Nokia has long been known for building solid devices and ground bundling it with ground breaking technology. When they announced a partnership with Microsoft and that they will begin to sell smartphones powered by Windows Phone, many of us expected some earth shattering devices to hit the market. While the first round of devices managed to win some awards and turn some heads, they didn’t have that Nokia innovation element to them. Last year, Nokia announced a 41 megapixel smartphone powered by Symbian. That kind of image sensor is pretty much unheard of at the time, and even in today’s market – Nikon lists a 36.3 megapixel camera as their largest image sensor and Canon has a 22 megapixel camera. While the 808 PureView took amazing images, the adoption rate was poor. That could be due to the bulk on the camera lens, or the fact that it was powered by an OS that was past its expiration date.
A year later and everything has changed – Again. This time Nokia has managed to seriously shrink the camera down and pack it into a slender 11mm case. The Lumia 1020 takes 41 megapixel images, but this time it is powered by Windows Phone, and carriers around the world are looking to launch it on their network. But can a smartphone with a 41 megapixel camera take pictures that people really care about. Can it really be that good, or is this just a gimmick to sell devices? I’ve been using the Lumia 1020 for the last couple weeks looking to get a feel for this “ground breaking” device. Megapixels are only part of the equation in capturing amazing pictures. Can the Lumia 1020 live up to the hype?
Let’s start by looking at the specs for the Nokia Lumia 1020. It measures in at 130.4 x 71.4 x 10.4 mm (length x width x thickness). As already mentioned, the camera is a whopping 41 megapixels with a Xenon flash. The display is 4.5″ with 334 ppi (pixels per inch) density at a 1280×768 resolution, and features the super sensitive touch screen technology allowing you to use the screen even while wearing gloves. It’s powered by a Dual-0core 1.5GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon S4 processor with 2GB of RAM, and 32GB of storage space. The phone also has a 2000mAh battery, NFC, WiFi a/b/g/n, Bluetooth 3.0, MicroUSB port, and (currently released models) supports LTE bands 1, 3, 7, 8, and 20.
Perhaps the biggest omission is wireless charging. Nokia has been champions of wireless charging for the last year. Talking up the technology at every chance. For those that bought in to it, they will be disappointed that the 1020 doesn’t offer it. However, for a small fee they can pick up a case that adds wireless charging. Similar to the 820 series, but instead of a swappable back, this is a case that clips on allowing a wire-free experience. Getting the case has proven a little difficult to date. Hopefully that will improve in the not too distant future.
Looking in the box, you’ll the typical USB charge cable, along with the standard wall adapter. Of course, you will find the Lumia 1020, but you won’t find a wired headset. Yes, there is a 3.5mm jack on the phone, Nokia just decided not to package a wired headset with this device. In its place, you will find a lanyard. Yes, that’s right – you will find a little loop that you can put around your wrist to protect from an accidental drop. Given the heavy push to stop people from Texting and driving, I’m more than a little surprised that there was no headset in the box. I think the lanyard is a nice addition, but I don’t know that it should have been at the expense of a wired headset.
41 megapixels is a whole lot of megapixels. In fact, it’s more than any other smartphone on the market today, and even more than many DSLR cameras offer. If the camera can live up to its PureView name and hype, Nokia could destroy the point and shoot camera market for good. And do some serious damage to the semi-pro market as well. The point and shoot market has been in trouble for a while, this would really be the final nail in the coffin.
First off, I should explain how the camera works. Every time you take a picture, the phone will actually take 2 pictures at the same time. The first is a 5 mega pixel photo and the second is a larger 38 megapixel. Then, the camera will oversample data from the larger 38 to the smaller 5. The result is a small image with an amazing amount of detail in a small footprint that’s easy for emailing to friends and family, or sharing on your favorite social network. All the while, still having that larger image to pull data from for editing.
The larger 38 megapixel image is always at full resolution. If you choose to zoom in while taking the picture, the 5 megapixel image will be cropped to match your zoom, but the 38 will still be at full resolution. This means you can adjust your picture at a later time. Zooming back out and at then in again on a different part of the image. You can also adjust the crop and rotation of the image. All of this is done by pulling information from the larger 38 megapixel image.
Having an awesome camera is only part of the solution. You still need to control the camera, adjusting the flash, white balance, ISO, etc… And to help out in that area, Nokia has added their own ProCam app that gives you control over the fine details when required, but also letting you trust in the camera and run in Auto mode.
With Nokia ProCam you can tap on the items along the top bar and toggle the settings to set things just the way you want. Or, if you slide the on screen shutter button to the middle all of the controls will display in a neat dial type layout in the middle of the screen. This makes it really quick and easy to adjust multiple at once. The end result of all that is a super crisp image that is easy to share. Here’s a couple pictures I snapped while out on a hike over the weekend. Click on the images to see the original “share” version. I haven’t uploaded the larger original images yet – I’ll think those here soon.
The following pictures I snapped with both the Lumia 1020 and my Nikon D60 DSLR camera. The top image is from the Lumia, and the bottom image is from the Nikon. Of course, there are lens and F-Stop differences, but both cameras where set to Auto with the flash turned off. No modifications, just straight from the cameras to the review.
I’ve snapped some nice images over the last couple weeks. But if you really want to see this camera put to the test, there are 2 resources you need to check out. The first is Gear Diary’s Judie Stanford. She took the 1020 as her only camera on a trip to Paris and managed to take an insane amount of pictures over the course of her trip, including some spectacular low light images. The 1020 was a solid performer throughout the trip. Check out the library of images and I’m certain you will be impressed. The second thing you should check out is National Geographic’s Stephen Alvarez. As a professional photographer, Stephen put his regular camera down and shot some of the American mid-west using the 1020. The results are some stunning images that show just how far the world of camera phones have come.
While zooming and re-zooming are the cornerstone of this new camera, the camera does display some weakness when trying to take close up shots. It has problems focusing when you’re too close. Which normally isn’t too big a deal, especially when you have a zoom as powerful as the 1020. But it does become a problem when you are trying to use the camera to scan barcodes. The older 920 never had a problem capturing the barcode off a product. Unfortunately, with the 1020, I have yet to capture one successfully.
The Lumia 1020 has a very similar width and height as the popular 920, but when it comes to thickness, the 1020 is thinner – mostly. The part where the camera sticks out is similar thickness as the 920, 10.4mm on the 1020 compared to 10.7mm on the 920. The rest of the phone is thinner and it’s noticeable. It feels great in your hands and in your pocket.
Technically the battery is the same as 920. But for whatever reason, the 1020 seems to last much longer on a charge. I’m still plugging it in every night, but it runs much later in the night than the 920 did for me.
Now that you have a hugely powerful camera in your phone, there will be times you want it to behave more like a camera and less like a phone. Nokia took that into consideration and they have an accessory to solve that very problem. The Camera Grip is basically a case with a little bump on one side to give you that point and shot camera feel. It has a shutter button that feels much more like a real camera button and not the softer phone buttons. On the bottom of the camera grip is a tri-pod mount, allowing you secure the camera and capture those extra special images. And finally, Nokia packed an extra battery with 1020mAh into the grip. By sliding your phone into the grip, it will automatically start charging allowing you to shot all day on a single charge.
The other accessory that you’ll want to check out, is the wireless charging case. If you’ve already invested in the wireless charge pads for your current phone, or you want to enjoy the benefits of cable free charging, you’ll need to pick up this accessory. It’s one thing that I wish Nokia had left in the phone, but I do understand the limitations they are working within. I would rather the phone be 1mm thicker, than have to add a case for wireless charging.
When it comes to software, the Nokia Lumia 1020 is powered by Windows Phone 8 and comes with the GDR2 and the Amber update preloaded. Most of the current devices have already received this update, unless you’re on AT&T. They’re doing a good job of holding that release as long as possible. The latest version of Windows Phone brings enhancements to the Xbox music hub, SMS and call filtering, FM radio, glance, and of course a whole selection of patches and minor tweaks.
Both Telus and Rogers have the Lumia 1020 available for pre-order. Rogers has listed the device for $199.99 on a 2 year contract and I would expect pretty much the same price from Telus. For those of you in the United States, AT&T is selling the device for $199.99 on a 2 year contract, or $609.99 outright and it’s available in White, Black, and Yellow. There’s no word on colors from Rogers or Telus, although it’s believed that they will have the same 3 color choices.
With a 41 megapixel camera strapped on the back of the Lumia 1020, I’m sure you can guess what it’s key selling feature is. And this smartphone won’t disappoint. Again and again, the 1020 took pictures with brilliant detail, and amazing color. If you carry a camera along with your phone, or if good quality pictures are something you’re longing for with your mobile device, then Nokia’s Lumia 1020 is the only phone for you. The addition of Nokia’s ProCam and SmartCam apps make the camera even more powerful than one would expect from a smartphone.
The only downside of this fantastic camera phone, is its inability to manage close up pictures. Most of the time, it’s not a problem as you can simply zoom and crop after the shot. However, it simply fails when you’re trying to scan a barcode. Hopefully Nokia can address that in one of the upcoming software updates, because barcode scanning aside, this is one spectacular camera!