Nokia Lumia 1020 Review

A smartphone with a whopping 41-megapixel camera

Nokia releases new flagship smartphones at dizzingly regular intervals and the Lumia 1020 is the latest in a long line. The 1020 looks very similar to Nokia’s other Windows Phone 8 devices, but it has a 41-megapixel sensor – the biggest of any smartphone camera ever. Squeezing more pixels into a small camera sensor usually results in lower-quality photos, blighted by lots of noise. We were therefore pleasantly surprised by the sharpness and fine detail of the 1020’s photos. The massive 41-megapixel resolution meant we could crop a photo to focus on a specific part without losing any sharpness, effectively mimicking an optical zoom. Shots taken in dimly lit conditions were very sharp for a smartphone, and suffered from relatively little noise. This is down to the camera’s built-in optical stabilisation, which is a rare feature in a smartphone camera. Colours captured in daylight shots looked far more vivid than they were in real life though. The camera actually takes two versions of each shot – a 41-megapixel image and a less detailed five-megapixel version for uploading to social networks.

Nokia Lumia 1020

A bigger problem is the apps. You can use Nokia’s Pro Cam app to access the camera’s advanced image-quality settings through easy-to-grasp onscreen dials. This works well, but confusingly otheroptions can only be found scattered across four other apps.
Official Aviary and Flickr apps are available for editing and storing your photos online, but if you prefer Instagram or Dropbox you’ll have to do without or risk an unofficial app.
The 1020 is made from a moulded piece of robust plastic that’s available in white, black or a light lemon yellow. This is a thick, large and weighty phone though.The 4.5in screen means its phone is too wide to use comfortably with one hand, unless you have big paws. On top of that, the camera lens protrudes so much you can use it to prop the phone up at an angle when laid flat.
The screen is very bright, but text is often less sharp than on rival smartphones. We had no problems with performance – apps felt snappy, while complex websites loaded quickly. Call quality in central Mumbai wasn’t impressive, however. The phone struggled to filter out background noise from a construction site, while callers sometimes sounded a little garbled.
A thinner, less cumbersome design would be preferable. The large battery meant the 1020 lasted 20 hours when used for GPS navigation, taking photos, making calls and surfing the web on Vodafone’s 3G network.
An optional case with a built-in battery added two extra hours, increasing to three when airplane mode was turned on. However handy, boosting battery life is not the case’s main selling point. Its chunky grip, tripod mount and dedicated camera button make using the 1020 as a camera more comfortable.
Despite the big files generated by the 41-megapixel camera, there’s no micro SD slot for adding storage. The 1020 does come with a generous 32GB of storage already built-in, but there’s no 64GB model which would be a useful alternative – especially if you want to carry a large music and video library around with you.
The Nokia Lumia 1020 has the best camera of any smartphone we’ve seen, despite the confusing mess of Nokia’s photography apps. If you’re a keen photographer then this phone is a great choice, as long as you’re happy with its huge size and the Windows Phone 8 operating system. If you’re not bothered about photography then the Samsung Galaxy S4 is a better alternative.

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