The Nokia Lumia 925 has an 8.7MP camera that shoots 8MP photos (3264 x 2448) in 4:3 aspect and 7MP photos (3552 x 2000) in 16:9 mode. This is the special sensor design Nokia has used since the N9, which loses only 11% of the resolution when going from 4:3 to 16:9 mode instead of the 25% that traditional sensors do.
Its primary advantage over the competition is the Optical Image Stabilization. It improves low-light performance by allowing longer exposure (the f/2.0 lens helps here too) and eliminates hand shake in videos. The Lumia 925 brings another upgrade over the 920 - its lens is has 6 elements over the 5 of its predecessor. In theory that should result in sharper images with more detail.
At the Nokia Lumia 1020 announcement event, the Finns broke the news that the Lumia 925 will be getting the Nokia Pro Camera app that allows users to adjust the camera settings to their liking. You can read more about it in our Lumia 1020 preview.
Back to the UI of the built-in camera, it's fairly simple - the controls available on the right edge of the viewfinder are the still/video camera toggle, front/back camera toggle, flash mode setting and the Lens button. On the left you have an arrow that takes you to the images taken with the camera, alternatively you can swipe to get there.
The camera app on Windows Phone has rich settings, ranging from scenes and effects to white balance, contrast, saturation, sharpness and ISO among others. You have a dedicated Macro focus mode but no face detection. The flash can be set to auto, always on or off. A separate setting allows the LED to work as an AF assist light.
In the latest camera software Nokia has raised the maximum ISO setting from 800 to 3,200 and has tweaked image processing in low-light conditions.
SkyDrive is available for photo auto-upload (it's turned off by default), but you can install third-party apps to handle this functionality as well.
Lenses is an interesting feature, allowing third-party camera apps to enhance the core camera functionality without the need to access them separately and get use to their different UIs. The so-called Lenses are like plugins for your camera and they are available directly in the native camera app. They show up in the list of installed apps too in case you'd like to pin a Lens to the start screen, for instance.
The shutter key will wake the phone up with a single press and launch the camera app. You can set Nokia's exclusive Smart Camera to be launched instead.
So, we've mentioned Smart Camera several times already and it's time to explain what it does. It's the next generation of Smart Shoot and is based on technology developed by Scalado (now owned by Nokia).
It shoots a burst of 10 photos at 5MP resolution and allows you to edit those photos later. When editing a Smart Camera photo you choose one of several modes by swiping through their respective cards, each with a helpful label.
The basic feature here is best shot - automatically selecting the best photo out of the 10 (you can manually override the selection). You can also select the best expression for each individual face in the photo.
The multiple photos can be used to remove moving objects as well.
Then there's Action shot - a moving object is overlaid on the photo several times to create a sense of motion. You can pick which of the 10 photos are used to create the action shot and the multiple copies can either be opaque or semitransparent.
Here are a few samples captured with the Nokia Smart Cam app.
The other mode that enhances motion is Motion focus - it locks the moving object, but blurs the background around it. Imagine turning the camera to track a fast moving object, that's the effect that Motion focus simulates.
Nokia's decision to limit Smart Camera photos to 5MP leaves us scratching our heads. Sure, Smart Camera shoots 16:9 photos, which eats into the resolution, but Nokia's sensor can do 7MP in this mode. We suspect the midrange chipset is the real answer. 5MP is not far ahead of HTC One's 4MP camera and without the benefit of large sensor pixels. It's also no match for the fine detail captured by high-end 13MP shooters either.
Panorama is self-explanatory - you press the shutter and then align the camera as instructed (the app will put circles you have to aim for). It's good, but you always shoot right to left (can't switch direction), which is a bit annoying. Shooting in portrait orientation is impossible too.
Cinemagraph creates photos that are mostly static, but a part of them is animated. You have to hold the phone steady while shooting - a tripod works best. When you're done, the Lens will offer two (sometimes three) areas that can be animated and when you pick an area, you can tweak the animation, trim it, and set the loop pattern. You can get back to the image later and correct it if you didn't get it right the first time around (we did that to reduce camera shake visible in the background).
There's a pleasing amount of detail in the Lumia 925 shots and considerably more than the Lumia 920 delivered . Apparently, Nokia has tamed the noise reduction and boosted sharpening up a notch. If you look closely, you'll notice some oversharpening halos as a result of that treatment.
That would explain the higher levels of noise as well, but most of it is of the less-irritating luminance variety. In comparison, the Lumia 920 was way too heavy handed with the noise, producing more noise-free shots but also losing a lot of detail.
The white balance and color saturation are also better tuned on the Lumia 925 than it was on the Lumia 920 - colors are natural and accurate. Those looking for more punchy output might find them a bit on the dull side, but you can easily fix that in post processing. On the other hand, making the oversaturated shots of the Lumia 920 look natural wasn't really possible.
The only part of the Nokia Lumia 925 shots that we are not particularly enthusiastic about is the contrast. It tends to be rather low with the smartphone trying way too hard to preserve tiny highlight patches and shadow areas and ending up with a bit flat looking shot.
The Nokia Lumia 925 can be compared to any of the smartphones in our data base - the tool's page will give you information on what to watch out for.