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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  • UltraTech79 - Saturday, April 7, 2012 - link

    Also, no most people do NOT like the design, else they would be buying these and not Droids/iPhones by the truckload. Reply
  • jmcb - Tuesday, April 10, 2012 - link

    To me battery life on WP7 has never been as great as many claim since WP7 launched. I usually reference this site for results, debates.

    Battery life is part of my deal breakers for any phone.
    Reply
  • gamoniac - Tuesday, April 3, 2012 - link

    [quoteThe article: ]...the only major gripes I have with Nokia Drive are that the application arguably should change between night and daytime map colors automatically...[/quote]

    I checked out this feature at the store, I think WP7 should let you decide whether to let the map color or to set it to manual mode. Some people might find the daylight map easier to read during the night.
    Reply
  • vision33r - Tuesday, April 3, 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.

    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.

    This is a refreshing device, hopefully people will not care about the specs and embrace efficiency and good hardware and software designs.
    Reply
  • gamoniac - Tuesday, April 3, 2012 - link

    I totally agree. I am held back from jumping on a WP7 for two reasons: WP8 is coming and a dual-core WP would be great.

    I respect AnandTech's spirit of journalism that makes it stand out among review sites. At the same time, I wonder if there is a fair way to rate the phone based on total user experience, in a somewhat quantifiable way, as opposed to core count or a simple opinion. Perhaps a weighted score of each of the categories, although that could still be subjective. Perhaps a short video review? Maybe some AT readers have some brilliant ideas to share.
    Reply
  • davepermen - Wednesday, April 4, 2012 - link

    a total user experience rating?

    here it is:

    always smooth, always instant, never stuttering.

    why should I care about "faster hardware" if the phone is already perfoming at it's best possible speed?

    this rating is based on the lumia 800 i own.

    i've yet to find an android phone as smooth and fast as the lumia 800.

    i can't wait for apollo, out of the curiosity of what's all in there, and all those tiny features that a win8 kernel brings (WPS for Wifi connection, for example, proper windows updates, etc).

    but at no point i wait for apollo to "get a fast phone". because i already have that.
    Reply
  • french toast - Wednesday, April 4, 2012 - link

    Yes good point..its efficient and fast..but too be honst Meego and even Symbian is even faster still..running on even worse hardware than this....

    The point is smoothness and efficiency is great...brilliant, but what about things like batterylife? HD displays? powerfull apps and GAMES?? 1080p video recording and editing?? True multitasking?? its not all just about sending a few emails, checking facebook, and floating around in the opererating system...on android and ios you can do soo much more than that...the apps are much better..and the games are just not possible at smooth frame rates on that crappy Snapdragon.

    About the efficiency...you realise that now ICSv 4 has been released and Tegra 3/Snapdragon S4 have been loaded...that lag is a non issue anymore??

    Even with giant HD display...and the resource hungry Sense overlay..a mobile phone has NEVER looked so good and been so slick..WHILST DOING COMPLICATED THINGS (thats the kicker that seperates a SMARTPHONE from FEATURE PHONE)

    For the record im not anti Nokia or anti microsoft..im a fan of both..and will be buying WP8...this is actually the first WP7 device that i would own...as Anand says, considering the 1 year to get this from design to market..and considering the crap components Nokia has to work with..this Nokia 900 is a revelation..Can't wait till Q4 ;)

    For a comparison..this is what a modern Android SMARTPHONE is comapred to the best WP7 has to offer;
    HTC ONE X REVIEW PT1;
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gotEbvgu9ms
    PT2
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p4LQXtV5z0Q&fea...

    Note, that despite hulking around a massive 4.7 HD screen, a quad core tEGRA 3 processor 1gb ram..and the same size battery..the ONE X likely gets much better batterylife than this Lumia 900...(after the OTA firmware update, early reviews had average battery because of this)
    Reply
  • gamoniac - Wednesday, April 4, 2012 - link

    Those are great review videos. Thanks for the links. HTC One X is quite an impressive piece of device, I must say. As an android user who is not so happy, I can see that ICS has improved quite a bit. Reply
  • leexgx - Friday, April 6, 2012 - link

    still the hardware requirement to make it smooth is very bad for android, Tegra 3 + android = smooth , any thing els is hit or miss

    every thing on windows 7 phones are GPU driven so no lag due to that and the basic hardware is set quite high (but users thing its low not sure what Dual core win7phones will do), compared to android where any thing goes so you end up with lackluster phones when they should not be even when they are dual core or higher as most apps are not GPU driven they can stall and make the phone laggy (Slow NAND as well i see a lot on android as well)

    when my phone contract runs out i most likely get an windows phone as i need the calendar cant use the one quickly on android (i have always used an windows Mobile device before, i broke the screen on my last one and ended up with an 8520 as an test then 9870 as i got used and liked it, but i do prefer windows phones)
    Reply
  • sonicmerlin - Saturday, April 7, 2012 - link

    HTC One X doesn't get better battery life. You missed the line where Brian states subjectively the battery life of the Lumia 900 is much better than the tests suggest.

    One of the aggravations of Android is that standby drains huge amounts of battery. Leaving radios on, having widgets running in the background, keeping data and background sync on, etc. drain your battery like a fiend even while your phone is on standby.

    WP7 and iOS don't suffer from these issues (iOS fixed them in firmware 5.1, Nokia fixed them after 5 firmware updates to the Lumia 800), and over the course of a day will last you much, much longer than any Android phone.
    Reply

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