Feature Article

November 26, 2012

Nokia's PureView Camera Technology Guru Exits Nokia - Damn It!

We’ve been major fans of Nokia’s Pureview camera technology since the company first announced it back in March 2012 when it announced the PureView 808 smartphone. With its amazing 41 megapixel (MP) camera sensor and its new, very advanced software technology for pixel oversampling that Nokia has engineered, the company completely owns this particular super high end “camera phone” space. In fact, the PureView technology at the highest end of the spectrum will, for the most part, kill the need to own any other digital camera.

We’re not merely talking about “snapshot shooters” here, but more specifically about those among us who fancy themselves serious, or at least semi-serious photographers, who work at the art of photography beyond snapping snapshots of the family dog and the kids for Facebook. Nokia has long owned the smartphone camera market in terms of offering the best camera technology – along with Carl Zeiss lenses, which the PureView also delivers on. The PureView 808 isn’t a smartphone – it is a serious camera that also happens to have smartphone capabilities. 

We had anticipated and hoped Nokia bringing the full-scale technology across to the Lumia 920, although that desire did not pan out – rather, Nokia introduced a new 8.75 MP sensor based on PureView technology. We weren’t happy about it, but perhaps Nokia has other things up its sleeve – maybe a full-fledged camera ala Samsung’s very cool new 16 MP Galaxy Camera – albeit one with the full 41 MP capability, that will be controllable from a Lumia 920. We don’t know, but we can hope.

Meanwhile, we do have in the works– strictly and only from a digital camera perspective - a comparative review of the Nokia PureView 808, the Lumia 920 and the Samsung Galaxy camera. Stay tuned for that.

PureView Technology Key for Nokia in North America

We believe that the PureView technology is a golden key for Nokia to do some special things – the sorts of things specifically that can lead to turning heads in the North American consumer market (hence our disappointment at Nokia offering so little with the initial Lumia 920). North America is the “swing state” so to speak, which will make or break Nokia over the next few years.

Nokia’s task will be made much more difficult in the months and year ahead however, now that its PureView technology and imaging guru - Damian Dinning - is leaving the company. Though it’s true that Nokia has an entire advanced imaging team in place, it is losing the “visionary” behind it all, and it is always the visionary force that in the end makes the difference. We were at one point highly hopeful of Nokia’s future success because of PureView, but our hope is diminished – though hardly extinguished.

Why is Dinning leaving? When Nokia’s CEO Stephen Elop restructured and downsized the company, he made the decision that all senior management team members must make the move to Finland and be based at Nokia’s headquarters (no doubt, Elop felt that if he had to move, then well, so did everyone else – but it does make sense). Dinning was one of a handful of Nokia’s pre-Elop team that had remained in place, but Dinning is based in the UK and is simply not in a position to make the move to Finland. C’est la vie.

Here are Dinning’s own words on the matter, as posted the PureView’s independent PureViewClub fan site:

As reported in Nokia’s own statement regarding my forthcoming departure, a number of key strategic roles have moved to Finland. My family and I are based in the UK at a stage in our lives where relocation is unfortunately not an option. I have therefore made the tremendously difficult decision after nearly 9 years with Nokia to leave the company. I am hugely proud of the work I have been involved with during my time at Nokia and feel privileged to have worked with some of the smartest people I’ve ever been fortunate enough to meet.

As reported by a few, the work area I am best known for, imaging, is the result of a huge and massively talented pool of people. I have often felt embarrassed by the media attention I received knowing that whilst I am proud of my own contributions and the forward looking guidance I have strived to provide the teams, there are a lot of unsung heroes!

I have known for some time that I would be leaving Nokia. I’ve spent many, many months with this in mind, working with incredibly talented and highly motivated people across various teams building towards the next steps Nokia will take in imaging.

At a very young age, I had two very strong interests, cars and photography. With regards to the latter, I wanted to be able to take photography from the nerdy or for special occasions only use it was at the time, to being part of everyday life. I never thought I’d be able to play a role in making that happen, but my time at Nokia gave me exactly that opportunity. I really feel I’ve been able to fulfill that ambition. Whilst we’re really only just entering the next major stage in the development of photography and I still have a very clear vision of how I see its longer term development, I fully recognize this is the perfect opportunity for me to work in quite a different area.

For those less cynical amongst you, there’s a lot to look forward to as the various teams continue to work as hard as ever. I feel confident you’re going to really love what they’re working on for the future. Having been directly involved, I’m personally intrigued to monitor as a spectator, their progress.

As for my future, I am moving to an industry I’ve wanted to be part of for a very long time. My experience in telecoms and smartphones provides me with a great opportunity to make a difference in a company whose own development is inspiring at a time of great change. I am thrilled that I’ll shortly be joining Jaguar Land Rover where I’ll take a role driving future innovations in the exciting new field of Connected Car.

Nokia’s and photography’s loss is therefore the Connected Car’s gain. We certainly wish Dinning a great deal of luck, but we absolutely lament his passing on of the imaging baton. We’ll keep an eye on who his replacement will be and how well that person is able to maintain the PureView vision. That person will be critical not only to Nokia’s camera futures, but to the company’s own long term survival.

Edited by Brooke Neuman

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