How to develop the JPG of your Nokia 808 PureView.
A valuable piece of photographic equipment.
The most exciting feature of the Nokia 808 PureView is its enormous sensor. It’s resolution power of 7152 x 5368 (38 MP) in full res 4:3 mode is of the order of magnitude that mid format cameras like Hasselblad, Phase-one and Leaf used to have 4 years ago. Those camera’s cost a fortune, $ 10.000 being a starting point. Now we have that resolution power literally in our shirts pocket together with a high quality Carl Zeiss lens. I own several digital cameras with quality glass but it always strikes me that my pictures taken with the 808 are crisp sharp with few distortions and few chromatic aberration. To all this comes Nokia’s PureView technoloy of pixel oversampling and lossless zooming. How do we unlock the full image potential of the 808 as a camera?
Before giving (part of) the answer we have to recognise that the Nokia 808 PureView is not a complete all round compact camera. It’s no good for sport and action, it tends to slip out off your hand and it’s effective focal length of about 27 mm (in full res) is far from ideal for portraits. You can’t change the aperture nor directly the shutter speed. These are all drawbacks for a photographer but still the concept as a whole of the 808 is so strong that I, and many other users, consider the 808 to be a valuable piece of photographic equipment.
Expose for the highlights
The camera of the Nokia 808 PureView will most of the time be used to share pictures online; on Facebook, Flickr, other social media or by mailing. The automatic, scenes and pureview modes of the 808 are great and by relying on the automatic functions the image quality is ok for sharing. But users who regard their 808 as photographic equipment and want to make poster size high quality prints will override the automatics. They will choose the full resolution mode and will set the Flash, ISO number, exposure compensation, white balance and ND filter by hand. Especially the ISO, ND filter and exposure compensation play a key role for high image quality. They determine the right exposure and everybody understands that the “right exposure” is the fundament for quality. But what the heck is “right”? The answer is that we have to go back decades to the time of film photography. An old photographers wisdom in those days was; “expose for the highlights, the shadows will take care of themselves”. In digital photography this is still valid. Most sensors tend to clip the highlights when the sensor is exposed to the average value of the automatic settings of the camera. When clipping occur all details in the highlights disappear and those highlight parts turn completely white. No post processing can correct that.
The next 808 picture is taken with automatic exposure. That’s to say; after setting the ISO and ND filter and without any exposure compensation the 808 determined the exposure.
The result is typical for an average (automatic) exposure. At first glance overall the image looks ok. But although the sunlight on the scene is not extreme the automatic exposure could not prevent clipping in several parts of the image. And the automatic wasn’t able to reveal the details in the deep shadows. It’s ok for sharing on line but you can’t print it as a high quality poster size image. But the solution is simple; “expose for the highlights” and do some postprocessing. “Expose for the highlights” is done by setting the exposure compensation to – 1. The next image shows the result we get.
This looks horrible and it is. But on examination you will see that all the bright parts of the image are not clipping anymore. They show texture and details. We achieved what we wanted.The additional thing we have to do is to open up the shadows. Just as almost all the high quality images of my Nikon DSLR need some postprocessing, also the high quality JPG images of the 808 need it. I will come back on the issue of in-camera apps later, in this article I rely on post processing on a PC (or on a MAC). Here I used the RAW plugin of Photoshop (called ACR) for my JPGs of The Nokia 808 PureView. I know it sounds strange to use a RAW convertor but it works like a charm. Next picture is the result of applying ACR on my – 1 exposure compensated 808 picture that first looked so horrible.
That’s not bad I think. Later I will give examples of the ACR settings you can use. But first another trick. You can save the already ACR processed image as a TIFF file, open it again in ACR and process it for a second time. All sliders in ACR start at zero again and you can use plus and minus settings for all the variables. Here the result I got.
It’s a matter of taste but personally I like the result for which I deliberately took settings in ACR which tend to give a semi HDR like look with many details.
What I showed so far is that by underexposing your Nokia 808 PureView shots you first get a horrible result but you avoid clipping of the highlights and that you can reveal the hidden treasures in the shadows by postprocessing. In image editors the needed postprocessing is often referred to as the Highlights/Shadow feature. This feature opens up the shadows, gives more details to the highlights but does “nothing” to the mid tones and “little” to the gamma of the image. As things stand now I don’t know of any in-camera app for the Nokia 808 PureView that does the same. The build in Nokia app is ok but it certainly does not the needed classic Highlights/Shadows thing.
Treat your 808 JPG as a RAW file.
We saw with the examples above the mono and even the double processing in ACR. ACR stands for Adobe Camera Raw the RAW plugin for Photoshop. Next you see how to open in Photoshop the JPG pictures of your 808 as if it are RAW pictures.
So opening as a RAW file is very straight forward and in fact starts the ACR plugin.
Next I show an example and give the used settings. First the underexposed JPG as it comes out of the 808. Second the result after processing in ACR and last the used settings.
You will observe that I also changed the whitebalance because the original did not have the right color temperature. But the main settings are + 68 for the shadows, -100 for the highlights and – 94 for the whites. The original is a 8MP PureView with 3264x 2448 pix.
Now another example. This time in full res 7728 x 4354 pix = 34 MP. Deliberately underexposed (exposure compensation) by 1 stop. Again: the underexposed original, the result after 1 x processing in ACR and then the used settings.
Here a correction of the color temperature was not necessary. The emphasis is on + 100 for the shadows and – 42 for the highlights. But I cranked up the clarity and the vibrance to get the atmosphere I saw while taking the picture.
I continue with less words (and settings) but let the pictures talk of themselves.
First a one stop underexposed full res picture.
Next a full res shot taken at an exhibition with automatic exposure (no compensation)
This is the double ACR processed result (8MP)
My last example: First the picture automatically exposed; it has strong clipping in the highlights. Then follows the – 2 stop underexposed picture and at last the result of double processing in ACR.
Post processing ok, but what program?
In this article I did all the postprocessing in ACR as part of Photoshop CS6. I took ACR because I think it offers the most features and especially because the Highlights and Shadows work great and can be tweaked to positive and to negative values. You can all try it out by downloading the free 30 days trial of Photoshop CS6. The commercial version of Photoshop CS6 is rather expensive. But the good news is that Photoshop Lightroom from version 4.0 and up has exactly the same power and features as ACR. And it is much more affordable. It costs 132,– Euro (incl VAT) in my country.
I did a limited search for free image editing programs with a (sort of) highlight/shadow feature. My search is far from complete but this is what I found.
– ACDSee Free: limited possibilities by setting the gamma correction on 1.5
– “Google +” online: no go
– Picasa: rather good results with the “Fill light” feature.
– Paint.NET: with some additional plugins you get rather good results but only after a real learning curve.
The examples I gave in this article in fact proof that the JPGs out of your Nokia 808 PureView can be post processed as high quality JPGs from high end compact cameras and even of DSLRs. But I want explicitly state that I have limited my experiments to ISO values of max 100. For me ISO 100 is 90% what I do with my 808 because I know that the small size of the pixels on the sensor have its limitations. I have found no difference in post processing behaviour between full res pictures and 8MP PureView pictures.
I hope this article will give rise to experiments of readers and I would very much appreciate your comments and additions.
On FLICKR you can find some of the images of this article
January 13 2013