Windows Phone 8.1 will now backup your High Resolution Lumia photos to OneDrive

When it comes to Windows Phone 8.1, Microsoft has gone a long way in fixing many pet peeves of users. One of those pertained to those with a Nokia Lumia 1020, Lumia 1520 or Lumia Icon. Those users have the ability with the Nokia Camera app to shoot ‘high resolution’ photos, taking advantage of their respective 41 MP and 20 MP cameras. But auto-backups using OneDrive would only save the lower resolution 5 MP one, leaving the high-resolution version on the device. Not good.

As many of you have noticed over the last few weeks, Windows Phone 8.1 will now save those high resolution photos. We've finally gotten around to taking a look at it ourselves, and here are our findings.

How it works

On the Lumia 1020, Lumia 1520 and Lumia Icon, you can shoot dual images. One is for the small 5 MP JPGs, and the other is for the larger 16 MP (Lumia 1520/Icon) or 34 MP (Lumia 1020) JPGs for re-cropping and better editing options. Both photos get saved to the phone, with a smaller one perfect for social-sharing and the larger ones for later editing, re-zooming, etc.

The problem on Windows Phone 8.0

If a user enabled auto-back up under Settings > Applications > Photos + Camera with the Wi-Fi option, only the smaller photos were saved and not the larger 5-8 MB photos. Sure your image was backed up, and those 5 MP images are over-sampled from the high quality ones, but not saving the full resolution JPGs was a bit of a bummer.

OneDrive auto-backup

Windows Phone 8.1 and auto-backup

Now, with 8.1 many of you have observed that when enabling the ‘Best Quality’ option under ‘backup to OneDrive’, the high resolution images are rightly saved to your OneDrive Camera roll. Interestingly, the file name does not have 'high_res' in it as it was saved on the device, instead it has the regular 'WP_ date_ time_Pro.jpg' format.

*This will also work on the soon-to-be-released Nokia Lumia 930 too.

But still no DNG/RAW support

Unfortunately, you still cannot auto-backup your optional DNG/RAW images to OneDrive. Those file types are used by pros who like to post-edit on a PC using Photoshop, and having them saved to your OneDrive would certainly streamline the process.

You can always backup manually by first transferring the DNG files to a PC then uploading to OneDrive, but not via the phone itself. Considering those individual files are 20 MB or more, that’s probably okay for most people. The limiting factor here seems to be that OneDrive doesn’t support viewing of DNG files directly, so the system doesn’t really leverage that file type just yet.

Watch your file space

As a result of the change, if you're already using auto-backup and high quality, your photos on a Lumia 1020 will increase from around 4-5 MB to 10-12 MB in size. Although most of you have at least 7-10 GB of storage, just take notice that these images will start to take up more space, so keep track if you already have a lot of files saved to the cloud!

Beware of OneDrive app limitations

If you decide not to use auto-backup to OneDrive, you can of course use the OneDrive app to save your photos. Unfortunately from our tests, this will save only the lower resolution one and not the high resolution photo. That means for those with high resolution cameras, your best bet is to use auto-backup and manage your saves through OneDrive directly.

Wrapping it up

As you can see, Windows Phone 8.1 does a lot to ameliorate user grievances. By allowing high resolution images to be auto-backed up, high-end Lumia users can take solace in knowing that their precious images will be saved without thought, usually within a minute of snapping the photo (assuming they’re on Wi-Fi).

Not being able to do the same with DNG files is slightly understandable, though we hope to see that come as well in the future. Likewise for the OneDrive app, which is still very limited in functions for most users’ tastes.

Are you using auto-backup for your photos? Has the new feature in Windows Phone 8.1 made you reconsider using it? Let us know.

Daniel Rubino

Daniel Rubino is the Editor-in-chief of Windows Central, head reviewer, podcast co-host, and analyst. He has been covering Microsoft since 2007 when this site was called WMExperts (and later Windows Phone Central). His interests include Windows, laptops, next-gen computing, and for some reason, watches. Before all this tech stuff, he worked on a Ph.D. in linguistics, watched people sleep (for medical purposes!), and ran the projectors at movie theaters because it was fun.

  • Yay!
  • Yay for sure as I want the Lumia 930 on release and can auto save on WiFi as I currently do on my Lumia 920.
  • Great !!!!
  • So best quality was never the original quality uploading? Excuse my ignorance buy I just always assumed it did and was the reason it needed Wi-Fi
  • For other devices with 'normal' 8 MP cameras like the Lumia 920, it did. If you chose lower quality, a smaller image was saved. The problem started with the Lumia 1020, since it's full resolution 38 MP images can be like 10 MB in size. Those were never saved though, the system instead chose the over-sampled 5 MP version instead. That's now fixed. Basically, the OneDrive auto-backup system was created before the Lumia 1020 and Nokia's fancy dual-saves. The OS needed to be fixed to pick the HR version instead, and that finally happened with 8.1.
  • Ok thanks Daniel.
  • Ah, I understand now. Thanks.
  • My 1520 isn't doing it and I don't understand why :-( Cry!
  • Oh, this is awesome!  Everytime you save a cropped image it updates the smaller-res cropped image to OneDrive also!
  • you know it is a microsoft product when "best" doesn't really mean "best".
  • Boo (tomatoes being thrown at you.)
  • I don't think that's a fair criticism. Read the above explanation. Nokia made an OEM specific feature (dual saves) that essentially broke the auto-backup by not choosing the 'best' image. That's what happens when OEMs and OS manufacturers can't cooperate due to licensing issues. Microsoft had to code in the blind for a lot of that Nokia trickery. That can change now with the acquisition of Nokia mobile.
  • I'm just kidding. relax.
  • What is this Nokia mobile????? Just kidding Daniel. Or am I? No, I am really kidding. :) I'm just writing to say that in the 4:3 aspect ratio, the 1020 captures 38MP photos as well. I don't shoot in 4:3 though, me likey the widescreen. I wonder what percentage of the readers shoot photos in 4:3...providing a higher resolution on some devices yet you lose the wide 16:9 view.
  • I do 4:3. Most high end cameras do. 16:9 is ok but I'm used to 4:3 in my high end rigs so the 16:9 format feels quite strange for me.
  • Awesome. Thank you for the feedback!
  • Who invited this guy to the party?
  • No one. He invited himself, like all trolls.
  • What I want is a backup and delete option. I really don't want the full res image on my phone because it takes up so much room but I want to be able to pull it on demand if I need it. This would be trivial to implement for them. This applies to the DNG option in particular. But I'm glad they did this because I was so frustrated with having to manually backup the high res photos that I was about to write a desktop app to suck the files out via USB. Glad I didn't :)
  • Yeah, I agree that would be ideal. I'm not so sure it's 'trivial' as don't forget the dual-save function is a Nokia thing only. They'd have to code the OS to do that and only that for Lumia devices, so I'm not sure it's so straightforward. (Microsoft doesn't code OEM specific features into the OS; though with Nokia mobile being acquired, that may change). Still, I agree it'd be nice to have.
  • Maybe having a"shortcut" to the original hi-res photo in OneDrive and keeping the lower res on your phone. Excuse my lack of knowledge on how this works.
  • Another thing Zune used to do, wifi sync then delete off the phone. I just had it plop right into my mesh folder and boom. Perfect.
  • Sure but it had file size limits aswell & required it to be plugged in.
  • I thought they already coded this feature since I see the high res image on one drive already. Meaning that they already did the hard part which was find the file using the secret sauce API, you know, the one that looks for a file name pattern :) and upload it. Now all they have to do is the easy part: delete it from the phone if you set that option and just leave the low res 5MP in local storage. It is literally an if statement and one line of code under it.
  • Nice. My personal two more requested feutures still missing are: 1. Upload needs to add a Sync protocol as an option. Currently they are using the "upload and forget" method, meaning if you delete a picture/video from the phone it stays on the cloud, if you delete a picture from the cloud it stays on the phone. I am tired of having to delete bad or unwanted pictures twice because of that. 2. An option to upload "Best Quality" Pictures and Videos by Cellular must be added for people with Unlimited Data Plans.
  • 1. I like them being separated. But if it is implemented as an option like you mention as opposed to the only way then I would be OK with that.
  • I hate deleting both as well. Would be nice if it prompted the option to delete both when deleting one
  • Considering that it's a "backup" ... If you have the option to delete both won't be a backup ...
  • Keyword would be "option". For someone like myself that takes a lot of pictures this would be convenient deleting photos that I don't plan on keeping. I hate going thru OneDrive because there's a lot of photos that I don't want but have saved overtime because it automatically saves. However the auto save to OneDrive is more important to me than not having it... So I'm not turning it off
  • A option to delete both when deleting one will be nice.
  • Or it could prompt you to upload instead of automatically uploading
  • I want the choice to store high quality images on my phone...
  • It already does.
  • Try the app HD Photo Viewer, which can view and manage the high resolution images on the phone.
  • This is great news!!
  • So when dng comes you'll give us another article?
    How does this work with videos?
  • I've found, one way to upload the high res versions through the OneDrive app is to select "Phone" rather than "Photos" in the uploading menu. It's not the best way since there is no preview but if you happen to have just taken the pictures, you can kind of guess that the bottom few in the camera roll are the ones you want to upload.
  • Great. Now once I change from good quality to best will all my previously taken high res images be automatically uploaded?
  • Ask and you shall receive!!! SWEET!!!
  • "ameliorate" ?....Really ?!
  • "You can always backup manually by first transferring the DNG files to a PC then uploading to OneDrive, but not via the phone itself."  Just use it Pocket Explorer :D
  • True, forgot that!
  • You can also use HD Photo Viewer to extract the high-res photos and expose them to the OneDrive app on the phone. Especially if you don't want to upload every shot to one drive.
  • does it see the DNG files? or are they hidden by the OS?
  • Still gonna use copy and paste in explorer to save pics from my 1020 to my PC. 5 TB beats the 10 GB I have on OneDrive...
  • I wish that the syncing would have the option to work both ways. If I delete something from my camera roll, it should delete from the OneDrive backup.
  • I agree.
  • Does the Microsoft Camera app save full red photos? It doesnt allow you to choose resolution so I was wondering if it saves my 20megapixel photos or 5. The Nokia app is too laggy
  • I am not sure about the current version but the default Windows Phone 8.0 camera saved only a 5MP photo and not the Full Resolution photo on the 1520 and 1020. You can confirm by looking at the resolution of your photo on a computer.
  • Res
  • Hold up...what about the fact that when I move high res photos off my phone via usb I can't move them back to the phone!!! I've tried...they don't show up in the camera roll or saved photos or ANYWHERE for that matter! Has that travesty been resolved??? +1020
  • You have to put both the High and Low (5MP) photo back as the phone displays the 5MP photo in the gallery and the High Res photo isn't visible until you hit the Open in Nokia Camera button. Without the 5 MP image, there isn't anything to display in the gallery hence no Open in Nokia Camera button to get to the High Res photo.
  • So as long as I move both back it should allow me to access the high res one too? Have you tried this?
  • I WANT DNG FILES AUTOMAGICALLY UPLOADED TO ONEDRIVE! MSFT take my money!!! I currently have over 300GB of onedrive space. Once my surface2 two year 200GB add on is gone there is only one thing that will get me to spend money in order to maintain this space. IF THE SPACE IS BEING USED THEN I WILL WANT TO CONTINUE USING IT. IF I have to manually upload my dng files on my tuuuuuuuurrible Maui Oceanic (TWC) broadband home connection then the space will never get used! (Yes I am lazy, but I am an IT Tech by trade and the last thing I want to do is file uploads on my limited connection when I get home)  When I get home it's XBONE time! Speaking of which I want to see my BEAUTIFUL 1020 DNG SHOTS AUTOMAGICALLY IN ONEDRIVE ON MY 1080p TV and XBONE!
  • Problem is theres no service out there yet that does this. Guess nokia should have focused more on pc users & created an app to do it over wifi to a local pc
  • A question to put my mind at rest, as hoping to get the 930 soon.
    If you have the capture option set to 5MP then the photo you are saving is the over sampled photo yes? And also you'll have been able to take advantage of the lossless zoom before taking the photo? Fairly sure I'm correct but just wanted the piece of mind.
    Cheers in advance.
  • Syncing photos with OneDrive would be nice to have. Sometimes I delete photos I don't need on the phone only to find myself deleting the same photos on OneDrive months later.
  • I want my Lumia 920 to be able to send full resolution photos by email. Currently (WP 8.0) it scales them down. Can anyone confirm if it asks for the image quality to be attached to an email? Or is there any other way to email a picture as attachment in full resolution?
  • Try hd photoviewer
  • They should remove the requirement to have Wi-Fi because not everyone has it (I'm one of them).
  • I have yellow effect on my photos after u capture it by my Lumia 920 camera
    Plez help
  • Remove your phone case and take a few pics. If that clears up the issue, the case design is the culprit.
  • Great, now my 7gig of storage will max out again.
  • Ehh, I've moved backups to Flickr with Flickr central. Hey, I'm getting full resolution with 1TB storage.
  • Why are these WiFi only?? I pay a lot of money to have a large cap on AT& should be up to me whether I want to use cellular data or not.
  • most likely battery life. the LTE radio is much more power hungry than the wifi one. If you're constantly uploading over LTE your battery life would suffer a lot more. Still, I agree. I don't like when MSFT baby sits people. It should just warn you and if you want to do it anyway, your problem bro.
  • Thanks for the tip. So if you manually save to OneDrive from photo hub.....does it upload high or low red?
  • Yay
  • This option was in Windows Phone 8 already!
  • You didn't read the article!
  • So Daniel, in order to shoot 16 or 34mp images you need the Nokia camera app. The wp8.1 default app still wont allow for higher definition shots?
  • I wonder, if you re-download the high res photo from OneDrive, if can you still recrop from it or if it get confused by the lack of "highres" in the file name. I also wonder if it might end up overwriting the high resolution photo as a result of the filename conflict.
  • Beast!
  • this is a known bug because Lumia Black dont work well with WP 8.1 and the double capture system (because of this, the system uploads the wrong file(34/38 mp on 1lumia 1020) but with the name of the correct file (5 mp version without _highres.jpg), Nokia support told me that they will fix it with  Cyan and then autoupload will upload the (better for me) 5 MP oversampled 7in1 version on lumia 1020.  
  • now that would be interesting. it would break the new feature he he.
  • My wife took a bunch of pictures when we were out in the country last wknd.  She had the phone in airplane mode to save on battery, I'm not sure if that's the reason but when we got home I found that none of her pictures autobacked up.  A bunch of pictures she took before the trip were on Onedrive and a bunch of pictures she took afterward as well.  So I know for sure it's set to autobackup.  But for some reason these got unqueued.  Anyone else seen this?
  • airplane mode auto turns off all wireless connections. autobackup needs wireless connections (wifi) turned on
  • Yes! Finally.
  • How about emailing full resolution photos (obviously 5mp and not 38mp for Lumia 1020)?
  • Good finding!! I'm now upgrade my 1520 to WP8.1 preview!
  • Great job :-) Now we need full backup for games and settings.
  • when are they going to give us an option to upload best quality over mobile network, the world isnt just America, some of us like in the UK (Three) have truly unlimited 3G and 4G data so whats the probem here. those who dont want to use it they can disable that.
  • When will be this official update of window 8.1 come?
  • A somewhat unrelated question- Do you still have to use "Nokia Camera" to get the full resolution photo, or does the stock app now support full resolution photos for the oversampled cameras?
  • No, only Nokia Camera does the full resolution photo. 
  • I hope microsoft combines the stock camera app and Nokia camera into one stock app in the future. I do not like Nokia camera much.
  • I've done this on a 521 it does backup.
  • I like to backup both of them, the high res and the low one because when i crop a picture it doesn`t save it on onedrive . Or to save in high res just the favorites ones in the folder called high resolution.
  • My 8.1 has just installed can someone point me a direction of what I get in 8.1??
  • Will this increase my Other storage though?
  • What is the use of the HD photo backup if the Nokia cameras have been degraded since the Nokia-Amber firmware ?
  • I'm quite frustrated with this. I have Lumia 1020 and love oversampled 5mpx pictures. They are better than big one and has just a good size to watch them on my tv or computer. I used DNG + 5 Mpx jpg option but I realized that when I recroped my pictures in nokia camera app output was smaller cause the source were 5 mpx picture not DNG or big Jpg. In 5 mpx jpg + 34 mpx jpg this is fine, I can recrop from big original 34 mpx picture but 5 mpx is no longer backuped to OneDrive. Now I can backup 34 Mpx Jpg's which is pointless casue I need it just for edtiting or I can choose medium size which is smaller than 5 mpx.
  • I am using the app "Camera Roll Sync" from the WP store in my Lumia 1020. This app uploads the (better) 5 MP oversampled pictures ^_^, because it seems that MS will not fix the broken autoupload feature in Onedrive :(
  • LIAR
  • Why would Windows Central publish a link in April 2016 to an article TWO YEARS OLD!!!?  Is Microsoft that desperate for good news?  How about an announcement that Windows 10 is finally coming to the many phones still running 8.1?  Guess that hasn't happened yet!