Letting a single widget or app sitting background too long, battery life and performance suffers. Android's entire ecosystem is to blame for faulty app coding to OS builds rigged with bloatware."

    Sorry to hear that one widget is killing your phone. I have 3 of them and I'm on to day 3 of my battery life with 3G and Wifi on with sync.

    "Bloatware" is also no longer an issue either with ICS.

    Hey, whatever floats your boat, go with it. I personally cannot tolerate the GUI on WP7 past 2 minutes.
    Reply
  • eddman - Wednesday, April 04, 2012 - link

    "It's called the GUI is GPU accelerated. Already solved in ICS."

    Actually it was/is not just that. It's an underlying OS issue.

    http://www.inspiredgeek.com/2011/12/07/why-android...

    For a fair comparison, flash ICS on a 1 GHz single-core (preferably snapdragon) android phone with 512 MB memory and then compare to a 1 GHz WP.
    Reply
  • Exodite - Wednesday, April 04, 2012 - link

    You don't need ICS for Android to compare well in such a situation, you just need a device that has had at least moderate optimizations towards the actual hardware.

    Ie. probably not a LG device, or one mangled too much by the carrier.
    Reply

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