Winter 2003, Gothenburg, Sweden. My friend enters student house kitchen (longue, bar, dumping ground for beer cans and an occasional bedroom for those who did not survive last night). He is clearly up to something. Stumbling on surprisingly not so empty beer can, he pulls a strange object out of his pocket. It is grey, big and awkwardly shaped. It is unprecedented. It is weird. It is Nokia 7650. My friend unfolds it, plays with some buttons and after a minute I heard a shutter. Yes. A camera shutter. A camera, not an attachable crap some producers tried to sell those times. A real phone featuring a real, full colour camera with a decent 640x480 resolution! It was time to say goodbye to all those digital cameras wrapped up in Velcro-fasten cases. And to my old phone.
Ten years later, everyone owns a smartphone that features a 5 or more megapixel camera, auto focus, flash, advanced filters and tones of shooting modes. What is more, people got bored with good quality and started to use apps that purposely make their photos look like taken in 70s or 80s. While 2000s photography seems to be older than ever. The Pixel Heritage project is supposed to fill the gap between Instagram/Lomo snaps and modern, full-res photography. It pays tribute to early mobile photo makers and their devices. Treat it like a museum installed on your smartphone, but the entrance is free and you are allowed to touch (or rather tap) the exhibits. The app has been released by Virgin Mobile Poland to promote Nokia Windows Phone range. The project would not be possible without enormous help and inspiration from Nokia Poland (thank you guys!). But don’t make a mistake. Although Pixel Heritage took an incredible amount of serious work, our ultimate goal was to bring people some fun and make them smile at their 2000s memories.
Choose a Phone
Selecting handsets for Pixel Heritage was not an easy thing. Of course the 7650, the first European camera phone was a must. We also included the 3200, 7250 and 6610i (after a little row over its popularity in Europe). Then we included some relatively new phones like the 6600, 3230 and 6630. They were more advanced, offered more features but overall snap quality was far from perfect and pictures far out of focus. We also wanted to show how Nokia phones progressed during those years. That is why the last handset we added was the N95. A very advanced 5-megapixel camera with Carl Zeiss optics and a LED flash. It is a decent device even by today’s standards.
We put a lot of effort to recreate the original quality of the 2000s photos. Not just photos, we wanted to bring back the whole experience. Remember those dim lights coming through your old phone keyboard? Or that default horizontal photo format? They are all recreated. One thing we did not recreate though is the Symbian user interface. We did some tests and it turned out that even former Nokia users did not remember how to operate the system! Even that “Capture” button was an issue. After a few weeks of frustration we had to give up. Instead, we used some Symbian design features but wrapped them in a modern user interface.
Add Bad Pixels…
Bad pixels are like a date stamp proving that the photo was taken in the early 2000s. They always showed up uninvited, picking least suitable places like your girlfriend nose, collar of your best shirt or your dog eye. They were ruthless. Pixel Heritage bad pixels are nicer creatures. You can add as many as you want (or don’t) and since they are randomly generated, they show up in different places each time.
…and Lens Dust
The other effect we felt needed a tribute was the lens dust. Phone cameras lenses were very vulnerable. The handsets were hardly dust proof, so they collected all the dirt from our pockets. Even those awful rubber cases could not help it. So the dirt on the lenses was an integral component of mobile photography. We studied our old photos to recreate that proper, original lens dirt as close as possible. As all Pixel Heritage filters, this one is also fully adjustable.
Save & Share
Sharing on those old Nokia devices was a mission only the brave ones could accomplish. We had to simplify this process and make it more intuitive for today’s users. It proved to be a smart move - each day we see more and more photos shared with the “H” logo. Even though Pixel Heritage is available for Windows Phone only, it spread pretty quickly, raising much controversy. On the Windows Phone Store the app gets either five stars or one. Very little in the middle. Most people enjoyed the retro trip, but some just found the app impractical. The best comment we got so far comes from a Gizmodo user: “this app is too hipster to be hated”.
About the Authors
Magdalena Drozdowska and Mateusz Ksiazek are a creative team at DDB Warsaw. They are in Top 3 of Polish creatives. They come from a traditional advertising background and now they implement that experience in the new direct and digital area. Apart from the Pixel Heritage, they are behind Cannes awarded campaigns such as McDonald’s Hamburger Timetable and Art Never Seen for Audiodescription Foundation.