The Nokia Lumia 1020 is a sharp, smart shooter

The megapixel wars have moved on from DSLR cameras to smartphones with the Nokia Lumia 1020.

We have seen a 41-megapixel camera phone before: Nokia previously launched the Symbian OS-based Nokia 808 PureView, but they have finally paired the camera technology with a modern smartphone OS.

The Lumia 1020 runs on Windows Phone 8, and looks and feels like the rest of Nokia’s recent Lumia offerings. The key difference here is the camera which sticks out by a few millimetres — noticeable, but the phone still slips into my pocket just fine.

The camera takes some vivid and extremely detailed photos which look great on the Lumia 1020’s 4.5-inch 1280x768 screen. All this is powered by a 1.5GHz dual-core Qualcomm Snapdragon S4 coupled with 2GB of RAM — not the post powerful out there, but general use of the smartphone never feels laggy.

Getting the most out of the Lumia 1020’s camera involves the use of the Nokia Pro Cam app, which comes with a manual mode rarely found in smartphone cameras. This makes the Lumia 1020’s camera very flexible especially for power users — the only thing it is lacking is aperture adjustment.

That said, the Pro Cam app does produce great photos in auto mode, so you don’t have to worry about being overwhelmed with options.

The photos you get are some of the best looking by a smartphone ever, but due to compression artefacts, it won’t quite match up to what a DSLR can provide when you look at the picture up close.

Getting ultra-detailed photos also has its drawbacks: On top of the slight shutter lag on the camera, the camera also needs time to process the photo for storage, which means that you can’t quickly take a second photo after the first — the Pro Cam app is not for fast-paced moments. It’s possible that a faster processor or more ram might have helped.

Storage can also be an issue: Each photo takes up about 16MB, and with the Lumia 1020 having 32GB of un-expandable storage (there is no external storage slot), you’ll run out of space quick if you’re trigger happy.

The Pro Cam app takes two photos at a go when you snap the shutter: One 38MP high-resolution photo (at 4:3 aspect ratio), and a 5MP photo for sharing. What the high-resolution photos allow you to do is to shoot first and zoom later, which comes in handy when compared to compact cameras whose zooms take forever to move.

After taking a photo and zooming in the new cropped photo can be exported to be shared, and it retains the detail as if you are close to the subject — but only up to a certain point.

At the most zoomed-in noise starts to overwhelm the photo, and any motion blur that the optical image stabilisation failed to catch becomes obvious.

This means that even a compact camera with 5x zoom can outdo the Lumia 1020 when it comes to fine detail at a distance — but as mentioned, the Lumia 1020 allows you to zoom in after you have taken the shot.

Nokia also helps reduce shake by offering a camera grip that comes with a dedicated shutter button. While it adds size and weight to the phone, it also serves as an extra 1050mAh external battery. The camera grip is comfortable to hold, and can even be attached to any standard camera tripod for extra stability.

For the more creative shots, Nokia also has its Nokia Smart Cam app that allows functions such as multi-shot modes, choosing the best shot and removing moving objects, but all at the lower 5MP resolution. Nokia could have combined both camera apps to make things less confusing, but that might have resulted in a more cluttered app.

In the end, what this means is that the Nokia Lumia 1020 is purely for those who want an amazing camera attached to their smartphone.

It won’t replace a DSLR anytime soon, but it does have amazingly sharp picture quality for a smartphone that might be enough to sway some of you to switch to Windows Phone 8. The OS might not have its fans, but I had no problems in day-to-day use, and had no problem sharing photos — it might not have an official Instagram app, but there are multiple choices that can post to Instagram for you.

The Lumia 1020’s “zoom” capabilities might not match, say, the Samsung Galaxy S4 Zoom — a phone with 10x optical zoom, but the Lumia 1020 provides all its functions while still fitting in your pocket. -, October 5, 2013.


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