iPhone 5s vs Lumia 925 vs Lumia 1020

Smartphone camera showdown: iPhone 5S, Lumia 925 and Lumia 1020

Windows Phone Central compares and contrasts today's top smartphone cameras

2013 so far can be described as the year of the camera phone. Between Nokia’s engineering and the likes of its competitors playing catch up, consumers have plenty of choice when it comes to smartphones with excellent cameras.

Following up our recent Lumia shoot out, we decided to take three of today's high end devices out for a showdown, specifically the brand new iPhone 5S, Lumia 925 (review) and Lumia 1020 (review). All three can be considered top contenders on paper, but we'll see who is the best when we dig deeper into the pixels.

Care to see our results? You may be surprised.

Camera specifications

Before we dive into the shot by shot analysis, let's directly compare all the hardware:

iPhone 5S camera

iPhone 5S

  • 8 megapixels with 1.5µ pixels
  • ƒ/2.2 aperture
  • Sensor size: n/a
  • Sapphire crystal lens cover
  • True Tone flash
  • Backside illumination sensor
  • Five-element lens
  • Hybrid IR filter


Lumia 925 camera

Lumia 925

  • 8.7 megapixels PureView  with 1.4µ pixels
  • ƒ/2.0 aperture
  • Sensor size: 1/3 inch
  • Carl Zeiss Tessar lens
  • Backside illumination sensor
  • Six-element lens
  • Dual LED flash


Lumia 1020 camera

Lumia 1020

  • 41 megapixels PureView with 1.12µ pixels
  • ƒ/2.2 aperture
  • Sensor size: 1/1.5 inch
  • Carl Zeiss Tessar lens
  • Backside illumination sensor
  • Six-element lens
  • Xenon flash

On paper, all of those specifications are quite amazing for any camera phone. Apple does edge out the Lumia 925 and Lumia 1020 in pixel size. While the Lumia 1020 has a bigger sensor overall, it crams so many pixels on to it that they are smaller than the Lumia 925, which is slightly smaller than iPhone 5S. That matters for noise reduction as the bigger the pixels, the better the image (though HTC One’s 2.0µ pixels are perhaps too extreme, as image quality is reportedly not that great).

The Lumia 1020 definitely wins for being able to “crop to zoom” as its 41 megapixels gives Windows Phone much more to work with compared to the iPhone’s 8 megapixels. Still, for normally framed photos we have to admit that Apple’s iPhone 5S does an admirable job compared to both Lumias.


For the Lumias, all images were shot using the Nokia Pro Cam app on full auto. For the iPhone 5S, auto was also used with the default settings. No flash was used in any photos (we may do a flash comparison follow up in a few days). Phones were handheld hence the slight discrepancy in angles.

For full-shot comparisons, the Lumia 1020’s 5 MP oversampled images were used. For crops, the full sample from the 1020’s 38 MP images was substituted, since using “crop to zoom” on the phone would do the same thing in real life. Images were resized to fit for web use.


Low light

We noticed that in low-light imaging the iPhone 5S tended to be on the yellow side for white balance with the Lumia 1020 doing slightly better and surprisingly the Lumia 925 doing the best for color in nighttime situations.

The iPhone 5S does well in regards to sharpness, possibly due to the f/2.2 aperture when compared to the Lumia 925’s f/2.0. Lower apertures let in more light but it can also make images softer. You can see this in the night photo below of the table outside, where the foreground and background were both in focus for the iPhone 5S. Of course that lower aperture gave us brighter photos on the Lumia 925 when compared to the iPhone and even the Lumia 1020.

If we had to rank them, it would be the Lumia 1020 at top followed by the iPhone 5S and Lumia 925 running neck and neck for second place. Apple's iPhone 5S was slightly sharper with more detail and less noise, but the color representation on the Lumia 925 was much more accurate and images were overall brighter.



During the day, the Lumia 1020 was the top performer with brighter colors and whiter-whites than either the Lumia 925 or iPhone 5S. It also of course provided the most detail. You can especially see this in the beach-log photo (and crop) below, where the color of the rocks stood out more on the Lumia 1020's sample. The iPhone 5S meanwhile had much more detail than the Lumia 925, though both were slightly off on color.

The Lumia 925, while a strong performer, fell short of the iPhone 5S for sharpness and detail.

Here, again, the Lumia 1020 wins against both the iPhone 5S and Lumia 925. For second place though, we’re going to give it to the iPhone 5S with the Lumia 925 falling behind for third.



All three phones of course can do panorama stitching, though we have to give the nod here to Apple who’s built-in panorama was both easier to use and much more accurate. Indeed, in trying to photograph the power station, Nokia's Panorama app completely failed on two different phones.

Nokia recently updated their Panorama app after we tried to shoot the power station sample above, so it’s not clear if the new ability to shoot in portrait would have helped. Regardless, we have a feeling Apple will still dominate this category as their app is really fantastic (and easy to access).

Front facing camera

All three phones also sport a 1.2 MP front facing camera, with Nokia’s also having a f/2.4 aperture (we’re not sure on Apple’s). Here, Nokia has a nice advantage of sharpness over Apple’s iPhone and even slightly better lighting with punchier colors. Nokia also has their excellent Glam Me app for softening and enhancing self-portrait images, giving Lumias another plus.

Ease of use

When it comes to ease of use, it really depends on how one configures the device. On the Lumia 925 and 1020, Pro Cam is certainly slower to launch and more complicated to use than the native camera app. However, users are free to set the default camera app to whichever one they please, including the faster and simpler native camera app.

Still, the iPhone 5S is more straightforward to use out of the box. The flipside to that is there are no “expert” controls on the iPhone 5S—the camera does all the work for you and you are left with the final result. For the most part, this actually works quite well most of the time due to Apple's excellent image processing, but 'prosumer' users will appreciate the fine tuning capabilities found in both Lumias.

With the native camera app, the Lumia 1020 and Lumia 925 are certainly fast enough for most users, but the iPhone 5S with its autofocus system is even faster both for snapping the photo and its processing. This is even true when using the Windows Phone shutter key to launch the camera when in idle. That’s because Apple now has their slide-to-unlock camera feature which makes the process slightly faster.

iPhone 5S camera slide
Apple's camera action allows you to slide-to-awake the camera directly

Alternatively, Windows Phone has the benefit of being able to “feel” to launch the camera since you have a physical shutter key. With the iPhone 5S, you have to look at the screen and position your finger on the camera slider to get it to work. So once again, pros versus cons. The fact of the matter is Windows Phone could benefit from Apple’s slide to unlock feature and Apple could stand to use a physical shutter key.

The iPhone is more robust by having more on the screen functions e.g. faux HDR option, square-mode for Instagram photos, panorama, video, slo-mo (video) and filters all without having to dig for them. Windows Phone has Lenses as an alternative, which while very innovative they could become overwhelming (and cumbersome) every time you need quick access to even basic features like filters, panorama or HDR.


From our experience, the Lumia 1020 is still the undisputed champion for a smartphone camera in terms of raw image quality. Colors were punchier, white balance was decent, images were sharp and there was plenty of detail. Toss in the ability to “crop to zoom” unlike any other device and the Lumia 1020 has a lot going for it. Of course there is still room for improvement, like faster image processing and quicker launching of the Pro Cam app (especially if your device is locked).

The Lumia 925 is still out favorite “everyday device” and our recommended Windows Phone for people who aren’t photography buffs but still want a solid camera. Having said that, overall image quality was below that of the iPhone 5S. The Lumia 925 excels in low-light photos and daylight shots looked great too—in that sense, there are very few complaints. But if we’re pixel-peeping and directly comparing it to the iPhone 5S, Apple gets the nod here for overall image quality.

Indeed we were very impressed with Apple’s efforts. Their in-house image processing is certainly top notch and the iPhone 5S is very easy to use. It’s a shame that the iPhone’s tech doesn’t come in more hardware varieties though—you’re stuck with what Apple gives you.

But there's no question in our mind: the iPhone 5S delivers some excellent images and its small size betrays its powerful camera. While the Lumia 1020 can still best it in all areas but speed, the iPhone 5S is quite impressive.

iPhone 5s vs Lumia 925 vs Lumia 1020

A word of caution

The problem with doing in-depth camera analysis like this is we end up getting hooked on the minutia. To be honest, it wasn’t until we started looking at cropped photos on 27-inch IPS/Anti Glare display at 2560 X 1440 resolution (and Adobe RGB, natch) did we notice that the iPhone 5S’s photos were often (not always) superior to the Lumia 925.

Taken with the iPhone 5S

What does this mean for sharing photos on email, Instagram, Twitter, Facebook and other digital networks? It’s simple: all three smartphones will give you excellent images with slight tradeoffs. The Lumia 1020 is the best for IQ, but slower (and the phone is bulkier). The iPhone 5S gives very good images but you’re stuck with a tiny 4-inch display and no manual controls (i.e. forget long exposures or artistic creations). The Lumia 925 is light and nimble with a gorgeous display, but image quality, while excellent, falls behind both devices.

In the end, the differences between all three devices are less than what you are gaining overall: photos that aren’t embarrassing to look at on a computer display. And that’s just awesome, which ever device you choose.


Reader comments

Smartphone camera showdown: iPhone 5S, Lumia 925 and Lumia 1020


And I wish the 920 was in there, too.  I am always complaining about how lousy the camera is and getting called a "troll" when the simple fact is, it sucks.

True, low light is pretty good, but the lack of sharpness is a serious problem. In bright light photography, the 920 is terrible even compared to phones several years older.

Sigh... If you have a faulty device, please send it in for service instead of making uneducated conclusions. If you'd do even a little research you'd find lots of expert reviews that say the 920 has a top notch camera. If yours doesn't live up to that, it's broken. Quite easy to figure out really.

That's not true.. The 920's issues are software related, and can only be improved on by a software update.. I think GDR2 is supposed to fix some of these issues..

I had GDR2 for a bit on the 920. I don't think it helped much. You could still see a sharp preview turn soft after capture. It looks like a Gaussian blur gets applied after capture.

I hate that so much. I literally just tried the 920, 8X, 925 & 1020 at the at&t store and the quality of the 920 (also the 8x) was the same as mine. The 925 does have a significant improvement from the 920

So I am not imagining it? It is truely frustrating. Although we have concluded at work taking a lot of pictures in varying conditions that the 920 rules the lot (925, iPhone 5, several Androids).
What is this about. I want the picture that I capture, not the softened version!

I am right there with you guys. the pictures are pretty solid but I would love to not have all the post processing that seems to soften the picture right after I take it. It can't be that hard to save the picture I'm looking at.

Sure the 920 is not perfect but since the 1308-update (1314 in the US) in Q1 and now Amber it has improved a lot.
But x I'm tc claimed "the 920 is terrible even compared to phones several years older"... Really, compared to what, iPhone 3G? Either he/she is exaggerating or he/she has a faulty device.

Go to GSMArena.com and pick the Nokia N86 review and the Lumia 925 review. Then you'll see how much better N86 picture are.

Nokia for some reason compresses or does something to the original captures so that they zoom and crop smoother in the standard Windows photo viewer. They do look noticeably softer which is ridiculous. If you download the HD Photo Viewer app, you'll see the original, sharper detail of the photo but you'll see that zooming or cropping these shots are choppy and not as smooth as the windows photo viewer. Its a processor shortcoming I think that Nokia is compensating for by lowering the quality of your original captures for the soul purpose of making it a smoother experience to view and scroll between pics through the stock Windows photo viewer. Its a shame but hopefully the newer Lumias moving forward with quad core, etc will alleviate this.

Look at my original question... I asked if these guys have gotten the update yet.. Now only one of them confirmed that he's on att.. I'm not sure what network the other guys are one,, are you❔.. It was a perfectly valid question so that's why I made the comment that the 920 is available elsewhere,, you set yourself up for that one.. Of course I know that the update isn't available on att yet because I'm waiting for it myself.. It would be nice to hear from someone who has got the update so they can tell me if it helps picture quality.. That's who the question was directed to,, not you..

I agree with you, sometimes i would get amazing pictures but sometimes just horrible pictures. The only thing i like about the 920 is the design. I switched to 1020 and gave the 920 to my wife. After reading the article and looking at the pictures I feel like the Lumia 925 overall takes better pictures than the Lumia 1020. 

I tried my 1020 against some Z1 sales reps and whooped their asses! That was also with the 10x optical zoom peripheral! It wasn't as sharp and looked quite washed out at times in comparison. But the colours were more on the natural side. But I much preferred the more oversaturated 1020 pics! Great impartial comparison though, wish other sites were the same.

Same, my mate just got a Z1, I was expecting it to be at least as good as the 920. but we played indoors, with the QX10 and his Z1. The images always seemed washed on the Z1, and on the QX10 they werent focused at all, or sharp. The 920 was better against both! (Using procam on amber.)
Personally I think the sharpness issues are pretty much gone on the 920 with procam and amber.

Seriously. I'm not sure if I want to renew my 2 year contract with at&t anymore due to lack of updates. They have the best windows phones in the market but the way (I) the consumer is treated when it comes to updates is very disrespectful. There's no guarantee that we'll get gdr3 in a timely manner and if "they" do then what's stopping them from pulling the same crap again.

about the Panorama pic... Did WP screw up the stitching? I see 3 and 5 chimneys in 925 and 1020 vs 4 chimneys in 5s panorama. Overall, 5s color saturation and image quality looks better, even better than 1020 in some shots. WP and Nokia has lot of tweaking to do...

Gotta admit, Apple did a good job on the camera. Panorama mode always worked best on iOS devices, Nokia should learn something from them in that department. Of course 1020 still walks over every other phone in general.

Indeed, Nokia really needs to put more effort into the panorama app, because sometimes its just a nightmare to use, and on rare occasions it just plainly refuses to complete a panorama no matter how long you play with it.

I always found that HTC's panorama mode on my Titan II has always been pretty good, but I've never seen the parorama mode from iOS. That looks really nice. Other OEMs would do well to step up their code.

Do a Lumia 1020 vs Galaxy S4 Zoom

I've used the S4 Zoom and it's impressive, would love to see a decent comparison

I have seen numerous comparisons of the two. 1020 only lags behind in the physical zoom option. Everything else is better on 1020.

Very nice unbiased review.  I played with a 5s for the first time this morning and the picture quality was very impressive.

I don't see any pics that the iPhone wins on...maybe equal in some, but never better. Why can't I ever take pics like that is the real question.

I know right. I have the 928. When my wife takes pictures they come out amazing when I do they look like crap.

Dan, I think your asking too much of your readers to actually read your article. In todays society of a quick fix, and small attention span, words start to meld together as if they dont wah wah woh wah wah. Wah woh wah wo whan ah wana. Wonna wana ana wan! Wonda woh wanna wowo. Wannawa, wowa wawa wo aawwa.  Furthermore, I agree, great pics by all phones.

Fantastic review, and extra bonus points for being neutral and not dismissing the competitors effort. Now if only pro apple sites did comparisons like this on non apple products with fact and no bias. Well done sir, well done

I thought it was nuetral until the end as if the iPhone shouldn't have been better than the 925 and the comments on the physical size of the device were unnecessary since the article was suppose to be about the cameras. But overall it was a good article. Pro apple sites aren't the problem it's who does the actual review and I hear and read bias reviews on all sorts of devices so it's definately no just them.

Daniel, what are your thoughts on nokia's ability to speed up image processing times on the 1020? Do you think they will be able to optimize this further with updates?

I think they could improve start-up times and maybe bypass the PIN requirement. Regarding actual image processing--no idea. I think there is probably somethings they can do but inn the end, they may be hampered by older silicon. Snapdragon 800 is probably better for this type of thing.

Since they rewrote the imaging stack for this specific chip, i'm sure there is more optomizations they can do. Whether they will show up in real world performance is another question. But yes the S800 should perform better. Though we don't know by how much.

Once we replace silicon with carbon nanotubes in phones, and incredible processors, everything is going to be launching instantly!

I have a feeling the limitations on the 1020 are hardware related. It's basically a 920 processing wise. Get a Snapdragon 800 in an updated model and it's probably lightning fast.

Nice review Dan. Its always nice to get down to the facts and remove the biases unlike Molly iPhone lover on CNet. Based on the photos, I agreed with your conclusions. Great review!

Thanks. I was ready to write this Lmia 1020 > Lumia 925 > iPhone 5S but even I was surprised by the results. The iPhone 5S is a solid phone that has some impressive tech in it...I just find the UI goofy ;)

I like iPhone only for its camera over WP, but then again, you're right. Just checked out my mates iPhone5 and.........
goofy UI :p

Is it juss me or does the built in camera works better than the pro camera at night on the 1020? I feel like the images are sharper using the built in camera at night...

Lumia 1020 is amazing. I got mine today. . Wowwww. Go get it. Its a cross between 920 . 925. With a nice big camera. And its not as big as u think

Agreed. 90% of the time, I find it horribly inaccurate. Haven't tried it after the update though.

I tried the updated panorama app yesterday on my wife's 925. I wanted to try vertical orientation and it did quite well. But it was slow.

Nokia panorama even after update is awful. I don't even mention it during my competition with my isheep brother....

Honestly, while the Lumia 1020 is easily the champ, I've noticed that it takes a bit of fiddling to get that perfect picture. The iPhone 5s on the other hand seems to adjust quicker and gets that perfect shot quicker (though not as high quality as 1020 in lower light). Daylight it holds its own vs 1020 (sometimes i prefer the iphone colors.. sometimes). 
That said, I'd use the 1020, and if I had cash I would buy both. Boo for Apple never giving me stuff.

I'd agree with that. The iPhone 5s's AF system is really good and if you're not "cropping to zoom" then yeah, 1020 and 5S are similar for day shots.

Yes, that is exactly it, because we never have been able to crop and zoom and end up with something that we would actually want to use.

I've been cropping and zooming since the Nokia N8, followed by the Nokia 808 PureView and now the Lumia 1020.

Once you have the ability to crop and create photos that you didn't actually take and get closer to people places and things that you couldn't physically get close to or even see with your own eyes....THEN comparisons to phones that cannot do that are mute.

Yes, the iPhone 5s takes great pictures but in real world usage, with the knowledge of being able to crop and zoom, the every phone besides the 1020 and 808 (N8 to a much lesser extent) cannot compare on a photographic/creativity level.

I await the day that I can take a picture with most competing phones from 400-500ft away and see "2007" on a building like I did with my 1020. Just last weekend, my wife spotted a oddly named church from the highway while at a stop light. I snapped a picture with my 1020, reaching from the driver side and it had so much detail that I was able to crop down to the name of the building and text it to our friends. The signage was completely visible after cropping past several lanes of traffic, the side walk, the parking lot, the walkway and finally to the signage, that I could barely see with my own eyes...with glasses.

Now, unzoomed photos will always look similar if the white balance/colors are handled similarly and the noise levels are in the same range but once you get down to a performance level that takes optics, sensor size, megapixels, OIS, oversampling and real life use cases that were NEVER thought possible, THEN you see that the 1020 (as is the 808) are worlds above what anyone else has produced.

I would NEVER take a photo from my car of signage 300ft away with my iPhone 4s, HTCs, Samsungs or any other camera phone and expect to be able to see what I can see from the 1020. You simply cannot get that amount of detail in your photo and if you factually cannot take photos like that, of license plates, construction workers 30 feet in the air, hurting their fingers, seagulls flying by 50ft away and you can read the tracking tag number on their leg in mid flight, how can someone conclude that any other camera is better.

I have seen people conclude that the 5s and other phones have better cameras than the 1020, fact is, they simply do not have better cameras, spec wise, output wise and from the mind of a photographer, ability wise.

With all of that said, Daniel, this a great camera shootout. The iPhone 5s performed admirably and Apple did a great job. I love the panorama from the 5s and I prefer the 5s' FFC pic. In the FFC pic on the 5s, you can see the details in the shirt and it is more natural. I don't like the loss of detail in exchange for the punchy colors and processed sharpness of Nokias FFCs lately. My friend sends me FFC pics from her Optimus G Pro and they look so much better than the heavily processed 1020 FFC pics. Sure, they are soft, but natural, sorta like the Nokia 808 pics vs 1020 pics.

Anyway, great article and I apologize for such a long post. Keep up the great, honest work.

That's true about a lot of sharpening on the FFC on the 925/1020 and I'm almost with you that it's too much. The one good thing is you could soften it using Glam Me, which is why I didn't ding it too much for that. But I see the point about the 5S looking more natural too.

If you use the Pro app, crop to zoom is as easy as pie.  Most people would have no problem with it.  Pinch/squeeze and hit save.  No different than what you already do to zoom in on pictures.

Would that make the iPhone "better" given that they are able to stand toe to toe with the 1020 even though they're only using a 8MP camera? Pretty impressive that they are able to take excellent shots when you aren't zooming in.

I've read that the Lumia 920 after the GDR2/Amber upadate takes a lot nicer pics than bevore even better than the 925. Do you know anything about that?
I'm on the way to update from the HTC tophy (it did a great job for years) and will buy a device off contract because WP here in Austria doesn't get any love from carriers.
It's really a hard decision nowadays on the WP. There are so many good looking high end Nokias out. The 920 is a really great deal for 300€ (wireless charging, 32GB...), the 925 is damn sexy but more expansive (and only 16GB, no qi) and the 1020 well - is the 1020 and having the capability of a average compact camera on a phone sounds promising.
Would you say the 920's camera is now on par or even superior to the 925's? Is a wireless charging cover really something worth to buy?

Quite nice review.

Although I'll be honest, what I would really like to see was a review between the top cameras of the 3 operating systems, meaning the Nokia L1020 (Windows Phone), the iPhone 5S (iOS) and the Xperia Z1 (Android).

Comparing the iPhone 5S to the Nokia L925...I mean, the L925 is nothing more than anorexic L920. Which is an almost 1 year old phone. If Apple's iPhone 5S wasn't slightly better than it, it would mean Apple had screwed up even bigger time then they already did (specially with the 5C).
And then there's the interesting bit, at least to me, that would be to compare the way Nokia, Sony and Apple handle the camera software and the results thereof, based on the 3 different OS's.

So, that's a suggestion ;)

(post scriptum - You can reach out to the folks at Android Central, Daniel. Yeah, they are pretty much Samsung-fanboys, but I'm sure they could lend you the Xperia Z1 for a couple of days ;) )

I agree really looking forward to seeing someone do an unbiased comparison with the Z1 against the 1020 and iPhone 5s.

I've read a couple of reviews on non-fanboy, general sites that absolutely pan the camera on the new Sony. Both were disappointed that a phone that is marketed on its camera couldn't hold a candle to L1020, 5S.

I must say, this review bothers me. The lack of strong, clear bias is atypical and confusing. The review's well-written, but the fact it's so fair and honest is throwing me off.
That aside, this is about what I expected, that a phone about a generation newer has better hardware, while a device built to focus on photography stays on top.

I think I should go over to BGR to experience some normal Internet Tech "Journalism". All these facts and research are confusing me.

Dan so sexy at the beach ;) but you know, I guess your fans wanted more pics of you, especially if you would wear somthing like only a micro swimwear! you know, something to bring the fans a sigh and good dreams.
to me all the photos look similar to me, coming from iphone 5s or 1020, or 925, to the point i didnt take the time to read so much the article, it was good but I could skip some parts since to me pictures from a phone will never matter much. as long as it displays a decent image :) but good article! i read more than the half so its not like i only read the conclusion or something ;)

lol, thanks...

Regarding the results, agreed. All three phones do a great job and here we're really nitpicking. Still, the iPhone does do a lot right which is why people like it so much. Nokia is the only company that really go head to head with them in hardware and design.

Im not surprised the iPhone takes good pictures and thanks for an objective review. What I find amusing now is how some of the Apple fans in the tech press are now using a new talking point when it comes to cameras: the iPhone is "good enough." When you can't win the competitions, even if you do a good job, just say you're "good enough."

You literally have to look on your computer to see the diff between the 925 and the iPhone 5S. On my phone in the WPC app they always looked practically the same.

At the end of the day what does image quality matter to an iPhone fanboy/girl? They spend all that money to get a phone with a quality camera just to use Instagram to f it up and make it look old. Apple could've saved time on the camera to invest in something innovative for a change.

True. Though that's the same with the Lumia 1020. It's shocking how much Instagram downgrades the 1020's images--to the point that using it for Instagram is just silly.

But people want Instagram....not so much for their poor quality but the concept behind it, the easy social-sharing of photos. That's why I've always said I "get" Instagram as a concept, I just think the company is run by not so bright people.

I "get" the concept....but I don't get why people share pictures of everthing, much less why people want to see them.  To each their own...

These small downsized pictures don't do justice to Lumia 1020. Go take a look at Robert Scoble's Flickr images comparing 5S and 1020 on a nice big screen. The 1020 blows away 5S much more obviously. (Scoble is as big an Apple fanboy as there is.)
BTW, you have to be careful with Adobe RGB displays when looking at standard RGB images. Colors will be way off unless you make sure images contain color space metadata and your software supports such.

This is true, though it raises the question of what people are using their images for. At the end of the day, the NL1020 is superior for IQ, bar none. But for everyday shots (without thought) the 5S is quite impressive.

Actually, all three are great. It's just faultfinding we're doing here--looking for slight differences. 

Right. The thing is 925/920 looks just as great as iphone 5S on typical images sizes for web use (0.5-1M pixel) for daylight shots. But the reverse does not hold once you compare them in low light. 925/920 blows away iphone 5S in low light due to OIS even at typical low resolution for web use. So if one is concerned with web use only, 925 should be a better overall performer.
1020 is in a totally different league all together.

Really suprised how soft the images are on the 925.  Dudnt they add a 6th lense to make images sharper?  

I think the real issue with that is the aperture. Being the lowest one at 2.0 compared to the other two devices at 2.2

But hey, this is Nokia trying and learning, and then applying. I bet those new 20MP cameras take it back to 2.2 apertures and stay with the 1.4U Pixels

For future refrence, iOS devices can actually use the volume button (up, I think?) as a shutter button. That being said, I do prefer the two stage button for Windows Phones. (And wish my 8X could take pictures this good)

Do you really think they borrowed this from Windows Phones? I know you people don't give Apple the first bit of credit, but still... It was in their to-do list for YEARS before they got to it.

If you did test the video recording the 720p at 120fps is simply insane, I wish my phone could do that. I wonder if its possible with an update

hey daniel can you do a comparison of a photosynth shot? just wanna see the quality difference between an ios device and a wp device like the 1020

That's odd, Panorama app on my 620 never failed me like that... O.o It makes perfect stiches each time I use it.

"The bigger the pixels the better the image". That is a long way from being true. If it were, we would all be drooling over the new Nokia 1030 with its 4 pixel Sensor with industry leading 10mm pixels.
There are sooo many other factors involved, quantum efficiency, dark current, array size, and software, not to mention hardware factors, that this sort of claim is quite misleading. I know its hard to convey these things in a style accessible to most readers (as I am undoubtedly proving in this post :D ) but lets not devolve into false spec-worship like the Android crowd.

At best, their pixel sizes are very similar, with Apples' a smidge larger, possibly in an attempt to make up for their hardware's low light performance limitations in comparison to the Nokia cameras. Even that may not be the case, but its the most one could say.

I do note how the HTC One goes in the opposite direction with worse results, so yes, while I gloss over the technical details I do point out that pixel size isn't everything either ;)

Quite so Dan. My thinking is it is so clearly not a significant factor we might be better not to set up the Straw Man to knock it down. That itself is very confusing.
Nonetheless, a great review. If sites like BGR and CNET were written to this standard the Internet might become a reliable place to get information!

Since average user is likely to choose between the NL 925 and iPhone 5s, this review pretty much crowns the iPhone 5s as the King. The NL 1020 is still a niche device, like it or not. That said, I was reading the NBC smartphone camera shootout and it was not too generous with iPhone 5s, in fact that review put the 5s somewhere in middle - to lower half of all the phones they reviewed.
Over to Microsoft. With their deep pockets, one can only hope that they put in more funds in camera enhancement - and overall quality of Lumia phones. If surface is any indication, they will not skimp on anything.

Kind of. The 5S is technically better for the camera against the NL925, but it's only really noticeable when you pixel peep on a computer, directly compare and look for IQ flaws. I don't think that's what most people are actually doing with their devices. In isolation, most users will be impressed with the NL925's camera. Having said that, yeah I get why the iPhone 5S is so popular.

The NL925 I still prefer due to its larger display and overall feel. Also for the dedicated shutter key and manual Pro Cam settings allows me to do more with the camera. So it's not a clear winner, in my book. Not to mention, OS preference will go a long way in affecting a person's choice.

Pixel peeping or not - if we want to gain marketshare, the product has to be absolute top notch. There should be minimal drawbacks in hardware and the OS compared to competition. MS needs to take it up as a challange and build 1 Lumia that is THE BEST - screen, camera, touch sensitivity, voice, speed - overall OS and apps. And we have a long way to go till we reach there, but we will get there for sure!

While I hope Microsoft will maintain the Lumia superiority in cameras - which is probably the biggest differentiator btw off the shelf android devices and Lumias (apart from OS of course) - history has shown that they regularly miss the elephant in the room. Crossing fingers though. 

Since a Lumia 1020 is the same price on contract as an iPhone, he average consumer would then look at it. At least I would and I still am an average consumer.

I own the 1020 and the 5S. In my experience, the 1020 takes more punchier pics but the 5S wins on speed and consistency. Important when you have two kids running around.

If only people bought phones based on the camera. Sure, it's a small factor, but for the majority of users, as long as the camera takes relatively good photos for FB and Instagram they're most likely fine with it. Thanks for the compare, though.

Pretty much situation normal. Apple is competitive with previous generation Nokia hardware, although only if you prefer its approach and can live happily with its poor low light performance, tiny display and atrocious white balance. Adding in some expertise and better camera Apps and you can up the game fro all three, but in the end, Apple is behind the curve. Not that most people will believe it though.

Eh, I find the UI just too silly to take too seriously on the 5S. Hardware is good, Siri is nice and things work well. But the NL925's display, hardware and UI are just nicer looking, imo.

I've been shooting a lot of pictures and video inside clubs and seen iPhones pop up. Video wise their sound sucks. The HAAC mics on the 1020 make a Huge difference. Also grabbing stills from your 720 and 1080p video from the 1020 is a joy. I really can get some amazing shots of bands without having to be right up in their face near the stage. For me, the 1020 has soooo much more going for it.

He said he's been shooting a lot of PICTURES and videos. He is referring to the PICTURES mentioned earlier.

Read it again. It was probably just a typo. See if this makes more sense: Also grabbing stills from your 720, and 1080p video from the 1020.

I meant grabbing stills from your video shot at 720p or 1080p. Multiple ways to do it including stopping the video at a certain point and using you screenshot function on your phone. That would be the easiest. Other ways to do it as well including dumping it on your Surface and using an app. Point being that the damn lens is so clear and manages light so well during video, that you can do stuff like this.

Congratulations Apple, someone has finally put an end to Nokia's smartphone tyranny. Nokia still is king with the Lumia 1020, but that's obviously going to remain a niche device.
While the 925 shots were nice, I must admit, Apple's were better. Congratulations, this will only benefit consumers, as we now have more options and this will spur Nokia only to improve their already great imaging technology.
I'll be sure to make note of this when giving pros and cons of tech devices to my friends and peers. The 1020 is the smartphone camera king, followed shortly there after by the iPhone 5S, but with the Lumia 925 right on the iPhone's heels.

Hi Daniel:
Great review. I was wondering, though the ability to use manual controls on the 1020 was acknowledged, if you could do another review actually using the manual controls available via ProCam to see how that might affect some of the results under different conditions.(i.e.the issue with yellowing, out some maybe, etc.)

I do understand that this article is meant to reflect how the cameras on each device would be experienced by the everyday user with no fiddling. And again great job. Can we take it step further, seeing as Nokia and Microsoft worked to include controls that when manipulated would affect the images end results, to see the results when those capabilities of the device and software are utilized.

I have a 1020, and by no means am I a photographer. But I have taken the opportunity to utilize the tutorials included on the device, and have gained some understanding of the affects of ISO, shutter speed, white balance low light and such. I have taken that knowledge when using the device to make manual adjustments and have seen improvements in images beyond what the automatic settings would generate. The little red lines, warning when a change adversely is affecting ISO, when manually adjusting settings is an awesome real tome guide. As well.
I guess this is a long winded request for you to do another "real world comparison" considering those who would utilize the manual setting capabilites of the Lumia 1020 and see how they compare to the competition. Thanks

Yup, certainly thought about it and will probably do just that...a more "pro" photo review for the camera buffs. I'd assume that even on the NL925, if you go to manual settings you could pull off some amazing shots that the 5S couldn't do. So yeah, will look into that.

Awesome. Thanks for the swift response. I'll be looking forward to reading it. I hope I'm not asking for too much here but could you also do thorough VIDEO camera comparison showing how each device performs under differ t conditions such as daylight outdoors, night time outdoors, dusk low light outdoors,indoors well-lit, indoors low light, indoors dark, "shaky hands, distant subjects, close subjects, zooming, etc. Can you also include a thorough assessment of the microphone quality while recording video. Thanks

Great unbaised review and not entirely surprised by the results, except maybe that the 925 actually still came very close to the 5s which is a brand new device and the L925 is still operating (except for 6th camera lens) on last year's hardware.
I am curious to see how the flash pictures come out as I'm very curious about the two tone flash that the iphone uses and if that actually works well at all. Also excited to see how it will compare to the L1520/L929 or w.e else is being released. Hopefully Nokia releases a L930 too, would make sense since the 920 came out around this time and it would be its direct successor, and be the brother of the 929. We'll see though.

What are the ratios of the pixels to the space between them. That defines the amount of noise you will see.

My take is that iPhone and L925 have decent camera but to be honest, iPhone is greate.
L1020  vs iPhone, I would think that iPhone puts up a challenge in times, BUT, L1020 puts out photos that are so close to real life, that beats the hell out of the other two.
Functionality wise, I think iPhone wins, it gives better photos at lesser hassel. L1020 is awesome but using camera on iPhone is better.
Hitting the home/start button, my phone is decided.
Lumia all the way.....

Great unbiased review Daniel.  I'm just wondering how much difference there will be once flash is added into the picture (pardon the pun).  Especially when considering that most people use a camera phone in a pinch when attending parties, events, celebrations, etc. that are held indoors.  I've almost got my mother convinced to ditch her point and shoot and finally break the bonds of flip phones to upgrade to a 1020.  

Thanks. I'll probably do a smaller follow up on just using the flash. The 5S has that nifty "two tone" flash, which I don't think will be as good as xenon, but we'll be sure to find out ;)

Why Lumia 928 is never compared with other devices, why always Lumia 925? I know they have same cameras, but I think flash plays big role (xenon vs dual led)
Anyway I would like to see comparison between Lumia1020/928 vs i5S vs SGS4 if possible

So part of it is time--the more cameras you add, the harder the comparison becomes, part of it is efficiency (I don't want to spend weeks on a single article) and the other part is exclusivity with the NL928 only being in the US. The NL925 and NL1020 are "international" devices and have more influence on the public and our audience (we have a large international readership).

So it's nothing against the NL928 and considering we stated no flash was used for these photos, it was less of a concern. I might use it for the follow up article looking at flashes, but we'll see.

Daniel, Why is the iPhone so much faster at auto-focus and image processing?  I just got a lumia 1020 and was showing it off to my friends and family.  They all commented on how much quicker the iPhone takes photos from the time you press the camera button to the time you can take another picture.  It's almost instant whereas on my Lumia, the auto-focus takes forever. A lot of the time my photos are about 1 second past what I was trying to capture when I pressed the button.  iPhone users seem to capture several shots instantly and the quality is still pretty good.     

Part of it is the processing of a 38 MP photo (actually, you're doing two with the dual shot) is slowing things down but I also think iOS is built better for mobile than NT. Also, Apple has had way more time with their OS vs WP8 (which isn't even a year old). Finally, hardware. The 5S has a 64-bit chipset in it and the 1020 is running some technically old silicon. I think things will improve with the Snapdragon 800 chipset.

Mind you, the 1020 is Nokia's 1st "mega megapixel" Windows Phone. It's basically a gen 1 device. I'm sure what follows it will improve upon it greatly, including in the speed department.

It's not only horsepower. The 880 PureView has a weaker CPU but image processing and ready-to-shoot time are faster than on the 1020. So it's more like OS efficiency and optimization.

It is about hardware. The 808 has a dedicated chip for processing the images. While for the 1020, Nokia chose not to implement that chip, and instead went for a re-write of the imaging stack of the snapdragon s4.

I hope they do a 1020 v2 in the future that is more powerful, etc, to really blow the competition out of the water. The current processor seems too old. Or a dedicated chip like you said.

If you are talking about speeds, then yes, better hardware would certainly help.
I'm sure they are working on it. They are the best in imaging by far :)

The problem with the panoramic shots is that Nokia's auto alignment is poorly using RANSAC affine transforms. Did this for my desktop HDR app which was much harder than a pano since i needed to deal with extreme EV changes rather than minor one like in pano. They should be able to fix this unless they only used a translation algorithm which will fail like 90% of the time.

Daniel, great write up!
I wonder if we can also get some articles that do blind samples. I like the idea of seeing the images first and the respective camera after.

Yes, the lens construction is different between the two.  The 925 lens has a 6 element lens, and the 928 has a 5 element lens.

I would love to see some movie compairsons betweet the three phones. with stability, loud sound (music) and wind blowing.

This statement is a little misleading:

"Lower apertures let in more light but it can also make images softer."

The smaller aperture doesn't make the image softer, it just makes the area of focus smaller.  The way it is written may lead one to believe that a smaller aperture will capture a lower quality image which is incorrect.

Liked the review quite a bit.  Just wanted to throw in, since i didn't see it in the comments and it was explicitly mentioned in the review, the + volume button acts as a physical shutter key on the iPhone 5S for those that prefer that.  Appreciate the well written, unbiased article!

I really appreciated this article.  I have nothing vested in the WP Ecosystem so I'm usually either with iPhone or Android.  At this moment I am using an iPhone 5s.
This may have been  mentioned already, and if it has I apologize - but the iPhone 5s does have a manual shutter button (the volume button) and it gives a nice satisfactory tactile click when you take a picture.
The drawback to the way the shutter is on the iPhone is with the phone being the size it is it can take away from the sharpness from moving your hand slightly.

The 1020 pictures look nice. Does it do HDR in the phone? And can it match the iPhone 5s' burst mode? It's really fast, faster than my Nikon DSLR.

There is an app called smartcam that do this... Great motion and still pictures can be taken with it...

I think the Lumia 1020 has bracketing which if my photography knowledge serves me right it is like a controlled HDR mode. As for burst mode, there's Smart Cam. Not sure how fast burst mode is because I am waiting on my 1020 and haven't tried the 5s.

Thanks Dan for what I feel was an informative and unbiased review.  In my opinion the Lumia 1020 is unmatched in pure image quality and will likely remain so for some time.  To include it in comparison tests against other smartphones at this point is a bit unfair given the completely unbalanced camera specifications.  The Lumia's closest competitor at this time is probably the Sony Xperia Z1 and even then I would expect the scale to tip completely in the Lumia's favor.
What will be interesting will be a comparison with the Xperia Z1 and the upcoming Lumia 1520 as they will be comparably specced.  In the meantime, all indications are that the LG G2's camera seems to be the one to beat among "mainstream" specced phones.  Would love to see it included in future tests.

Very good review!
Thank you!
But after reading many Nokia Lumia 1020 reviews, I came across one that compared it to the FujiFilm XF1, which is less than 1/2 price of a smartphone and which blows any smartphone camera out of the water for photography, not video or panorama. Having a Samsung Ativ-S and a HTC One, being very happy with both, I decided to get me a XF1... Honestly, the XF1 is phenomenal for the price and maybe HTC is not so wrong when it says that most pictures we take with a smartphone are for online use. Maybe sharp 4 to 5 mp are in fact the best solution for smartphone photography, here HTC and Nokia seem to agree, sure enough the Lumia 1020 beats the HTC One for photography and video, but for everything else... The HTC One is superior... Yes I want a One based WP to replace my Ativ-S! Please!
No, I will not buy the Nokia, its camera is nowhere near what I get from the tiny XF1.

Anyone else seen Dan's responses on the imore article of this comparison? They are fantastic, telling the truth to those who just see Apples in their world, and don't know what they're talking about! (PS he used a naughty word) :) ) Good going Dan, we luv ya for it! 

Daniel, was the camera on the 1020 (and others) in 16x9 mode or 4x3? Cause in 16x9 mode, the images are only 34mp, no 38. The images and zoom do ineed look better in 4x3 mode. It is probably the same way for all cellphone cameras! With other mp #'s of course.
Also, would it be possible to create a small device, and take the photo from the same angle, with the cameras not being held. From your photos, I can tell from experience some of the difference are actually from different lighting conditions and just human preception because of angle change.
The device is rather simple. Take a cardboard box, put a hole just big enough for the cameras. Put the phones cameras up to the hole, and shove something in the rest of the box to hold phone still. Then set your box on something, take a picture. Then without moving box, switch phones!

Happy to be getting my 1020 from Rogers. Time to retire the HTC Surround. Rogers finally put it in their database today. Bout time. Still not out for a week or so I imagine. Free shutter grip was nice. Thx again for that tip wpcentral.

Does the 1020 have the option to turn the image black & white, but keep color on the one item in the photo? If so what is it called and where is it?

Might have been worthwhile to add that iP5S is a 1000USD+ phone, more expensive than either Lumia and more than twice the price of L925, which is is a mid-range phone. That L925 does this well against the highest-end super-expensive iPhone is amazing. A similarly-priced iP is the iPhone 4, which, of course, has nothing to offer on the camera department against the Lumia.

It sure is a nice article. That said, I would really like to see a similar comparison but NOT with cameras on 'auto'.
Maybe I am biased, but I really believe that Pro Camera on 920/925/928 can outperform iPhone's stock one even in non-professional hands.
I just think Lumias 9xx can do a lot more, and therefore are better than iPhone camerawise.
Maybe it's just me. I'm off to google best iPhone and Lumia (not 1020) photos. :)

   Someone needs to show this article to Nokia. I think they would take this challenge personally and release Pureview version 3.

"Apple's iPhone 5S was slightly sharper with more detail and less noise"
But you are comparing not apples to apples if post processing simply added more contrast, unsharp mask and noise filter. I think you are mixing also up resolution with sharpness. I think I leave that kind of testing to dpreview.com rather.

The blog was well written and the comparison was better. The blog clearly shows the difference between the 3 phone and where the camera is concern lumia 1020 will be a winner but hats off to Iphone 5s panannormic photo. loved it 

As an iphone user for over 3 years, i have considered/short listed 3 phones because i take a lot of photos and the iphone 4 does not cut it anymore.
i have considered many camera phones the nokia 925, 1020, iphone 4s, 5, 5s, so i read this review with interest.
i think the photos were taken/compared on auto mode, so unless i am wrong both the 925 and/or the 1020 have the opportunity to shoot better photos IF the user understands photography and manual controls. I understand the 5s cannot change settings so perhaps the 5s is better than the 925 for those who just want a point and shoot without any controls, but if you want controls then thats a different matter...
The big issue(for me) is not just the camera but the phone/tarrif price. so as i am on the end of the contract i contacted my service provider and asked for the pac code so i could consider all tarriffs and costs.and of course get a better deal!..
so, the prices offered on the same tarriff same provider over a 2 year contract ;
5s..absolutley no deals!  overall cost for comparison  total 1006
1020....total 816
925.... total 552.
So, if the choice of phone is made on the basis of camera only i cant see that the 5s is worth close to double/500. and for me i wanted a smaller phone, so its the 925 for my point and shoot shots! and with the change (as i am a enthusiastic point and shoot photographer) i also decided to buy a pocket camera Sony RX100 (Arguably the best compact camera in production) which also fits nicely in the shirt pocket, two for the price of one on my travels...
time will tell whether i made the right decision!

in my own opinnion i only see 1 ios photo that looks really amazing, other than that i have to side with the nokia's. the ios isnt there yet and needs more fine tuning. 

i own a 925 and i take great shots with it and playing with it a bit makes it all the better :)

I am shock that the iPhone 5S and the Lumia 1020 were so close in quality.  The 925 was also good but not as good as the 5S!

This is an auto-only test. This is just about as good as it gets for the 5S. The 925 can do better after choosing the correct settings and the 1020 obviously can do a lot, lot better than both. The 1020 is actually massively handicapped in these tests, and the fact that it still wins every single one just proves how good it really is.

If the next 1020 could have special E-lenses like my dslr... It could quite literally be the ultimate smartphone/camera!

As someone that is not out is just daytime, the low light differences are massive.  This is why there should be a bit of trepidation before proclaims the iPhone 5s is 'as good' or 'similar' to the 925.
Once you get to late evening, the 925 is still taking photos of nature and people without a flash, when the iPhone is sparking the flash to try to get enough light to get even close.
This is where the Nokia device simply win. 
Do a shot of the stars (city or outside a city), capturing Orion in the sky is easy, and quite visible, or cool clouds in moonlight.  On the iPhone 5s or even the S4, these are dark unusable images. 
If you are out at night with friends, they will be asking to use your Nokia when they can't get a usuable image out of their iPhone 5s.  So this is why it is hard to give the iPhone 5s an 'as good' or 'similar' qualification in a review.  For daytime or evening shots, it can do well compared to the 925, but the whole idea of a Camera 'phone' is that you are using it at times an places you don't expect, and it isn't always a bright sunny day on the beach, or a troll doll posed on a column.
As for the speed and 'automatic' featuresl. If you are not an advanced user, DON'T use the Pro Camera App as your default. You can always flip to it if you need the features via the 'lenses'.   The native camera App has less 'overprocessing' of the image, and is designed to be quick and 'simple' for users.
What is strange about this review, Daniel uses the Pro Cam App on the 925, but never uses any of the features. Why not just use the default Camera App, unless you are going to push the features of the Pro Cam App and camera controls availalbe that are just not possible with the iPhone 5s?
Using the Pro Cam App with a bit of experience with shutter speed, etc; the 925 can literally pull in stunning photos in a dark room with details our eyes cannot naturally see in the room.  This is not something you get to do with an iPhone 5s.

On the beach chair photo you can clearly see that the Lumia 925 didn't manage to focus right.
Nokia really needs to upgrade the 925's camera ASAP.
Photos are overexposed an lack locts of contrast and sharpnes. 
My Lumia 925 shoots only with Proshot app set to manual focus just unter 100 and then postprocessing in Faststone with Lights down, Contast a bit up and Shadow details boost. 
ooc pixs look pale and overbrightened and loose handsdown to my iPhone 5, Nokia N86, N9 and  N8 (808 is another story ;) )

You were right; I was surprised by the results. I was very impressed by the iPhone's photos, and preferred them in many of the tests. Both my dad and brother use an iPhone 5 (not 5S) and I am almost never impressed by their photos. The issue with most real-world iPhone photos I see is that they are super grainy. These are fine for uploading to social networking sites, but as something you could print and frame, use as a desktop background, or keep as a visual record for important work or events, they are basically useless. That is completely contrary to what I see here though, as these look decent at these smaller sizes anyway.
I wonder what accounts for the discrepancy. Has Apple improved their camera or processing software by that much? Is the graininess only present in low lighting situations indoors with artificial light? Do the sample shots mask the graininess with a lack solid-colored subject matter? Do they mask it by displaying smaller images to us in the gallery?
I own a 925, and while I was not expecting it to take the place of my primary digital camera, in many cases, it can (apart from a lack of optical zoom). I have been very impressed with the quality of shots I get. While I am not a pro by any stretch, I have found that by tweaking only the brightness and focal length occasionally, I get consistently great shots. This can also be done by using the focus lock by aiming at something and holding the shutter half button way down, then reframing the image before squeezing the rest of the way to snap the pic. While I don't have the other two cameras to compare it with, I have yet to experience the lack of clarity visible in some of your shots unless I zoom in or fail to aim properly at my subject while auto-focusing.
Overall, this is a really honest and unbiased article and all 3 cameras put up an impressive showing here. Except the Nokia Panorama app, which I completely agree, is embarrassingly terrible. So in the end, no matter which phone you use, I suppose we all win when the quality of photos our friends and family will be sharing with us are this good.

"...Apple could stand to use a physical shutter key." - The volume button doubles as a physical shutter button on the iphone.

Stuck with a 4 inch screen? 
Well, many iPhone users also own an iPad. And with iCloud, every photo they take on their iPhone is automatically downloaded onto iPad for enjoying the content in full-size with the 2048 by 1536 Retina display. 

I was about to buy a NL 925 today. Seems like i have to look out for 5s too. I love to take photos and want good audio quality. Which one would be better NL925 or 5s?


thanks.. :)

Lumia Black solved some issues with the sharpness, noise and white balance (improving all of them) on the 1020. Does anyone know if the 920, 925 and 928 will benefit from it?? Cuz that would be awesome!