HMD Global and Zeiss on Thursday announced that they had signed an agreement under which upcoming Nokia-branded smartphones will use Zeiss-branded optics exclusively. The companies said that they would co-develop imaging capabilities of future handsets, but did not elaborate when to expect actual devices on the market.

The collaboration announcement between HMD and Zeiss has a number of layers, all of which seem to be significant. First off, Nokia’s future phones will use optics co-developed with a renowned designer of lenses. The important upshot here is that HMD is actually investing in the development of custom capabilities for its Nokia phones. Second, the two companies are talking about “advancing the quality of the total imaging experience”, involving optics, display quality, software, and services, but do not elaborate. From the announcement, it looks like HMD will put R&D efforts not only into optics but will design its own software enhancements to improve imaging capabilities beyond those offered by vanilla Android. A good news here is that certain future phones carrying the Nokia brand are not going to rely completely on off-the-shelf hardware, software, and reference designs. Third, HMD announced that imaging is one of the areas that it considers important for its future smartphones. Finally, Zeiss will be used on Nokia-branded devices exclusively, which means that future halo smartphones from Microsoft (if the company decides to launch them) will have to rely on other optics.

Nokia started to work with Zeiss (which was called Carl Zeiss then) more than 10 years ago. The first handset to use Zeiss optics was the N90 released in 2005, which set some standards for smartphone imaging capabilities for a long time. The two companies collaborated for a long time and introduced a number of smartphones with advanced cameras. The culminations of their work were the Nokia 808 PureView and Lumia 1020 phones released in 2012 and 2013 (respectively) and featuring a 41 MP sensor along with an oversized Carl Zeiss-branded optics assembly and providing features like lossless digital zoom and pixel oversampling. After the acquisition of Nokia’s smartphone business by Microsoft in 2013, the latter released a number of handsets featuring Zeiss Tessar four-element lenses as well, but eventually, Microsoft lost interest in smartphones in general and decided not to prolong its agreement with Zeiss. As a result, Microsoft’s latest Lumia 650 smartphone does not use Zeiss-branded optics.

HMD and Zeiss aim to co-develop “standard-defining imaging capabilities” for smartphones, but they do not disclose when the first Android-based Nokia handsets with Zeiss optics are to arrive in the market. Keep in mind that the agreement between HMD and Microsoft does not cover the PureView (imaging) IP nor the ClearBlack (display enhancements) IP that remain at Microsoft. Therefore HMD will have to develop its image processing technology and LCD screen filters to match features of previous-gen Nokia smartphones when it comes to photography and display quality. It is unclear how much time this work will take, but the good news here is that the works are either underway or about to start.

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Source: HMD Global

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  • ddriver - Thursday, July 6, 2017 - link

    So, all new nokias will have only zeiss optics, or only new nokias will have zeiss optics?
  • boozed - Thursday, July 6, 2017 - link

    All new Nokias will have Zeiss written on them and a lens from the same Asian factory as always.
  • Tadashi130 - Friday, July 7, 2017 - link

    "upcoming Nokia-branded smartphones will use Zeiss-branded optics exclusively"
    " Zeiss will be used on Nokia-branded devices exclusively"
    I wonder why they weren't mentioned in one sentence instead of doing it like this. I can understand your confusion.
  • ddriver - Friday, July 7, 2017 - link

    Nah, it was more of a rhetorical question, aimed to point out the ambiguity.
  • Gunbuster - Thursday, July 6, 2017 - link

    "Nokia-branded smartphones will use Zeiss-branded optics exclusively" all I have seen is tricky wording like this. I think we'll see the Zeiss logo get emailed to the factory and they will "collaborate" on buying someones $10 optics over the $5 option. Then hit the phone with a $50 mark up for the Zeiss branding.
  • boozed - Thursday, July 6, 2017 - link

    You'll be a businessman yet!
  • CharonPDX - Thursday, July 6, 2017 - link

    You mean some $2 optics over the $1 option. You're overestimating how much they'd spend on optics.
  • shabby - Thursday, July 6, 2017 - link

    Because its the optics that make a great camera... thanks but i'll stick to the no name brand optics on my s8.
  • tuxfool - Thursday, July 6, 2017 - link

    Not just, but they matter a lot.
  • shabby - Thursday, July 6, 2017 - link

    Then i will imagine nokia will screw it up by using a cheap sensor and low end isp.

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