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Nokia’s making camera phones with lens experts Zeiss again, and we can’t wait

5 phones ahead of their time
Kārlis Dambrāns/Flickr
If there’s one thing Windows phones were known for, it’s the camera. That’s largely due to Nokia and optics-expert Zeiss, two companies that brought us excellent camera phones like the Nokia 808 PureView and the famous Nokia Lumia 1020. Now, the legendary collaboration is making a return, as HMD Global has announced an exclusive partnership deal that will see Zeiss and HMD work on new photographic systems for future Nokia smartphones.

If you’re unaware, Nokia itself isn’t making smartphones anymore — that honor has passed on to HMD Global, which is mostly comprised of ex-Nokia employees. Don’t pass this partnership with Zeiss as a mere branding exercise, either. The long-term agreement will see HMD Global and Zeiss work together on all aspects of Nokia smartphone cameras. Zeiss will collaborate on camera optics, of course, but it will also assist with the software experience, services offered, and even the screen quality of the phone itself. It’s exclusive, too, so we won’t see Zeiss’s work on any other phones.

HMD Global’s CEO Arto Nummela is understandably excited about the potential. He says he’s aware we want more than just a great smartphone camera today, and expect “a complete imaging experience that doesn’t just set the standard but redefines it.” He promises the Zeiss partnership will help Nokia deliver this.

While the 2012 Nokia 808 PureView, or 2013 Lumia 1020 are probably the last Nokia camera phones with a Zeiss lens to wow smartphone photographers, the partnership extends back to 2005, and produced many other notable camera phones in Nokia’s highly regarded N Series, including the award-winning N95. At the time, there was nothing quite like the N95’s 5-megapixel, f/2.8 aperture camera; it was arguably the first “modern” camera phone, and extremely influential in the industry.

It’s not just this history that makes us excited to see the first devices from HMD Global and Zeiss. Huawei and Leica have shown how successful a camera-related partnership can be today, with the superb dual-lens camera on the Huawei P9, Huawei P10, and the Huawei Mate 9. We’re hopeful a Zeiss-equipped Nokia phone can meet the expectations many will have of it; there’s no news yet on when the first models will arrive.

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