Five wild camera phones of the past that were all about the perfect shot
Smartphones have had great cameras for years. Sony’s new Xperia Pro-1 is an amalgamation of a lot of camera tech that has been developed over the years and modern use-cases that make sense.
However, before we came to today’s advancements in camera technology, there have been some milestone camera phones along the way that are remembered even today for their unique design, camera abilities or other features. Here are five wild camera phones that left a mark on the smartphone world.
Nokia Pureview 808
A curvy design, Carl Zeiss optics, a huge 41MP sensor when most cameras maxed out at 13MP and a large camera bump, the Nokia 808 was the poster-phone for camera-centric devices when it launched back in 2012.
The Nokia Pureview was one of the first phones to implement pixel-binning technology. (Image Source: DXoMark)
The camera had an ND filter built-in and large pixels to capture more light. Nokia also used pixel-binning before it became a norm years later. The Nokia 808 could produce 5MP or 8MP shots by default combining the details and colour information of many pixels and clubbing them into a smaller image. Other features also included lossless zoom and capable video recording.
Nokia Lumia 1020
The second Nokia in our list, the Lumia 1020 was a windows phone from 2013 that gave Android and iOS competitors a run for their money all because of one aspect – camera performance. It was everything the Pureview 808 wasn’t. It carried the same 41MP sensor with more features now, in a sleeker body that looked much better and had a smarter operating system with Windows Phone.
The Lumia 1020 took the Pureview 808's camera and added features like OIS. (Image Source: DXoMark)
5MP default shots now were better than ever in the Nokia Lumia 1020, capturing more details and colour thanks to its large sensor. You also had RAW support now and an important addition with OIS, or optical image stabilisation. A great tutorial for features like manual mode also meant people new to photography were comfortable with the phone almost immediately.
Sony Ericsson K800i
A phone that resembled a camera from the back while actually being a feature phone from the 2000s make the K800i a perfect entry for this list. The phone had a camera module with a slidable cover, a dedicated physical shutter button and Sony’s Cyber-shot trademark. This resulted in a great camera experience for users and the 3.2MP pictures the phone took were way ahead of their time in terms of quality.
The Sony Ericsson K800i features a sliding camera cover and a dedicated shutter button despite being a feature phone. (Image Source: Wikimedia commons)
The phone also had a huge flash module, being launched at a time when Night Mode wasn’t a feature yet, and the flash was mighty powerful. The phone also had a small convex mirror next to its camera lens that could let you easily take selfies without the guesswork, which was the norm before front cameras were a thing.
Even apart from the camera features, the K800i had great features like physical buttons to control music playback and a Remote Control feature that would let you use the phone as a mouse or media controller for your PC.
LG KU990 Viewty
It would take some time to convince kids today that the LG KU990 Viewty is a phone and not a point-and-shoot camera. However, back in the 4:3 video era the phone was known for its camera features. Notice we said features and not quality.
The LG Viewty looked pretty much like a camera from the back. (Image Source: Wikimedia commons)
Despite the large camera module on the back, the Viewty didn’t capture the best pictures at the time, but LG compensated with a multitude of features like a dedicated shutter button with half-press-to-focus, a much-better camcorder feature with 120fps video recording, a physical switch for camera modes and manual focus support. It even had DivX playback support which was not so common at the time.
LG Optimus 3D
The highlight of the LG Optimus 3D wasn’t just its camera like other phones on this list, but the fact that the whole device was optimised to capture and playback media in 3D. This meant two 5MP sensors on the back of the phone that were placed 2.5cms apart that let users capture 2D photos and 3D data along with it, together showing you 3D pictures when viewed in the gallery.
The phone also let you record 3D videos at up to 720p and while sharing pictures and videos from the phone, users could also include the captured 3D data. The phone also had a 3D main menu and 3D support for a few pre-loaded games.
While the 3D concept didn’t catch on in the years to come, the dual-camera setup on the back was an inspiration to most modern smartphones where multi-camera setups have become the norm.