Steve's Conclusion

Steve's SnapShot
  • Windows Phone 8 OS
  • 1.5GHz dual-core processor
  • 2GB RAM
  • 32GB internal storage
  • 7GB Free Cloud Storage
  • 4G LTE, 3G, 2G
  • 4.5-inch WXGA Touch Display
    • 1280 x 768
    • 334 ppi
  • Main Camera (Rear)
    • 41-megapixel BSI 1/1.5-inch image sensor
    • 3x Digital Zoom
    • f/2.2
    • 26mm
    • Optical Image Stabilization
    • Pure View
    • Xenon Flash
    • 15cm Min Focus Range
    • Full HD 1080p Video Recording
    • ISO 100-3200
  • Photography Apps
    • Panorama
    • Bing Vision
    • Cinemagraph
    • Creative Studio
    • Nokia Storyteller
  • 1.2MP Secondary Camera (1280 x 960 pixels)
  • Office
    • Excel / Word / PowerPoint / OneNote
  • Touch UI
  • XBox-Live Hub
  • DirectX 11
  • GPS
  • Bluetooth 4.0
  • Wi-Fi
  • NFC
  • 3.5mm Audio Jack
  • Micro USB
  • Pros
    • High resolution photos look great
    • Offers both high resolution and low resolution photos recorded at the same time; low-res photos are good for sharing via social networks or via MMS
    • Low light performance is very good with minimal noise
    • Built-in optical image stabilization helps in low light photography
    • Compares favorably to many point-n-shoot cameras in terms of image quality
    • Some limited manual control options
    • Sharp-looking thin device
    • Very good battery life
    • Movies are easy to shoot
    • 32GB of internal memory
    • Maximum shutter speed is up to 4 seconds, one of the best performances in a smartphone camera
    • Sleeve accessory includes large right-hand grip, tripod mount, and larger shutter button
    • No optical zoom lens (as with most smartphones)
    • Shot to shot delays and shutter lag is problematic
    • Start-up to first photo recorded is slower than average for smartphone cameras
    • Touchscreen isn't a full HD resolution model
    • Display has only 15:9 aspect ratio, rather than 16:9
    • Pixel density on display screen trails high end of current smartphone market
    • Playback mode works in an odd manner
    • Windows Phone 8 OS isn't quite as easy to use as some other smartphone operating system options
    • Use of multiple apps, or "lenses," to gain access to different features is confusing
    • No slot for adding a memory card
    • Not enough manual controls for more experienced photographers
    Timing Test Results
    • Power up to first image captured from complete shutdown = 41.1 seconds
    • Power up to first image captured from sleep mode = 9.8 seconds
    • Shutter lag with autofocus = about 1.0 seconds
    • Shutter lag with autofocus and flash = about 1.6 seconds
    • Shot to shot delay w/o flash, no review = 6.9 seconds
    • Shot to shot delay w/o flash, minimum review time on = 8.1 seconds
    • Shot to shot delay w/flash, no review = 7.1 seconds
    • Shot to shot delay w/flash, minimum review time on = 8.4 seconds
    All tests were taken using internal memory, Auto mode, 38MP + 5MP JPEG image quality, ISO Auto, Flash off and all other settings at factory defaults unless noted otherwise.
    Bottom Line
    The Nokia Lumia 1020 smartphone camera is almost certainly the best smartphone camera on the market currently. It produces high quality images that will easily surpass the output of nearly all smartphone cameras ... and even some fixed lens digital cameras. If you're an advanced photographer, the Lumia 1020 probably won't produce images quite good enough to replace your advanced fixed lens camera, and it certainly can't replace your interchangeable lens camera. But if you own a beginner-level point-n-shoot model, the Lumia 1020's high resolution images will impress you. The Nokia Lumia 1020's is a bit of a slow performer, runs Windows Phone 8 OS, and lacks a full HD touchscreen display, but the strong camera image quality makes up for these drawbacks.
    Pick This Up If...
    The key component you want in a smartphone is a built-in camera that's able to create high-quality images in almost any type of shooting scenario, and you don't mind some performance slowdowns.
    I'm not afraid to admit I'm a bit of a skeptic about most things. So when I read about the product announcement of the Nokia Lumia 1020 smartphone that claimed to feature a 41-megapixel camera, I was expecting a device that was more of a marketing gimmick than an actual high-resolution camera.

    After having a chance to test this smartphone camera, my skepticism has waned. There's little doubt that Nokia has created the best smartphone camera currently on the market when it comes to creating great image quality.

    To be fair the 41-megapixels of resolution Nokia claims to record with the Lumia 1020 is a little bit of a marketing gimmick. Most of the time you'll be using the Nokia Pro Cam app (what Nokia refers to as a "lens"). Nokia Pro Cam gives you the option of recording 5-megapixel photos or both a 5MP photo and a high-resolution photo of either 38MP or 34MP, depending on the aspect ratio chosen. Both photos will be saved in this mode, and this is the mode I would recommend using the majority of the time. The 5MP photos look OK, but it's the quality of the high resolution photos that truly set the Lumia 1020 apart.

    The Nokia Pro Cam app is the only "lens" on this smartphone that provides the ability to shoot the high resolution photos. The special effect apps or the Nokia Smart Cam app cannot record photos larger than 5-megapixels in resolution. The Nokia Pro Cam also provides the ability to make basic changes to the smartphone camera's settings, such as changing ISO or white balance.

    Based on the large resolution numbers in this unit's specification list, if you're expecting the Lumia 1020 to create images that are double or triple the quality of other smartphones and digital cameras, you're going to be disappointed. In fact at first glance the Lumia 1020 high resolution Nokia Pro Cam images aren't going to provide an overwhelming difference in image quality versus the 5MP images ... at least when viewed at normal sizes on a computer screen.

    Once you magnify those high resolution images though, you're going to be impressed with the smartphone camera's sharpness and accuracy. When magnified, the Nokia Lumia 1020's high resolution images are impressive and are noticeably better than those created by other smartphone cameras and by some basic digital cameras. The color quality, sharpness, and exposure levels are very strong with this smartphone camera.

    This means that you can use the Lumia 1020 to make prints of a good size while maintaining a good quality. This is rare among smartphone cameras, especially models that are as thin as this unit.

    While you'll want to have this unit's high resolution photos available for potential printing, one advantage to having two different sizes of each photo is that it's easier to share the small resolution photos through the smartphone's wireless connection to a social networking site. Trying to upload a 34MP or 38MP photo through a Wi-Fi or cellular network connection would take a long time and drain the unit's battery more quickly, so having two photos of different sizes available is a great option.

    To collect its above-average photo quality versus its peers, Nokia has included the largest image sensor that you'll find in a smartphone camera, measuring 1/1.5 inches. Keeping in mind that the size of the image sensor plays a prominent role in determining image quality, a basic point-n-shoot digital camera will offer a 1/2.3-inch image sensor and average smartphone camera image sensors are even smaller. Some mid-range fixed-lens digital cameras will include a 1/1.7-inch image sensor.

    I certainly wouldn't choose to carry the Lumia 1020 as my only camera for advanced photography, as this smartphone camera cannot match the image quality of a DSLR or a mid-range fixed-lens camera like the Canon G16, even though the G16 carries 12MP of resolution in a 1/1.7-inch image sensor. The Lumia 1020 cannot consistently match a camera like the G16 in quality of lens, speed of performance, optical zoom capability, or overall image quality.

    However, I wouldn't hesitate to carry the Lumia 1020 instead of a beginner-level digital camera, thereby avoiding the need to carry a separate smartphone and digital camera. This Nokia device definitely creates images that can complete favorably with many basic point-n-shoot digital cameras, at least when you're making use of this model's high resolution images.

    Its 5MP images are of a nice quality too and will often surpass the quality found with other smartphone cameras, but it's the high resolution images that will give you images that can be printed at desirable sizes and quality.

    This model includes optical image stabilization, macro focusing as close as 6 inches, and good low light performance with minimal noise at least to ISO 800. The ability to shoot low light photos is further enhanced by the Lumia 1020's maximum shutter speed of 4 seconds, another rare feature on a smartphone camera. Chromatic aberration wasn't really a problem in most photos either.

    The one area where this unit struggles a little bit in terms of image quality is in its focus accuracy. Occasionally the Nokia Lumia 1020 will miss finding the exact focus point that you want, leaving a key portion of the image a little blurry. Still this is an occasional mistake, and the majority of the time this smartphone camera creates great images.

    Shooting full HD video with this model is pretty easy, and it creates high quality movies. You can use this model's 3x digital zoom with movies, and while the zoomed-in results aren't perfectly sharp, the digital zoom option found here works better and produces clearer images than what's available with most smartphone cameras. Unfortunately you cannot record still images while shooting video.

    As with all smartphone cameras the Nokia Lumia 1020 is held back by its lack of an optical zoom lens when you're comparing it to a digital camera. Even the most basic point-n-shoot camera has a optical zoom lens available. But Nokia did a nice job including some other digital camera-like features with the Lumia 1020 that will make this smartphone feel a bit more like using a camera.

    Nokia gave this unit a button on the right side panel that can serve as a dedicated shutter button. You also can use an on-screen shutter button with the Lumia 1020, just as you would with most smartphone cameras, but the dedicated shutter button feels like a more natural way to control the smartphone's camera shutter.

    Additionally the Lumia 1020's body has a slightly extended area on the back of the smartphone -- almost a lens housing -- that gives this unit a camera-like look. Even with the slight extension for the lens housing, this unit measures just 0.41 inches in thickness, so you shouldn't worry about whether the Lumia 1020 and its lens housing will fit in your pocket comfortably.

    You can slide the specially made Nokia Camera Grip over the smartphone's body to add a wide right-hand grip, a tripod mount, and a larger shutter button. (Nokia didn't include this component, which is available as an add-on accessory for $79, with my review unit for testing.)

    Flash photos are of a good quality with this model, as the built-in Xenon flash is able to provide plenty of light even in extremely dark scenes. The flash unit is located just above the lens, which is a good position to provide optimal quality.

    I tested the all-black version of the Nokia Lumia 1020, and it's a sharp-looking unit with a matte black finish on the back. The back panel is constructed of a polycarbonate material. The rounded edges make it easy to hold this camera in the palm of your hand. However, I really like the yellow version of this model, which provides a distinct look not found with many other smartphones ... or digital cameras for that matter. There's also a white version.

    One disappointing aspect of the Lumia 1020's body is its touchscreen display, which isn't a full HD resolution screen. It has a 15:9 aspect ratio and measures 4.5 inches diagonally, which trails many display screens currently available in the smartphone market. This screen also has less pixel density than others in the market.

    This smartphone runs the Windows Phone 8 OS, which will disappoint some users. I certainly didn't find the Nokia Lumia 1020's interface to be as easy to use as some other options, such as the Apple iPhone or the Android OS on a Samsung smartphone. This model's Playback feature is a bit difficult to navigate for example. Still the Windows interface is adequate once you work with it enough to gain some familiarity.

    You shouldn't expect a lot of "fun" features with this model as you'd find on many currently available smartphone cameras and beginner-level digital cameras. You're extremely limited in the special effects you can apply to your photos as you shoot them, and Nokia didn't include many editing functions either.

    The Lumia 1020's camera function is an average-to-below-average performer in terms of speed for a smartphone camera. There's some shutter lag, and shot to shot delays are below average. When you're shooting high resolution photos you may notice an even slower performance versus shooting 5MP images alone. The Lumia 1020 has a dual-core 1.5 GHz Snapdragon S4 processor from Qualcomm. The performance speed of this smartphone camera is an area where it trails standalone digital cameras pretty significantly.

    Battery power is very good with this smartphone, allowing you to operate the unit in a normal manner -- both photography and cell phone functions -- for an entire day without needing a recharge.

    Nokia's secondary front-facing camera doesn't provide the ground-breaking clarity of the Lumia 1020's primary camera, as the secondary camera only offers 1.2-megapixels of resolution and up to 720p HD video. Still that's not a significant concern, because the primary camera is so powerful that you rarely will even notice the front-facing camera is included. Additionally Nokia strangely chose to only give you access to the front-facing camera through a menu command, which involves an extra step or two versus having a front-facing camera icon on the touchscreen, so you're likely to access the front-facing camera less often.

    Bottom Line - The Nokia Lumia 1020 offers the best smartphone camera in the market currently in terms of its image quality. When you shoot at the highest resolution the Lumia 1020 has available, up to 38-megapixels, you're going to find sharp images that you can print at desirable sizes, which is pretty rare for a smartphone camera. At the same time the Lumia 1020 will record a 5MP image, which is perfect for sharing via social networking. Having two photos recorded simultaneously will occupy memory more quickly than with other smartphones, which could be a bit of a problem as the Lumia 1020 cannot accept a memory card to boost its 32GB of internal memory. The Nokia Lumia 1020 isn't going to break any speed records when compared to smartphones or digital cameras, as it has shutter lag problems and shot to shot delays. When coupled with the Lumia 1020's slower-than-average start-up time, you may miss some spontaneous photos because of this camera's sluggish performance. I was disappointed to find this unit didn't carry a full HD resolution touchscreen display, which is a popular feature on most high-end smartphones in the market today. It's a little tough to use this unit's Playback feature because of a clunky interface. And even though this review focuses on the Nokia Lumia 1020's camera features, some people may be disappointed with its smartphone features, including the fact that it only runs the Windows Phone 8 OS and is only available through one major cell network, AT&T. Still, the Lumia 1020's camera is so impressive at creating high-resolution images versus other smartphone cameras that living with its drawbacks may be well worth it for those looking to purchase a smartphone that can take the place of a basic point-n-shoot camera, allowing you to carry just one device.

    Visitors of Steves can visit the stores below for real-time pricing and availability. You can also find hot, soon to expire online offers on a variety of cameras and accessories at our very own Camera Deals page.