Nokia has poured a good chunk of time, money and effort into perfecting its smartphone camera technology, and its latest effort, the 41-megapixel Lumia 1020 PureView, could just be the best camera phone out their right now.
When we first heard about that camera, we were a little trepidatious: Nokia's last dedicated PureView smartphone, the Nokia 808 PureView, also rocked an amazing 41-megapixel snapper, but was crushed by the unwieldy Symbian OS and an intrusive thick-and-heavy design. Thankfully Nokia appears to have learned its lesson. The Lumia 1020 PureView boasts a slender design similar to the sleek Lumia 925, and full Windows Phone 8.
Lost a little weight
The 4.5-inch Nokia Lumia 1020 rocks a typical Nokia design with rounded edges and a soft-touch body and comes in three colours: black, white and a rather radioactive neon yellow. The black and white models are nicely conservative if you’d rather go with a traditional look, while the yellow is perfect for anyone who wants to stand out from the crowd. It’s a similar size and heft to the Lumia 925, a great improvement on the 808 PureView, with only a slightly jutting camera lens at the rear to ruin the slender build.
The Lumia 1020 (left) compared to the Lumia 925 (right). Not much difference...
The Lumia 1020’s main selling point is that impressive 41-megapixel camera, which takes photos packed with incredible detail. Nokia’s launch event infamously included a shot of a haystack, and the presenter zoomed right in to find a needle buried within – that’s the level we’re talking about here. The incredible detail levels of the camera means that digital zooming is finally a viable option to get close-up shots, without reducing everything to pixellated blurs. You can even digitally zoom on your subject and take a photo, then zoom back out of the final photo to get the full picture.
Optical image stabilisation keeps your photos crisp and blur-free, while the f/2.2 lens can draw in plenty of light for brighter evening and interior shots. There’s a Xenon flash too, for when things get too dark. But we’re more impressed by the flexible manual controls, typically found on dedicated cameras, which allow you to tweak a shot until it’s just the way you want it. For instance, shutter speed and ISO control allows you to adjust for the lighting conditions, and you also get to alter white balance and contrast levels, all via an intuitive on-screen wheel that is overlaid on top of your shot.
You get a few other cool features typically found on DSLR cameras too, such as the ability to take two photos at once, one high-res and one low-res. This may sound pointless at first, but it’s ideal for instantly sharing snaps online. You keep the high-res photo for your collection, while the low-res image can be uploaded to the likes of Twitter or Facebook without killing your data allowance. There's also a neat four-second exposure setting, which allows you to take funky night time shots by sucking up tons of light.
Nokia has also crafted a camera shell that can be snapped around the Lumia 1020 PureView like a case, adding extra features such as a proper camera grip and tripod support. It obviously makes the phone quite chunky, so it’s best used only when you’re in full-on tourist mode, where the more comfortable handling is really appreciated. Best of all, the case contains a secondary battery to massively expand on the number of photos or length of video you can take. There’s a handy power meter on the side of the device, so you know when you’re running low.
The Lumia 1020 housed in its camera casing. The dots on the bottom give remaining battery power for the secondary cell.
The Lumia 1020 PureView’s 4.5-inch screen is just as sharp as other premium models such as the Lumia 925, with a 768 x 1280 resolution. It’s bright and vibrant too, so your images really come to life. A dual-core Snapdragon processor and 2GB of RAM keeps everything running smoothly, even when you’re taking multiple high-res photos. As for internal storage, you get 32GB built in, which should allow you to take thousands of photos.
First impressions are good. We haven’t had a chance to test out battery life, or really use the phone as our own, but the PureView camera looks to be one of the best snappers to grace a smartphone and the rest of Nokia’s design is as solid as ever. We’ll be bringing you a full review in the next issue, out November 14.