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Nokia Lumia 1020 - Camera Apps and Performance

Andrew Williams

By Andrew Williams



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Nokia Lumia 1020 - Camera and Camera Apps

The Lumia 1020’s key feature is undoubtedly its camera. It has an eye-popping 41-megapixel camera with an ultra-large (for a mobile phone) 1/1.5-inch sensor with optical image stabilisation and a seriously impressive dual LED/Xenon flash array.

It’s almost certainly the most advanced mobile phone camera ever produced – although the Nokia 808 PureView did offer a slightly larger sensor and the Samsung Galaxy Zoom has an optical zoom.

The most striking bullet point on its feature list is the Lumia 1020’s 41-megapixel resolution. However, it’s designed predominantly to capture images at five megapixels (for easier sharing) and its maximum effective resolution is 34 megapixels.

That’s nothing to turn your nose up at, though. Even the full-frame Canon 5D MK3 'only' uses a 22.3-megapixel sensor.

The Nokia Lumia 1020’s approach is much different to that of almost every other camera, though. Its sensor pixels are tiny at 1.1 microns (that’s the same size seen in the 13-megapixel Galaxy S4). So, to get the higher image quality and low-light performance Nokia promises, the pixels need to be grouped, their collective output used to produce much more accurate, high-fidelity images.

Before we find out whether it’s successful, let’s find out what the camera is like to use.

The Lumia 1020 offers three separate camera apps – a bit of a handful. There’s the standard Windows Phone 8 app, the Nokia Smart Lens app and the Pro Mode app, there to give you ‘pro-style’ control over camera settings.

Native Windows Phone 8 Camera App

The basic Windows Phone 8 camera app is very simple. Tap on the subject of your photo and the Lumia 1020 will both focus and take a snap.

Lumia 1020It’s not designed to give you quick access to any camera settings – making it less than a perfect fit for the Lumia 1020 – but it’s perfect for casual snaps. The buttons it does offer simply let you switch between stills and video, between the front and rear cameras, between shooting with and without flash, and between Lenses.

Lenses are miniature camera apps used to add modes to a Windows Phone 8 camera. As standard you get a Panorama, but no HDR mode. Additional Lenses can be downloaded from the Windows Store - many cost money.

Lenses are a neat idea, but ultimately feel quite clumsy, which is why – we believe – Nokia adds more-or-less complete camera apps in the form of Smart Lens and Pro Mode.

Smart Lens

Nokia’s first extra camera app is Smart Lens. It’s best thought-of as the fun and frivolous side of the Lumia 1020’s camera.

Smart Lens is a burst mode camera app that shoots 10 frames (at reduced resolution) in quick succession. You can then create motion blur effects, remove any unwanted moving objects and create an ‘action shot’ that features multiple instances of the same moving objects – perfect if you’re shooting a runner or cyclist.

Although it can come up with some fun, eye-catching results that’ll go down well on social networks, Smart Lens isn’t where we took our best shots. Here's a Nokia demo of the sort of thing you can do with Smart Lens -

Nokia Lumia 1020 Smart Cam

Pro Mode

Lumia 1020 Pro ModeThe most successful of the Lumia 1020’s photo modes is Pro Mode. Its main aim is to give you a simple and clean interface that offers quick and easy manual control over settings.

It does this in style too – although one of the most important manual controls, aperture, isn’t here as the Lumia 1020 has a fixed f/2.2 aperture.

What you do get to control are white balance, focusing, ISO, shutter speed and exposure compensation. Taps on their little icons at the top of the screen bring up control wheels designed for easy operation with a thumb. Or you can set the lot in one go using the view that fills the screen with control dials.

Fiddling with the dials also tries to give you a preview of the effect the change will have on-screen.

Out of these Lumia 1020 control options, the most interesting are manual focus and shutter speed – the others are found in most decent phones cameras, but are hidden in menus.

The additional control lets you take a much more dynamic approach to photography, using longer exposure times and managing the output with the exposure compensation dial. Two thumbs up.

Nokia Lumia 1020 - Camera Performance

The Pro Mode is admirable quick to use, but without doubt the most serious problem with the Nokia Lumia 1020 camera is shooting performance.

Focusing is fast and reliable, but with a full four second delay between taking photos, the Lumia 1020 is much, much slower to snap with than something like an iPhone 5, which only has a half-second delay between snaps. This situation is exacerbated if you’re using the Xenon flash, which needs to charge between uses unlike an LED.

Why so slow? Well the photo is actually taken quickly, so you won't miss the magic moment, but the delay is probably down to the amount of processing needed to squeeze all the information grabbed from a 41-megapixel sensor into a 5-megapixel image. Using the Pro mode you can choose whether to take 34MP and 5MP images or just the 5MP one, but the processing is always needed.

So the camera is always slow to finish taking a picture.

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September 17, 2013, 5:54 pm

"The level and quality of bokeh a camera can create is based primarily on the camera’s lens, but the crop factor of the camera’s sensor also affects it."

Lens' aperture, focal length and focusing distance affect the depth of field. Crop factor because the higher it is, the smaller the physical size of the aperture will be = greater depth of field(less bokeh).

And why not a word on dynamic range? Highlight single shot DR(not multiple shot combining stuff) was poor on the 808 pureview, and probably is poor on the 1020 as well.
That's common with all small pixel sensors.


September 17, 2013, 9:27 pm

We'll be doing some pretty in-depth camera comparisons over the coming week or so - after which I'll add some more detail to this review (even if it is far more than we usually do!). So far the bracketing doesn't seem to have been particularly impressive.


September 18, 2013, 6:40 am

This phone looks Amazingggggg.
camera is one of the most important parts of a mobile these days as we can just snap and upload to Facebook.. and this phone blows iPhone and Samsung out of the ocean.
guys as for the software , it may not be as powerful as Samsung are apple but it doesn't need to be to run the this OS . that's a good thing.
And yes it doesn't have as many torch, facebook, twitter , etc etc etc.
but if you think about it who cares as it has what the general public needs.
I only need one of each app to be honest.
I have ordered mine of three at £38.00 month . unlimited internet and no extra charge for 4g when it kicks in.
This mobile kicks ass. it deserves a 9 boys., so hop to it and get your finger out.


September 18, 2013, 7:40 am

Hi Andrew,
Found some of this a bit odd... but did like the attention to detail.
If you wish to compare then compare phones. Their was too much cherry picking of singular features on a multitude of other phones to have any real basis as a comparison. The gaming performance guess? yes well we both know that was a guess. and just after you acknowledged the lower overheads that make is so fast even on lesser models?
It would be nice just to do the 1020, s4 and i5 as I think that would be more meaningful to more people.


September 18, 2013, 7:41 am

How much of the screen and photo testing is done "blind" - i.e. without knowing which device you are judging?
I ask because, despite best intentions, it is nigh on impossible to avoid bias once you know (or even think you know) which device you are looking at. For example, you know this is a pentile screen. That knowledge will affect your judgement, whether you want it to or not.
Is it possible to rig up some kind of a testing apparatus where only the screen is visible, and the people making judgements can see only the screen and nothing else? I'm sure there are all sorts of reasons why it would be difficult. The hardest would be to discourage a "pissing contest" mentality whereby the judges try to prove their worth by second-guessing which device is which, thereby clouding their own better judgement.

And it must be possible display or print out photos and have them judged "blind".


September 18, 2013, 10:03 am

Why so many grammar and typo errors? Is the author a native English speaker?


September 18, 2013, 11:01 am

For me, it was this or the Note 3. Considering they are the same price, i think i'd rather get the note 3 now, as it's such a shame this phone has such old specs. I've been using WP7 since launch, and been waiting eagerly for the appstore to grow, and functionality to increase, however, 3 years on, it STILL doesn't compare. And now MS Office and OneNote in particular are available on android, I see no reason to stay with WP.


September 18, 2013, 1:31 pm

Also, this is quite amusing. Nokia advertising the phone, yet Katy Perry uses the forward facing camera for selfies..... I really don't understand this marketing... http://youtu.be/8UUSB9iKIy8


September 18, 2013, 4:07 pm

We'll be doing some full comparison features with the Lumia 1020 and other phones soon :) Stay tuned!


October 16, 2013, 2:22 am

I just purchased this phone and there is a very noticeable internal lens flaw, that shows up on all photographs. The camera is amazing when it worked properly, low light is fantastic, (you forget it is a phone) but caution.. Look for lens flaw (take pictures in different lighting situations) and KNOW your carriers replacement policy, as my carrier wants to give me a refurb unit only 18 days after purchase.

Andrew Coote

November 18, 2013, 9:16 pm

I have recently purchased this phone - but not in yellow! A lot of people seem to miss the point of this phone (and all Windows 8 Nokia phones) - its not a Google bot. I can live without fantastic games, and only ever used a few apps on my previous Samsung with Android. I can understand people having reservations about Microsoft trying to conquer the world - but Apple and (even more so) Google are far closer to world domination. And the worrying thing about Google is that they want to know all your innermost private life - and market it... its all getting very Big Brother and too intrusive. I have Windows 8 on my desktop computer and use my Skydrive to save notes and photos on work (I am in construction industry so no big secrets to share anyway). This gives me connectivity that Android and Apple cant. That's a big bonus. Oh... and its great as a mobile phone too - easy to use excellent sound and microphone.


January 7, 2014, 10:17 pm

I've got 64Gb version from O2 and it suffers from hissing issue during calls. I noticed it's quite a common issue with 1020s :-(

Michael J King

January 21, 2014, 2:39 pm

The behind the scenes video is shot with the Lumia, that's the point.


January 23, 2014, 8:39 pm

Says who? This is not true!


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