MD Global can be called a success story in that it is among the very few that have managed to revive a company from the dead. Bringing back Nokia is no easy feat after the company got buried thanks to a dismal stint with Microsoft and competition like Samsung and Xiaomi steamrolling ahead. But HMD last year brought the Nokia brand back, launched a handful of phones that have largely succeeded. In fact, some Nokia phones launched this year have been even more impressive. But something is still missing.
Nokia in the past was known and renowned for some key aspects – strong and durable phones, reliable in-hand use, and unique cameras. If you look at some of the PureViews or Lumias of the past, Nokia touted mind-boggling camera specs like a 41-megapixel rear sensor. Take the Nokia Lumia 1020, which was widely regarded the best camera phone for its time, but wasnt considered as the best smartphone. That phone proved that the company paid a little too much attention on the optics and not so much on the rest.
Nokia Android phones are great, cameras could be better
Cut to 2017 when HMD brought back the Nokia brand with phones running near stock Android. This year, the company took its relationship with Google a step further and announced that Nokia phone from Nokia 3 and upwards will be part of the Android One program. Phones like the Nokia 7 Plus and Nokia 8 Sirocco have proven to be fantastic Android One phones, but they suffer the opposite of what the Lumia 1020 did – they arent great camera phones, but great Android smartphones.
When I reviewed the Nokia 7 Plus and the Nokia 8 Sirocco, even the Nokia 6 (2018) for that matter, I found very little to complain about these phones. But the one common issue I did find was they all came with underwhelming cameras despite the fact that they are Zeiss-branded. These phones manage to capture outdoor shots under good lighting well enough, but they all suffer in low-light photography. They come with Pro Mode support, but even that does little to help with things. Other than that, all three phones are pretty great, and thats because they manage to nail pretty much everything right from design to pure Android Oreo software to performance and battery life.
It would be wrong to say that it is okay to have sub-par cameras on mid-range phones like the new Nokia 6 and Nokia 7 Plus because competing phones in this segment from brands like Xiaomi are changing the game, and for HMD to really succeed it cannot take this for granted. Things will only get worse for a premium phone like the Nokia 8 Sirocco, which for Rs 50,000 offers a dismal 5-megapixel front camera.
Time for another revolutionary Nokia camera phone with Zeiss
Lack of spectacular cameras are what keep the Nokia 7 Plus and Nokia 8 Sirocco just short of perfect. Since the Nokia brand re-emerged last year, we are yet to see a phone that manages to not only nail the design, hardware and software, but also packs in truly unique cameras. But we could see something interesting this year, if past rumours are anything to go by.
HMD needs to come out with a revolutionary camera phone, especially when the competition is getting well ahead. Huawei launched the P20 Pro with a triple lens setup. It even managed to pull a Nokia by giving one of the sensors a whopping 40-megapixels. Then we have companies like Google that is capable is beating phone with dual cameras with a single sensor thanks to some great AI capabilities. Meanwhile, companies like Samsung and Apple have nearly perfected their dual camera systems. These brands are competing strongly against each other, replacing one another in the DxOMark rankings, while Nokia is yet to enter the picture.
I feel that HMD has tried to focus on getting the design and software right, and it has largely succeeded in doing that. Now, the company should turn its attention to optics once again and who better to do it with than Zeiss. Last year, it partnered with Zeiss to bring its optics to Nokia Android phones, rekindling a relationship that is over a decade long. With Zeiss, Nokia launched the first multi-megapixel camera phone with the Nokia N90 and the first 5MP phone with the N95. From a 2MP phone in 2005 to the 41MP PureView 808 and Lumia 1020 in 2012 and 2013, these two brands made plenty of strides in camera innovation.
The Nokia 6 (2018), Nokia 7 Plus and Nokia 8 Sirocco come with Zeiss optics as well, but they failed to bring back that magic, but thats not to say the future looks gloomy.
What does the future look like?
In April, there were rumours of a Nokia 9 with a Zeiss-branded triple lens setup with one of the cameras sporting a 41-megapixel sensor. This sounds possible since Nokia and Zeiss have done 41-megapixels in the past. However, triple lens system is no longer a novel idea after the P20 Pro, but it would be interesting to see Nokia bring it nevertheless.
What really piqued my curiosity, though, is when I heard rumours earlier this year of a Nokia 8 Pro with a penta-lens setup. That screams revolutionary loud and clear, but it is also sounds a little far-fetched. Reports revealed patents of how the five-camera system would work, which is actually quite interesting. As per the patent, the circular five lens setup will have one fixed primary camera and a rotating secondary camera with lenses of different focal length. This setup will allow for a larger zoom range and the implementation should be interesting to see.
These rumours have lost steam in recent weeks so were still not sure if a penta-lens or even a triple lens Nokia Android phone is on the card for 2018. But the point is that it should be. A flagship Nokia 9 or Nokia 8 Pro or whatever HMD calls it that manages to bring everything that makes the Nokia 7 Plus so good along with fantastic cameras would be the phone that puts HMD on the same foot as the Huaweis, Samsungs and Apples of the world.
ALSO READ: Nokia 7 Plus review: Pretty, powerful and almost perfect