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Hands On with the Nokia 9 PureView

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Feb 26, 2019, 10:42 AM   by Rich Brome   @rbrome
updated Feb 26, 2019, 3:49 PM

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Nokia's new flagship phone has a crazy array of five cameras on the back, which use technology from Light to produce images with impressive quality and unique features. It's also a nice flagship phone in its own right, finally bringing the Nokia brand back to the high end of the market. What does it feel like to hold? What's it like to use the camera? We checked it out.

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The Nokia 9 PureView looks and feels lovely. Its metal-and-glass design feels great, if a bit large for me. It's surprisingly lightweight, but that doesn't take away from the premium feel at all. It feels luxurious and very well-made. The buttons work well. (Oddly, there's no Google Assistant button, as on Nokia's other new phones.)

(Light array angle)

The rear glass has a nice 3D curve to it that makes it comfy to hold, and — unusually — continues seamlessly over all five camera lenses. (The new LG phones this week also have this new lens-under-glass design.)

Nokia 9 PureView  

The fact that they're using an OLED display (unusual for Nokia), but without a notch, makes this phone taller than I'd like.

(Light array direct)

The bottom and middle cameras are full-color, while the other three are monochrome. The proprietary processing engine from Light uses all of the available processing power of the Snapdragon 845 processor to merge all five images seamlessly into one 12-megapixel standard image, or a larger RAW image. They boast about "240 megapixels", but that's if you count the depth data, not the actual pixels you could ever see in any one processed photo.

camera interface  

The camera interface is surprisingly simple. Most of the five-camera Light engine action is behind the scenes. There's an option to toggle whether it captures depth data or not. And if course bokeh mode, and a toggle in settings for whether to save RAW files (they're huge, so that's best left off for casual use.) There is an option to use both front and back cameras at the same time to capture a side-by-side or picture-in-picture shot.

Then when you go into Google Photos, there's an option to adjust the depth effect. But more importantly, the magical Light interface is integrated right into Google Photos, and it lets you simply tap any part of the photo to refocus at that depth.

(re-focusing in Google Photos)

(re-focusing in Google Photos)

Note that it's not just adjusting a fake blur, or blurring things away from where you tap. It's actually re-focusing the photo in a way that's truly like going back in time and re-taking the photo with a professional camera. The "re-focusing" effect on other phones usually leaves me wanting. It's fake, and the errors — large or small — are usually obvious to my eye. Not here. The results of re-focusing on the Nokia 9 PureView look flawless to me, which makes sense knowing what I do about the technology behind it.

This should get even more interesting when they ship Adobe Lightroom for this phone, which they've promised. Being able to play with RAW images right on the phone, using real photo software, is going to be a true game-changer.

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