Nokia Lumia 1020 Review

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Nokia has been slowly ramping up the photographic credentials of their Windows Phone lineup, with the Lumia 925 easy rivalling, if not outdoing efforts from Samsung and HTC.  Their latest top-end handset, the Lumia 1020 totally out-does all of these rivals by packing a 41MP “Pureview” sensor with a Zeiss lens.  Read on to find out just how sharp that snapper is, and whether all those pixels matter.

 

Design & Features

Seeing as I’ve looked at so many very similar Windows Phones, I’m not going to go in to quite so much detail on this particular Nokia.  I’ll be mostly focusing on the photographic features, but firstly here’s a Lumia low-down on the physical attributes.

IMG_0023 copyThe 1020’s sleek unibody polycarbonate chassis is easily a match for rival flagship smartphones such as the HTC One or iPhone 5s.  At 158g it feels good in the hand, weighty enough to feel solid, and has just enough curves to make it stand out.  Most of the phone is relatively svelte, but the large protruding camera plateau on the rear pushes the handset up to 10.4mm.  On this circular plinth Nokia have included both an LED and a Xenon flash, whilst the camera lens is protected by an automatically retracting cover.

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IMG_0017 copyThe front of the phone has the usual three capacitive buttons you’ll find on any windows phone, whilst the right side of the phone is the only edge of the Lumia 1020 to be adorned with physical buttons.  At the top there’s the non-descript volume bar. Just over half-way down the phone is the power / wake button of the same design, whilst further down towards the bottom there’s a camera button which both allows quick access to the camera, as well as being a physical shutter button if you’d prefer.

As you’d expect from anything outside the Apple campus, the 1020 uses a micro-USB power connector, which is centred on the bottom edge. To the right of this there’s the 1020’s reasonably loud speaker, and on the opposite corner, there’s a hole for a strap or lanyard just in case you really do plan on using the Lumia as your always-on-hand camera of choice.

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Where specifications are concerned, the Lumia 1020 has a 4.5″ 1280*768 screen covered in Gorilla Glass 3, which with the clean lines of the Windows Phone interface looks crisp enough, though with a camera of such excellent imaging capabilities it would have been nice to have finally got a Lumia with a 1080p screen.

Under the hood there’s a 1.5gHz dual-core Snapdragon S4+ processor with an Adreno 225 for graphics and 2GB of RAM. Power is provided by a sealed 2000mAh Lithium-Ion battery which comfortably gets through a day’s snapping and chatting.

Storage space is fixed at 32GB with no micro-SD expansion and the other than Dolby Digital plus and Dolby headphone enhancement, specs are what you’d expect: dual-band and N capable Wi-Fi, 4G connectivity, an FM radio.

 

The Camera

IMG_0031 copyThis is what you came here for – the 1020’s photographic credentials, otherwise you’d probably have saved yourself some money and gone for the Lumia 925.  The head-line is a big one, and that’s the 41MP “Pureview” sensor – the successor to the PureView 808, a Symbian feature phone that was the Nokia R&D’s result of close to 5 years work.  Of course they weren’t expecting big things from the 808; rather it was a foundation for the technology that would finally make its way to the Windows Phone platform.

The 1020 now takes two shots simultaneously on a 1/1.5 sensor, giving you a 38MP photo (around 10mb) allowing for lossless zoom, as well as 5MP version. It’s a significantly larger sensor than that found in the HTC One (1/3 inch).  In front is a six-element lens array (compared to the 808’s five) made up of 5 plastic lenses and one glass, whilst backside illumination and a f/2.2 aperture make for improved low-light performance.  The 1020 is also the first of Nokia’s phones to come with optical image stabilisation, thanks to a set of ball bearings that are moved by a set of tiny motors any time the gyroscope detects movement.

As previously mentioned, Nokia have thought about the details when it comes to the camera’s features.  There’s an LED that works as a video light but also a focusing light to help the Lumia focus in low-light, as well as a Xenon flash that gives great light filling for still photos.  The lens is carefully protected behind a plastic cover that automatically snaps open when in any of the camera apps.  It’s a nice feature and will certainly make scratching the lens considerably more difficult.  Video can be captured at 1080p @ 30fps with a handy 4x lossless digital zoom, whilst the 1.2MP front-facing camera is capable of 720p video.

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Just to make things confusing, there’s not one, but three separate camera apps.  Nokia Pro Cinemagraph is similar to HTC’s ‘Zoe’ mode, in that it isn’t content in creating simple stills.  Essentially you can make animated GIFs by highlighting areas of the screen that retain their motion whilst other parts of the shot remain still. Animated sections of Cinemagraphs play in a short loop and you can play them either to the end and then reverse, or play continuously from start to finish.

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Next up, Nokia Smart Cam is for anyone wanting the quality of the Lumia 1020’s camera, without any extra settings to worry about.  The first of the ‘smart’ options is a Best Shot mode, which will take a bunch of photos in quick succession, then suggest the best quality of the lot. There’s also options to remove moving objects or change faces, whilst Motion focus and Action shot modes help to get the right shot of fast moving people or objects.

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Lastly, and most importantly there’s Nokia’s Pro Cam app. This is where you’ll be heading if you’re familiar with adjusting manual settings to get the perfect shot.  Drag the shutter icon to the left and you can fettle with ISO levels (up to 3200), white-balance, manual focus, shutter speed (1/16,000 to 4 seconds) and EV value using a slider system.  If you’re not sure where to start with so many settings, then there’s a bunch of tutorials to guide you through making the most of that level of control.

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 To view a sample of these images at full resolution, click here.

So without doubt the 1020 definitely has a quality camera, some of these pictures are fine testament to that. Detail in some of the shots are fantastic, and zooming in shows up an amazing level of details in the high-res shots.  There’s the odd moment in low-light where colours go off-balance and are overly vivid, but on in good light colours were spot on. Other than some colourful anomalies, low-light shooting is as good as the HTC One, but with less noise and of course a much higher resolution.

 

IMG_0014 copyConclusion

There you have it, the best camera I’ve ever tested on a smartphone.  For most people, the Nokia Lumia 1020 could replace their compact camera without a hesitation, and whether you should switch from your iPhone or Android of choice really comes down to one thing – how fussed you are with accessibility to a top-notch camera at all times, perhaps at the expense of availability of apps and features you’ll find on other platforms.

Certainly the 1020 has made the move to Windows Phone more plausible than ever, especially as it’s a rather nicely designed smartphone slab that anyone would be happy to fondle (though you’ll have to be a special kind of person to pull off a yellow one).

It’s disappointing for Nokia to not squeeze in a 1080p screen, and other than the camera there’s no other killer features that stand out above its predecessor: the Lumia 925.

 

Positives

+ THE Best camera on a phone.

+ Sleek & solid design.

+ Smooth Interface.

+ LED & Xenon Flash.

 

Negatives

– Screen resolution could be higher.

– No external storage.

– Windows phone: love it or hate it.

8.5

Price: 32GB model SIM-Free (black / white / yellow) for around £499 or
Free on contracts from just £37 a month from Vodafone
More InfoNokia
Operating System: Windows Phone 8.
Size: 130.4 x 71.4 x 10.4 mm, 158g.
Extras: Wi-Fi (802.11 A/B/G/N & dual-band), GPS, Bluetooth 3.0, 41MP rear camera with 1080p video, 1.2MP/720p front-facing camera.
Battery Life: 20000mAh.
Memory: 32GB onboard storage, 2GB RAM.
Processing: 1.5gHz Qualcomm Snapdragon S4+ chipset with Adreno 225 GPU.
Screen: 4.5″ IPS-LCD capacitive touch-screen, 1280*768 resolution, 16M colours.

 

 

 

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