Nokia Lumia 1020
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Nokia Lumia 1020 - A closer look at the 41MP PureView camera

Windows Phone Central takes a closer look at the Nokia Lumia 1020's camera performance

One of the key reasons why the AT&T Nokia Lumia 1020 is a head turning is the 41MP camera. Simply put, it's one hell of a camera.  

Sure, the 4.5 inch AMOLED Screen looks great, the matte finish feels comfortable in the hand and the Glance screen is cool but the centerpiece is definitely the camera.  It takes our Windows Phone photography to an exciting new level.

To compliment the hardware aspects of the Lumia 1020, Nokia has also developed a Pro Cam app that when combined with the 41MP camera makes the two a formidable pair. We've shared our full review of the Nokia Lumia 1020 and now we take a little closer look at the camera.

The Hardware

Nokia Lumia 1020 41MP Camera

First, let's lay the foundation on the hardware. The Lumia 1020 is fitted with a 41MP camera that utilizes a back-sided illuminated (BSI) sensor that has optical image stabilization (OIS). The lens is the aperture equivalent to a 26 mm lens with a fixed aperture of f/2.2. The camera also has a mechanical shutter which will allow for sharper images and help the optical stabilization reduce motion blur.

The Lumia 1020's Zeiss camera lens is composed of six elements with a lens cover and outer protective element. At first I was a little concerned about the outer element. It is significantly larger than any other Windows Phone cameras and I feared it would be more susceptible to scratches. Maybe Nokia shared these concerns and instead of regular glass or plastic, this outer element is Corning Gorilla Glass 3.

Instead of a LED light to double as a flash and auto-focus assist light, the Lumia 1020 has a Xenon flash and a secondary LED light for video lighting and AF assist. It's no secret that I don't care for using the LED lights as a flash. While the Xenon's effectiveness is hindered a little due to the size, it's tremendously more effective than a LED light.

As far as mechanics and hardware go, the Lumia 1020 is likely the most advanced smartphone camera on the market. The only disappointment or area for improvement is the close-focus abilities of the 1020. Many Windows Phone cameras will let you focus on an object about six inches away. The 1020 just about doubles that distance.

Granted the "zoom later" feature helps make up for the more distant minimum focus distance (more on this later) but it would have been nice to have seen the 1020's close focusing be... well... closer.

Camera Grip, Yea or Nay?

Nokia Lumia 1020 Camera Grip

Admittedly, I was skeptical of the Nokia Camera Grip for the Lumia 1020. I just couldn't help but think it was more of a novelty than a useful accessory for the Lumia 1020.

But I bit the bullet, picked one up at the local AT&T Store and haven't regretted it. When you know you're going to be taking a lot of photos (trip to the zoo, social event, family vacation, etc.) the grip is a must have accessory.

The grip gives you a more confident handle on the Lumia 1020, the shutter button is a little more responsive than the native button and the added battery (1020 mAh) helps your 1020 last through all those photos and videos. Oh...the tripod mount is an added bonus when you want to capture panoramas, HDR images, need a little support for shooting videos or just want to jump in the picture/video.

If you weren't able to get a free camera grip with your Lumia 1020, the $59 cost is well worth it.

The Software

The Lumia 1020 has your typical Windows Phone camera application with a modest amount of settings for still and video imaging. The layout is not unlike other Windows Phones with settings accessible through the three-dot menu. Modifications can be saved in place for when you exit and re-launch the camera app. Otherwise the settings revert to the default levels or when last saved.

Nokia Lumia 1020 native camera app
Nokia Lumia 1020 native Windows Phone camera app settings

Photo Settings features:

  • Scenes: Close-up, Night, Night Portrait, Sports, Backlight and Auto.
  • ISO: Auto and 100-3200.
  • Exposure Value: +2 to -2 stops.
  • White Balance: Auto, Cloudy, Daylight, Fluorescent, Incandescent.
  • Aspect Ratio: 16:9 and 4:3.
  • Focus Assist Light: On or Off.

With the native Windows Phone app you are restricted to the 5MP resolution without the 38MP "high quality" version that can be cropped and zoomed.

Video Settings include:

  • White Balance: Auto, Cloudy, Daylight, Fluorescent, Incandescent.
  • Continuous Focus: On or Off.
  • Video Mode: Standard/720p or High Quality/1080p.

At the bottom of the view finder on the native camera app you'll find the customary lenses, flash, front camera, and video buttons.

Along with the native Windows Phone camera application, the Nokia has included their Pro Cam app with the Lumia 1020. Currently the Pro Cam app is only available on the Lumia 1020 but it's our understanding it should roll out to other Lumia 92x Windows Phones at some point.

The Pro Cam app is similar to third party apps such as Camera360 in that it gives you more control over your camera controls. With Pro Cam you can run everything on auto or manually set shutter speed, ISO, white balance, and focus. You also have full control over the flash and focus light along with exposure compensation settings.

Pro Cam lays it all out nicely with on-screen dials that can be displayed one setting at a time or you call throw them all out at once.

Nokia Lumia 1020 Pro Cam
Nokia Lumia 1020 Pro Cam Settings

While most of your settings are accessible through on-screen controls, you also have a collection of settings for photo and video that are accessible through the three-dot menu. With respect to video, Pro Cam offers settings for:

  • Framing Grids: Rule of thirds, Golden Ratio, Crosshairs, Square.
  • Resolution and Frame Rate: 1080p with frame rates of 30, 25, and 24 frames per second or 720p with frame rates of 30, 25, and 24 frames per second.
  • Audio Bass Filter: Off, Default (100Hz) or Strong (200Hz).

With respect to photo settings you have:

  • Framing Grids: Rule of thirds, Golden Ratio, Crosshairs, Square.
  • Aspect Ratio: 16:9 or 4:3.
  • Capture Mode: 5MP, 5MP + 38MP or 5MP or 34MP.
  • Facial Detection: On or Off.

The 34MP and 38MP options for the capture mode is dependent on the Aspect Ration chosen. 16:9 yields the 34MP option and the 4:3 ration yields the 38MP option.

Nokia Lumia 1020 Video Trimmer
Nokia Lumia 1020 Video Trimmer

In addition to all the controls Pro Cam offers, you also have the "zoom later" and video trimmer feature. The video trimmer does just what it sounds like, allows you to edit the length of the video by adjusting the start or end point of your video. It's not a full editing feature but can come in handy.

While the video trimmer is a nice touch, being more of a still photographer, the really impressive feature on Pro Cam is the "zoom later" feature. This feature lets you capture an image in full resolution and then zoom in to your shot after you’ve taken it. You can also rotate, re-frame, crop and share new images as many times as you want.

Nokia Lumia 1020 Zoom Later
Nokia Lumia 1020 Zoom Later

In capturing the image at full resolution, you have some wiggle room to crop into a particular portion of the photo and maintain image quality. This feature helps make up for the not-so-close minimum focusing distance of the Lumia 1020. Just keep in mind that there are limitations and if you zoom in too much, you'll start to see image quality suffer.

With the "zoom later" feature you can always revisit things if you want to experiment with other crops or go back to the full image. Only images captured with the Nokia Pro Cam can be zoomed later.

Room for Improvement

Nokia Lumia 1020 Indoor Sample
Nokia Lumia 1020 Indoor Photo Sample

While Nokia has laid a very nice foundation with Pro Cam, there is room for improvement.  Don't get us wrong.  What's in place is fantastic and we recognize this is version one of Pro Cam and knowing Nokia, improvements are already in the works.

Areas we see that could use a little fine tuning start with the physical shutter button.  While you can set the physical shutter button to launch the Pro Cam app but from a lock screen, it won't bypass your PIN number if you've password protected your Lumia 1020.  This kinda defeats the quick camera launch feature we all have come to know and love with our Windows Phones.

Next, Pro Cam needs settings profiles or at least the ability to save your settings. As is, when you exit Pro Cam and re-launch, everything (except your flash) is set to auto.  It would be nice to set a profile for action photos where your settings include faster shutter speeds or a landscape setting that would include a lower ISO.

Pro Cam does take a few seconds to load and after each shot, there is a noticeable lag time in between shots. The delays are not painful but if you're shooting subjects that aren't cooperative, it can get a little frustrating.  Admittedly the processing is dealing with a rather large image file but if Nokia could shave just a little time off this, it would be much appreciated.

Lastly there are a few stability issues present that will crash the app on occasion. I can live with the slow start-up time, but it can be irritating when you're about to snap that perfect shot and the app crashes.

It's obvious that Nokia put a lot of thought into Pro Cam to give Lumia 1020 owners an alternative to the native Windows Phone camera app. We've already seen bracketing added with the first update to Pro Cam and expect to continue to see improvements with future updates. Pro Cam puts more settings at your finger tips and reduces the need to go back and forth to the settings menu to adjust your camera settings. I find myself using the native camera app less and less.

The Image Quality

Lumia 1020 outdoor photo sample
Nokia Lumia 1020 Outdoor Photo Sample

So how does this all translate to image quality?  Daytime still and video capture is... dare I say...en feugo.

Colors are well saturated, focus is nice and sharp and the audio quality on video (now with stereo recording) is commendable.  You can get printable, shareable, quality photos and videos straight from the camera without the need for editing.  If you prefer to edit your photos, the Lumia 1020 gives you a solid foundation to build upon.

Nokia Lumia 1020 Outdoor Sample
Nokia Lumia 1020 Outdoor Photo Sample

Nokia Lumia 1020 Indoor Photo Sample
Nokia Lumia 1020 Indoor Photo Sample

Nokia Lumia 1020 Night Photo Sample
Nokia Lumia 1020 Night Photo Sample

When the Nokia Lumia 920 hit the market we were all very impressed with its low light photography. The Lumia 1020 takes what the 920 had to offer and takes it to a new level. While the Lumia 1020 casts away the shadows, it leaves enough to give the image contrast and a more natural feel.  The optical image stabilization did a good job of allowing you to shoot at shutters speeds in the neighborhood of 1/15th of a second hand held with very little, if any, motion blur.

Nokia Lumia 1020 flash sample
Nokia Lumia 1020 without flash (left) and with flash (right)

I have to admit the Xenon Flash performed nicely. It illuminated areas well and has a more reach than your typical LED light. I also found the Xenon flash doesn't create the color casts that the LED is prone to generate. I still prefer natural lighting to flash photography but it's good to know that if I do need a flash, the Lumia 1020 is superbly equipped.

Video quality is sharp, well lit, and the audio quality is equally appealing. Zooming in while shooting video doesn't jeopardize quality.

Any suggestions on camera settings to maximize image quality?  Not really.  I found that the "auto" settings did a rather peachy job of things.  I did bump the shutter speed up when chasing the butterflies, but otherwise I kept most everything set to auto.  It you choose to tinker with the settings, the red warning light on Pro Cam's settings does a good job of alerting when you need re-think any manual settings.

Where the rubber meets the road the Lumia 1020 delivers outstanding photo and video quality that very few will complain about. As Dan mentions in his review, Nokia has delivered on the promise of being the best in mobile photography with the 1020.

Overall Impressions

Nokia Lumia 1020 with camera grip

In a nutshell, if you're looking for the Windows Phone with the best camera the Lumia 1020 wins hands down. The Lumia 1020 is strong enough to put some point and shoot cameras to shame. Combine the image quality of the camera and the capabilities of the Pro Cam software and you've got a formidable photographic duo.

The "zoom later" and video trimmer extends your Windows Phone photographic editing tools and add the Creative Studio app from Nokia or any of the other quality photography apps out there (Fotor comes to mind) and you have an attractive mobile photo studio in your hand.

There is room for improvement with regards to the camera and software but what's in place reflects admirably on the efforts of Nokia's engineering and design team. What's in place can easily be fine-tuned through software updates that will only add to the appeal of the Lumia 1020 and we are confident that Nokia will continue to improve things. Granted I doubt anything can be done to shorten the focusing distance but with the "zoom later" feature, I don't think the extra few inches will matter.

In using the Lumia 1020 over the past few days, it is a very impressive Windows Phone. It's lighter than the Lumia 920 and while I had reservations on the camera hump, it actually makes the phone more comfortable to hold than the Lumia 920. The camera hump gives my fingers a contour in the Lumia 1020's backing to grip on to.

Camera performance aside, the Lumia 1020 is a very appealing Windows Phone. Add the camera into the mix and I don't know if you can go wrong.

The Nokia Lumia 1020 is currently an AT&T exclusive running $299 with contractual discounts and $700ish off contract.

It's worth every penny.

More Pics...

Nokia Lumia 1020 high-res photo sample
Nokia Lumia 1020 High-Res Photo Sample

Nokia Lumia 1020 Zoomed Later
Same image but Zoomed Later

Nokia Lumia 1020 Night Photo Sample
Nokia Lumia 1020 Night Photo Sample

Nokia Lumia 1020 Outdoor Photo Sample
Nokia Lumia 1020 Outdoor Photo Sample

Nokia Lumia 1020 Zoom Later
Nokia Lumia 1020 Zoom Later Sample

Nokia Lumia 1020 Outdoor Sample

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Reader comments

Nokia Lumia 1020 - A closer look at the 41MP PureView camera

100 Comments

I had to see this camera to believe it. It really has a fantastic camera! I can't get it though because of my contract with my 920 :(

This is an issue for a lot of people.
 

I stopped buying subsidized phones for a long time from ATT and I know people will say their is no cost benefit to getting an unlocked or international phone in the US, which is true; but I get all updates quicker and I can tether my phone with other mobile devices for FREE.
 
It's a shame since Nokia landed in the US, in a meaning way, I can no longer easily get factory unlocked phones; effing US telecoms.
 
I want this phone unlocked. Anyone know where I can get one?

Do you mean unlocked or unbranded? Unlocked just means you can use any SIM. Unbranded means it is not tied to a carrier for updates.

I always buy my phones unlocked and unbranded, I can choose any network, get updates quicker and SIM only 12 month or 30 day rolling contracts are cheaper anyway.

I love my camera. The ability to zoom in and still have a quality picture is nice. I at the moment run on all Auto. Anybody know any good settings to get the best picture for everyday use. Maybe for day and one for night.

George answered this in the article... he basically said that the auto settings do a great job.

from my experience, it really takes a bit of tinkering depending on the light condition, but for most sunny days you could probably go with shutter 1/60~1/30 and ISO 200 and for nights  1/15 ~1/8 and ISO 400~800 (this is what I use for my point and shoot though, I think it generally works for most cameras) I have never bothered changing EV though...

Can we get an article on what the options are to get this thing if we got our contract with the 920? I desperately want it, but there must be some way to knock some off the $700 price?

You have to plan ahead. I bought the 900 for free with 2 yr deal. Then sold that and put 50 out of pocket for the full priced 920. Now I bought this for 300 with a renewal. So that's 350 out of pocket for 3 top Lumias. Will probably sell this one for the next 41mp phone lol

Also not sure what "planning ahead" had to do with anything.  Started out on two year contract (same as me), Then sold contract phone to buy new one.
 
The issue here is sheer numbers.  Looks to me like used 920s are going for about $250 or so... if the 1020 is $700, that's still $450.  Not chump change... though I guess it's only $150 more than the 2 year contract price, and I wouldn't be renewing.

You can switch your plan to their new faster upgrade plan, forget what it's called. Call or go into AT&T, I promise they will help you get it.

Yeah, but that looks like a ripoff... $32 a month for 20 months.  Option to trade in the phone after 12 for a new one.  Seems like you could sell it on eBay for more than the trade-in value they want ot give you.
 
Also, they don't allow this if you're already on contract... I'm not sure why... the additional payments completely pay for the phone.  Why do they care if I have a contract or not?
 
Regardless, doesn't seem like a great deal to me.

Just wait :P The 920 launched at a similar price and is now down around 450. In a few weeks you'll get free accessories, while all the early adopters get jack

Well, sure, if I want to wait 6-8 months it will shave off some money. But that's probably a quarter of the phone's lifespan.

Thanks George. Damn what an amazing piece of tech. If I can get it in Canada within the next 3 months I might go for it otherwise I'll wait for the next gen.

Great overview George, but is it possible to share the unedited version of that test video via skydrive? It is difficult to judge the qualitiy of a video on youtube.

I think as far as close focus is concerned, you can get about 8 inches away and tap to focus. But when I switch to manual focus I can get to about a 6 inch distance.

It depends on the uploader, if the video has been compressed, etc.
 
I'll usually upload it in raw format fresh from the camera for 1080p/original quality playback.

That guy is a PRO!  I would have liked to see some of the night shots with the L1020.  But that gecko photo is totally AWESOME!

Yeah, really really amazing pictures in that link. That guy knows what to do with his Lumia 1020. Everyone should check these photos. Then you know what you might do by yourself with this excellent device.

Of course you can, you just cant share the full resolution images through the social networks, you can only share the oversampled 5 megapixel ones, at least for now.

Yeah, I meant 41 MP shots.. That's sad.. My dad was thinking to dump his point & shoot camera so that he could share 41MP shots directly on Whatsapp & email

My dad shares high quality surgery images with his surgeon community on FB group or via email .. If there is an option to share on Whatsapp he would have preferred it anyday also saving hours spent on a PC to upload stuff

Your dad can use the att locker to send the full megapixel photos, until a third party app comes out that allows sharing of the full resolution pics. I, however, doubt your dad would need the full red photos for surgery. The 5 megapixel photos are oversampled and look really good.

If I am not wrong, to access high resolution pics u have to connect to a PC.. Errr, that totally destroys plus point a phone has over a point & shoot camera

I believe you can upload the hi res image automatically to the cloud via att locker and that gives you the option to send via email, twitter,fb, MySpace. That can save the trouble of having to connect to PC to access the hi-res image.

The only point and shoots it surpasses are the $99 variety in the bargain bin and even that is a bit of a stretch.  The extent to which people can look at average quality images and then have an amost orgasmic response that swallows marketing BS whole is amazing.  I really only expected this level of sheep/lemming behavior from Apple fans. 

Ok then. Bring me a $99 point and shoot with OIS to see how much of a "stretch" that is. The most basic and decent point and shoot with OIS is around $170, and they don't have an OS letting you play around with pics and uploading or emailing them. So chill.

Good Point & shoot cameras with OIS and low light sensor come for $250-$300 .. The rumored full price of the phone is $649 ..
It's a very good deal as sharing, editing photos is miles better on a phone

You do realize that most people take pictures with their phones and that this is the best camera on a smartphone right?
That is what is exciting.
Of course you can buy a dedicated camera that takes better pictures, but how many of those cameras are this small, are communication devices, play games and search the internet? None. None is the answer.

The amount of time I have my phone with me is almost 100%. The amount of time I also have my camera with me is around 10%, and only if I plan ahead. Baking a good camera into your mobile kills two birds with one stone and ensures I always have a decent camera on me. It also means carrying only one device instead of two. You might as well be arguing that your MP3 player has higher sound quality and people are chumps for using their phone to listen to music. Gone are the days of carrying numerous devices.

Looks pretty amazing.  Not sure if I'd pay the extra cash for the extra megapixels over my 810, but as a first choice this is a no brainer.  Oh, and inb4 Auburn vs. Alabama. 

Why doesn't it just launch the pro cam app when you press the shutter button? Why isn't that the native camera app?

The option is there.

What OP said above was that currently if you have a pin lock on your homescreen then only pressing shutter button doesn't open Pro-cam.
If there is no lock, then shutter button opens Pro-cam.

bound to upgrade to this, but my 920 is still so good, even after being in the lake for 5 minutes... what to do?! #firstworldproblem

I'll switch my HTC Surround to pay as you go until Canada gets the 2 year contracts (3 year currently). Should be in December. By then the 1020 will be available and a better price.

Canadians seem to have it a little rough in regards to mobile phones, here in UK you can chop and choose however you feel and if you have the funds, check o2 refresh out then write numerous letters to carriers advising them to follow suit

TBH I think al the Lumia devices are amazing for there price range and what they have to offer to what is on the market. I have the 925 and love it. The camera is amazing for what I use it for and a 41mp would be over kill for me but again for someone that wants a camera so high it is the best option on the market. For someone who wants a low end contract the 5 620 devices are amazign devices for the price to.
 
I really hope people start to see how good the lumia devices are and the sales start to pickup for Nokia as the are really making WP what it should be.

I agree. Thumbs up.! The lumia 925 is a great device too. BTW, mine is a red nokia lumia 920. :)

Nice I really wanted a Lumia 920 when it came out but I was still in contract with my 900 but kind of glad a I do like the 925 design over the 920 and I hope we see more Nokia devices desigened like this but they are both very good phones and imo 2 of the best on the market at the moment.

Yep, loved that Nokia tries to have different designs and because of that, their phones really stand out among the crowd. ;)

When I download Photos off my 1020 it only shows one copy of the photos I took I thought it might be doubles 5mp and 34mp or can you only get the 34mp off the phone and the 5mp stays plus how do I tell what I'm looking at on the phone in the camera roll only one copy of each photo I take does it only show the high res photo and saves the 5mp somewhere else till you try an share it from the phone I got it set to capture both 5mp and 34mp in the pro camera settings

I'm happy with my 521 until I pay off my Lumia 710. Then I can get a flagship like this on T-Mobile, or at least be close to it (Jan 2014)

Still happy with my 920...More with Amber update we wait.No reason to give 650+ euros that will cost to get 1020 just to get more mp or detail in photos....

I just checked it out at the store yesterday and compared it to my 920. The 1020 is significantly better by a long shot.

You may not notice too much on easy pictures. But start zooming in AFTER you take the picture and you'll see an amazing difference in the amount of detail captured.

In a store with somewhat poor lighting, I took a picture across the room and was able to read 1 inch writing from 25 feet away. With my 920 the writing was just a blur of pixels.

Definitely going to get this beast. :) Hope Nokia will improve at those issues mentioned in the article before 1020 available in my country

cyberangel777 next wave coming this Oct,if u want a phablet be patient dude, I was patient enough to skipped 920 im gonna be more patient to wait for a phablet,I believe there is nokia conference/event this Sept WAIT..

I just upgraded from 900 to 920. Loving it. Will try to upgrade in November. I got the 920 for free! Free is good. Very good!

George - 
Wish you could added some battery life info when taking pix.  I can see the grip as an option, howver would like to get the sense of what to expect when on a family outing and taking a ton of pictures.  That would be the critical issue for leaving the P&S at home.
 
Cheers

What's up with the disabling of the quickcam function when pressing the shutterbutton. This function is available on all (brands of) windows phones! Should be part of the OS. That's very sloppy. This issue needs to be fixed quickly, because that's a function I use all the time on my htc Titan. I think I'll wait till the bugs are fixed on this device. I think a lag time between photos is inevitable with a sensor of this size in such a small package. I think shaving off some time on this will be almost impossible and cost more battery life. Rather I would like to know if nokia will consider taking burstshots with lower resolution photos such as at 16 or 8 mpix. I would be happy to live with that. I would want high resolution photos especially with more inanimate objects such as zoomed in details or landscape photos. That's where 38 mpix becomes interesting for me. Also with the cover I'm wondering if nokia is considering making one with the ability to attach lenses. Then it would be even more cool!