The Nokia cameraphone history starts with the Nokia 7650, coming with 0.3 MP camera and a colour screen. It was then upped by the Nokia N90, which came with Carl Zeiss lens, dual screens, a swivelling half where the camera rested and a 2 MP camera coupled with an LED flash.
Next year, it was a camcorder-like N93, coming with a dual display, swivelling one half, 3.15 MP camera and an LED flash. The year that followed saw the release of the Nokia N95, a blockbuster for the Finnish giant, cementing their position as the world’s biggest smartphone vendor. The N95 came with a 5 MP camera.
That was also the year (2007) when Nokia started working on something big in the area of camera sensors for phones. Something that would blow the minds of all the tech writers of the world away. But this would take the company 5-6 years. In the meanwhile, the company kept improving on the camera in its phones, with the N82 and the N86 – which is still very competitive with current smartphones.
Then came the Nokia N8, in 2010. It remained the best cameraphone until the company announced the 808 PureView, the fruits of labour of 5 years. 41 whopping megapixels on a cameraphone. Rich recording (audio). Xenon flash. Most of all, it was the amazing PureView technology – oversampling an image to get immensely detailed results of a higher MP image in a lower MP image. It’s not as simple as I’ve written here, but that’s the essence. Instead of zooming in on an object, you could now capture the image, then zoom in later and still get a very, very highly detailed image. It was marvellous. And yet, even in its third year, the only cameraphone beat the N8 was this bundle of genius wrapped into a phone.
Fast forward two years, the Finns launched the Lumia 1020. It might have taken them a solid two years to port their work from Symbian to Windows Phone, but the results speak for themselves. The Lumia 1020 comes with slightly different sensor size than the 808 PureView (slightly smaller), but the results remain the same. It also comes with an LED flash in addition to the Xenon flash, and a design that marries the Windows Phone, the unibody and a sensor hump so nicely, you could be forgiven for falling in love with it – a phone.
Even today, the N8 remains a great cameraphone. The 808 PureView and the Lumia 1020 compete with each other neck to neck, but the Lumia 1020 sprints ahead for a slew of reasons. This review concentrates mainly on those experiences.
Before I start on that, here is a look at the specs:
- Windows Phone 8, GDR2 update and Nokia Amber updates available.
- 4.5″ AMOLED display with Nokia’s Clear Black display technology, HD resolution, 1280×768 pixels, ~332 PPI
- 1.5 GHz Snapdragon S4 Plus MSM8960 processor, Adreno 225 GPU
- 41 MP PureView camera, 1/1.5″ sensor size, Optical Image Stabilisation, Xenon and LED flash, 1080p recording at 30 FPS; front facing 1.3 MP camera
- 2 GB RAM, 32 GB internal memory, non-expandable
- Wi-Fi b/g/n, DLNA, Hotspot, Bluetooth 3.0, NFC
- 2,000 mAh battery, microSIM
The camera will always be the main highlight of the Lumia 1020. Anything else that the company offers is complementary.
The Lumia 1020 comes in the tried, tested (some might even include tired) Fabula design, first seen on the N9. As has always been the trend, the top of the device houses the headphone jack, a secondary mic and the SIM tray. To the left, there’s nothing at all. On the right, there’s the volume rocker, the power/unlock button and the shutter button. On the bottom, there’s a lanyard eyelet, the microUSB jack and the speaker, apart from the primary mic.
The main attractions are the display on the front and the camera sensor/plate on the back. The round plate houses the 6-element Carl Zeiss lens, apart from the two flashlights. All of this protrudes from the main body, meaning the hump is very noticeable. But, apart from adding to the design (I’m probably in the minority, but I love how the hump looks on the device), it also aids in gripping the device.
The Lumia 1020, even after all of this going on on the Hardware front, is very light. I was pleasantly surprised after having used the 808 PureView.
The 1020 sure is a looker.
Nothing has changed on the software front when it comes to Windows Phones, which is really getting on my nerves. Microsoft had launched Windows Phone more than 3 years ago, so it’s quite disappointing to see that we’re not yet there in terms of features even after such a long time. You could argue that the company was transitioning from one thing to the other, but that, to me as an end user, is not what I would want to pay for.
That, however, is by no means a major pulldown if you are looking at Nokia Lumias. Nokia has worked extensively on the platform since it jumped the ship from Symbian to Windows Phone in 2011. The company brought its stellar navigation apps, its camera expertise, and other features missing from Windows Phone.
The difference is extremely visible if you are switching from a Windows Phone from Samsung or HTC to a Lumia. The former two haven’t done anything considerable for the platform years after launching phones running the OS.
Glance screen, Double tap to wake, setting screen, Call and SMS blocker, Colour profiles for the display, partnerships with content providers are some of the additions from Nokia.
The “Apps from Nokia” category in the Windows Phone store is a great place to look at the apps that are exclusive to Lumia phones. However, it’s getting cluttered with various third-party apps being thrown in of late.
One of the niceties of Windows Phone are the myriad camera apps. They’re all neatly integrated right in the stock camera app, with quick access to them making it that much more good.
While there are a number of third-party apps, Nokia’s worked on a lot of them itself. It’s been doing so since the Windows Phone 7 days, but with the additional power that WP8 gives to apps, Nokia’s worked closely with Microsoft to makes its Camera Lens more powerful than others.
There are a whole range of lens now, but Nokia Camera, Refocus, Cinemagraph and Panorama are my favorite of the bunch.
Nokia had these two apps called Nokia Pro Camera and Nokia Smartcamera. The latter still exists, but with Nokia Camera, both have been combined into one. Nokia Camera is also set as the default camera app on the Lumia 1020, out of the box, which can be annoying to some. The app itself is slower compared to the stock camera app, if you have it set to capture both – a PureView photo (5 MP) or a high-res photo of 34 MP or 38 MP. That is the default setting – 5 MP and a 34 MP photo are captured at the same time. The processing time is a lot, and therefore, shot-to-shot times are higher.
However, if you set it to capture only 5 MP photos, the shot-to-shot times are much lower, but still not as low as the stock camera app. If that’s a downer, then you can always use the stock app.
But, the Nokia Camera app has manual focus, something which is missing from the stock camera app. It has annoyed me forever, and I’m glad that this app addresses that. It’s baffling how Microsoft hasn’t added it to the stock app even after so many years.
Apart from manual focus, the Nokia Camera app has a very intuitive UI, allowing you to change ISO, shutter speed, focus on the go. And since the app also stores original images, you can edit them as and when you want, and still revert to the original image if you’re not happy, any time you want. This is a major plus of the app.
What I find annoying about this app is that you can only view the last captured image quickly. If you want to view and edit older images, you’ll have to tap on another icon, scroll to the particular image, then tap on the “Nokia Camera” link and then edit. Absolutely jarring experience.
In future, the app will gain RAW support (DNG format) on the Lumia 1020 after the Lumia Black update, something that should please a lot of photography nerds who own the device.
Nokia Camera also includes the Smartcamera app now. You can capture an image with the app and it will be stored as a set of 5 different photos with different modes/options – remove moving objects, change faces, motion shot, best shot, etc. It’s a good addition, but it’s something I haven’t found much use for.
Here are some more samples from the Lumia 1020. All captured with the Nokia Camera app, and all are the oversampled PureView versions.
This is one of the more recent additions. Nokia Refocus was announced at Nokia World held recently. The app allows you to change focus plane of the image, long after you’ve captured the image. This is achieved by capturing 2-8 images of 5 MP resolution. The best thing is, the originals are stored, so you can edit as and when you want to achieve very different results.
The gif creator, Nokia’s Cinemagraph app has given me loads of moments of joy.
There’s not much to explain about this app – capture images, select areas you want to be in motion, set the motion speed, and loop preferences. The end result will more often than not be a lot of laughter.
Again, something that should have been in the stock camera app, but the gap has been filled by Nokia. The interface is straightforward, with helpful on-screen instructions.
Other Nokia apps
Nokia Music – Nokia Music has been one of Nokia’s prime differentiators since the early days of Lumia series. Coupled with Mix Radio for unlimited streaming of music, Nokia also offers its Music Unlimited service, wherein you get 1 year of that with every Lumia 820 (and 920). I’ve been an NMU subscriber for over a year now, and that is where I get all my music from.
Strangely enough, Nokia Music app is also way better than Microsoft’s Xbox Music app, in terms of speed, UI etc. Apart from that, if the singer/artist of the current track you are playing has a social profile, you can swipe to the left and view the latest posts from the said artist. Swipe once more, and the app shows its recommendations.
Nokia also adds a music equalizer on its Lumia phones, something which other Windows Phones lack.
Photobeamer – Open the app, scan the QR code on Photobeamer.com, and flick through the photos from the app. In a few moments, your photos will be on the big screen. It’s much more joyful than I make it sound.
The HERE suite of navigation apps – HERE Maps, Drive+, City Lens pair up to provide a really good experience. Like always, it’s all for lifetime, and free. You can download maps for offline, voice-guided navigation, which, in my opinion, makes Nokia’s offering that much better.
The General stuff
A lot has remained constant in the Windows Phone side of the smartphone industry. You still cannot lock the orientation (it’s coming in Update 3), there’s still no proper notifications system, there’s still no File Manager, among other things. That doesn’t mean the OS is not good. In fact, if you’re heading out to buy your first smartphone, I would rather recommend you a Windows Phone than an Android or iOS device, because of the sheer simplicity and performance.
Coming back to the Lumia 1020 – the phone flies. There’s clear advantage of more RAM, but Nokia’s also done very good on the touch sensitivity of the screen. I’m not a sucker for buzzwords, but the PureMotion HD+ display is very good, both in its sensitivity, and clarity. Nokia’s CBD tech is one of the best out there.
The battery life isn’t a lot to write home about, but it will definitely last you a day of usage. Constant Twitter/Facebook usage, two Google accounts and one Outlook account set to pull emails every hour and push, respectively. Throw in a dozen of images captured with the phone, and an hour and a half of web browsing in the mix, you will be fine until you’re back home in the evening.
This is a very good farewell device from the Finns. Sure, there are a few more phones that have been launched, but none of them will best the Lumia 1020 in terms of the camera, its main attraction (and the main attraction of flagships from the company these days). The camera is excellent for all sorts of people out there – the average Joe who can’t be bothered about Focus, ISO, or the flashlight or the lighting conditions, or the photography nerds who want to tinker with these settings to achieve better-than-Auto results. Nokia’s got a great Camera Grip accessory too, for those who want it.
The last time Nokia launched a very good device, it was the end of the MeeGo-Harmattan platform. Later, when
the PureView tech was complete, it was the end of the Symbian platform (808 PureView). The Lumia 1020 isn’t the end of Windows Phone platform yet, but it’s probably the last best Nokia smartphone we’ll be seeing. If you’re a Nokia fan, go get it.
The price currently is hovering around ₹45,000. That’s definitely a bit on the pricier side, but the camera remains unmatched. The deciding factor is definitely whether or not you prefer camera more, even though Windows Phone has picked up pace on the apps side.