May 01, 2013

Nokia Invests in High Resolution Smartphone Camera Maker Pelican Imaging


Nokia has long been known for its stellar smartphone cameras and Carl Zeiss camera lenses that it uses in most of its higher end smartphones. Nokia's latest camera efforts involve the 41 megapixel camera technology introduced with its PureView 808 smartphone, a Symbian-based phone that is more concept than anything else. We have one on hand and the camera is truly awesome, though the smartphone itself leaves much to be desired.

The PureView camera technology is slowly finding its way into Nokia's Lumia phones. It made its first official appearance as an 8.75 megapixel camera in the Lumia 920, and it boasts superlative imaging stabilization capabilities - especially under the sort of lighting scenarios that defeat most smartphone cameras. The upcoming new Lumia flagship (which will supposedly be officially announced on May 14, 2013) is expected to deliver a 13 megapixel version.

Smartphone camera technology has become a differentiator of sorts for smartphones. It is one reason Samsung has spent a lot of time building out all sorts of photo capabilities (or gimmicks, depending on your point of view) for its new Galaxy S4. While Nokia's cameras deliver great "images" they do not have the relatively rich set of features that competitors such as Samsung are coming out with.

In looking for ways Nokia can change this, it has come upon Pelican Imaging, a company that is clearly upping the ante on what a smartphone camera can do. Founded in 2008 and headquartered in Mountain View, Calif., Pelican is taking a different route to how a camera can be differentiated.

In particular, the Pelican camera technology allows for an infinite range of focusing between the nearest object in a photo and the most distant object in an image. Rather than explain it, the following video makes it crystal clear what Pelican has to offer.

Pelican’s computational camera technology provides depth mapping at every pixel, enabling “the perfect picture” every time and allowing users to perform an unprecedented range of selective focus and edits, both pre- and post-capture. The camera itself is about 50 percent thinner than existing mobile cameras. It is exceedingly nifty. What we love about it is that it delivers very useful technology for both the serious photographer and the much more casual consumer photo snapper. It remains to be seen how Nokia might marry the Pelican technology with its own PureView technology, but it is well worth Nokia investigating.

And towards that goal, Nokia's still extant investing arm, Nokia Growth Partners, has taken an investment position in Pelican, along with Qualcomm Ventures and Pelican's earlier investors, which include Globespan Capital Partners, Granite Ventures, InterWest Partners and IQT. The new series C round of funding brings $20 million to Pelican's coffers.

Despite its cost cutting measures over the last 18 months, Nokia hasn't been shy about investing in imaging technology. Last July Nokia acquired Swedish imaging software vendor Scalado. And Nokia Growth Partners has also invested in image sensing vendor InVisage Technologies and micro optics maker Heptagon (which also has computational imaging technology in hand).

It's good to see Nokia continue to focus on one of its true core strengths. Imaging is a Nokia differentiator and the company must continue to deliver on this front as it strives to regain its footing and market share. That market share and Nokia's earnings have been improving - yes, slowly, but improving nevertheless. And that is a good thing.




Edited by Alisen Downey




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