Less than meets the eye: A rant on perception

| June 13, 2013 | 70 Replies


A long time ago, my boss in a previous career once told me “Perception is reality” and he believed that 100%. I was never convinced because I know that the reality of something may be totally different from what it seems. Sure, people can perceive anything to be anything but that does NOT mean that it is what you think it is.

Let’s start with the Galaxy S4 Zoom…

First, I want to make it clear that this isn’t a bash Samsung, GS4 Zoomest Suxxors, Android lageth!!! post. If that isn’t what this post is about, then what is it about? It all goes back to perception. Let’s look at a few photos of the GS4 Zoom:

Point and shootingness

The better to see you with

I see you


Look at it! (no seriously…look at it) This device has perception written all over it. What do I mean? When the average consumer sees the GS4 Zoom, all of their attention will be on the massive camera array and telescoping lens. Perception says “OMG there is a REAL camera on that phone!!! It MUST take the BEST pictures of any smartphone..seriously, did you SEE that real camera on the back??? Look at the size of that camera lens, it zooms just like my (insert camera brand)!! Best smartphone camera EVER!!! All other phones have smaller cameras and “cell phone” cameras but THIS is the real deal!!!”

Yes, perception says a LOT. I can hear the ATT reps now “The Galaxy S4 Zoom has the best and most advanced camera of any smartphone known to man. Look at the size of the camera, it takes the best pictures ever. You will never need to take a separate camera with you again because your camera is right here (points to the zoom array). Customer buys GS4 Zoom..after perceiving that the camera LOOKS like a high-end point and shoot and hearing the high praises from the media and store reps.

Perception is doing the consumer a BIG injustice. Here’s why:

Our good friend, Steve Litchfield, guessed the sensor size of the Zoom before the specifics were even mentioned. I have bolded the sentences that Steve was pointing out.

From his article:

Here’s part of the official press release:

“Part of the GALAXY S4 family, the GALAXY S4 zoom is the realization of Samsung’s mission to create a single device that can fulfill the role of both an industry leading smartphone and a high-end compact camera. Combining 10x Optical Zoom, 16 Mega Pixel CMOS Sensor, OIS and Xenon Flash with the very latest Samsung GALAXY S4 technology, the GALAXY S4 zoom sets new standards for perfect mobile photography. It is the ultimate smartphone and camera experience in one, and the only device you’ll ever need.

The Zoom Ring also revolutionizes conventional camera zoom controls. Optical zoom control replaces traditional dials and buttons with smooth, easy-to-operate digital controls. Professional-quality accuracy and unprecedented ease of use are just a twist away, making it easy to compose a scene and capture wide-angle shots or tight close-ups.

When it comes to high quality photography, bigger isn’t always better. The compact GALAXY S4 zoom’s best-in-class 10x Optical Zoom and 16MP BSI CMOS Sensor lets you capture beautiful images from far away or up close and personal, in all light conditions, without having to carry heavy camera gear around with you. Furthermore, the built-in Optical Image Stabilizer (OIS) helps keep the camera perfectly still even when you’re not, reducing blur and stabilizing the image while zoomed in for high-quality photos and video.”

Interesting stuff – the size of the sensor in the S4 zoom isn’t mentioned, but I suspect it’s 1/2.3″ and a lot smaller than the 1/1.2″ unit in the Nokia 808 PureView and rumoured to be in the Nokia EOS. (1/2.3″ was the size of the sensor in Nokia’s 2009 S60 3rd Edition-running N86.) The combination of true optical zoom and optical image stabilisation is welcome, of course, the two technologies do rather go together. Though note that Nokia’s software zoom system from the 41 megapixel sensor in their flagship PureView devices does have the advantage that it’s less bulky and doesn’t restrict light ingress, unlike optical zoom systems, which only really work well in good light conditions.

I have yet to see a press release that lists the sensor size BUT Samsung has released a video highlighting all of the neat things that you can do with the zoom and in the video, we can finally see the all important sensor size of…… 1/2.33, or rounded to 1/2.3 just as Steve predicted above!

small sensor

Perception….. The reality is that 1/2.33 is a small sensor! I would like to mention this again: this isn’t a bash GS4 Zoom or Samsung article. If Nokia did the same exact thing, I would write the same exact article.  Samsung has, by design, given the perception that the GS4 Zoom is a serious camera phone with a best in class camera and the masses WILL believe it. It will be hard to convince the average consumer that the Nokia N8 (1/1.8 sensor) may, that the Nokia 808 PureView (1/1.2 sensor) does and that the rumored Nokia EOS (rumored to have a 1/1.2 sensor like the 808) will take better photos. Now that sentence is all speculation because I haven’t seen any thorough comparison of the Zoom to the aforementioned devices.

What I can say as a FACT is that those Nokia devices have larger sensors and many proven advantages over smaller sensors similar to the GS4 Zoom. Perception will say “There is NO WAY that your 808’s puny camera (looking at both camera arrays) can beat this MONSTER camera on my S4 Zoom…no way!” it will also say “My Zoom has a real camera, your EOS has a cell phone camera and fake digital zoom!” Now, I am not going to touch on actual performance of the device, just the perception, but if you want to see a comparison of a similar situation, look no further than GSMArena’s excellent Galaxy Camera vs. 808 PureView: Shoot ’em up

From the article:

Sensors and lenses

The Samsung Galaxy Camera uses a 16.3MP backlit CMOS sensor, while the Nokia 808 PureView relies on a 41MP front-lit CMOS. The 808 PureView a sensor that’s more than 3 and a half times bigger than that  of the camera: 1/1.2″ against the Galaxy Camera’s regular 1/2.3″.

Samsung Galaxy Camera Nokia 808 PureView
Sensor Type BSI FSI
Sensor Size 1/2.3″ 1/1.2″
Effective Megapixels 16.3 MP 38 MP
F-number F/2.4 – F/8.0 F/2.4
Focal Length 4.1 – 86.1 mm 8.0 mm
Zoom 21x optical zoom Up to 4x lossless digital zoom Up to 12x lossless digital zoom in video recording
Optical Image Stabilization Yes No
Flash Xenon (up to 6m) Xenon (up to 4m)
AF light Yes (AF red light) Yes (single-LED)
Video recording 1080p@30fps, 720p@60fps 1080p@30fps, 720p@30fps
Slow-motion video 768×512@120fps No


The original Galaxy Camera (GC) (no phone capabilities) has a 1/2.3 sensor and while I cannot confirm nor deny if it is the same sensor that is in the Zoom, Samsung has been known to reuse their camera sensors and modules in different devices. The end result is that the 808 took better pictures yet the GC (not GameCube) had better zoom capabilities. The 1/2.3 sensor does not, cannot live up to the design of the GC and the expectations of the buyers.

Here is my big issue with Perception and my reason for this article: We are the consumers and we trust whatever company to deliver on what they sell us, on their promises. We have expectations. When a company, in this case Samsung, purposely designs a product for a specific purpose yet DOES NOT PUT TECH THAT IS IN LINE WITH THAT PURPOSE, they let us down, they deceive us, they basically bet on perception and do JUST ENOUGH to be acceptable. This is damaging to the consumers, damaging to the advancement of technology and damaging to competing companies and brands. Again, we have expectations, not just the techie people but general consumers. When they see devices like these, they EXPECT, perceive them to be the best because the look like a best fit for the intended purpose only to find out that looks can be deceiving and that perception is not reality. I had one of THESE…..

samsung-memoir-t-mobile-t929 t-mobile-scoop-feb-09


….at the same time that I had this…



I would show people both phones and show the backside and people just KNEW that the Memoir would take better photos. They just knew it. Their perception was based on the fact that it looked like a real camera, felt like a real camera, the hump was bigger, the higher megapixels, the marketing stronger and they were TOLD that it takes pro-photos and stuff. It was such a disservice to the consumer who bought the Memoir based on design, expectations and perception when Samsung did not deliver on its design and use case promises. Reality showed that no matter how much the Memoir LOOKED like a real camera, its tiny sensor, sub par optics and crude software algorithms did not live up to the size of the hump, the design and consumer expectations. The 2007 Nokia N82 (pictured above) had a larger sensor, better optics and finely tuned imaging software that resulted in factually better photos, even at a lower 5 Megapixels compared to the Memoirs highly touted 8MP camera. Perception was definitely NOT reality. Consumers spent their  hard-earned money and were let down when the best camera phones were found elsewhere, even if they didn’t look like a real camera.

Fast forward to today. Technology has improved leaps and bounds, limits have been broken, the impossible has been done. Many companies possess the ability to design and manufacture ground breaking devices and have divisions dedicated to imaging, sound and other technologies. Samsung chose to target the photo centric consumer, seemingly, combining everything that many smartphone buyers have been looking for in a camera…a “real camera” but somehow decided to skimp on the most important part of the assembly…the sensor. I find it akin to coming to a car show, seeing an AMAZING muscle car, I mean, all the right muscular lines, oozing with a powerful stance, quad pipes, and it is being pitched as the best muscle car ever made. You are stoked, stumped at the fact that the car is in a certain price range and you walk up to the car….pop the hood……only to find a 4 Cylinder 150 HP engine. The perception was great, the stuff people have been asking for, wanting, needing, yet some how…the manufacturer, those that put the specifications together, decided to over promise by design and under deliver by decision while simultaneously letting down every consumer that trusted in their promise, their perception.

It is my hope that in the future, when a company decides to target a specific group of consumers, with specific designs that they would choose the best interest of those consumers and deliver on their promises. The saying “You can’t judge a book by its cover” is as true as it has ever been in the world of technology. I encourage everyone to learn more about the products that we buy, the promises manufactures make to us and take them to task on those promises, on the perceptions that they give and on the words that they dazzle us with. Nokia isn’t excluded, we could write another 2000 words about how the PureView brand has changed since the introduction of the 808. In the end, a company must deliver. I am ok with the GS4 Zoom, with Zoom being in the name, it at least steers consumers to a factual perception that the zoom is the key but when a company or the media talks it up as being the best camera phone ever, then…I have a problem.

Have you all experience a let down of perception? What is your take on the subject of the article? Any things that stand out? I was let down when Nokia made the X7 to appear to have stereo speakers when it only had one…. Sound off in the comments below and thank you for bearing with us………..2000 words later.

As always, thank you for choosing MyNokiaBlog!


Image credits: AllAboutSymbian, PhoneArena, Google Images.



Category: Lumia, Maemo, MeeGo, Nokia, Nseries, Symbian, Video, Windows Phone

About the Author ()

Good day everyone! My name is Demitrius Harris and I am a fan of all things true. I currently hold a position in the IT Department at a college and I teach various classes when the opportunity presents itself. In the past, I was a Special Education Teacher and a Technology Education teacher at an elementary school and have held titles in the Financial industry. What does that mean for you, our dear readers? It means that I love to write and communicate as accurately as possible! It is my hope, that I will always be able to provide factual information concerning all things related to Nokia (even when the Nokia brand isn't printed) and anything else in the scope of technology that fits within the purpose of MyNokiaBlog. I humbly thank you all for reading my posts (and the MNB Team) that sometimes contain THOUSANDS of words. You all are the best and most respectful blog supporters in the world! Thank you for choosing! Sincerely, Demitrius Harris. Favorite phone of all time: Nokia N82 - Black