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Nokia Lumia 520 - Camera, Battery Life and Verdict

Andrew Williams

By Andrew Williams

Reviewed:

Awards

  • Recommended by TR
Nokia Lumia 520

Summary

Our Score:

8

Nokia Lumia 520 – Camera

Nokia makes some of the most interesting phone cameras in the world. The Nokia Lumia 1020 is perhaps the best phone camera ever made and the Lumia 925 has the best low-light photo performance of any phone we’ve tried this year.

As you might expect, the Lumia 520 is nowhere near these lofty heights. It has a 5-megapixel rear camera and no front camera at all. There’s no way to shoot easy selfies or to video chat with this phone – for that you’ll need to upgrade to the Lumia 620.

However, photo performance in good lighting conditions is actually fairly good. The 5-megapixel sensor captures limited detail next to the big boys, but focusing is reasonably fast and the photos are a lot less glum-looking than most cameras at this bargain basement price.

Nokia Lumia 520

Nokia Lumia 520 1

Macro-style performance is good for a budget camera, and it can produce shallow depth of field effects

Nokia Lumia 520 2

A 1:1 pixel crop comparing the Lumia 520 with the Lumia 925

There’s one serious limiting factor, though – the Lumia 520 has no flash. Photos are pretty grainy at the best of times, but in low-light conditions, the phone is borderline useless as a camera.

Stay in the light and it’s a breeze to use, partly because of the way Windows Phone 8 approaches its camera software. A tap on-screen both picks a focus point and takes a shot. As standard, all the settings are handled by the phone.

There’s a physical shutter button on the Lumia 520 too, but it’s terrible. Where Nokia’s top-end Lumia’s have a carefully-designed two-stage button (half-depress for focus, full press to take a shot) that feels a lot like a ‘real’ camera shutter control, this one feels much like the power button further up the phone. Taking in-focus shots with it is tricky. Avoid.

Back to the camera app - the downside to the simplistic camera software approach of the Lumia 520 is that you don’t get many features built-in. There’s no HDR mode and no panorama. You can get these using what Microsoft calls lenses.

These are downloadable camera-related modes that you switch between from within the camera app. Only a pair come pre-installed – the face-detecting Smart Shoot and the barcode-scanning Bing Vision – but others are available from the Windows Store app shop, including HDR and panorama (most good ones are paid-for, though).

We’re not convinced those new to smartphones will necessarily realise the extra functions are out there, though. We’d rather have a few more basics built-in.

Nokia Lumia 520 10

Nokia Lumia 520 – Battery Life

The Lumia 520 mostly misses out of things compared to its more expensive brother the Lumia 620. No NFC, no compass, no front camera. However, it does have a slightly larger battery.

It has a 1,430mAh 5.2Wh unit, where the Lumia 620 has a 1,300mAh battery. This is to compensate for the slightly larger screen of the Lumia 520, but we were generally quietly impressed with the phone’s stamina in real-time use.

We easily coasted through a day’s use between charges. And while those wanting to use smartphone features like browsing and always-on email checking will generally still have to charge once a day, forgetting to charge overnight generally won’t leave you with a dead phone come mid-day.

Nokia Lumia 520 9

Nokia Lumia 520 – Call Quality

One of the other elements Nokia hasn’t scrimped on too much is the Lumia 520’s calling. It may be cheap, but it does use a second microphone to remove ambient noise from the call signal.

Call quality in general is perfectly good. The earpiece speaker only suffers from a slight lack of treble clarity, but supplies a decent level of volume. We experienced no call signal issues, which may be helped by the plastic outer shell - metal outer parts can cause signal issues.

Should I Buy the Nokia Lumia 520?

The Nokia Lumia 520 is a phone that’s all about compromises. You don’t get to make a phone that sells for as little as £115 without cutting a few corners. But Nokia has generally made the right cuts in the right places. The front-facing camera, NFC, a compass and a camera flash are all things that many people simply won’t miss much – especially when the rear camera isn’t too bad to use in daylight.

The issue that’s harder to shrug off is the top screen layer, which is highly reflective and makes outdoors use tricky. As the Lumia 620 has a polarisation filter to reduce reflections – and a cuter design – we’d recommend opting for that more expensive model if the difference in price isn’t too great. However, like the Lumia 520, the Nokia Lumia 520 once again proves a seriously attractive alternative to a budget Android.

Verdict

The Nokia Lumia 520 cuts all the fat off Nokia’s more expensive Windows Phone 8 Lumia phones to bring the slick Windows experience to budget buyers. There are missing features, but most aren’t missed. This is a fab budget phone.

Overall Score

8

Scores In Detail

  • Camera 7
  • Design 8
  • Features 6
  • Performance 8
  • Screen Quality 6
  • Value 9
Carrier pricing updates & information supplied by WhistleOut

mindo

April 17, 2013, 3:22 pm

Andrew, what about call quality on 520? My wife recently got lumia 620 and she is unhappy with the sound quality on phone calls. She has the same remarks as you do: muddy, boxy-sounding. Also the noise cancellation feature benefit is questionable because on the other side, her voice is not clear like on the old phone. If 520 (720) don't have such issues, she would go for a replacement.

Thirupati Rao

September 1, 2013, 12:44 pm

Excellent Mobile in the price range of 10,000/ and speed is good

anton ani

September 3, 2013, 7:50 pm

My lumia 520, why not lod picture in Google...

Akhilesh

September 24, 2013, 4:00 am

Waste of money, definitely go for any android mobile phone. My nokia 520 is slowest in application accessing.

Simone

September 27, 2013, 3:42 pm

I was very reluctant to have any other phone than the leading brand but when my phone started to become faulty and I wasn't keen to spend £300 plus on a new one or have an expensive contract, I thought I would buy a Nokia 520. I was pleasantly surprised by the quality and ability to do all the things my other phone done for a third of the price. Admittedly it took a little while to get used to the layout but for the cost of it, it is a good quality phone.

Manuell Labor

September 27, 2013, 5:09 pm

Initially pleased with the value of this phone; however....
In less than 5 days the screen cracked.

It was in my car so it could only come from a defective unit or from heat.

The phone has too much flex in its makeup so the thin screen seems vulnerable.
Compared with my other phones (Droid, Samsung) the 520 is too fragile. .
Naturally Nokia did not warrant such a phone for cracked screens, blaming the customer.

Saw on the web that other buyers have had a similar problem

I would not buy this phone even if it was cheaper.
Nokia brand image is no longer stellar. No wonder they sold themselves to Microsoft

Buy a more expensive phone and look for Gorilla glass. Skip the 520-900 nokia series.

Jonathan Peden

October 17, 2013, 4:36 pm

I just got my black 520 for £13 per month on Virgin Mobile. I have come from Android and after 1 week I don't miss my old phone at all. Windows 8 Mobile is a pleasure to use, and I love the handset. Yes it is bottom of the range but it does not look like it - all my friends (even those with iPhones) have all been excited to try it out. All comments have been good so far.

Bartek

November 1, 2013, 12:18 pm

I just go my Nokia Lumia 520 Cyan for £95 at CarphoneWarehouse on pay as you go. Like Jonathan Peden I've also come from Android Galaxy s3 and to be honest with you this is a budget handset but its very responsive and doesn't give any negative sides off. Its very fast and doesn't lag its got the Snapdragon processor. Just a couple of little things missing E.G. No Flash, No Front Facing camera. But some people don't care about those things. Its people's choice. This is my first Windows Phone 8 and it didn't fail me and all of the comments were good I'll give in 9/10.
Hope this Helped.

Caibee

December 24, 2013, 5:38 am

The Nokia Lumina 520 is without doubt the worst cell phone I have ever owned. I have lost connectivity to my computer with it and have had to re-set it to factory settings to get it back - in the process losing everyone in my address book. The phone has square corners so it is difficult to remove from your pocket. By the time you have it out, the caller has hung up. In a noisy environment, you will need to hold the phone close to your ear - your ear lobe will activate things on the screen such as the speaker phone function which is just poor design on the part of Nokia. Avoid this phone like the plague - go for an android phone, They are far better.

Satish Chandra

January 17, 2014, 2:35 pm

Today I bought Nokia lumia 520 mobile. I am not getting call duration option in this mobile. How we know how many minutes we talk etc . If there is help me.

Joe Hardy

June 12, 2014, 1:46 pm

Okay, I am a big tech geek, and Nokia Lumia 520 is my third mobile. So you can expect an unbiased review from me. First of all, Nokia Lumia 520 is all about Nokia, premium look, great build quality, and stunning piece of software, makes an amazing smartphone. I have had the device for the past 3 months, and till date, it hasn't hanged even a bit, something which android users can just dream of. As for the build quality, it is just amazing, the best in class! Overall, if you want a great device under 10k Nokia Lumia 520 is the one to go for.

As for all the guys who want to buy the Nokia Lumia 520, you can get it at Snapdeal where I got an amazing discount, and got the device in a single day after placing order. Here is the discount link -

bit DOT ly SLASH NokiaLumia520SD

DOT stands for . and SLASH for /

Cheers!

Brahmnoor Singh

June 12, 2014, 1:47 pm

Buddy, thanks a lot for this amazing discount. If you buy using that link, you do get the device in a single day! Cheers!

Clive Waller

August 14, 2014, 3:07 pm

Watch your bill - There seems no way to stop this phone accessing the internet (looking for updates?) several times a day other than leaving it switched off, so check how you are charged for internet access.

At home on Virgin (EE network) my old Nokia 6303 Classic got a signal most of the time, but the 520 spends most of its time displaying “No Service”, not so good if you’re in a rural area with a weak signal.

Contacts seem locked to HotMail. I thought I was copying the contacts from my old phone, but I finished up with everybody who has sent an order acknowledgment or anything else to my HotMail account and there’s no equivalent of Nokia Suite to edit contacts on a computer with a real keyboard and decent display.

rybo1

September 6, 2014, 10:13 am

What a dumb comment. My 520 fell out of my pocket when I bent over in a shop. the back cover came off, but the screen was completely intact. No need for a more expensive piece of junk.

rybo1

September 6, 2014, 10:28 am

Oh, picky, picky, picky. The Lumia 520 is an excellent, low cost mobile. I don't miss my Samsung Galaxy III one bit. In fact I gave it away to a family member. It's nice not to have to put a loaf of bread next to your head. The 520 is a smooth running device. Of course there's a learning curve with Windows 8.1, which you obviously weren't able to grasp.

Murray Snudge

September 16, 2014, 8:56 am

Settings > phone update, and clear the Automatically download updates if my data settings allow it check box.

Followingthewind

December 31, 2014, 8:10 pm

Is it really fair to give this phone a 8 when the Nokia Lumia 635 got a 7?

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