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Nokia improves Lumia 920 camera. We do a before and after comparison.

We just reported this morning that the OS and firmware update for the AT&T Lumia 920 is sitting on Nokia’s servers, presumably getting ready to be rolled out. When software appears via Navifirm, it’s the finalized version and is handed off to the carriers for testing, meaning this update is near.

While we have detailed the OS update ‘Portico’ before with the HTC 8X (and it’s the same feature set here) it’s the firmware that we’re interested in. The firmware update (build 1249) will fix and adjust a few things on the phone but it’s the camera fix that most are curious about. It’s not secret that currently the 920 is a bit “soft” during daylight shots and so Nokia has fixed it up with this update and we have the evidence.

Methodology

We took two Nokia Lumia 920s side by side using a tripod to steady both devices and simply swapped out the phone, keeping the tripod as steady as we can. We used “tap to focus” on the same spot in the viewfinder and all settings were on ‘Auto’ (note: there are no new settings in this update for the camera, just algorithm improvements). The AF assist lamp was on and no flash was used.

In the next series of shots you will see the “old” 1242 Lumia 920 firmware on the left and the 1249 always on the right.  The majority of the photos are heavily cropped to compare the new sharpening features of the camera. Click on a photo on a desktop browser will enlarge them (likewise, you can open in a new tab to get a better look).

Results

The differences should be obvious. Nokia has done, in our opinion, a great job on improving the camera. Clearly the images are significantly sharper with the new firmware (the white balance also seems tweaked for the better). 

The first comparison photos tell the whole story from our experience with the new firmware.

Update: 4PM ET: The last two sets are from the Front-facing camera, which also improves with the update.

Old Firmware (L) versus New Firmware (R)

 Old Firmware (L) versus New Firmware (R)

Old Firmware (L) versus New Firmware (R)

Old Firmware (L) versus New Firmware (R)

Old Firmware (L) versus New Firmware (R)

Old Firmware (L) versus New Firmware (R)

Front facing camera: Left is old, Right is new firmware

Front facing camera: Left is old, Right is new firmware

Daniel Rubino
Executive Editor

Daniel Rubino is the Executive Editor of Windows Central, head reviewer, podcast co-host, and analyst. He has been covering Microsoft here since 2007, back when this site was called WMExperts (and later Windows Phone Central). His interests include Windows, Microsoft Surface, laptops, next-gen computing, and arguing with people on the internet.

204 Comments
  • wow. that looks cool
  • Big improvement!!!!
  • +1
  • I just sent WPCentral indoor and outdoor comparison pictures taken in 4:3 & 16:9 ratio. I "feel" the 16:9 are coming out a tad better indoors. It was the other way around before Portico.
  • I don't see why that would be considering there is a resolution drop of 11% when going from 16:9 to 4:3. I have all but abandoned 16:9 aspect due to that cold hard fact.
  • @Pete C: You've abandoned 16:9 because resolution drops 11% when you go to 4:3? That makes no sense. Wouldn't you want to stay with the higher resolution? Or am I thinking about this wrong?
  • @glassadam: He meant that he has not abandoned 16:9 aspect ratio because of the drop of megapixelz. Notice the "all but abandoned".
  • @glassadam & @JussiRM- He meant that 4x3 pictures have more resolution than 16x9 so he has pretty much given up on 16x9.
    If you look at pictures both ways, you'll see the following-
    16x9 = 3552x2000 = 7,104,000 pixels
    4x3 = 3264x2448 = 7,990,272 pixels
    16x9 basically is a cropped 4x3 image.  Take the 4x3 picture and do your own cropping if you want.
  • ugh i just use 16x9 so the phonedo the cropping and not me  
  • This is not correct on the Lumia. 16:9 is a truly wider picture on Lumia, 4:3 will loose detail on the sides (but gain detail upwards and downwards).
    While many smartphones do crop 16:9 from 4:3, Lumia does not. It actually uses a 8.7 megapixel sensor so that it will produce a truly wider picture in 16:9 mode and truly higher picture in 4:3 (while leaving out corner pixels that are outside the optimum lens area). It is true that 4:3 has more megapixels, but it is a more narrow view so some image data on the sides would be lost - use 16:9 if you need a wide view.
    Nokia did this already with the N9 and Lumia 800/900. Here's a pic explaining the magic:
    http://cdn.esphoneblog.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/09/Nokia-Lumia-920-Pu...
  • Before Portico, the 16:9 pictures were soft but 4:3 were better. Don't know the science behind it.
  • +2 can't wait until this is released
  • I would like to see pictures compared to HTC 8X now!
  • big improvement ? I was about to return my phone till I saw this article . Waiting for the update yet to arrive in Australia. 
    If the camera is not fixed , I am switching back to iphone
  • wow. seriously? the photos are fine on the lumia! I dont know what all the bitching is about, let alone you making such a BIG deal out of it that you would return it for an IPHONE? jesus. calm down princess.
  • The picture quality is indeed bad. It might looks ok from the phone display but looking from 19" monitor will show how bad  it is. Even my blackberry bold 9780 produce better pics with its 5 MP camera. Glad to hear bout the update, else its a disgrace for a phone with pureview title.
  • Portico for L820 AT&T is on Navifirm also...
    Not released yet for International Version :(
  • My download just finished.
  • Back with Portico installed. Looks good so far.
  • Would anyone be able to post instructions for getting the update directly from Navifirm?
  • It should be similar to the de-branding process on Lumia 800/900. 
    http://forum.xda-developers.com/showthread.php?t=1605144
    http://community.giffgaff.com/t5/Learn-giffgaff-Top-Tips/HOWTO-Debrand-y...
     
     
  • Same process as un-bricking the phone.
    http://www.xda-windows.com/2012/11/how-to-fix-bricked-nokia-windows-phon...
  • Huge improvement. These shots show a much better improvement than the ones posted the other day.
  • Did Nokia ever say why the images were soft at first ?
  • I don't believe so.
  • how did you guys got access to new firmware?
  • Aliens. 
  • I saw one yesteday holding Nokia Lumia 920 to call home. :-P
  • That lift.
  • more accurately, time travel technology provided by aliens
  • Just one alien actually, from the planet Gallifrey
  • +1 for referencing the Doctor.
  • Navifirm
  • Good job Nokia!
  • Wow, big difference. AT&T, roll it! 
  • I know...what are they waiting for.
  • Now just waiting for india launch. I was always waiting for it, but now i'm sure i'm not getting anything else. Its 920 all the way.. btw, i used the 'tip us' button on wpcentral app on my 710 regarding windowsphone7.8 in india. Hope u got it.. Cheers!
  • Is there any word on whether there is anything else in these updates? Is it only camera fixes? I ask because I ended up selling my 920 due to issues with crashing/freezing/rebooting. Camera is a welcome improvement, but the phone isn't usable (for me) if these issues aren't cleared.
  • Those issues  are going to be cleared in the Portico update
  • We've detailed the Portico OS update in the past--it features improved stability and is supposed to fix reboots/crashes of the OS. There are two components with this update: OS and firmware. They are different things and both add new features and improve the device. We'll have more on specifics later as this post is only concerned with the camera improvement.
  • Daniel, is there any improvements with the video (white balance issues)?
  • That's the main focus for this update
  • Do you regret selling it now that the update is around the corner? You couldn't have had it for even a month :/
  • Awesome.  Can't wait for this update.
  • Wow. Its a totally different camera now. Thanks for the quick post!
  • Why do you tease me with these images? Verizon customer here. We want this too.
  • And so do the T-Mobile customers. Maybe one day...
  • Nokia, thanks for being awesome.
  • :) Yes!
    Happy to be back in the Nokia family.  Goodbye APPLE!
  • wooooo!!!!! :)
  • Where are the NIGHT SHOTS?
  • As can be evidenced from the photos I just posted 20 minutes ago...IT'S DAYTIME NOW. Besides, the main complaint was the 920 was soft during brightly lit days. Nighttime was always great.
  • > Nighttime was always great.
    Doesn't mean that they didn't screw up the night photos while fixing daylight sharpness.
  • It was great compared to others. I wonder if it's gotten even better with the update.
  • Haha...
  • WHat about the colors? They seem really different from one version to the other, which ones do you find more accurate?
  • If you read the post, they say that "white balance also seems tweaked for the better". So that should give you a hint of their opinion...
  • Love your response :)
  • Ultimately the soft focus issue was camera wide. Daytime photos were simply more obvious. Definitely post night photos when you get a chance. Thanks. Not that the night photos were bad, but they could be better.
  • My initial response about "low light photos" is that they look the same to me with this update with no discernable difference.
  • if you were truly dedicated you would travel to somewhere it is night time so 'Hiiiiiiii' can see some night shots. LOL.
  • Close the curtains and turn off the lights!
  • Daniel Rubino I love you. Thank you for bringing much needed personality to tech blogging :) and awesome insight into our WP camera tech
  • +1
  • It would be sweet if Nokia can push these updates via extras plus.
  • Wow! That old firmware is terrible with a tripod. Are you guys using dollar store tripods with a maximum weight of 184g or something? If you use a Manfrotto tripod or something anything should be sharp, including Toys R Us digital cameras. That is some pretty terrible software that Nokia let slip through if the tripod was steady at all.
  • Umm...it's not camera shake that is the problem with the early Lumia 920 firmware. The Lumia 920 has OIS and a tripod is only used to control the environment and rule out hand shake. Sharpening on a camera can either be a hardware thing (lens, shutter/aperture) a software thing (focus points) or a JPG processing thing. During shots on a brightly lit day, you can have a camera mounted on a 10LB tripod and still get blurry shots if any one of a dozen areas are off slightly.  PS Manfrotto's are over-rated.
  • Someone put Dan out, he's on fire. Makes me laugh my ass off every time he comments on his posts.
  • +1
  • what would you suggest over a manfrotto. I am in the market for a lightweight tripod and was looking at some manfrottos
  • SLIK are nice. I have one of their monopods and love it... (Pro Pod 382, light as heck). Honestly though it comes down to preference e.g. clasps vs. screw extensions, the weight, build quality, size etc. As long as it's smooth to use the grip bar, etc tripods/monopods barely register for me as far as differences. George may have a differing opinion. Manfrotto's are nice, they're just...I mean it's like the ONE and only tripod manufacturer that people can actually name, so they always reference it.
  • Look up Really Right Stuff.  They make good tripods. :) 
    Also look up Induro and Giottos.  Few manufacturers I've seen on a suggested lists recently.
  • i love millers and have used them for about 7 years now. light, mobile, sturdy, and all around sweet!
  • I had plenty of experience with compact digital cameras with poor optics, tiny sensors, fancy image stabilization marketing names like steadyshot, and mushy software. I also have steady hands and the one constant I notice is that images are much, MUCH, MUCH sharper with a tripod. That applies to any camera I have ever used in my life.
    So my point about the Nokia JPEG processing being ridiculously poor is quite accurate.
    Yes, Manfrotto, just like Bose, have really dropped the ball lately and are now purely riding on marketing over quality now. You can thank Apple for that though.
  • Not to derail but when was Bose ever good?
  • Famous...not necessarily good.
  • Wow...I was worried there could be some hardware related issue but I was wrong! What a dramatic fix!
     
    This is big. Really big. The whole camera. This is the kind of innovation that competitors will have a hard to time to catch up in just a year. Nokia has a huge advantage point in their hand. They should advertise the hell out of it.
  • I just wish they had done this right the first time. That would have prevented some people from badmouthing 920 camera.
  • Nice !! Waiting for international version :].
     
  • I thought that was available too...the rm-821 version. Can somebody check, I am already in bed (1:57 am.....lol)
  • I have a very strange issue...sometimes my 920 doesn't get locked...i have restart the phone...hope it gets fixed in this update..
  • I wonder if Apple have fixed the purple haze problem.... Good work Nokia, can't wait to download!
  • Apple said the purple haze is a special effect on the lens.
  • Built in instagram!
  • Why would Apple want to fix the purple haze, it's a feature of the iPhone 4SS, or the iPhone 5 as Apple calls it.
  • So Nice!!!!
  • Can you please see if there was any improvment to the front facing camera?
  • I can confirm the FF camera is also sharper. I'l upload a quick comparison in a few mins.
  • Great! Thanks!
  • does the update eliminate the flickering colors and blue tint that the FFC was producing ?
  • WOW.  Huge difference!!!
    Very happy. :)  Can't wait. :)
  • The camera seems to load a lot faster too with the portico update
  • It does. Under 3 seconds.
  • Is it mean that att finished their