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Nokia Lumia 925: The best Windows Phone yet

But is it good enough to win back the market?

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Bootleggers' paradise

The phone also contains another gem from Nokia’s boffins: professional quality audio recording at extremely high volumes. I’ve captured footage with the 920 from right in front of the PA at a decent-sized indoor venue (standing capacity over 3,000) and it plays back in rich stereo with no distortion. How do they do that? Nokia developed the HAAC (High Amplitude Audio Capture) system over several years in partnership with microphone manufacturers, and it made its debut in the 808 PureView last year. Naturally it’s a boon for bootleggers, but for the rest of us it just means more professional everyday video without the confusion caused by Wow and Flutter - the top end of the range is 140dB).

Sunset + 11 mins
[ Click to enlarge ]

Sunset +12 mins - with focus on the sky, the 925 struggles to capture the detail
[ Click to enlarge ]

Sunset +14 mins ... even darker now, but the 925 captures a mass of detail

Taken at the same times as the photo above it, the Lumia 925 captures detail very well in poor light

Nokia decided it needed to showcase its imaging wizardry in Smart Camera, a dedicated image capture application which makes its debut here but will be available to all WP8 Lumias in the Amber release. You can choose to make Smart Camera the default snapper activated by the hardware camera button. Smart Camera takes ten images rather than one, all ten are preserved, and allow a choice of effects to be applied. These are a mixture of the practical and the gimmicky.

On a practical level, Smart Camera can choose the best composite from a group shot, offer to remove unwanted objects that have wandered into frame, and suggest the best of the 10. It also offers a couple of more frivolous tricks: an action shot and a motion blur effect. All will find their audience, no doubt, but face recognition was rather poor unless there’s just a few faces prominent in the photo - some group shots of ten children only picked out a couple of faces. The potential is rather hindered by the time it takes to snap ten shots, and the size of the results: each smart camera shot is around 20MB. Most annoyingly there’s no way to switch to video recording from within the Smart Camera – you need to fire up the default Camera app for that. That aspect alone meant I started up the regular Camera most of the time.

Full marks to Nokia for showcasing its technology so imaginatively, but Smart Camera feels like a kind of stop-gap until these features are built into the default applications. Which is a bit of a shame, as I know how useful the group shot feature can be; kids are almost impossible to snap well, and Grandma likes a nice picture.

Last year Nokia released a unique phone with a 41 Megapixel sensor, the PureView 808, capable of stunning results. The launch of the first Windows-based Lumia incorporating the technology is apparently imminent. So you may be wondering how the Lumia 925 stands up to the 808 PureView. Well, I'm glad you asked.

Photo taken from the same spot; Left: Lumia 925, Right: PureView 808

Detail: Left: Lumia 925, Right: PureView 808
[Click to enlarge ]

Both photos were taken from the same spot, using default settings in each case. The PureView packs in a lot more pixels, which accounts for the size difference. The difference really becomes striking when you examine the full sized image. Look at the black pebbles as the the foot of the statue - on the 925 photo they're indistinct, whereas on the 808 photo each one is well defined. The grouting of the base also makes a good comparison, as does the way they grapple with the paler patch of grass to the right.

The Lumia is an excellent camera phone. But if Nokia has succeeded in incorporating something like the 808 sensor into its Lumia line, then buyers are in for a treat.

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