The Nokia 7.1 has a dual-camera on its back, just like most of the smartphones out there. It has a 12MP primary with dual-pixel autofocus, while the secondary 5MP monochrome snapper is just a helper for the portrait and HDR shots.
The Nokia 7.1 has a very nice main camera that's built around a 12MP dual pixel sensor (1.28µm pixel size) behind a bright f/1.8 aperture lens. The 5MP secondary sits behind f/2.4 lens and is only used to extract depth info from the scene. A dual-LED flash completes the setup.
The lenses carry the Carl Zeiss branding, of course, the collaboration between the two companies goes back more than a decade.
HMD has also worked with Carl Zeiss on the processing algorithms. They developed a better blur for the portrait shots based on the Zeiss experience and tried to mimic professional bokeh the best they could with all the tricks - lightning, aperture, lens correction. We'll see how well this works in a minute.
The camera app on the Nokia 7.1 is practically the only piece of custom software on it. Luckily for us, and you, it's been improved since the previous Nokia phones, though the left side of the viewfinder is still overcrowded with various toggles.
Now there is a selfie camera switch on the right side, where it should have been from the start. It's close to your thumb and switching to the 8MP selfie shooter is hassle-free.
There is another big change, too, and it's the mode selector. The camera app is now tailored for swiping between the shooting modes, a way that the iPhones pioneered a long time ago. The available modes are Square, Panorama, Live Bokeh, Pro - left (or down) from the default Photo, and Video, Slow-mo, Time-lapse right (or up) from Photo.
While in the Photo mode you'll get many toggles on the opposite side of the shutter key - flash, timer, single/dual/P-I-P (for combined front/rear shots), beauty, stickers, motion picture, Google Lens, and Settings.
The Pro mode lets you pick one of five white balance presets, focus manually, choose ISO (100-3200) and shutter speed (1/500s-4s), or set exposure compensation (-2/2EV in full stop increments).
There is Auto HDR support, which is enabled by default and the option is tucked away in the advanced settings menu.
The HMD didn't throw in any fancy features in the Nokia 7.1 camera app. The only thing worth mentioning is the Auto HDR. It works for photos and does what most of the current snappers are doing - multi-stacking. We do suggest leaving this option on as it is by default.
The Auto HDR works well in the daylight scenes and boosts the dynamic range. It rescues some of the blown highlights and improves the contrast, at the expense of some sharpness in the intricate detail such as foliage or building decorations.
In the HDR shots the exposure is even, and the detail is more than enough. The color rendition didn't suffer during the picture stacking process and all photos had true to life vibrant colors.
You can, of course, opt out of the Auto HDR. The photos are captured and saved a bit faster and while they lack the dynamic range of the HDR ones, you'll find them with more and sharper intricate detail. It's not a major improvement and sometimes we even got blurry images, but you should be at least familiar with the differences. You can compare the HDR (above) and the non-HDR (below) shots we took with the Nokia 7.1 by using the embedded compare tool.
The Nokia 7.1 lacks optical image stabilization and the bright aperture is the only thing fighting for detail in the dark. The low-light photos are nothing impressive, if not below average. They came out soft and blurry, while the aggressive noise-reduction smeared a lot of the fine detail. Yes, you can see what's in the pictures, but nothing really to brag about with.
We tried turning the Auto HDR on and off for the low-light shots, and it didn't have any effect on the captured images.
The Nokia 7.1 app offers a Pro (manual) mode, where you can tune all important settings. The shutter speed can go as low as 4s, which should be enough for some nice night shots, that is if you can stabilize the phone well enough.
And here you can see how the Nokia 7.1 compares against other devices in our extensive pixel-peeking database.
There is one thing HMD is promising for the Nokia 7.1 camera and that's the studio-style portrait shots. HMD hasn't borrowed just the lenses from Zeiss, they also partnered with them to some extent for the bokeh effect as well. We'll spare you the PR talk but let's just say HMD is claiming that it has achieved very good subject separation and pro-like bokeh because of the Zeiss involvement.
The mode is called Live Bokeh and you can adjust the blur strength real-time. It's set at 50% by default.
For starters, the subject separation is indeed impressive, even with messy hair. For a mid-range phone, the Nokia 7.1 has an outstanding separation, even if you put a complex subject before the camera, such as a plant.
Then there is the whole depth mapping thing. The Nokia 7.1 camera does a great job with the mapping, it knows which object is where and blurs accordingly. That's why you'll see the apples behind the plant less blurred than the background. We just wish that it was clever enough so that it renders the foreground out of focus, too.
Of course, the Live Bokeh is mostly intended for humans and the algorithms work nicely on those. The separation is accurate, and the blur effect is brilliant. We won't go as far as calling it professional-grade, but it's better than on most of the competitors, some flagships included.
And here are some more portraits.
The Nokia 7.1 records video up to 2160p. It can obviously also do 1080p, but just at 30fps, there's no 60fps frame rate option. There's electronic stabilization, which only works in 1080p and, like all such implementations, results in a cropped coverage. You can't turn off the stabilization.
2160p videos are recorded with a bitrate of around 41Mbps - that's just about the standard number. 1080p clips get around 20Mbps, that's actually a little more than the average 17Mbps. Audio is recorded in stereo at 256kbps, boosted by Nokia's OZO tech.
The 4K footage is soft in areas with sophisticated detail (foliage, tennis nets), and sharp elsewhere. It's mostly noise free and with true to life colors. The dynamic range is above average and the contrast is excellent.
The 1080p clips is similar in quality, though the picture looks a little bit sharper and they have narrower field of view due to the always-on stabilization.
Finally, you can use our Video Compare Tool to see how the Nokia 7.1 stacks against the Mi 8 SE and Pocophone F1 when it comes to video capture.
The selfie camera of the Nokia 7.1 is an 8MP with an f/2.0 aperture lens, but no autofocus. Its plane of focus is a reasonable distance away from the phone and you don't have to poke the screen with your nose to be in focus, so that's good. Selfies turn out with true skin tones and overall pleasing color rendition, though the level of resolved detail isn't impressive and the quality deteriorates quickly when the light isn't perfect - say indoors.
Blurred background selfies with just the one cam aren't new anymore, and the 7.1 does them too. And it does them quite well at that. See for yourselves.