Nokia Lumia 1020 Field Review | Pushing Boundaries on Mobile Phone Imaging

The Nokia Lumia 1020
The Nokia Lumia 1020
The Nokia Lumia 1020

Let’s get to the point, Nokia Lumia 1020 is the best camera phone in the market right now. It’s 41MP mechanical shutter camera delivers what it promises – top notch image quality in a mobile phone. If that is what one is looking for a phone, I would highly recommend the Nokia Lumia 1020 of course, but if you consider the balance of the phone system, form factor and price, that’s where the decision making comes in. Here’s my lowdown on Nokia’s best phone to date.

Rear of the Lumia 1020
Rear of the Lumia 1020

Form Factor

The Nokia Lumia 1020 is quite similar in form factor with my recently reviewed Nokia Lumia 720. It has a vibrant 4.5 inch AMOLED screen with Gorilla Glass protection and a sexy polycarbonate body that feels solid and tough only to be interrupted by that unsightly bump at the back where the camera is. While it doesn’t look all that bad, when you put in on a table horizontally, the slope isn’t good for viewing the screen. Well that’s just the obsessive compulsive in me.

While the polycarbonate body looks good, it does have a few disadvantages. There’s no option for expanding the memory via a Micro SD and the 2000mAh battery is irreplaceable. But if you think the 16gb (or 32gb) internal memory would suffice, this isn’t a big deal.

The innovative Nokia Pro Cam App
The innovative Nokia Pro Cam App

41MP Shooter and Pro Camera App

The imaging capability is the strength of the Nokia Lumia 1020. It has a PureView Pro technology – a large high resolution 41.3 MP CMOS sensor with Backside Illumination (BSI) for better lowlight imaging. The shutter is mechanical unlike other mobile phone cameras so it can do slow shutters of up to 4 seconds. Combined with the fast f2.2 Carl Zeiss optics and Optical Image Stabilization, the camera is a runaway performer for lowlight shooting.

To utilise this incredible camera hardware, Nokia has a Pro Cam App where settings can be configured. I really like the satellite-style interface when changing settings where you slide each satellite which corresponds to shutter speed, ISO, white balance, exposure compensation and focus. It’s quite impressive really as this innovative camera phone interface is intuitive and user friendly even to non-techie people.

There’s also the Nokia Smart Cam App where it takes a series of photos and you can apply several effects like the best shot, adding motion and removing unnecessary details. So basically, the 41MP file is like having a RAW file where users can make changes to the photo after it has been taken, not as complicated as RAW files itself but still a very useful feature nonetheless.

The Nokia Smart Camera App
The Nokia Smart Camera App

Image Quality and Camera Performance

Taking all that hardware and software combo into use, the output images are quite excellent. No it didn’t churn out 41mb file size images that could eat up the internal memory. With the Nokia Lumia 1020 there’s an option to save 2 files on each image shot when you enable it on the settings, one is for the Hi-res file with about 10-15mb file size and image resolution of 7712 x 4352px at 72dpi. The details retained here is crazy plenty. Even on lowlight shooting conditions when some cameraphones would readily turn details into blobs or botches of color, details are still there, the colors were pleasingly rendered and the white balance is most of the time spot on. I shot the Nokia Lumia 1020 alongside a large sensor mirrorless interchangeable lens camera and they almost have a similar white balance output on sight.

There’s also the down-sampled 5MP file (usually around 1-5mb file size) which is smaller and rendered with some sharpening for immediate sharing on social networks. When shooting and zooming in on the subject, Nokia Lumia 1020 actually performs a digital zoom (up to 2.7x) crop, but unlike other digital zooms, the details and color quality are preserved since there’s enough resolution to work with.

Overall, Nokia Lumia 1020 produces high quality images better (if not actually better) than some of the best point and shoots out there in the market. Image resolution has excellent detail and is capable of large prints. The only caveat I see in this camera is its shot-to-shot speed. With so much processes happening per shot, there may be some missed opportunities between the 3-4 seconds it takes to process a picture.

Lowlight photography inside a museum
Lowlight photography inside a museum hand held
100% crop painting details in lowlight:
100% crop painting details in lowlight: Hi-Res file (left) downsampled file (right)

Camera Grip

Currently Nokia Philippines is bundling the optional Camera Grip accessory when you buy the Nokia Lumia 1020. Separately, it’s worth about Php 4000. If you are really serious about mobile photography this would be really useful. Made out of the same polycarbonate material as the phone, the Camera Grip adds a dedicated shutter button. It also acts as a battery pack adding about 1020mAh of additional power. More importantly, it also has a tripod mount if you’d like to use it for lowlight long exposure shooting.

Camera Grip accessory mounted on a mini tripod
Camera Grip accessory mounted on a mini tripod

Windows 8

The Lumia 1020 has the same operating system as my review with the Lumia 720 and I still have the same sentiments with it. Fluid, snappy and refreshing to use especially with a much more powerful internal hardware – 1.5 Dual Core Snapdragon and 2GB RAM. I’m glad to say though that some apps like Facebook have finally streamlined its looks and functions with other OS like IOS and Android. Windows 8 is still playing catch up but as promised by their recent keynote, app favorites from other platforms like Instagram are already coming to Windows Phone 8 Amber.

WP8 Facebook now has the same functionality as IOS and Android
WP8 Facebook now has the same functionality as IOS and Android

Verdict

If there’s one cameraphone that can make you ditch your point-and-shoot cameras altogether, the Nokia Lumia 1020 it is. It has an excellent 41MP camera phone that delivers high quality images both on good light and lowlight situations. As a smartphone though, it’s really a preference on the mobile operating system. Windows Phone 8 is actually good but right now it’s still not there especially if you are used to the working environment of either Android or IOS. But if you are adventurous enough to work on a new environment on the Nokia Lumia 1020 and is seriously looking for quality images from a smartphone, we know who holds the mobile imaging crown right now.

The Nokia Lumia 1020 is now available in the Philippines with a suggested retail price of Php 35,650 with a free Camera Grip accessory worth Php 4000. Check out more sample photos below:

Manila Hotel Lobby
Manila Hotel Lobby
Adding motion using the Nokia Smart Cam app
Adding motion using the Nokia Smart Cam app
Lilies and Fort Santiago wall
Lilies and Fort Santiago wall
Water lily details 100% Crop: Hi-res (left) and downsampled (right)
Water lily details 100% Crop: Hi-res (left) and downsampled (right)
Makati flood
This is a nice picture showing Lumia 1020’s lowlight strength as the scene is very dark. I zoomed in on the car stuck in the flood which is the photo below. The top photo is the hi-res version
Pigeons and bird house feeds
Pigeons and bird house feeds: Hi-res (left) digital zooming (right)

 

Faint bokeh on this sculpture portrait
Faint bokeh on this sculpture portrait
Buko pandan topped with mango and strawberry
Buko pandan topped with mango and strawberry
SkyScrapers in Manila
SkyScrapers in Manila

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