Ultrapixels & PureView: Mobile Photo War Between HTC and Nokia Heating Up


Mobile photo sharing has become one of the big photography trends over the past couple of years, and smartphone makers are now working hard to win the affections of smartphoneographer by developing better cameras and sleeker features. Two of the big players in the game, HTC and Nokia, are both generating some buzz this week through reports that they have some big photo-related plans in store for their upcoming phones.

The two (proprietary) technologies that are making headlines are: HTC’s “Ultrapixels” and Nokia’s “PureView.”

HTC has been working on something it calls "Ultrapixels"

HTC has been working on something it calls “Ultrapixels”

On the HTC side of things, Pocket-lint is reporting that HTC will be introducing a new camera sensor in its upcoming M7 smartphone — a sensor that will feature what the company is calling “Ultrapixels.”

The rumored 13-megapixel sensor won’t capture 13-megapixel photos. Instead, it will comprise 3 sensor layers that are each 4.3-megapixels, with the resulting data combined into a single sub-13MP photo.

Does that description remind you of anything? Yup: that sounds exactly like how Sigma’s Foveon X3 sensors work. The sensors are designed to capture more color information than traditional sensors, leading to cleaner photos and better color reproduction.

HTC's upcoming "Ultrapixel" technology sounds a whole lot like Sigma's Foveon X3 sensors (pictured)

HTC’s upcoming “Ultrapixel” technology sounds a whole lot like Sigma’s Foveon X3 sensors (pictured)

The idea of using more megapixel than you need to create a higher-quality photo (with smaller dimensions) sounds like what does with the PureView 808 smartphone, but Nokia uses a single sensor layer and combines every 7 pixels into 1 in order to improve image quality.

In a new “Brief History of Photography” infographic published on its blog, HTC disses Nokia’s PureView directly, citing one reviewer who concluded that the 41-megapixels “won’t help you at all”:


We’ll likely hear much more about “Ultrapixels” on February 19th, on which HTC will reportedly be launching the M7 and unveiling the technology.

On the Nokia side of things, The Guardian is now confirming that the same mega-megapixel tech that’s found in the 808 PureView will be introduced in upcoming Lumia smartphones. This is something that we first reported back in mid-2012.

Future Lumia smartphones may have the same camera bulge that first appeared in the 808 PureView

Future Lumia smartphones may have the same camera bulge that first appeared in the 808 PureView

When the Nokia Lumia 920 was unveiled in September 2012, it carried the same PureView tag but lacked the same beastly camera as the 808 PureView. Although the 920 proved to be fantastic in low-light situations, many people were left wondering whether the 808’s impressive image quality would appear in the Lumia line. The answer is “yes”.

It will reportedly be introduced in a Nokia Lumia EOS (Canon is cringing right now) smartphone that is set to arrive sometime this summer.

Image credit: Photo illustration based on Google Nexus One vs Nokia N900 (4 of 6) by markguim, HTC ChaCha Camera by abulhussain, Nokia 808 PureView by John.Karakatsanis

  • eraserhead12

    Let’s hope “ultrapixels” translates into a better-quality image. I have an HTC DNA, and the camera is just plain bad–even my sibling’s 4S produces better images, especially in low-light. I use FV-5 whenever I can, but the app’s shutter is slow to respond so I’m usually stuck with stock.

  • vivanteco

    “wont help you at all”

    So the only argument that HTC have against pureview is that a single reviewer said “it wont help you at all”. right.

  • Renato Murakami

    After seeing the low light res from HTC’s latest smartphone I think it’s pretty clear who deserves some mocking.
    Not to brag about it, but I’ve yet to see any smartphone beat my 808 Pureview in photo quality. Yes, Symbian still sucks.

  • Igor Ken

    I don’t know how Nokia actually got people to buy a Symbian based phone in 20freaking12 … Anything that has Symbian in it shouldn’t be even called SMARTphone in the first place. CameraPhone, ok. But hey, does it beat a good point and shoot camera? I believe the answer is no.

  • vivanteco

    I own and use the 808. correct, symbian is not on par with ios, android or wp8. In all fairness though, the version on this phone is leaps and bounds better than prior releases. Its not bad but its not good…

    As for image IQ, It is actually better than most p&s cams, only at the top end of the p&s market does the IQ surpass the 808.

    I would go for this updated version running wp8.

  • vivanteco

    If its anything like the existing foveon sensor which works upon the same concept it will have fantastic IQ in high light situations but perform badly in low light.

  • Jonathan Maniago

    I don’t know where this is headed, but I’d still place my bet on Android-capable P&S cameras (which I hope would eventually support full smartphone capabilities soon enough).

  • Matt

    Hopefully it will mature and join the low light party.

  • Matt

    Sorry, but just not interested in a so called pureview that is a neutered ersion of their 40 mp camera. Release the 40 mp and I’d be interested.

    I’ve owned two HTC smart phones and they have been buggy and hardly hold up for the length of the phone contract. I really like that they are going towards the Fevron tech, just no confidence that they will be sucessful. But, still interested in seeing what they come up with.

    Competition is great :)

  • eraserhead12

    does Nokia have an exclusive partnership with Zeiss? I’d kill to see an android device with the optics of an 808.

  • vivanteco

    The original press release for pureview did indicate tat the Zeiss partnership was an exclusive one. There was no mention of how long the exclusivity period was though.

    But the optics are just one part of the equation anyway. The Toshiba sensor and nokia processing are significant contributors to the final product.

  • Samuel

    I dont wanna be “That guy” but shouldnt the “pocket-link” hyperlink be “lint” ?

  • Shinkueagle

    ultraPICKELS are no match! It isn’t rocket science to come to such a conclusion. I have both phones and use the One for purely business and the 808 for purely pleasure! =)