Video and movie shooting with a smartphone

As the technology that powers smartphone cameras has steadily improved, the point-and-shoot has become an endangered species. The video capabilities of smartphones have greatly improved, and nowadays the best phones can shoot good quality high-definition video at good lighting conditions.

Still, smartphone cameras have some limitations. For example, because of the constraints of the lens, it is almost impossible to snap a really good close-up or a really good distance shot. Say, Can You Make Phone Calls on That Camera? article tells there are companies that are producing dozens of inexpensive smartphone attachments that can easily convert a mobile phone into a mini-professional camera. These products include zoom, fisheye and ultra-up-close macro lenses.

With a good smartphone camera can give amazing good pictures and video when lighting conditions are good (for example outside) but when it is dark the limitations will show easily (for example many inside locations). How to Shoot Great Video With Your Smartphone article tells that before you can overcome your smartphone camera’s limitations you need to understand them. After introduction the article gives you lots of tips how to shoot great video with your smartphone, including instructions for simple DIY accessories like the one you see in picture below.


Some professional movie makers have even found smartphone cameras and tried them. Feature film shot on a smartphone to get theatrical release. Olive is the very first full length feature film shot 100% on a cell phone according to the film home page. Hooman Khalili first got the idea to make a feature film shot entirely on a smartphone in January 2010. A little less than two years later, his film “Olive”, shot on a Nokia N8, is going to be shown in a Los Angeles theater for a week.

When I first read about this, it feels just like another gimmick. Marketing with “A feature film shot on a phone!!” gets a lot more attention, yeah. It would feel like “another indie short film” if shot on anything else. Yet for Nokia more marketing proof the Nokia N8 is the World’s best ever Camera phone!

The news on film shot with N8 became much more interesting when some technical details how they do the shooting came up. First I was a picture of their camera setup in Amerikkalaisohjaaja kuvasi kokopitkän elokuvan Nokian puhelimella article. They have some way attached the full size movie camera optics to the N8 camera to the phone. Good optics are essential to get good quality shots and right film visuals like shallow depth of field. Here is a picture of the camera system from Olive – Behind the Scenes video.


A 35 mm lens adapter was fabricated to fit the smart phone in order to achieve a shallow depth of field. Feature film shot on a smartphone to get theatrical release article tells that Khalili and his team had built what they needed from scratch, dismantling a 1940s-era movie camera to figure out how it should be done. And when it came time to attach the camera to the phone, the best they could come up with was double-sided tape. The downsize of the special construction was what the image you see on the N8 screen upside down, which is a little bit annoying I think. For more details take a look at Olive – Behind the Scenes video.

The one overhead shot in the movie was made by putting the phone in a remote-control helicopter. This is where the small size of the camera phone and built-in optics is comes very handy. Camera phone optics as such were OK for motorcycle shots.

A gimmick is a gimmick, and they have maybe made things difficult for themselves with results that maybe aren’t as wonderful as they could be with some more traditional film gear. Bu if the result is good then all good. Tasty sweet is a tasty treat and what was used to bake it is insignificant. Interesting test for limitations of cell phone camera capabilities.


  1. Electronics technologies for 2012 « Tomi Engdahl’s ePanorama blog says:

    [...] separate devices for different functions. This is happening for small digital cameras and video cameras. 2012 At the end of 2012 there is the more navigation capable mobile phones than the stand-alone [...]

  2. Tomi Engdahl says:

    IMAGE PROCESSING: Add-in modules turn film cameras digital

    Before the advent of digital photography, most documentary film makers and television production organizations used 16-mm film cameras. Available with a range of lens options and accessories, cameras such as the AR3 16-mm film camera from Arri (Munich, Germany) became the workhorse of cinematographers worldwide. Indeed, numerous rental companies still stock these cameras for film and television production.

    For companies such as Easylook System (Hamburg, Germany), the long legacy of 16-mm cameras and their accessories coupled with their relatively low cost and the trend toward digital imaging represent an opportunity.

    To transform these 16-mm cameras into digital high-definition systems, Easylook System replaced the original camera gate, placing an ACE acA2000, 2048 × 1088-pixel, 60-frame/s color Camera Link camera from Basler (Ahrensburg, Germany) in the film plane of the camera (see figure).

  3. Tomi Engdahl says:

    Eight… HD camera smartphones
    Sharp shooters for parties and protests

    HD on smartphones is becoming more commonplace and so rather than judge these handsets on their mobile merits, this round-up focuses on their HD video camera performance.

  4. Tomi Engdahl says:

    Nokia’s last Symbian smartphone, the 803: 4-inch AMOLED, Symbian Belle and the largest camera sensor you’ve ever seen

    We have also been told that the Nokia 803 will feature one of the largest camera sensors — if not the largest camera sensor — ever seen on a mobile phone. The Nokia 803 is currently expected to be released in the May timeframe.

  5. Tomi Engdahl says:

    PureView Nokia is a huge novelty: 41-megapixel camera phone!

    Nokia today announced the anticipated peak camera phone Nokia 808 PureView. This smartphone is equipped with an unprecedented 41-megapixel sensor. This smartphone runs a Symbian operating system.

    In May, the expectations of the future sales price of this camera-phone will be 450 euros (without taxes).

    Nokia 808 PureView Has a Monster 41-Megapixel Camera

    You read that right, 41 megapixels – Nokia has made this happen by combining Carl Zeiss optics and Nokia-developed pixel over-sampling technology. High megapixel count does not equal quality photos, of course – we’re looking forward to seeing how PureView tech works in real life.

    Of course, the PureView technology will be coming to upcoming Nokia phones as well, so get used to phones having crazy megapixel numbers in the near future.

    The 808 PureView also features something called Rich Recording, which lets you record “crisp, clear audio (…) up to a thumping 140 decibels,” says Nokia.

    The rest of the specs mostly spell mid-range: a single core 1.3 GHz CPU, a 4-inch, 360 x 640 pixel screen, 512 MB of RAM and 16 GB of storage.

    Nokia 808 PureView ushers in a revolution in smartphone imaging

    The Nokia 808 PureView features a large, high-resolution 41 megapixel sensor with high-performance Carl Zeiss optics and new pixel oversampling technology. At standard resolutions (2/3, 5 and 8 megapixels) this means the ability to zoom without loss of clarity and capture seven pixels of information, condensing into one pixel for the sharpest images imaginable

    At high-resolution (38 megapixel maximum) it means the ability to capture an image, then zoom, reframe, crop and resize afterwards

    More details:

  6. Tomi Engdahl says:

    Besides shooting video some phones can also shoot out video:

    Samsung Galaxy Beam Is Both a Smartphone and Projector

    What makes it different from most other smartphones on the market is its “ultra-bright,” 15-lumen projector, which lets you project a 50-inch wide image on a wall – really handy for presentations or those moments when you want to share your holiday photos with your family and friends.

  7. Tomi Engdahl says:

    Nokia announces 808 PureView: Belle OS, 4-inch display, 41-megapixel camera(!) — we go hands-on (video)

    Remember that Nokia PureView tease from a few days ago? Well, suddenly it all makes sense. We are indeed looking at an imaging flagship phone and a true successor to the N8. It’s called the 808 PureView

    key specs: The OS is Symbian Belle; the engine is a 1.3GHz single-core chip; the display is 4-inches corner to corner but its resolution is a Nokia-style 360 x 640 (nHD)

    Now that Carl Zeiss-lensed camera: it handles continuous-focus 1080p, but is claimed to have an incredible sensor resolution of over 41-megapixels when shooting stills — or 34-megapixels for 16:9 images. It uses some clever interpolation jiggery-pokery that condenses four or five pixels into one pixel, to produce a smaller file size for the output image.

    If you haven’t been sufficiently smacked in the face with the Nokia 808 PureView’s primary selling point, let’s settle the score right now: it’s a phone for camera enthusiasts.

    808 PureView is rather chunky, which is emphasized by the bulbous camera pod on the rear. In many ways, Nokia’s phone more closely rivals a point-and-shoot camera in size than a smartphone.

    many aspects of this phone, it’s likely an aspect that potential buyers will immediately embrace or find entirely off-putting.

    41 megapixels on the phone??? Thanks to Nokia, let’s say bye to point and shooting cameras!

  8. Tomi Engdahl says:

    These men – Eero and Juha – behind the Nokia’s monster camera

    Jo Harlow, Vice President brought up the Juha and Eero, whose idea seemingly impossible camera was born. Harlow said that the men were taken to investigate the possibilities of the technology used in satellites, and the reflection in the final result of the market, by far the most accurate mobile camera.

  9. Tomi Engdahl says:

    Nokia announces camera phone with 41 megapixel sensor

    A notable announcement that took those attending today’s press conference by surprise was about the new Symbian camera phone that could well up the mobile phone game: Nokia’s new 808 PureView, with a jaw-dropping 41 Megapixel sensor. It’s expected to start shipping in May with a hefty retail price tag of 450 euro.

    Nokia 808 PureView – How good can a pixel be? VIDEO!

    It’s not about the amount of the pixels, it’s what you do with them. Nokia PureView imaging technology can distil 7 pixels into 1 for stunningly sharp and clear 5 MP photos that are easy to share.

  10. tomi says:

    Nokia 808 PureView first sample shots — feast your eyes

    This is it. Here’s an exclusive first look at some sample shots taken with Nokia’s freshly minted 808 PureView imaging powerhouse — and wow, just wow! The collection contains photos taken at different resolutions in various conditions that show exactly what the 41-megapixel camera is capable of.

  11. Tomi Engdahl says:

    The Inside Story of Nokia’s 41-Megapixel Camera Phone: Five Years in the Making

    If it were easy to put a decent zoom lens in a camera phone, Nokia might never have come up with its biggest breakthrough in imaging in years.

    “We had been working for a long time [on] optical zooms and had learned the hard way how difficult it is to achieve good performance in smartphones,” Nokia head of imaging technologies Juha Alakarhu said in an interview last week. “Their structure is very complex and hard to manufacture.”

    Plus, Alakarhu says, when zoomed in, such lenses let very little light in, meaning they don’t do well at night and suffer from a lack of sharpness.

    “We were aware that it is possible to do zooming by very high resolution image sensor, but the idea of putting such a large and high resolution image sensor into a smartphone felt completely crazy,” Alakarhu said. “That was five years ago, and I guess it still feels like that.”

    they had been working on the technology in secret for the last five years.

    One of the key advantages is it lets you zoom in three or four times in either photos or video and still have a sharp image. The picture of the camera, here, for example, is taken from the same wide shot of the camera and its sensors. In videos, the technology allows one to zoom in close while still maintaining an HD resolution.

    Nokia said it can create a better five-megapixel image by using the data in the seven extra pixels to inform which single pixel it uses.

    Developing the 808 for Symbian was necessary for a few reasons. First, as mentioned, Nokia has been working on this technology for five years and only gotten to know Windows Phone over the past year. Also, because it controls Symbian, it can craft the camera app and operating system fully to its liking.

    Jo Harlow declined to say if the PureView technology would show up in Windows Phones this year

  12. New mobile phone camera technologies « Tomi Engdahl’s ePanorama blog says:

    [...] announces camera phone with 41 megapixel sensor. Nokia has history of making best camera phones. Video and movie shooting with a smartphone tells how N8 phone has been used to shoot full lenght movie. Now Nokia has made a nice successor to [...]

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  18. Tomi says:

    Use Movie Mount to Convert your iPad into a Filmmaking Machine

    Movie Mount is the simple accessory but can be very useful during video making process. It is equipped with hot shoes for hooking up microphone, a mount for lens and lights. The best thing is that you can set the lens as per your own choice.

  19. Tomi Engdahl says:

    How an iPhone App Made An Oscar-Nominated Film Possible

    The film Searching For Sugar Man is nominated for Best Documentary at this year’s Academy Awards. But it might have not been completed if it wasn’t for an iPhone.

    Shot primarily on 8mm film, the movie ran out of funding when there were still a few scenes left to be shot. To complete the film, director Malik Bendjelloul used his iPhone and a $1.99 iPhone app called 8mm Vintage Camera to capture the remaining scenes, which were then added to the finished documentary.

    The end result? Video footage that looks indistinguishable from the scenes recorded on expensive 8mm film.

    It’s a use case that Hongyu Chi, President of Nexvio the company behind 8mm Vintage Camera never could have imagined.

    “It’s like the wildest dream come true, “ Chi told Mashable.

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  21. Tomi Engdahl says:

    TOM & ISSY – A Roger Michell Film Starring Ellie Goulding

    Shot entirely on a Nokia Lumia 1020.
    Audio recorded with an external mic.
    Video edited on Final Cut Pro.

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