With Windows Phone 8.1.1 and the Lumia Denim firmware update finally shipping to the Lumia 830, you may be wondering which Denim features you get and which you don’t on Microsoft’s “affordable flagship.” The good news? You get all the important stuff, and a nice performance bump as well.
Of course, the most confusing thing about the Lumia 830 is that this phone, which first shipped to customers back in late 2014, supposedly already came with Denim. What gives?
As it turns out, the version of Denim that shipped with the Lumia 830 was not the final version, though it did include Windows Phone 8.1.1. But it came with the old Nokia Camera instead of the new Lumia Camera app—which has some very useful new features—that you’re given when you update to the final, shipping version of Denim.
As I wrote in Lumia Denim Explained, Microsoft’s latest firmware update brings some important functionality to the table. Some of these things were already available on the 830, of course, including Windows Phone 8.1 Update 1. (8.1.1) and Glance. But with the final Denim update, you get some important camera-related improvements.
I described these improvements in Preview: Lumia Camera + Lumia Denim and First Look: Lumia Camera + Lumia Denim, with the latter article being my hands-on first impressions of the update on a high-end Lumia 930. For the 830—which is a mid-range phone with a Snapdragon 400 processor, 1 GB of RAM and a 10 megapixel PureView camera—you can’t of course expect the same level of improvement. So here is what you do get with this upgrade.
Camera performance improvements. Previous to the final Denim release, the Lumia 830 camera was a fairly leisurely performer, with significant performance issues. But the camera shutter now is dramatically faster. And as I noticed with the 930, you can just take shot after shot as fast you can tap the screen. This is a big improvement. (Some performance issues you may associate with the camera remain. For example, if you tap the Camera Roll button, it takes an agonizing couple of seconds to appear. This is more of a processor issue than a camera hardware issue, of course.)
Camera image quality improvements. Seeing the Lumia 830 and 735 last August for the first time, I immediately assumed that the 830 would be a viable daily-use phone for me, with its PureView camera. But in use, I found the 830 to be worse than the 735, offering up washed-out photos that always needed to be post-processed. Not so after the Denim update: Now this phone takes absolutely fantastic photos with no need for later editing. If the price comes down a bit, I will feel comfortable recommending this model now.
Moment Capture. If you long-press on the 830’s hardware Camera button, you will engage a new feature called Moment Capture, a special video recording mode that lets you pull out individual frames of the video as high-quality still images. On high-end Lumias like the 930, Icon, and 1520, Moment Capture records in 4K video quality, and provides 8 megapixel still images. But thanks to its middling hardware, the Lumia 830 can only offer Full HD (1080p) video recording and 2 megapixel still images. That’s not terrible, but the still images aren’t good for much beyond sharing. Moment Capture is much more interesting on higher-end devices.
Rich Capture. A kind of “Auto mode on steroids,” Rich Capture will analyze the scene each time you take a shot and then take multiple images—as per HDR on other smart phone cameras, but also optionally with Dynamic Flash and Dynamic Exposure—and merge them into one superior photo. This photo can then be edited after the fact, so you can choose between different pre-set HDR levels or a separate customize screen that lets you select the HDR level on a slider. This feature works on the 830, but it’s slow: Each image requires a ton of post-shot processing, and on the 830 this takes almost 15 seconds (don’t worry, you can still use the camera). But on the 930, this only takes about half the time.
Put simply, you’ll want to be judicious in your use of Moment Capture and Rich Capture, especially the latter feature since it’s a set and forget it kind of thing, and taking multiple shots in a quick sequence could overwhelm the CPU and drain the battery. My advice is to experiment. But I think I’d leave Rich Capture off on this device if I were using it every day.
But the Denim update is worth it for the camera performance and image quality improvements alone: they transform this device into a real contender.
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