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Nokia Lumia 1520: Camera Quality and Performance

Andy Vandervell

By Andy Vandervell

Reviewed:

Summary

Our Score:

8

User Score:

The slightly inconsistent experience of the apps is mirrored when looking purely at image quality and performance. Like the Lumia 1020, the 1520 is slow to take photos by phone standards. The shot-to-shot time is lethargic and it takes a shade longer to focus than the likes of the iPhone 5S, though the 1520 is slightly better than the 1020 on both counts.

This makes the Lumia 1520 atypical among smartphones. Its strength isn't immediacy and capturing those impulse moments, it's about setting up shots, framing and creativity. Its lack of speed, and some of the issues covered on the previous page, make the camera on the 1520 a real curate's egg, though it's hard to argue with the quality of the end product.

Our City of London test shot shows the Lumia 1520 captures excellent detail. It is, as we expected, somewhere between the the 1020 and iPhone 5S -- it lacks the absolute detail of the former, but there's visibly less compression and noise than the latter.

In macro shots, it captures a pleasing amount of detail and creates very pleasant 'bokeh' (blurred background) effects that an iPhone 5S or similar spec phone camera just can't match. The range of controls, and support for RAW, also makes the 1520 a serious photographer's dream come true. If you want a phone where you have real control, this is it.

In low light it's much the same story as above, albeit with a few caveats. Without flash it sits firmly in the middle of the three. There's less noise than the iPhone 5S, but it's obvious that the 1020 captures more light.

With flash turned on, however, it's not quite so straightforward. The 1020's Xenon flash clearly wins out for its strength and range, even if the result is a tad over saturated. But the 1520 and 5S is a close fight.

Of the three the iPhone 5S is arguably the most accurate, no doubt thanks to the two-tone flash. This gives it the edge over the 1520, but 1520 still has a decently powerful flash in comparison to the large majority of phones.

Carrier pricing updates & information supplied by WhistleOut

Prem Desai

October 22, 2013, 12:23 pm

I'm really upset because I want one but there a few key apps that I need and they don't exist on the windows platform.

I know I'm in the minority, but I still believe that microsoft can write decent code - they are a software company after all. Nokia can still build nice phones as has been proven several times.

I am tired of ios and android - their beauty is only skin deep and in trying to offer what people want, they are becoming less intuitive and more buggy - ios7 being a good example.

No, I do not have shares in microsoft or nokia.

Tim Sutton

October 22, 2013, 6:52 pm

This phone will be mine the absolute second it becomes available in the UK.

I did also raise my eyebrows at the "step behind Android and iOS" line.. I assume that refers solely to third party app availability, as Windows Phone feels far more slickly modern to use than Android or iOS.

The live tile system is INCREDIBLY hard to lose when I go back to my work S4, it feels like going back in time 5 years.

I'm no fan boy, but all I can say is when I have a choice between doing something on my S4 and doing the same task on my Lumia I invariably reach for the Lumia.

dewa malam

October 23, 2013, 1:54 am

take my money now

Stu

October 24, 2013, 8:24 am

the more people buy windows phones, the more companies will see there is a demand for the platform and will jump on board and create these missing apps. I've got a lumia 920 and I absolutely love the phone, but although there are some key apps missing, there have been a lot of them added since I got it 6 months ago. I reckon it will have caught up within the next year.

Terry Byford

October 25, 2013, 11:36 am

Not knocking the phone, but had to laugh at the editorial reference to the screen being "a full 0.1-inches" bigger than the HTC. Talk about incremental values. lol.

Lack of apps was an early issue with Android too, but now look where that is. They will surely develop as the market for Windows phones increases. And this is the issue, how much will it in face of the existing Android and Apple market share?

Tiffster

November 2, 2013, 11:38 am

I love my Lumia 810 and I'm looking forward to getting a 1520. However Nokia has chosen to offer this phone and the 1020 only to AT&T, the carrier with the worst customer satisfaction rating. Hopefully Nokia learns a lesson from Apple that they need to offer their phones to all carriers to maximize their phones exposure. Phones come and go, but people generally stick with their carriers. For me, downgrading to a crappy carrier just to get the best phone isn't going to happen.

CyberAngel

November 13, 2013, 3:05 am

what are those few key apps that you need, but which are missing?

Prem Desai

November 13, 2013, 3:23 am

Sonos for my music control
Rako for my lighting control
Heatmiser for my heating control
Avtech (eagle eyes) for my CCTV
LightwaveRF for misc automation

These are a must have. I will not jump ship without them. There are others that are nice to have but I can do without them.

frenzel

November 17, 2013, 1:26 pm

so buy the unbranded version of the phone which is even better than the att version with 32 instead of 16gb and qi already built in. unbranded phones can be used with whatever contract you got...

Matthew Bunton

November 21, 2013, 4:40 pm

Wish they would just hurry up an release it I've just returned my Note 3 due to issues so waiting on this one.

andyvan

November 21, 2013, 5:30 pm

Last I heard it could be next month.

dpanch_89

November 21, 2013, 6:35 pm

Buy a cheap android tablet for those functions? unless those apps are incompatible with tablets. Most of those i see being used in the home, or within a wifi area.

Matthew Bunton

November 21, 2013, 7:42 pm

Thanks for taking the time to update me Andy.

Prem Desai

November 21, 2013, 8:53 pm

No can do mate. I NEED the heating and CCTV apps on my mobile. Others are almost in the needed category.

There are already 6 tablets (iOS and android) scattered around the house and do what you suggest.

I'll wait ......

geckodru

November 22, 2013, 1:58 pm

I got mine two days ago.

Terry Byford

November 22, 2013, 3:23 pm

I'm sorry, but you say you NEED an app to control your lighting, heating, and CCTV. God, get real. Hardly anyone needs an app for this purpose. These must be the most esoteric uses of a PHONE, I can think of. Do you lie in bed all day long?

Yian Pap

December 1, 2013, 4:34 pm

The unwillingness of reviewers to fairly assess a windows phone never seizes to amaze me. It's as if they are spell-bound by some ios or Android voodoo. It's in the details of how they write about them, always dressing a praise with some qualifications like "we're not bored of Nokia's design yet"...I wonder when if ever they got bored with the ridiculously bland design of the Samsungs (it was boring at birth if you ask me) and the never changing iPhone design. Something tells me their boredom threshold is a lot lower with a Lumia than with the main players... But please Andy correct me if I'm wrong.
A Nokia Lumia looks fresher and more modern that any other phone, to anyone who doesn't feel the uncontrolled urge to praise android/ioS and be critical of WP and/or Nokia, for no good reason nowadays.

andyvan

December 2, 2013, 9:17 am

Okay, I will correct you. I was praising the design. Simple as.

Yian Pap

December 2, 2013, 11:28 am

Well, when you preface your review with: "but should anyone other than the most ardent Windows Phone fan consider buying one?", you should forgive me for seeing some sort of anti-WP/Nokia bias there.
I mean why should you feel the need to say this? This sounds like an excellent phone on all fronts apart from the famed "apps". It's as if you team with people who can't live their life anymore if they can't control their heating with the phone. All the imporant apps are there or will be there in a few months time. So why should you even ask if this is only for the "ardent WP fan"?

andyvan

December 2, 2013, 3:21 pm

Because it's a legitimate question. It's a very high-end, device that appeals to a high-end audience, but Windows Phone still lacks the app support to match iOS and Android. When you're spending this much on a phone, those kinds of issues become far more important.

I really like Windows Phone in principle, and could see myself switching if the conditions were right. But one of those conditions is the app ecosystem, and that's one area where the 1520 falls down (that and I personally feel it's too large, but that's a whole difference argument.)

Yian Pap

December 2, 2013, 5:18 pm

OK, we'll agree to disagree on the importance of the missing apps:) In my view for the £500 you pay, you get an all-in-one device, you can surf the net, you have professional offline navigation everywhere in the world, you watch videos, you get dedicated compact camera level photos, you can even do some office work, I can go on and on. So it's worth the money if you ask me, I am currently not missing any app on my 820, but maybe I just haven't realised what I'm missing! I'm tempted to ask you to give me 2-3 example important apps that are missing from WP...

Yes it's large, up to last year I would never think of buying it, I mean I chose the 820 over the 920 just because the 920 seemed too big to me! But I just remote desktop'd from my small 820 to my i7 desktop and that's really handy for me, now I wish I had the 6' screen, if it still fits in my jeans pocket that is. Might get one when the price falls in a few months.

hdvhdv

December 6, 2013, 11:01 am

Fully agree, 2 weeks ago I got an android work phone (Sony xperia Z) and its not a bad device, but despite being an android user for a couple of years, I felt after 9 Months WP 8 as going back in time. It gets quite boring and 1 sided to always read the slogan "lack of apps". I use quit a couple of apps and miss hardly anything and the one thing that I never read, but is very true is the smoothness of the WP 8 OS. Even the Note 3 with the same hardware has hick-ups in the user experience and Android is not comparable with WP8 in terms of speed.

Ramsey

January 10, 2014, 6:34 pm

Add a homepage with 2-3 colors and hardly any graphics and the Note 3 will be much faster. That's how WP OS is, it doesn't use many graphics so it's very easy for phones to render it. Android uses A LOT of graphics and multitasking everywhere. I have used WP for 2 years and a half and Android for almost 5 years. I can't see myself using WP until it becomes nicer to look at in Apps, easier to use in apps, better menu system, more customization, and of course a much better notification system where push notification works all the time and you don't need to open the app to find out if you have something new.

Concerning Nokia, I really love their phones and wish they would have done Android phones as well with the same camera as the 808 and 1020. I would gladly try them out, but for now the best for me (for me) is Samsung since the phones are incredibly reliable (still using my Galaxy S1 since June 2010), and have tons of features to make them fun to use. I am now using the S4 (what a really nice and fast phone) and gave my wife the S1.

Guy R

January 22, 2014, 8:35 pm

This device does not support BT keyboards. This is ridiculous. I am sending it back.

DJ

February 25, 2014, 1:36 am

Camera - very disappointing if your main photographic efforts are taking shots of your fun-loving and mobile toddler, which end up as photos of the space he was just occupying, or blurred.

Method of storing contacts - disappointing: whatever happened to that old-fashioned notion that we might just want to store them on the phone rather than in a cloud (or similar weather feature), or linked to our email account, or....?

Overall? Too clever by half as it's a tablet which can be used to make phone calls using a contact list which is not as private as it once was. Well, clever apart from the camera, which is ponderous in the extreme (rather than 'great, brilliant' as the chap in the shop told me when asking about stuff such as, ooh, shutter speed).

Rather than growing on me, the phone annoys me slightly more each day, with the battery life about the only saving grace. I very much wanted to like this phone, but I can't, in all honesty say that I'd recommend it to anyone unless battery life was the most important feature.

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