Bill Bennett


Nokia Lumia 1020 first look: a call-making camera

Photography sits at the core of Nokia’s Lumia 1020. You can’t avoid the phone’s picture taking abilities even if you try.

Take at look at how the lens and camera sensor electronics bulge out of the usual smartphone case. It’s a constant reminder that you’re dealing with a call-making camera, not a picture-taking phone.

Under the lump there’s a 41-megapixel camera, Xenon flash, 6x zoom in 720p, optical image stabilization and a  Zeiss wide-angle optics lens. Flip the phone over and you’ll see a gorgeous 4.5-inch Amoled display. Inside the case there is 32GB of storage and 2GB of ram.

Nokia Lumia 1020 oversamples

As you’d expect, the phone takes great photographs. The huge number of pixels and the optics mean you can take a wide shot, then crop it tight to get the most interesting image. The huge amount of pixels means the phone oversamples, this matters when you want to zoom in tight and crop a small area of the image.

I haven’t seen a phone that comes within a country mile of the Nokia Lumia 1020 when it comes to photography. It is in a different league to the Samsung Galaxy S4 in this department. The only device that comes close is the Nokia Lumia 920.

As I mentioned in my earlier look at the Lumia 920, being able to take decent shots while on the move is something of a holy grail for a freelance journalist.  It also helps that the phone is robust – it can take the kind of rough and tumble that often happens when  gathering news.

What makes the Lumia 920 especially good from my point of view is the image stabilisation. It means clearer, crisper images even in relatively poor light conditions. You can even squeeze out tolerable images in appalling light conditions. I haven’t had time to push the Lumia 1020 to its limit, but at first sight it seems to function the same way.

Movies too

On paper it looks as if the Nokia Lumia 1020 can also do a great job shooting short movie clips – I’ve only had the phone three days and have been too busy to test this. If it works, I may even try capturing parts of press conferences.

By now you’ll have picked up the main theme, Nokia has packed more camera into a phone than anyone has managed before. We’re not talking of something to compete with digital SLRs, but the Lumia 1020 is better than most compact digital cameras and knocks the other phone cameras out of the park.

A fine phone

It’s also a fine phone. In many ways it resembles the Lumia 920 which was last year’s finest phone. The 1020 has the same system chip, processor and graphics processor. There’s the same amount of system memory and built in storage. The display dimensions and pixel count are the same but the newer phone’s screen is a little brighter.

The Nokia Lumia 1020 is 30 g lighter than the 920 – that’s a good thing the Lumia 920’s weight is at the top of the acceptable scale. Battery life is slightly better. I get a good day’s of fairly intensive use out of both phones on a single charge.

We liked: the camera (obviously). It’s great for a working journalist. Nokia’s build quality is excellent. Windows Phone 8 is also a good thing and there are some nice bundled camera apps which we plan to look at more closely later.

We’re less keen on: the odd noises that sometimes come from the phone when using the camera. Nokia warns about this, but it can still be off-putting. The fact that 41 megapixel images take a second or two to process.

We’re not sure about:  The bright yellow case. There are other choices, but this looks like something emergency service workers might use in a disaster zone.