I've just come back after inspecting and analyzing some Nokia 8 low light camera samples on gsmarena website. They have reviewed the phone and they posted some nice sample images that gave me a good understanding how good the low-light performance of the camera is. In this 'Advantage' post I want to share with you my positive impressions of the Nokia 8 rear camera low-light performance.
First of all let's take a look at what rear camera specs are we looking at. The Nokia 8 features a Dual (Bayer+ Monochrome) 13MP sensor with 1.12-micron pixel size, Carl Zeiss optics and f/2.0 aperture lenses. The Color camera also comes with an optical image stabilization system as well, the mono camera lacks this feature. The mono sensor is used to amplify the image quality by allowing user to shoot pictures in the dual-camera mode, where the camera uses the information of both sensors to amplify the image quality; especially when shooting in low-light conditions. The mono sensor doesn't filter out light like the Bayer sensor, so each pixel receives 3 times more light compared to the color sensor.
I've seen the dual-camera sample shots, and to be honest, there wasn't a big difference in terms of low-light performance. GSMArena reported improved AF performance in that mode, and I guess that's all you get from it, alongside the ability to shoot native B&W pictures.
Before I move on taking about the low light image quality. Here is a Nokia 8 4K sample video taken with the RGB sensor by Btekt. You can see you get adeuete exposure, but it still quite dark due to the f/2.0 aperture. You'll need some good light source in order to obtain a well exposed scene. Shooting at near complete darkness is obviously out of the question.
An f/2.0 is relatively slow compared to other flagship Android smartphones that come with aperture lower than f/2.0 (e.g. f/1.7). Also 13-megapixel sensor resolution isn't optimal as well for small sensors, and we can see that this results in very small 1.12-micron pixels. A 1.4-micron and up would be much better for low light photography. There is also a dual tone flash at the back. Also keep in mind taht you can switch between the monochrome camera and the color camera, so you can capture true black and white photos.
Now for the Nokia 8 low light image quality. In terms of noise, the results are really impressive. Even images at ISO 1600 (the one with the building) look relatively very clean with very little chroma noise. The noise pattern itself is also in shape of fine dots, which is much easier to clean using noise-removal software (I use Noise Ninja by the way). As far as I can see it, there is relatively little noise reduction involved. We usually get to see smudgy noise pattern in many phones, which indicates a very strong post processing that was designed to make the image look cleaner with very little noise. It might look clean when viewing at low resolution, but when you magnify it you can see that you are losing lots of the fine details in the image. This is why I like what I've seen in the Nokia 8 night shots in high ISO, very low amount of image noise with nice dotty pattern.
Fine details are well maintained throughout the ISO sensitivity range. It's not that you don't have noise, it's still visible even at mid-way ISO speeds (e.g. ISO 500), but again, the image details are well preserved. In lower resolution images it's very hard to notice that noise and the images look really clean. Not everyone is viewing images at 1:1 scale. Most people just share a lower-scaled version of the original image and therefore for casual photographers, even that amount of noise is not relevant. The end results are very clean images with true-to-life colors and good exposure. This means that probably most of your low light images will turn out to be usable, which means less deleting of images when you preview them later on.
The Zeiss optics seems to help promote a sharper image, but I think the Nokia 8 would have really benefited more by utilizing a faster f/1.7 aperture, the same one used in many flagship Android smartphones nowadays. That being said, you can clearly see that I am very pleased with the Nokia 8's high ISO and low-light performance. You can check out the many camera samples that are already out there. It's needless to say that moving down the ISO speed results in really impressive and tack sharp images.
All in all, you can trust the Nokia 8 to deliver more than adequate low light performance, but there are other flagship smartphones out there that do perform better. It's more like a top mid-range performance than anything else, still, it does what it was designed to do, excels in taking great pictures in both daylight and low light.