Nokia Lumia 1020


The latest addition to the Lumia range is not so much a smartphone as a near professional-quality camera that happens to run Windows Phone. It also boasts smooth performance and free music from Nokia Music

The Lumia 1020 is the phone we’ve all been waiting for. Nokia announced the 808 PureView, with its 41-megapixel camera, back in 2012, but it ran on the obsolete Symbian operating system. Now, however, Nokia has one running on its OS of choice, Windows Phone.

The Lumia 1020 has 64GB of storage and that 41-megapixel camera – it all sounds impressive,but is it actually any good? Well, yes. It is one of the best phones from any manufacturer, and is certainly Nokia’s best effort yet. It’s not just a phone with a camera, it is a fully fledged cameraphone, and that sets a new standard.

The Lumia 1020 has a 1/1.5-inch image sensor, the largest of any smartphone currently on sale. It’s slightly smaller than the sensor on the 808 PureView but the technology has been upgraded, meaning you should get better photos – particularly given its illuminated backside sensor.

The device does have a rather large hump on the back to make room for the huge sensor, and this makes it 14.5mm at its widest point. This is still a manageable size and the 1020 feels top-quality, despite having a polycarbonate plastic case.

It has a microUSB port at the bottom along with a powerful speaker. The left-hand edge has no controls. The right edge is filled with a dedicated camera button, lock button and volume button. On the top is a micro SIM card tray and a headphone jack.

The design fits in with the rest of the Lumia range. You are unlikely to be able to tell which Lumia it is from the front, but the back view, with the big lens housing, is unmistakeable.

Test shots with the Lumia 1020’s camera gave impressive results. We were able to zoom right into a thumb print and see each individual line. This is the kind of definition you’re unlikely to find on any other smartphone.

The Lumia 1020 takes better pictures than the 808 PureView – they are a lot clearer and it captures a lot more detail. Not many cameras can shoot 41-megapixel images, and even most high-end DSLRs have a limit of around 20 megapixels.

Nokia’s oversampling technology, which is similar to the ‘UltraPixel’ technology used on the HTC One, compresses the large images the device creates to five megapixels. Sharing them is easy, as the reduced images also show up in ‘Camera Roll’.

To generate the full-resolution images, you must select Nokia Pro Camera under the image. This can be a rather tedious task as there’s no way of browsing through all your full-resolution images quickly. You have to use Nokia’s Pro Cam app to take your full-resolution images, and it is one of the only ways to use the camera’s full power.

The options on the Lumia 1020’s camera allow for the kind of impressive photography that you would expect from a professional camera. Usually, digital zoom is to be avoided as the image quality degrades severely when zoomed in. But the 1020 encourages use of digital zoom as there is hardly any degradation in quality at maximum zoom magnification. Low-light also approached DSLR quality.

Optical Image Stabilisation mounts the camera lens on springs to keep the image stable even though your hand may be shaking.

The Lumia 920 and 925 had dual LED flashes, which thankfully haven’t made their way onto the 1020. LED flash is just a burst of light to lighten the subject and it often goes off randomly while taking a photo, leaving you with unrealistic colours and flares on the image. Instead this device has a Xenon flash which lights the image evenly and doesn’t leave any annoying lens flare.

It’s not just about the impressive image quality of the Lumia 1020 though – a cameraphone isn’t all about photos, it’s also about video. The 1020 also excels at this. The 1080p quality is what we’d expect from a phone which puts imaging first. It records at around 30fps so video is very smooth. Nokia’s Video Upload app sends the clip directly to YouTube. Digital zoom on video mode is as impressive as it is with still photography, again thanks to that 41-megapixel sensor. Nokia has improved the microphone to block out background noise and capture clear audio, even in a noisy environment.

The Lumia 1020’s 4.5-inch display uses AMOLED technology identical to the display on the Lumia 925. The resolution is just 1,280 x 768, although from head on there is little to pick fault with.

Colours are vibrant and the screen stays bright, even in direct sunlight, thanks to Nokia’s ClearBlack technology. This works in a similar way to a pair of polarising sunglasses – making blacks look more black and reducing reflection. As with other top Lumias, the touchscreen can also be activated if you are wearing gloves, a big advantage in winter.

Full article in Mobile News issue 549 (October 7, 2013).

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