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PHOTOGRAPH BY: Robert Lachman / Los Angeles Times

Huntington Beach pier photographed with the Nokia Lumia 1020 Pro Camera app

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Robert Lachman / Los Angeles Times

Cropped version of the building at the end of the Huntington Beach pier.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Robert Lachman / Los Angeles Times

The IKEA store in Costa Mesa photographed with the Nokia Lumia 120 Pro Cam app

Cropped version of the store sign.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Robert Lacman / Los Angeles Times

Downtown Los Angeles photographed with the Nokia Lumia 1020 with the Pro Cam app.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Robert Lachman / Los Angeles Times

Cropped version showing the detail of the lamps.

Bolsa Chica wetlands photographed with the Nokia Lumia 1020 and the Pro Cam app.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Robert Lachman / Los Angeles Times

Cropped version of the sign on the trail.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Robert Lachman / Los Angeles Times

Grand Central Market in Los Angeles photographed with the Nokia Lumia 1020 and the Pro Cam app

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Robert Lachman / Los Angeles times

Cropped version of sign

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Robert Lachman / Los Angeles Times

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Review: Nokia Lumia 1020

The Nokia Lumia 1020 has some impressive stats. The most notable to the consumer is the whopping 41megapixels. The smart camera mantra includes the tag line, “Take Professional-Looking Photos With the Nokia Pro Camera.”

It sounds great, who doesn’t want a small phone in their pocket or purse which takes photographs like a professional photographer? Today more photographs are taken with phones than any other categories of camera. This is a trend that doesn’t seem likely to change in the future.

swing600-2pxI was skeptical at first. Packing tons of pixels onto a sensor is a great sales pitch, but it doesn’t always translate into quality. Plenty of camera manufacturers have tried this strategy without much success. The size of sensor usually makes the most difference, just ask any photographer who is shooting with a expensive DLSR full-frame camera.

Of course, it’s a matter of combining high-quality technology with convenience. This translates into marrying the quality of a DSLR or compact camera with a nice zoom lens into a very small form factor.  As a professional photo editor and photographer, I’m not going to give up my DSLR with the choice of lens and larger sensor, but I do want to carry the highest quality smartphone camera considering how many photographs I take with it.

The Nokia Lumia 1020 tries to bridge the gap. I tested it out giving it a run against an iPhone 4s and 5, and my Canon S95 compact point-and-shoot camera.

Los Angeles Times technology reporter Salvador Rodriguez recently reviewed the Nokia Lumia 1020 smartphone, so I decided to take a closer look at the smartphone’s 41-megapixel camera.

Comparison2Nokia advertises that you can capture full-resolution photos, zoom into details and reframe them as new images and share them with friends. It’s an interesting concept and Nokia’s answer to a high-quality optical zoom.

Most professional photographer’s DSLR’s or expensive new 4/3-style cameras would cringe at the thought. I mean, you don’t pay thousands for a camera and then crop to zoom in. It would be counterintuitive. You would just buy more glass and carry a longer telephoto lens, but the smartphone market is built on ease of use and budget along with keeping up with super-fast-changing technology.

While more photographs are taken everyday using smartphones than any other category of camera, most snapshots are taken on auto mode. Most of the time, I expect my smartphone to do the work for me. I guess I’m just getting spoiled.

This was my first time using the Windows mobile software and it was a steep learning curve for me with the Nokia phone. I solved this problem by watching  several well-produced Nokia instructional videos on YouTube. This really helped since, I’m an iPhone user.

I headed out to the Huntington Beach pier to test the Nokia Pro Camera app which produced very sharp images. I was amazed at the detail as I zoomed into the buildings at the end of the pier. It was a simple matter of clicking on the crop tool, which allowed me to zoom into the photo and tilt the photograph before pressing the save button. You can go back and recrop or go back to the original at any time.

For most of my test, I clicked the top right button similar to using a regular camera in the horizontal mode, which turned on the Nokia Pro Cam and then snapped 5-megapixel and 38-megapixel images of my subject. The setting allowed me to shoot at a 4:3 or 16:9 aspect ratio.

I did notice a long shutter lag on the Nokia, because it snaps at 5 megapixels for sharing and a high-resolution 38 megapixel image. When I photographed hockey, the action seemed to pass me by and the lag time seemed very noticeable. My iPhone shutter appeared to be much quicker to the punch.

downtownandsurf600pxThe first thing I noticed was how saturated the images looked compared with my iPhone. Also the color-balance setting on automatic was more natural and cleaner on the iPhone. The colors were much more natural-looking after I imported the high-resolution files to my Apple computer using the Nokia Photo Transfer app. The large full-resolution images showed a great deal of detail and sharpness. Making large prints should be no problem with such large files.

In the Nokia ads they also say they have reinvented the zoom, stating that you will be taking your photography to a new level with manual control of shutter speed, ISO, white balance and exposure compensation.

The Nokia Pro Camera app does give you plenty of control. You can pick from a selection of individual controls at the top of the screen or get all of them with a swipe left from the shutter button. It seemed like the shutter speed was the feature I used the most. You can use it to stop-action or use a slower speed to get some motion blur. Another nice feature was the exposure compensation dial to get a precise image. Other features included flash on and off and focus.

This camera is based on the Windows operating system, so the amount of available apps is limited for now including a couple of my favorites: Instagram and Snapseed. This was limiting for me and will be a deciding factor for many.

You also have the option to use the Nokia Smart Cam, which created some of my most interesting images. When you press the button the camera takes 10 quick images and then gives you the option of: best shot, action shot, motion focus, change faces and/or remove a moving object.

My favorite was action shot, which lets you produce a single photograph with your choice of which images you combine into a multiple exposure. It was a little difficult because you need to hold the camera steady without moving with the action and then pressing the shutter just when your subject enters the frame. Also, it depends how fast the action is for the spacing and look of the photograph.

It was fun using motion focus, which blurred the background and allowed me to pick one of the 10 different photos by swiping across. It’s a little tough to explain, so you can check it out in the video above.

Nokia Lumia 1020 stats:

1/1.5 inch 41 MP PureView sensor with Optical image stabilization
Xenon flash
Carl Zeiss Tessar lens
F/2.2 aperture
JPEG images
4.5-inch screen display (1280 x 768)
Dual-core 1.5 GHz processor
Windows Phone 8 software
Video resolution of 1080p (Full HD, 1920 x 1080) at 30 FPS

Included photography apps: Nokia Pro Camera, Nokia Smart Camera, Creative Studio,
Cinemagraph, and Panorama.

nokiacanon350pxAlso available for the phone is the Nokia Camera Grip. The accessory gives the camera more of the feel of a compact or DSLR camera and includes a standard 1/4-20 tripod mount and additional battery power.

In my test images, the quality of the Nokia Lumia 1020 looked better than the iPhone 5 when I cropped the photographs, but my compact camera’s optical zoom produced slightly higher results. If you have a need for making large photographic prints or need to crop photos with your smartphone, this may be a good choice. Also, the Smart Camera app, which combines 10 multiple exposures into one image, was an impressive feature. It may be a tough choice for many because of the small selection of available apps.

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Read more reviews and photography tips by Robert Lachman


  1. August 26, 2013, 5:35 am

    Great review – non bias and elaborate. Very interesting phone – and I have to agree the camera has remained extremely important in the phone – I use it continuously as it is very handy. The Lumia is very well designed.

  2. August 26, 2013, 6:15 am

    You did not mention the fact that you needed more light for the little canon. The aperture is 2 steps darker, about 5,6.

  3. August 26, 2013, 11:04 am

    Robert if you like instagram you may download from the windows phone 8 app store "6tag" it is a full instagram app for windows phone 8

  4. August 27, 2013, 7:10 pm

    How is this as an actual phone internet apps and calling/texting ?

    By: laken
  5. August 28, 2013, 7:43 pm


    I would like to take the time and tell you that I also have this phone. While it may be lacking in applications due to the newer style operating system, this phone, to me is very unique. I like the fact that this phone has a twist to it that most manufacturers do not lean towards and that is to the camera. I feel that it makes up in its lack of applications with the amount of fun that I have shooting video and taking pictures that not even my cheap Wal-Mart cameras cannot even imagine taking ( if cameras could feel )

    I would like to get myself that case that you have for the phone too. Makes it look like it will be a lot easier to use the camera side of the phone.

    Some personal things that I do and do not like about the phone:

    Likes: The phones size ( I am a man and have big hands so the phone's size is a nice fit for me )
    The color of my phone is yellow as too is it's case. Gives the phone a sporty look to much like a nice car. The O.S. of the phone is another thing I like. I have bored myself of android and that of the iPhone. Has a nice new feel to it and I like the tile options that it has. Plus it easily syncs to my windows 8 computer.

    Dislikes: Not very many apps ( can live with that though ) A lot of apps seem to have some issues running on the phone as well, needs more buyers so that the feed back can be used to better all the applications and to create new ones as well.

    Over all I have had an awesome experience with the phone, no true complaints here.

    By: Erich W.

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