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


View All Comments

  • Beerfloat - Thursday, April 05, 2012 - link

    Yup, I guess there's always a next best thing around the corner in the tech industry. Krait is pretty cool. But then, A15 bundled with a fast SGX or Mali GPU will be cooler still. Tegra 3 does have the benefit of the low power 5th core, plus, for right or for wrong, Nvidia always seems to bring the little extra member benefits. Reply
  • tipoo - Thursday, April 05, 2012 - link

    True, but the Krait version of the One X isn't that far away, compared to A15 and all that. The Krait One S is already shipping. And Nvidia's fifth core doesn't help it against Kraits battery life, look at the One S with Krait, it gets significantly higher life (to be fair, some will be the screen, but still). Tegra Zone optimizations apart, Krait is nearly uniformly better. Reply
  • jed22281 - Sunday, April 08, 2012 - link

    typical moronic response. Reply
  • ecuador - Wednesday, April 04, 2012 - link

    If more people got their hands on the N9's it would not be a dead OS. Even people with the latest iphones are amazed when they try out the N9, something I have never seen with, say, an Android phone.
    That's why I complain about tech sites not trying to give the N9 the chance that Nokia did not want it to have - it is (was?) by far the most promising mobile OS (not to mention the most open).
  • jed22281 - Sunday, April 08, 2012 - link

    Maemo6x (meego-harmattan) used by the N9 is far from being the most open.
    Tizen & WebOS are far more open, even Android is arguably....
    If it had been given time to evolve into real MeeGo* it would've been w/o question.
    There's MeeGo derivatives floating about still (MeR + Nemo/Plasma etc)
    But they're more underdeveloped than they would've been, had resources not been dropped hugely in the past 14mth.

    *which would've completed by July 12' at the latest w/the 1st x86 phone, after the 3rd Harmattan ph started reaching shelves.
  • jed22281 - Sunday, April 08, 2012 - link

    typical moronic response. Reply
  • Tujan - Wednesday, April 04, 2012 - link

    Excellent article about a cell phone from !

    With the exception of memory bandwidth this is certainly a great little computer radio phone.

    "Waiting is never easy" <- catchy. !
  • Origin32 - Wednesday, April 04, 2012 - link

    And of course half of the comments are about Android phones being slow. Yes, the UI is less smooth than iOS of WP. But I really don't care about that and I can't be the only one. In my humble opinion functionality is king, and whether my homescreen renders at 20fps or 60 doesn't really matter. Android has some great features that I am yet to see in iOS or WP. Having borrowed an iPhone for a couple hours I already found it to be incredibly constraining and the lack of a back or menu button annoyed the crap out of me. As for WP, I played around with a Lumia 800 for a while but all the sidescrolling in the homescreen and in apps was very confusing. It made the display feel too narrow.

    Plus, I bet you'll all be glad we have quadcore smartphones when they've become so fast you can ditch your laptop, but of course most of you never even considered that :)
  • valhar2000 - Wednesday, April 04, 2012 - link

    People around here keep talking about the superior feature set of Android. What are these features that other phone OSs don't have? Reply
  • Beerfloat - Wednesday, April 04, 2012 - link

    Well, HD screens for one. Grown up DPI-independent rendering for another. A choice of different form factor devices to suit various usage patterns and budgets. Multiple software stores, an enormous amount of apps, close integration with Google services (if so desired), wonderful customizability, the most straightforward interaction with other devices like PCs (it's just an USB disk drive, plus it talks CIFS).

    But oh well.

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