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How to use the Nokia 9 PureView’s camera to step up your photography game

Nokia 9 PureView
Julian Chokkattu/Digital Trends

So you got your hands on the limited edition Nokia 9 PureView — congratulations! It’s a phone meant for photography enthusiasts because there’s a lot that can be done to the images this five-camera system produces.

If you’re looking to learn how to fully explore the phone’s imaging capabilities, we have you covered in this Nokia 9 PureView camera guide.

How it works

Unlike most smartphones with multiple cameras, each camera on the back of the Nokia 9 captures a photo at the same time when you tap the shutter button (sometimes more, depending on the conditions you’re in). That’s five photos fused into one image that’s (hopefully) perfect. Two cameras are 12-megapixel RGB sensors, while the other three are 12-megapixel monochromatic sensors, as they can take in 2.9x more light than the RGB ones (all with an f/1.8 aperture). In total, you’re getting about 10x more light than a traditional smartphone camera. It’s important to know, the fusion process can take some time — it can vary from a little under 10 seconds to considerably longer.

The other key feature is the option to save a RAW image along with the JPEG, which is compressed. Editing a RAW image gives you much more control over what you can change in a photo, as it retains the full information captured, whereas data is lost when photos are converted to JPEG. You can install Adobe Lightroom during the phone’s setup process to share your RAW photos and edit them all on the Nokia 9 PureView.

The five cameras also capture 1,200 layers of depth, which means you can change the blur intensity or refocus an image after you’ve captured it. That’s done in Google Photos, which is the default gallery app on the phone.

Camera app and settings

Launch the camera app and tap on the hamburger menu on the top left (the horizontal lines). Now you’ll want to decide if you want to utilize the RAW files from the camera — they will take up more space on your phone, but if you want to edit your own photos, this is the best way to do it.

Nokia 9 PureView camera settings
  • Toggle on RAW photos by tapping on RAW files support, then tap Save RAW files in DNG format.

Now when you open Google Photos (the default camera gallery app) to look at your photos, you will see a circular icon at the top right with the word RAW below to make it easy to figure out which is the RAW file and what’s a JPEG. You won’t be able to share RAW files to most third-party apps, so you’ll need to edit them in Lightroom and have them converted to JPEG if you want to share them. We’ll explain how to do that soon.

Go back to the camera settings page again, and you’ll see you can customize the camera modes. If you don’t plan on using Square mode or Panorama, for example, you can turn them off. Use the hamburger icon to the left of each mode to move them around for quicker access. We also recommend turning on the Grid lines to help frame photos.

The photo resolution is the highest by default, but go back to the camera and tap on Video and then go to the camera settings again. Go to Resolution, and you can change the Back camera video and the Front camera video resolutions to UHD 4K.

Now you’ll also want to turn on the Depth Map. This enables the cameras to capture 1,200 layers of depth for JPEG photos, allowing you to refocus and adjust blur in photos after you capture them. Here’s how to enable the Depth Map:

  • Open the camera app and look for the icon with three tilted squares with a diagonal line cutting through (it’s next to a circle and a paintbrush icon). Tap it, then tap Depth On. Now you’ll be able to adjust the depth map on your photos.

Using Depth Control

Nokia 9 PureView
Julian Chokkattu/Digital Trends

To get the best results tweaking depth with photos captured on the Nokia 9 PureView, you will want to have a clear subject in the frame (it also helps to have something in the foreground). You can only adjust depth for JPEG photos (photos taken in Monochrome mode won’t work either).

In Google Photos, go to a JPEG photo, which should then indicate the Depth Map was captured on the top right. Tap the edit button (next to the share button at the bottom), and then tap the same edit icon again. Now you will see several sliders, with Depth being one of them. Expand it by tapping the downward arrow on the right. Increase the blur by moving the slider, and then you should tap an area in the photo you want to focus on. This is handy if you took a photo that focused on the wrong subject. Now play around with the background blur slider, and you’ll see the blur intensity changing behind the subject.

If there’s an object in the foreground, you can adjust the blur toward the front of the photo to help mimic a shallow depth of field captured on a DSLR. We’ve found it tends to work best when the foreground blur is under 50 percent, as it can sometimes make the subject blurry as well.

When you’re done, collapse the Depth menu, and tap on Save copy on the top right. The original photo won’t be changed, but you will get a copy of the edited Depth Map to share.

Editing a RAW image in Lightroom

nokia 9 pureview review nokia9 image editing 1
Julian Chokkattu/Digital Trends

Now that you can access both JPEG and RAW files for your photographs, it’s a good idea to learn how to edit the RAW images. You should first install the Adobe Lightroom Android app if you didn’t do it during the phone’s setup process. The easiest way to bring a photo to the Lightroom app is to find a RAW image you want to edit in Google Photos, then tap the share icon, and tap on the Add to Lr icon. You’ll be asked if you want to import a Large size or the Actual size — we recommend the latter to get the best quality image. Next, you should get a notification saying Import Finished. Tap on this, and the Lightroom app will open, and then tap on All Photos to find your imported image.

If you haven’t, we recommend going through Lightroom’s tutorials to get a sense of how the app works. The editing tools sit at the bottom of the app, and the Undo or Redo button is at the top. When you’re done editing a photo, you’ll need to tap the triple-dot icon on the top right and click on Save to device. You can easily find these edited RAW files in Google Photos — just go to Albums > Adobe Lightroom. You can also directly share these edited photos using the Share icon at the top right, and the images will be converted to JPEG.

If you need a good recommendation on where to start editing, tap on the Auto icon at the bottom of the Lightroom app and it will do a solid job. You can then jump into all the other editing options to tweak the image to your liking. We spend a lot of time in the Light and Color tabs, and you can sharpen images in the Detail tab as well. The best way to learn is to just try all the editing tools at your disposal in the app. You’ll soon get a feel for how to edit your images, and will likely rely less on the Auto tool over time.

You may not want or need to edit a RAW photo all the time — if you like the look of the JPEG, use the edit tools in Google Photos to adjust the image a little, and you’re done.

Monochrome, Pro, Bothies, and the selfie camera

Monochrome Mode 2 Nokia 9 Camera Testing

There are a few more tools in the camera app to help up your photography game. Monochrome mode lets you take true black and white photographs — just tap on the mode in the camera app, and snap a photo. You’ll even get the RAW file to edit in Google Photos. It’s great whenever you want to shoot in black and white.

A Pro mode also lets you take complete control over the camera, allowing you to customize the white balance, ISO, shutter speed, and exposure compensation. Just tap on these respective tools, and use the half circle slider that pops up to move to the setting you want. For Pro mode, one new feature is the ability to take a 10-second long exposure.

  • To do this, tap on the shutter speed icon (looks like Pac-Man). Move the slider to the right until the number says 10. You’ll need a tripod, or place the phone on a stable surface. Tap the shutter button, and the phone will take 10 seconds to bring in light and capture a photo. It’s ideal for ultra low-light environments.

HMD’s Bothie mode makes a return. It lets you use the front and rear camera at the same time for unique photos or video. Tap the person icon at the top of the camera app, and you can choose from Single, Dual, or P-I-P (picture-in-picture). Single is the default mode, where it just uses one camera. Dual splits the camera app in half — the top is the rear camera, and the bottom is the front camera. And P-I-P will add a floating screen on top of the viewfinder just for the selfie camera. These two modes are ideal when you want to capture your reaction as well as what’s happening in front.

The 20-megapixel selfie camera is fairly standard — there is a beauty mode you can turn on to smooth out blemishes on your face, and a Bokeh mode lets you add a blur effect in the background. The depth map can’t be adjusted for selfies because it doesn’t use the five-camera system.

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