The new Nokia 808 Pureview claims a 41MP sensor when shooting still images. Engadget tells us that it is due to "interpolation jiggery-pokery that condenses four or five pixels into one pixel". I thought surely this was just marketing nonsense, but I don't know of any other cases where manufacturers were advertising such high resolution on a small sensor such as this. I also found references to "pixel-oversampling", which may be just another name for interpolation.

Then, I found example images from the camera, which confused me even more. These examples seem very impressive to me, for any cell phone camera, and potentially any camera.

So what exactly is interpolation, and are these results as great as the initial examples appear?


2 Answers 2


The white paper in your link explains this very nicely.

The "jiggery-pokery" that Engadget speaks of is not faking the high resolution, but rather going the other way around: the sensor really does appear to have that many tiny little photosites, but under normal use, it pixel bins. (Presumably, the image quality is pretty atrocious at the pixel-peeping level.)

Nokia says:

Pixel oversampling combines many pixels to create a single (super) pixel. When this happens, you keep virtually all the detail, but filter away visual noise from the image.

The sensor they're using is relatively big (for a compact camera) — they're saying it's a 1/1.2" format sensor, which would be a 13mm diagonal, which is only slightly smaller than the Nikon CX.

Digital Photography Review now has a blog post explaining this, with pretty pictures. One key thing that they note (and which I didn't bother to work out but should have) is that the larger sensor means that the photosites-per-area is the same as for a typical 8mpix cell phone or ultra-compact camera.

And, I'm going to re-quote something they take from Nokia's blog (the link you posted):

5Mpix-6Mpix is more than enough for viewing images on PC, TV, online or smartphones. After all, how often do we print images bigger than even A4? [It] isn’t about shooting pictures the size of billboards! Instead, it’s about creating amazing pictures at normal, manageable sizes.

I sure hope DSLR makers take that same philosophy as large-sensor cameras increase in megapixels as well. (Canon's on the right path with sRAW.)

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    \$\begingroup\$ I'd say that "interpolation" is a poor choice of words on Engadget's part. \$\endgroup\$
    – coneslayer
    Feb 27, 2012 at 20:08
  • \$\begingroup\$ What do you mean "pixel bins"? I read the Nokia quote, but that just sounds like gimmicky talk to me. A "super pixel"? What does that mean? \$\endgroup\$
    – dpollitt
    Feb 27, 2012 at 20:08
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    \$\begingroup\$ "Binning" is combining multiple pixels into a larger pixel. (On some CCDs, at least, it can be done on the chip, before readout. I don't think that's the case here.) "Super pixel" would be the larger pixel that's the result of binning. \$\endgroup\$
    – coneslayer
    Feb 27, 2012 at 20:12
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    \$\begingroup\$ And although one would be forgiven for thinking otherwise, "super pixel" is actually a technical term. \$\endgroup\$
    – mattdm
    Feb 27, 2012 at 20:31
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    \$\begingroup\$ :) Super-pixel as a search term in scholarly papers. The word "super" is being used literally, rather than in what has become its normal sense of hyperbole. \$\endgroup\$
    – mattdm
    Feb 27, 2012 at 20:49

From the videos i have watched and information I have read this evening the sensor is actually 41MP but by default the phone will produce 5MP images by using all of the pixel information available. So the oversampling means that in a 5MP image each pixel will contain information from seven of the pixels on the 41MP sensor - according to Nokia this should result in a much higher quality smaller image.

They also say that by having such a large MP count they can provide effective zooming by cutting away the unneeded pixels and still providing a sharp image. It is discussed a little more here:


The 41MP stuff seems like a bit of a marketing gimmick to me so far but it sounds pretty interesting and I'm all for anything that means we get better quality mobile phone cameras in the end.


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