Nokia Spider Eye Could Be Holy Grail of Phone Cameras

Redditor Bramblex has posted this image of the back of Nokia’s alleged next flagship hone, which could be the Nokia 9, and oh boy it is intriguing.

It features the eyes of Shelob on its back: five cameras arranged in an hexagon along with a flash and some unknown sensor that makes it look like a robo-spider wanting to suck your soul out. It’s a pretty crazy concept that, if done right, could result in some amazing images.

Credit: u/Bramblex via Reddit

(Image credit: u/Bramblex via Reddit)

Nokia is not the first brand to use multiple cameras. iPhones and Samsung use two cameras. Other phones do the same, combining the images captured two cameras with different sensors and optics into a new image using software. This achieves tricks like bokeh and portrait modes.

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The Huawei P20 Pro uses three cameras in its P20 flagship phone: A 40-megapixel full color sensor with with f/1.8 lens, a 8-megapixel color sensor with f/2.4 telephoto-like lenses, and a 20-megapixel monochrome sensor with f/1.6 designed to gather detail in low lighting conditions. Combined with some artificial intelligence tricks, this combination of lenses has made the P20 the king of the smartphone photography hill.

The Return of PureView

Once upon a time, Nokia was the king of that hill. The Finnish manufacturer — which is now owned by mobile phone company HMD Global — put all its eggs in the photography basket back in 2012. That’s when Nokia released its first PureView camera in a phone: a 41-megapixel monster that dwarfed everything else back in the day. At the time, the phone was a flop: too heavy, too power hungry, and not too impressive despite the specs.

The original PureView’s massive sensor allowed tricks like zooming in any section of an image without losing detail but, in the end, consumers didn’t like the trade offs and realized they didn’t need the extra pixels.

The situation has changed dramatically since then. People are drooling after the amazing quality of the Huawei P20 and 40-MP photos, thanks to higher connectivity speeds and practically infinite local and cloud storage options, is an acceptable resolution.

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Why five cameras?

Combined with this photo, it seems Nokia may be getting back to its PureView photography roots. First of all, HMD has seemingly snatched the PureView branding back from Microsoft. Then they seem to have enlisted back lens manufacturer Zeiss, like Nokia did with the original PureView. And lastly, there's the five-camera setup, plus whatever the sixth sensor is.

Using all these sensors will allow Nokia to do some really amazing stuff. Like the P20, one could be a general sensor, one for telephoto, and another one for picking up detail. But what about the other two cameras?

Maybe one will be for a really wide lens? Maybe the third can be an infrared sensor to get some crazy good performance under extreme low-light conditions? And what about the sixth sensor that doesn’t seem like a camera? Maybe that’s just a range device. Perhaps this setup would allow for light field capture, Lytro-style, allowing users to change the focus on real time at any time after taking the photo.

Whatever the combination of features is, it will be a clever move to differentiate itself from the hordes of Android phone makers. If the new Nokia can pull it off, that is.