We knew that Nokia is pursuing a mobile photography breakthrough with a five-sensor phone, but this is the first clear look at what could be the Holy Grail of phone cameras: the Nokia 9.
On the back, the smartphone Shelob has five cameras with Zeiss lenses. In the setup there is also a flash and another device, probably a depth ranging sensor of some sort.
It’s not clear yet how Nokia is going to use these sensors. Theoretically, HMD — the Finnish company that designs and makes the Nokias — can combine some or all of these image sensors using artificial intelligence to obtain some stunning image quality. Maybe the phone will choose what sensors to use depending on the selected camera mode.
Or perhaps Nokia is going completely nuts and offering some sort of Lytro-style light field capture with true control of depth of field or some kind of three-dimensional scene recording.
At this point we can only speculate based on what other companies have done — and Nokia’s own history of mobile photography breakthroughs with its PureView brand. Back in 2012, the Finnish company surprised everyone with a phone ahead of its time, capable of capturing 41 megapixel photos while other phones could barely make it to 8 megapixels.
The multiple-sensor setup is not a new trick. Apple uses two sensors on the back, while the Huawei P20 Pro and Mate 20 series use three cameras with different f stops and lenses. Samsung currently has the record, with four rear sensors and lenses in the Galaxy A9 series.
All these brands use these sensors in different ways. Some, like the Samsung Galaxy A9, can switch to the ultra-wide camera angle to take that type of photo whenever the user wants. The P20 Pro, on the other hand, combines the sensors to obtain clear shots at night, thanks to a dedicated 20-megapixel monochrome sensor that is designed to pick up detail under low sensitivity conditions.
Like the P20, the iPhone XS also uses Artificial Intelligence postprocessing to combine shots into one, the latter allowing you to choose the depth of field of the scene, selectively blurring different image planes thanks to the stereoscopic information that results from the combination of the two camera sensors.
The Nokia 9 may debut at the Mobile World Congress 2019 in Barcelona, Spain, a year after presenting its current flagship, the Nokia 8 Sirocco.