Review – Nokia Lumia 1020

Jordan O'Brien
October 10, 2013

The Lumia 1020 is the phone that we had all be waiting for — we had seen Nokia announce a phone with a 41 megapixel camera before, but it was running on the dead Symbian OS. Now however, Nokia has one running on its OS of choice, Windows Phone.

We have been itching to get our hands on this phone ever since we saw it in July, and we finally have, with O2 UK’s exclusive 64GB version — you won’t be able to get this on any other UK network.

That’s a lot of numbers for you, 64GB worth of storage and a 41 megapixel camera, but is it all just to sound impressive, is it actually any good?

Well as it turns out, yes. The Lumia 1020 is one of the best phones we’ve seen from anyone, and is certainly the best to come from Nokia.

It’s not just a phone with a camera, but no this is a fully fledged cameraphone — one that blows all other camera phones away.

Samsung has gone the way of putting a phone into a Samsung Galaxy Camera, creating a rather bulky phone experience but gives you optical zoom. Whilst Nokia has packed in the largest sensor on a smartphone with a high megapixel count, meaning you don’t even need optical zoom.

[alert type=alert-blue ]Design[/alert]

The Lumia 1020 fits in 1/1.5-inch (2/3-inch) image sensor, which is the largest sensor on a smartphone currently on sale, it’s slightly smaller than the 808 PureView which had a 1/1.2-inch sensor, but the PureView technology has been upgraded, meaning you should get better photos.

The smaller sensor size was put in so Nokia could shrink down the size of the phone, which many had complained about on the Lumia 920. Despite a much larger sensor, the Lumia 1020 isn’t as thick as the 920, at 10.4mm compared to the 920’s 10.7mm.

Of course, the Lumia 1020 does have a rather large hump on the back, which means that it’s total thickness actually goes up to 14.5mm, but it makes no apologies for that.

We’re not going to complain about how thick or heavy the phone is, because whilst some people prefer a smaller device, this is a manageable size and it feels very premium — despite being a polycarbonate plastic.

On the Lumia 925 Nokia had moved the micro USB slot to the top of the device, which means you could still use the phone easily when plugged in, but on the 1020, it’s back at the bottom. It’s not the only thing at the bottom though, with a rather powerful speaker accompanying it.

The left hand side of the device is completely clear, whilst the right has all the hardware buttons you could possibly need — including a dedicated camera button, lock button and volume button. On the top you’ll find your micro SIM card tray and a headphone jack.

The design is reminiscent of the rest of the Lumia line, with you unlikely to be able to tell the difference from the front. Turn the phone around though and this is unmistakably the Lumia 1020.


[alert type=alert-blue ]Display[/alert]

The Lumia 1020’s 4.5-inch display has changed rather significantly since the Lumia 920, with AMOLED technology used rather than LCD, although it’s the exact same as the one used on the Lumia 925.

The resolution does disappoint as well, at just 1280 x 768, although if you look at it from head-on you shouldn’t find too many complaints with it.

Colours are vibrant and the screen looks really bright, even in direct sunlight — thanks to Nokia’s ClearBlack technology.

Like previous high-end Lumias you can also operate the touchscreen with your gloves, which with the UK winter approaching will be a huge plus.

[alert type=alert-blue ]Specs[/alert]

This isn’t a powerful phone to compete with the Samsung Galaxy S4, it only boasts a dual-core 1.5GHz processor rather than a quad-core or octa-core one, but we’ll be honest, we didn’t notice the difference.

The Windows Phone operating system felt incredibly smooth and responsive, and load times weren’t all that noticeable.

Taking a photo took a lot longer than the iPhone 5 using the Pro Cam app, but there’s a lot more data to process, and you can always use the default camera app if you want to take photos quickly.

App load times range depending on which app you’re trying to load, with it varying from a full five seconds to load the Twitter app, and just half a second to load the built-in messaging hub.

[alert type=alert-blue ]Camera[/alert]

Sure, the display is mediocre and it’s quite chunky, but the Lumia 1020 makes no apologies for any of it, because what this phone is all about is the astounding camera.

We won’t beat around the bush, this camera is by far the most impressive camera we’ve ever seen on any phone, period.

Just looking at a few of our test shots we were blown away by the results, in one photo we were able to zoom right into a thumbprint and see each individual line — something you’re unlikely to find on any other smartphone.

The sensor on the Lumia 1020 is smaller than that of the 808 PureView, but only a smidge smaller — and it doesn’t affect the quality of the image at all, in fact the Lumia 1020 takes a lot better pictures than the 808 PureView.

You may not have heard of many cameras capable of 41-megapixel images, and it’s true, there aren’t actually all the many — most DSLRs are limited to around 20, although you won’t be getting the full 41 megapixel image thanks to the square dimensions of the sensor. Instead you’ll be getting a slightly smaller 38 megapixel image.

Of course 38 megapixels is still huge, and you’re unlikely going to want to share those images — which is okay, as Nokia’s oversampling technology converts all those pixels into a 5MP image. It does this by taking seven pixels and turning them into one big pixel, much like what happens on the HTC One — with HTC’s ‘UltraPixel’ technology.

Sharing these images are great, although these are also the images that show up in your camera roll — if you want to get the full resolution images, you need to click Nokia Pro Camera under the image, which can often be a rather tedious task.

Nokia’s Pro Cam app is where all the magic happens though, it’s where you’ll want to take your full resolution images from — in fact it’s the only place you can take full advantage of the camera.

It’s not just about taking advantage of the massive sensor though or the impressive resolution, the Pro Cam app has so much more to offer.

Many of you who own a DSLR will be used to manually controlling all your settings, things such as shutter speed to create long exposure images, or even your focus. On most smartphones these settings have mainly been limited to things such as ISO, or in the case of the iPhone — nothing at all.

We found ourselves using a variety of the options on the Lumia 1020’s camera, including the manual focus, which made for some pretty impressive shots — ones you would expect from a professional camera.

Typically we’ll find ourselves avoiding digital zoom at all costs, but on the Lumia 1020 it has been actively encouraged, with Nokia CEO Stephen Elop telling people to “shoot first, zoom later.” We took his advice and we couldn’t really see much degradation in quality from the zoomed out image compared to being fully zoomed in, which is quite frankly astonishing.

We didn’t just have these great results in perfect lighting either, we also found results in low-light were way ahead of its competition and approaching DSLR quality.

Don’t worry if you have shaky hands either, Optical Image Stabilisation is on-board, which puts the camera lens on springs so it moves as your hands shake.

One thing we criticised about the Lumia 920 and 925 was the existence of dual LED flash, which thankfully hasn’t made its way onto the Lumia 1020. Instead we have a Xenon flash, which lights the image evenly and doesn’t leave any annoying flare.

It’s not just about the impressive image quality of the Lumia 1020 though, a cameraphone isn’t all about photos, it’s also about video which thankfully the 1020 excels at.

The Lumia 1020’s video capability all starts with the 1080p quality, which is what we’d expect from a phone which puts the camera first. It records at around 30fps, which means that video is super smooth — and thanks to Nokia’s Video Upload app, you can even send it directly to YouTube.

It’s not just about the image quality either, with Nokia adding things such as digital zoom, which is just as impressive as it was with photos, thanks to that 41 megapixel sensor.

When recording video we also found that the microphone had improved massively too, to a point where we could block out background noise and get clear audio, even in a noisy environment.

If you’re in the market for a camera, then the Lumia 1020 is definitely worth a consideration, especially over other smartphones. It’s hard to even describe how great the shots from this camera are, without calling it simply magic.


[alert type=alert-blue ]Software[/alert]

Windows Phone is the software of choice on the Lumia 1020, and whilst it’s miles better than the 808 PureView’s Symbian operating system, it falls short of both iOS and Android.

In terms of design, we’ll go so far as to say it’s one of the most beautiful and interesting operating systems on the market, but if you’re a big app user, then you’re likely to be disappointed.

Sharing those full resolution images will also be rather difficult, with only a few apps taking advantage of Nokia’s software tools — such as Nokia Pro Cam, Video Upload and Oggl Pro. Most other apps, even the five Instagram clients won’t share the full resolution image, and will instead only share the five megapixel oversampled image.

This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, it’s a lot easier to share a small five megapixel image than it is to share the much larger 41 megapixels, which come in at around 10MB a piece — and it doesn’t look notably worse either.

If you’d rather share all those gorgeous 41 megapixel images with the likes of Facebook or Flickr, then you can still do that by connecting your phone to the PC and transferring the photos manually.

When moving onto the Windows Phone operating system, then you may find yourself with an abundant lack of official apps. There’s no official Instagram client, nor is there an official YouTube app — with Microsoft’s own efforts repeatedly being blocked by Google.

When Windows Phone finally does get an app, the craze has usually died down, or a sequel has been released — as was the case with Temple Run, which launched on Windows Phone after Temple Run 2 came to iOS and Android.

Now Microsoft is working hard to fix the app problems, with Nokia announcing that Flipboard and Vine are coming to Windows Phone alongside the 1020.

If you’re not a big app user and you’re happy with just your big name apps such as Facebook, Twitter and Foursquare, and third-party clients for just about everything else, then you’ll find yourself right at home.

The Facebook App has gotten a lot better, apps look much prettier than their Android counterparts and the operating system just feels far more cohesive than iOS.

That said, it’s not yet ready for prime time — multitasking is poorly done, there’s no notification center and it often feels laborious to do the simplest of tasks. Windows Phone is getting to the point where it’s going to be impossible not to recommend it over the other operating systems — although Microsoft isn’t working fast enough.

With the Nokia and Microsoft acquisition set to go through soon, we’ll have hardware and software working side by side, so we should start to see Windows Phone becoming the more desirable operating system.

[alert type=alert-blue ]Verdict[/alert]

The Lumia 1020 is an impressive smartphone with an astounding camera. The Windows Phone operating system is gradually improving but it’s still lacking some key apps.

If you’re primarily looking for a great camera on your smartphone, then the Lumia 1020 should be your first and only choice.

Nokia has become the world’s most innovative smartphone manufacturer, preferring to improve important features rather than add gimmicks such as fingerprint sensors and eye tracking.

The Lumia 1020 isn’t going to be the best phone from Nokia, we can expect even better after the Microsoft’s acquisition goes through — but it is one of the best phones on the market right now.

Nokia need not apologise for the bulky size of the Lumia 1020, it’s a worthwhile compromise for the world’s best smartphone camera.

About the Author

Jordan O'Brien

Technology Journalist with an unhealthy obsession with trains and American TV. Attempts satire far too often. (+44) 020 7324 3502

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