Nokia's Apple-Bashing Video Speaks to My Heart
Aug 8, 2013 5:00 AM PT
Nokia saw an opening to attack Apple through the world's most-used camera, the itty bitty unit on the iPhone. The attack? A politely sarcastic ad on YouTube that parodies the generally excellent Apple version that (also politely) brags that every day, more photos are taken with the iPhone than with any other camera.
While Apple won't feel the sucker punch, I've got to admit, the Nokia version was speaking to my heart.
I currently pack an iPhone 5, and the 8-megapixel camera and brains represent a massive leap forward from my iPhone 4. I'm reminded of this when my iPhone 4-packing friends and family go to shoot video or snap some photos while we're out and about having fun. When I see the results, I see more blur, blander images, and video that's vaguely flat -- compared to my iPhone 5, of course.
Then the Nokia parody comes along. If you watch it, sure, you can go into all-out "Apple Apologist Mode" and argue that the shots are not set up exactly as the original or that the skateboarding dude was shot outside in natural light with software shooting features that the iPhone doesn't have built in. That was my default Apple-loving reaction. But then I took a closer look. I watched the video again. And again.
In the original Apple video, there's a guy shooting photos or video of a skateboarder. Just part of the "everyday" show.
In the Nokia version, though, there's a skateboarder who busts out a jump trick on a large flat building roof in the city while his buddy shoots photos.
The results show several different kinds of shots, including one with motion blur, where the background skyscrapers are blurry but the skateboarder is frozen and clear. It looks cool. Then there's a "best shot" of the bunch, and it captures all the motion in detail. Quite nice. The iPhone 5 side-by-side version? Just one shot of the skateboarder -- OK, but sort of lackluster.
At first glance, this seems like a massive difference. While I actually think it does represent a possible reality of difference, unfortunately the outside lighting doesn't match up at all between the Nokia Lumia 925 and the iPhone 5. The best shot of the Nokia Lumia 925 was obviously shot many minutes before or after the iPhone 5 version, because there's blue sky and only a few clouds. In the iPhone 5 version, lots of darker clouds. The implication seems to be 1-to-1 but the reality is far different.
But damn, the Nokia photos look pretty good. Even with my iPhone 5 in great light, I'll often get melted flipper hands when I snap a shot of someone talking and moving their hands.
Meanwhile, the Direct Comparisons Shine
Next, we get an outside-at-night selfie shot of a smiling couple. The Lumia 925 shot with flash looks great. Surprisingly natural. A little yellowish (as displayed on my computer monitor) but still excellent. The iPhone 5 version, where there's a little extra forehead (a shine spot for nearly everybody), appears far more washed out. The smiling couple is pale and shiny -- but sharp, though, very sharp in detail. The shine could be easily adjusted later. But that's not really the point, needing to edit.
Next, a little girl shoots a photo of a some stuffed animals under her bed without a flash. The Lumia 925 looks strikingly better exposed. Again, slightly different angles, but no indication that anything truly fishy is going on. The Nokia version is just a clearly a better snap.
After that, we get a closeup foodie dessert shot, kiwi on top of berries with powdered sugar. Again, the angles are not the same. In this one, a no-flash 925, trumps the iPhone 5 with a flash. Not a 1-to-1 comparison, unless both units had the chance to choose the default mode -- but hey, this is a quick little video ad, not a lab.
While the 925 photo is much more pleasing, you've got to wonder if the angle differences are intentional, sloppy, or occur due to the position of the lenses on the respective phones.
Then we're treated to a series of shots of people taking photos in very similar ways to the Apple version of this video -- a building wall, bare feet, that sort of thing.
Dripping With Sarcasm
Maybe something is lost in translation as we come to the end of the video, but the last statement sounds like its dripping sarcasm all over it: "Everyday better photos are taken with Nokia Lumias than with any other mobile." Seriously, you could italicize every single word of that quote.
The last bit of the video shows slides that say PureView Technology, Carl Zeiss optics, and six physical lenses, followed by a link to the Nokia Lumia 925 website.
Once there, you can learn about the built-in hardware and software that make the Lumia 925 camera a respectable smartphone friend. There's a Remove Moving Object feature so you can remove weird background people who walk into and out of your shot. Maybe pesky birds, too.
The Action Shot Feature (used with the skateboarder) lets you snap once and get a sequence of movements in an action shot -- and the Smart Camera Mode lets you take bursts of photos that you can go through later to get the best one. The 8.7 megapixel unit seems to do fantastic in low-light situations as well.
Then there's the Lumia 1020 that comes with a radical 41-megapixel camera sensor!
A couple of the latest reviews have called it the best Windows Phone ever made -- and therein lies the problem.
What Does This Add Up To?
As hard as Nokia tries, it's still building Windows Phones. Heck even some of the 2,200-plus comments on the Nokia YouTube parody video point this out. Many others go into Apple-defense mode where everything else sucks. Problem is, I keep hearing about Nokia's excellent cameras -- and I'll admit it: I'm jealous.
I'm not jealous enough to deal with any smartphone camera that's not iOS based -- because there's so much more to a smartphone experience than just the camera -- but I'm still jealous. I hate not capturing cool moments or photos of the moon or action shots because I trusted my iPhone 5 camera to do the job. Usually I'm just kicking myself for not packing around a real DSLR camera with a big lens and a smart brain.
Yet the Nokia video reminds me that there's plenty of room for camera innovation in the smartphone form factor.
Now I want more from Apple -- and I hope Apple will use the camera as an opportunity to differentiate between what will likely become a "pro" sort of iPhone and a "budget" iPhone. Just scale the current camera up, please, Apple -- don't dumb down the budget version.