A Night At Travis Pastrana's Nitro Circus With Nokia's Lumia 920
I don't think Travis Pastrana needs much of an introduction but in case you don't know who this seemingly down-to-earth-lad-next-door American is; he is a 17 times X-Games champion and a legend in the world of extreme sports. His skill and diversity on powered and non-powered machines a like appears 2nd to none. Be it a rally-spec Subaru Imprezza or a BMX bicycle Travis blows minds. His travelling Nitro Circus is a combination of jumps and leaps featuring freestyle motocross riders, skateboarders, BMX bikes and even scooters, all throwing themselves down huge ramps performing back flips with seemingly scant regard to those sensible chaps in health & safety.
Travis himself doesn't take part but instead shares the hosting duties with his team, and they are very much a team (akin to the Johnny Knoxville's Jackass team) who put on an incredible show. It is hard to believe you are watching a man ride a freezer box down a 70ft ramp into thin air.
I was very excited to be going to this event, and with the promise of a back-stage pass in my ears I was planning on using the phone to capture the close-up hurly-burly behind the scenes but had packed my Canon 1D and the 70-200 f2.8L to get closer to the action when things got going.
But, as has happened many times in the past, things don't go to plan at big events like this. The back-stage passes didn't materialise (it is very cramped behind the curtain at the o2 in such events so passes really are hard to come by) so it was up in the gallery seats we went while the Canon went back to the car - as a regular ticket holder you can't take proper cameras in to the event.
So I was going to be some distance from the action with just a phone to capture the action on. Was I worried? Well, yes and no. Yes because the photographer in me couldn't accept that I'd get anything workable while the realist reminded me that the phone had done a very good job at the NEC Motorcycle Live event the weekend before.
The Nokia Lumia 920 Windows 8 Phone
Nokia's brand new flagship model boasts an 8mp camera looking through a Carl Zeiss (famous glass makers of olde times and about as good a badge of quality as you get in the camera world) lens, and the whole plot is apparently supported away from the phone itself by some very clever gyros etc in a bid to remove camera shake in low light situations - perfect for the o2 then. They call this PureView Technology and it's all displayed on a 4.5 HD screen with something called PureMotion: words to fill me with dread I'll be honest. Usually the fancier the words the less impressive the product.
So does it deliver? Yes. Very much so. Ok so the Windows 8 OS may have its job cut out to convince people that it's a world away from its rather lame predecessor and indeed its less than satisfying PC operating system (up to Win 7 I mean). I think it looks brilliant and is THE way a mobile phone should work for those who want to keep in touch with people.
The camera is very good, all that was promised. I was initially worried at the NEC because the screen didn't show the images as sharp as they actually were - whereas my Galaxy shows them in full sharpness. That worried me until I could see them on the laptop and they were fine. Perhaps it takes a minute to load each image in full sharpness and I hadn't given it time. Dunno, but you can trust that they're sharp despite the screen.
The much hyped anti-shake low-light system works fantastically well. I have seen plenty of phone images from Nitro Circus and they're awful - exactly what you'd normally expect from a phone - but not the 920's. Even zooming in didn't really depress the hit rate of sharp images. I had to prefocus of course - these cameras are not up for proper motion tracking - but the focus held and the images are sharp. Well, most of them which is more than expected and no different from my pro-spec DSLR would give me. Testing conditions indeed.
Tweeting and Facebooking these images was easy and convenient, the 3G card in the phone picking up better and stronger data signals than my Vodaphone chipped Samsung would, so it was a piece of cake to snap and share.
Would I change anything? Yes.
Selective focusing should be included in a flagship model - my Note does it and my Desire HD did it. I mean, you press the subject on screen to focus on it whereas the Nokia seems only to focus on subjects in the middle part of the frame.
Changing the image resolution is also handy for shooting smaller images for quicker uploads or SMS uses. There is only inbuilt memory so it is finite which makes constantly shooting at full resolution a touch wasteful.
Win8 really needs to support Flash video or offer an alternative solution (as Apple do) if they're gonna be picky about the most popular embedded video player.
Microsoft need to realise that anyone buying a Win8 handset is likely to have had an Android, Blackberry or iPhone and be used to a lot of Apps for every possible application. Their paltry collection doesn't impress. In a year I'm sure it'll be far greater, least I hope so.
So take a look at the photos and believe that they came from a smartphone with only the slightest of touches in post processing. I can't publish untreated images, it makes me itch, but really these are very true to the originals and I defy most to look at the NEC gallery without being impressed.
If you are getting around to upgrade time you could surprise yourself by trying one of these Win8 phones for yourself. This is the flagship and they do smaller versions in the current line-up, but all share the great look and build quality (something Nokia have always had).
Sadly you'll have all missed this year's Nitro Circus tour but next year's dates are out and available for booking. Best of all is the feature film which is available now in 2D while the 3D version is due any minute. All from here http://nitrocircus.com/.
Details about the Nokia Lumia 920 are here.
The NEC gallery shot on the 920 is here.