The 41 Megapixel Camera:
For the most part the Lumia 1020 is identical to any other Windows Phone device. What really sets it apart from the rest, and from any phone on the planet for that matter, is its camera. Two years ago, we saw Nokia shock the world with the 808 PureView. For two years we have waited for a similar camera experience on a modern platform. And finally our prayers have been heard. Let’s first talk about the camera hardware on the Lumia 1020.
The headliner of the phone is its 41MP camera. That means the total sensor size is 7728 x 5368, but it will capture either a 7728 x 4354 pixel image (34MP) in the 16:9 mode or a 7152 x 5368 pixel image (38MP) in the 4:3 mode.
Compared to the 808 PureView, the physical size of the sensor on the Lumia 1020 has been reduced to 1/1.5″ from 1/1.2”. This results in a pixel size of 1.12 microns instead of 1.4 microns. To compensate for the reduced sensitivity, Nokia moved to BSI (Back Side Illumination) pixels for the Lumia 1020. The 808 PureView was front side illuminated. The Lumia 1020 also moves to a new 6-element lens system (26mm) with a wider aperture of F/2.2 compared to 808’s F/2.4. It also has an upgraded optical image stabilization system. OIS was reliant on springs in the Lumia 920 but ball bearings are used in Lumia 1020.
And last but not the least is the xenon flash at the back. This too has been upgraded from the 808 PureView. It uses less physical space, whilst keeping power the same. There is also an LED light which is used for focus assist.
Of course hardware is only one half of the story. The software needs to be up to the task. Fortunately Nokia has done a fantastic job in this regard. For starters they’ve designed their own camera app, called Nokia Camera. You still have the stock camera app of the OS available, but it’s useless if you want any decent pictures. The camera app can be launched directly by pressing the camera button. The user interface of the app is very nicely laid out. On top are all your current settings listed. This includes shutter speed, white balance, focus, exposure and ISO. Clicking them will bring up a dial, which then lets you customize each aspect of the camera.
The Nokia Camera app also lets you save images in 5MP, 5MP+34MP or 5MP+34MP (DNG). The two file capture is used for oversampling, which lets you zoom into the 5MP image without any noticeable loss in quality. It’s digital zooming, but in reality acts like optical zoom. With the two file capture, there are actually two images saved, one 5MP and another 34MP. You can use the 5MP image on the phone, but to even see the 34MP file, you’ll have to connect the phone to a computer. The DNG mode is for RAW image capture, which is quite unprecedented for a smartphone.
Needless to say the Nokia Camera app is by far the best camera app available on any phone at the moment. If the complex settings are overwhelming, you can always choose the auto mode. There is even a nicely laid out tutorial that explains these settings. And the camera warns you if you’ve chosen a setting that may effect image quality. If there was one downside to the app, it would be its speed. From a cold start it takes just over 4 seconds for the camera to be ready. It takes an additional 2 seconds for the image to be captured and the camera to be ready again. It’s a little jarring at first, but you get used to it eventually where you won’t even notice it.
As far as photography apps are concerned, Nokia has really gone to town. The image below is taken from the Nokia Smartcam app. There’s also a Cinemagraph app that lets you take really amazing pictures where you can animate just parts of it. Then there is the Nokia Refocus app that lets you choose the focus after you’ve taken the picture. There’s also a Nokia Creative Studio that lets you edit images. All these apps are very unique, and thoroughly entertaining to use.
Here are some more shots taken from the Lumia 1020, you can judge the image quality yourself (click on the image for full resolution). This is easily the best result you can get from a smartphone.