Nokia admits staging Lumia video demo; and photos too?

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Lexy spent her formative years taking a lot of photos and dreaming in technicolour. Nothing much has changed now she's covering all things photography related for CNET.

Update One of the first ads for the new Lumia smartphone, purported to compare its image stabilisation with video that was shot with a regular smartphone. The problem is that the superior Lumia video, and possibly the still images, were shot with a regular video camera.

One of Nokia's first Lumia ads showed a couple shooting a video with the Lumia 920, comparing it to video shot without Nokia's optical image stabilisation.
(Credit: Nokia)

Nokia took the wraps off its new line of Windows Phone 8 smartphones, along with what one would assume to be a carefully crafted media campaign to demonstrate their strengths.

One of the key features Nokia was touting was the PureView camera, which the handset maker said boosted optical image stabilisation (OIS), the function that counteracts hand shake by moving the lens. Nokia even went so far as to claim that its OIS was 50 per cent more effective than systems in some high-end digital cameras.

But it turns out that Nokia's campaign to attract consumers was the most shaky. One of the first promotional videos released sought to demonstrate the OIS capabilities by showing a couple riding bikes. But the good folks over at The Verge noticed a reflection that indicated the video had been shot with a regular video camera and not the Lumia 920, as implied.

Nokia soon owned up to the ruse, admitting that it had produced the video to "simulate" images that were possible with its new OIS.

"Hindsight is 20/20, but we should have posted a disclaimer stating this was a representation of OIS only," Nokia spokesperson Heidi Lemmetyinen wrote in a company blog post. "This was not shot with a Lumia 920. We apologize for the confusion we created."

The Finnish handset maker has since posted another video (see below) without the bikes and fun-loving couple; it shows the new OIS shot on a prototype Lumia 920, side-by-side with a video shot over the same course on a smartphone without OIS.

Nokia says the "difference is apparent" — and it is.

To add insult to injury, it now appears that even the legitimacy of the still images has been called into question.

Designer and blogger Youssef Sarhan noticed that the promotional still images extracted from the end of the OIS video were not quite right. Having lived in Helsinki, where the images were taken, he said that there's no lighting in the city that looks like the sort captured in the photos.

(Credit: Youssef Sarhan)

The sparkle effect on the street lights that is noticeable in some of the still photographs, is not something that a phone camera with a fixed f/2 lens is able to produce, he said.

These kind of diffractions are typical of a DLSR (sic) camera with a smaller aperture, like f/22. So, it makes perfect sense that if Nokia were to fake the video, they would also fake the stills; which they almost certainly have.

Seeing as Nokia has admitted that the initial OIS video was simulated, it would appear that the stills in the video that Sarhan refers to were also shot with another camera.

Since Sarhan's initial post, another user has submitted a photograph of the shoot in action on the streets of Helsinki. In the photo, you can see some LED lights, large reflector for fill and, on the far left side of the frame, a tripod. While the camera itself is cut off, you can clearly make out the presence of a lens.

It's not unusual for companies to bring out professional lighting gear to help throw some illumination on scenes when shooting promotional stills for a product. What does present a problem is when there's no disclosure on how the images were acquired, or in this case, that the photos were most likely taken on a professional camera, rather than the Lumia product in question.

Here's another peculiar-looking photo, provided on the PureView page:

(Credit: Nokia)

The top image is taken on a competitor's phone. It looks reasonable enough, and reflects results that many people have experienced when taking low-light photos on smartphones that have built-in flash.

The second photo, purportedly taken on the Lumia 920, is noticeably different. It's a great visual comparison, as it looks like the 920 produces a photo that is clearly superior to the competition. Something that doesn't seem quite right is the lighting. Take a look at how the light is thrown — it looks as if there's a light source coming from the far left of the frame — highlighting both the tree and the ground. While we'd like to give the phone the benefit of the doubt, it seems highly unlikely that this is lighting from just the phone.

Even if it was a long exposure, the colour balance of the scene would be consistent. In this shot, there are too many casts. The temperature of the lights in the background is quite obviously a yellowish or orange cast, while the foreground is very much the colour temperature seen when using speedlights, strobes or a dedicated external light source.

We've seen time and time again just how capable the previous 808 PureView phone has been in capturing stills and video, but these images from the Lumia 920 seem to be almost too good to be true.

In a statement to technology enthusiast site NeoWin, Nokia said:

Contrary to information posted on some blogger and technology websites, all still images found on the PureView page on were taken using a Nokia Lumia 920 prototype phone. They were not faked.

Updated at 1.30pm, 10 September: Nokia has since apologised again for the still images used at the end of the image stabilisation video in both the comments at The Verge and in a dedicated statement as reproduced below.

For clarification, the first photo was shot by a bystander in Helsinki and apparently posted by them to the internet. It shows the production set-up being used for the video for which we have apologised for not being transparent. Indeed, a Lumia 920 was not used to illustrate the benefits of optical image stabilisation and we regret the error. The other still images in this post were extracted from that video. Again, we have posted an apology and the video is now clearly marked. We also posted images of the Lumia 920 being used in low light conditions yesterday. These images were taken in Central Park, the evening prior to our launch in New York, using a Lumia 920 prototype and no artificial lighting or stands, and a flagship smartphone from another manufacturer. Their authenticity is not in question. The same is true for the PureView photos on Nokia's product pages.


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kalval posted a comment   

It was pretty stupid to do that with the bike video (though such trickery is not rare in the industry - see apple's simulated siri ads), but at least the image in the park is taken with the real 920. Clearly they used lighting to better bring out the contrast in the tree trunk and on the subject, but the distant objects show much better illumination than the 'competitor' camera. The fact that this camera offers the best low light performance is not in doubt, just don't expect the contrast to be quite this pronounced:

The shots above taken in the city (the ones with the suspicious street lights) are definitely taken with a different camera because nokia did not specify it was taken with a 920 (seriously if that was the 920 they'd have that fact written all over them). The shots actually taken with the 920 inlude the one in the park and the one with the girl in front of the river. I think the latter offer the fairest comparison (ie all conditions equal including lighting). It doesn't look quite as good as the DSLR ones but they're still nothing short of amazing coming from a phone.

That link also has a paper with more details on the technology, but basically due to the OIS the shutter can remain open for 8x longer than with it off.

PS CNET something is wrong with your comments box - it keeps missing letters I type - every other web site is ok


Im Batman posted a comment   

Marketing ... always with the lies.
As mentioned, a bit of help to show a cameras ability "in the best light" is expected... but to not use the device!
Maybe they did take the images with the 920, along side a DSLR ... they just slipped in the wrong images.

The reflection in the bike one is classic, rookies.

Atleast there will be alot of evaluations done on the OIS when it is released... and i'm sure a few remakes of the biking video!!

The disclaimers are used in advertising often, Apple ads come to mind, "transitions shortened" etc.
Would have been simple to say "OIS simulated"

More buzz for Nokia.


BrianC1 posted a comment   

Nokia embarrassed much? I have seen the ad that they are talking about and it is blatant in how they lie to the consumer with it. Stupid thing is that they probably could have achieved the desired result WITHOUT actually resorting to cheating...

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