Nokia Releases New Imaging SDK, With Yelp, Path, Oggl And Foursquare As Early Partners (But Still No Instagram)

The much-leaked “focus” of today’s Nokia news was its new 1020 Lumia handset with a 41-meagpixel camera, but behind the scenes the company has spent just as much time focusing on what apps would be on the phone to spur consumers to want to buy and use the device. That was spearheaded today with the launch of Nokia’s Imaging SDK, available today, for developers to create apps that would work specifically with the new, high-end Lumia camera. Early partners include Yelp, Path, Oggl and Foursquare — many of these for the first time on Windows Phone — but still no Instagram.

So, the closest that Nokia and Microsoft is getting to Facebook’s popular photo (and now video) platform — still only available on iOS and Android as a native mobile app — is through its premium Oggl integration, which will let users take pictures on the 1020 and post them directly to Instagram, as well as Tumblr and other social networks.

The relationship between Hipstamatic, the developer behind Oggl, and Nokia was first revealed in May with the unveiling of the company’s 925 and 928 Lumia handsets. It’s proving to be an important one for Nokia, which that I’ve heard has tried, along with partner Microsoft, to woo Instagram to its platform six ways to Sunday — “the best photo app for the best smartphone camera” is how one source described the pitch to me.

Without that deal in place, though, another Instagram relationship may be proving just as important: Just before Facebook bought Instagram, in March 2012 Instagram inked a deal with Hipstamatic for its deepest integration of all, allowing Hipstamatic to become the first third party to port pictures directly into the photo social network. Today, that gives Hipstamatic, not the popular app it was back in the day when people were more happy paying for premium services, a new kind of essential role as a bridge between Windows Phone/Nokia and Instagram.

Having said that, the app out today, Oggl Pro, seems one squarely for the aspiring and current photo nerds out there. Designed “specifically for the Nokia Lumia 1020,” it has a new user interface, the ability to set a manual focus, the ability to adjust exposure and reframe shots, auto-leveling and dual capture features, in addition to all the original features in the first Oggl app. “Nokia is the first hardware manufacturer to build a smartphone that is a camera-first experience, and it’s been exciting working with such a talented hardware team,” notes Lucas Buick, CEO, Hipstamatic, in a statement.

Among other apps that are creating tailored apps using the Imaging SDK are Vyclone, the social video platform, which will let users create far sharper videos; Yelp, which will use the camera for an augmented reality feature; CNN, which is hoping iReporters in its crowdsourced news service will provide decent footage using the app; and Foursquare, one of Nokia’s two new social BFFs (other being Path), who can now take high-res photos whenever they check in somewhere.

Nokia says the SDK contains the same technology that Nokia uses for its own imaging applications, such as Smart Camera and Creative Studio, and includes some 50 effects, filters and more.

The question remains, however, whether this will be the sort of thing that will attract a niche, high-end audience to the platform — both in terms of users and developers catering to them — or whether this is the kind of thing that might appeal to the mass market.

My colleague John seems to think that for all the might that Nokia is putting into the 1020, it’s not what people really want today. But I actually think otherwise: it’s good to see someone pushing the boundaries of what we can expect out of a smartphone camera, and I hope that the absence of Instagram today is a sign of how Nokia may be feeling less insecure and more confident that if it has the right stuff, the cool apps, and all the cool kids, will come anyway.