Nokia Lumia 1020 in-depth review - A 41-megapixel Super Snapper

Look and feel

The Nokia Lumia 1020 is chunky by smartphone standards, but considering the 41-megapixel lens, we’re impressed that it’s a similar size to the Lumia 925. We like the neon yellow colour, which certainly catches the eye.

 

Ease of Use

Windows Phone 8 is as user-friendly as always, while the Lumia 1020’s 4.5-inch screen is spacious enough for easy web browsing and app play.

 

Features

That 41-megapixel camera is the obvious highlight of the Lumia 1020, with some excellent built-in features and manual controls, although the auto mode could be stronger. You get the usual extra Nokia Here apps, but the Windows Phone apps store is still barren.

 

Performance

Although the dual-core Snapdragon processor doesn’t compare to the latest Android devices, it’s enough to comfortably run Windows Phone 8. Our main bugbear is the length of time needed to process high-res images taken by the camera, giving several seconds between snaps.

 

Battery life

A respectable outing for the Lumia 1020, which lasts a full day if you aren’t hammering the camera. Expect five or so hours of video playback.

 Nokia Lumia 1020 Review - A 41-megapixel Super Snapper
3.5

Review by Sunetra Chakravati,9/19/2013 10:32:35 AM

6

out of 10

Performance

7

out of 5

Look and feel

8

out of 5

Ease of use

8

out of 5

Features

7

out of 5

Battery life

Pros:

Strong camera and features; Bright, colourful screen; Neat and colourful design

Cons:

Auto mode not as strong as we’d hoped; Pauses between shots; Lack of decent apps

Nokia's last attempt at a smartphone packing a 41-megapixel camera, the Nokia 808 PureView, was disappointingly crushed by the unwieldy Symbian OS and an intrusive thick-and-heavy design – a real shame, given how amazing that camera was. Thankfully Nokia has learned its lesson and the spiritual successor, the Lumia 1020 PureView, boasts a slender design and full Windows Phone 8. But can the camera stand up to other smartphone giants, and is the phone part of it any good?

 

Nokia Lumia 1020 review

 

Slimmer and sleeker

 

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 yellow flavour. 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. We love how you get a pair of neon yellow earphones bundled, which are bound to attract a few looks as you skip down the street.

 

Nokia Lumia 1020 review

 

The Lumia 1020 is a similar size and heft to the Lumia 925, a massive improvement on the 808 PureView. At 168g it’s lighter than it looks, comfortable to wield as either a phone or a camera, and only a slightly jutting lens impedes on the otherwise slender build. We love the standard curved design and soft-touch feel, and the screen is tough enough to withstand a few knocks.

 

Nokia Lumia 1020 review

The Nokia Lumia 1020 (left) is only marginally thicker than the Lumia 925 (right), courtesy of that stick-out lens

 

Sharp shooter

 

The Lumia 1020’s main selling point is that impressive 41-megapixel camera, so we might as well dive straight into its abilities. Most smartphones rock a more modest eight or 13-megapixel lens these days, so what difference does the 41-megapixel Carl Zeiss lens make? Well, it basically means you can take high-res photos that are packed with 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.

 

Nokia Lumia 1020 reviewThat infamous 'needle in a haystack' shot

 

The incredible detail levels of the camera means that digital zooming is finally a viable option to get close-up shots, without reducing the scene to a pixellated blur. Digitally zooming doesn’t crop out the rest of the scene either, it merely gives you an idea of how sharp an area of your photo will be. That means you can zoom back out of your final photo again to get the full picture.

 

Nokia Lumia 1020 reviewThe kind of crisp and colourful shot that a professional photographer can get out of the Lumia 1020. Copyright Weber & Bailey 2013

 

Of course, it’s not just the megapixels that count. Smartphone cameras also employ a variety of techniques to produce quality images, such as Optical Image Stabilisation, which keeps your photos crisp and blur-free. The Lumia 1020’s OIS is highly effective: try taking a picture while jerking around on a bus or boat and the resulting image will most likely be miraculously sharp.

 

Nokia Lumia 1020 reviewAn example of a surprisingly sharp shot, taken at an awkward angle from the top of a moving bus

 

The f/2.2 lens can draw in a lot of light for brighter evening and interior shots too, although we found the auto mode didn’t make the most of this. The snaps we took at the launch event, for instance, were noticeably darker than the same photos taken with LG’s G2 phone, or occasionally had a misty quality. We had to play with the manual controls to get a brighter shot. Thankfully there’s a powerful Xenon flash for when things get a little too dark.

 

Nokia Lumia 1020 review

An example of a surprisingly dark photo taken with auto mode. A quick fiddle with the manual controls sorted it out, resulting in a much brighter shot.

 

Load up the Nokia Pro Cam app and you’ll find the flexible manual controls, which allow you to tweak a shot until it’s just the way you want it. For instance, ISO control allows you to adjust for various lighting conditions, and you also get to alter white balance, shutter speed and contrast levels, all via an intuitive on-screen wheel that is overlaid on top of your shot. Don’t worry if you’re new to photography either, as the Nokia tutorials do a great job of teaching you about each variable, and you can set some or all of them to auto if you like.

 

Nokia Lumia 1020 review

 

Pro Cam mode gives you a few other cool features typically found on DSLR cameras, 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 (you need to hook up to a PC to edit and share these big boys), while the low-res image can be uploaded to the likes of Twitter or Facebook without killing your data allowance.

 

Our main problem with Pro Cam mode is the length of time needed per shot – there’s a clear second between pushing the shutter button and taking the shot, then another couple of seconds as the photo is processed. Not ideal if you’re after an action shot. Still, Nokia does throw in its standard Smart Cam mode too, which takes several shots all at once and allows you to select your favourite or combine them all into funky montages.

 

 

Bright and beautiful

 

The Lumia 1020’s 4.5-inch screen is one of the larger Nokia displays, exactly the same size as the fantastic Lumia 925 screen. Thankfully the Lumia 1020’s display is just as sharp as the 925’s too, with a 768 x 1280 resolution giving 334 pixels-per-inch. That’s crisp enough to preview your photos, and also it does the job for HD video, even if it doesn’t quite show off the high-res visuals like other premium handsets such as the Sony Xperia Z1 and the LG G2. Colours are vibrantly reproduced, leaping off the screen to bring your images to life, and the panel is also bright enough to counter strong glare.

 

Nokia Lumia 1020 review

 

As with all Nokia smartphones, the Lumia 1020 runs Windows Phone 8. It’s a simple and user-friendly OS that has plenty of neat features hidden away beneath the live tiles, including the excellent Kid’s Corner which allows you to control exactly what apps your kids can access. Our main problem with Windows Phone is the barren apps store, which is still leagues behind Google Play and the Apple App Store.

 

If you’re content simply browsing the web and enjoying your own music and movies, it isn’t an issue. However, the lack of first-party apps is restrictive, many of the third-party versions are simply terrible, and if you want to while away your commute with games, the choice is incredibly limited. Nokia has sweetened the deal a little with its rather fine Here suite (Maps and Drive+) as well as bonuses like its free-to-use Music service, but we still long for our Android mobiles when rocking a Windows Phone device.

 

Nokia Lumia 1020 review

 

A dual-core Snapdragon processor and 2GB of RAM keeps everything running smoothly, even when you’re enjoying HD video – our only frustrations came from the image processing. Battery life is also quite good, with a day of use more than possible if you aren’t constantly hammering the camera. We managed around five hours of video streaming, a decent result. As for internal storage, you get either 32GB or 64GB built in (64GB models exclusive to O2), which gives you enough space for thousands of high-res photos as well as your apps, games and other media.

 

 

The verdict

Nokia’s Lumia 1020 is a much-improved version of the 808 Pureview, featuring a surprisingly slender body (even if it’s still a little chunky) and strong 41-megapixel snapper. Only the slightly dark auto mode and long processing times detract from a highly capable camera. The colourful and bright 4.5-inch screen is also a highlight, and Windows Phone 8 is as friendly as ever even if the apps store is rather barren.

 

Nokia Lumia 1020 review

 

Accessory Review: Nokia Lumia 1020 camera shell

 

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.