With a Nokia hire, Apple’s excellent iPhone camera may get even better

While the world is tuned in to Apple’s rumored Beats Electronics purchase, perhaps more focus should be put on the iPhone’s popular camera. Why? Because Apple has hired Ari Partinen, one of the senior engineers responsible for Nokia’s(s nok) PureView camera technology. Partinen tweeted out his career move on Friday, which was reported by Engadget.

Nokia PureView 808

PureView is what Nokia calls the camera technology that debuted with the Nokia 808 in 2012. That model was more of a concept device, running the company’s older Symbian operating system. Nokia paired a massive 41 megapixel image sensor to a floating, five-element lens in the Nokia 808, and that setup found its way into various Lumia handsets running Windows Phone starting with the Lumia 1020. The Lumia 920 with PureView tech actually arrived prior to the Lumia 1020 but used a smaller image sensor.

In addition to unique hardware elements and optical image stabilization, PureView also provides lossless zooming through software: The massive image taken on a PureView camera can be cropped and zoomed many times over with no lost of picture quality. These two images from PocketNow illustrate the zooming; note the detail in the second image, which is a crop of the first.

pureview demo 1
Original photo
pureview demo 2
Cropped photo

While Apple’s hire of Partinen is surely for his camera expertise, I wouldn’t expect future iPhones to have all the same PureView capabilities as Nokia Lumia phones. For starters, Partinen was one of many imaging experts on Nokia’s PureView team. And Nokia has numerous patents to protect its intellectual property when it comes to PureView technology.

However, there are always different ways to solve a problem and in this case, Partinen may have ideas of his own on how to improve images from iPhones. I think this is a good hire for Apple even though its own camera technology has continuously improved with each successive iPhone model. Nabbing Partinen could turn the annual incremental iPhone camera bump into something more evolutionary as competitors try their own ways to make smartphone cameras shine.