Nokia is expanding the reach of its Lumia 1020 smartphone to the Chinese market. The phone took center stage at a launch event held by Nokia China's general manager, Erik Bertman, and several partners. Noted for its 41-megapixel camera, the Lumia 1020 will sell unlocked for 5,999 yuan ($973). That's around the same price in China as an unlocked version of the 32GB iPhone. The Lumia 1020 will initially be sold by China Unicom. The carrier will offer the phone at 999 yuan ($163) down and then 386 yuan ($63) over a period of three years. The phone will also eventually be available through China Mobile, the country's biggest carrier.
Other then its camera, the Lumia 1020 comes with a 4.5-inch display, a dual-core 1.5GHz Snapdragon processor, 2GB of RAM and 32GB of storage. The Nokia Lumia 1020 smartphone's camera captures extremely high-resolution images with fine detail, and puts creative controls at your fingertips. A niche device, the Lumia 1020 is $100 pricier than most high-end smartphones. The lens makes it a little bulky. Multiple camera apps are confusing. It lacks manual f-stop control and presets for common shooting scenarios. Mobile photographers will love the Nokia Lumia 1020's exact controls, but casual users should stick to cheaper camera phones. You can sum up the Nokia Lumia 1020 in three words: 41, megapixel, camera.
It's the Lumia 1020's high-octane shooter, along with Nokia's custom camera app, that defines this next marquee Windows Phone 8 device, and gives mobile photographers a reason to salivate. Nokia pushes the smartphone camera envelope with a combination of raw image-capturing prowess and close-cropping capability that makes it one of the most artistically able smartphone cameras. For day-to-day and weekend events, the 1020 is the ultimate in convenience and approaches point-and-shoot quality. However, Nokia still has a ways to go before it can completely supplant the need for a higher-level standalone camera.
Like the 16-megapixel Samsung Galaxy S4 Zoom, the Lumia 1020 is a nice device. Casual users may not venture from automatic settings and may not notice much difference in image quality unless they frequently crop photos tightly. Of course, the S4 Zoom's optical zoom element gives the 1020 a run for its money. However, overall, the 1020 offers technically better images in a much more portable chassis. The 1020's $299.99 on-contract price with AT&T is too steep for casual users, who can capture high-quality everyday stills and videos with handsets that cost $200 or less. Serious photographers, however, will appreciate the phone's genuine two-in-one capabilities. The Lumia 1020 also is sold globally.
Design and build
The first thing you're probably asking yourself is if owning the Lumia 1020 is like carrying a bulky point-and-shoot camera in your pocket, it is not like that. Compared with the Galaxy S4 Zoom and Nokia 808 PureView, the Lumia 1020 seems only slightly thicker than the Lumia 920 and 928, both of which it physically resembles.
Dimensions of 5.1 inches tall by 2.8 inches wide are pretty standard, and the 1020 measures 0.4 inch thick throughout most of its body. It's that large camera module on the back (about 1.75 inches in diameter) that protrudes a full 0.51 inch from the phone's face. This means the phone won't lie flat on its back, which is surprisingly sometimes helpful when the face tilts toward you as if on a stand. Amazingly, you can carry the phone around in back pocket for long stretches without noticing it too much. Keeping the phone this slim was quite the design feat, especially when you compare the 1020 with the S4 Zoom, which is shaped more like a point-and-shoot with a smartphone attached.
At 5.6 ounces, the matte yellow, white, or black 1020 is hefty, sturdy and undeniably solid. If you are used to carrying heavy bags and backpacks, the weight didn't particularly bother you, but those who travel light will notice the 1020's density right away. Comparing three colors; the white version picked up smudges most readily, but they wiped off easily enough from the polycarbonate material.
Nokia pulled off a design feat in keeping the large camera mount from sticking out too far. Like all the Lumia 920-series phones, the 1020's 4.5-inch display features a 1,280x768-pixel resolution (WXGA) and pixel density of 334ppi. Its AMOLED screen is also supersensitive, which means you can operate it with fingernails or gloved fingertips. Gorilla Glass 3 helps resist cracks, though smash any screen hard enough or often enough and it'll break. With the Lumia design philosophy, you'll find oblong volume, power/lock and camera shutter buttons on the right spine, and the headset jack and micro-SIM card slot up top. In addition to the front-facing camera there are three capacitive navigation buttons on the front, and the Micro-USB charging port is down on the bottom edge. On the back, the massive camera module includes a wide xenon flash and a six-lens Carl Zeiss lens, plus an LED sidekick that's mainly used for focus.
The Lumia 1020 does not lie flat. A completely sealed unibody device, the Lumia 1020 doesn't have a removable battery or microSD card storage, which may make photographers jittery about storage limits, especially with large photo files. The most important thing to know is that the Lumia 1020's 41-megapixel shooter doesn't actually give you 41-megapixel pictures. In fact, not much about the camera or its software is particularly straightforward. The Pro Cam app creates 5-megapixel photos. In addition, it also saves a high-resolution image of each one. If you crop in tightly, your photo looks even more detailed.
Nokia Pro Cam is the 1020's default camera app, but you can also switch among other apps, or change the default in Settings. By default, the Lumia 1020 takes photos using Nokia's Pro Cam app. Not to be confused with Nokia Smart Cam, Pro Cam gets you sliding controls for flash, exposure, ISO and focus among other settings. Nokia Pro Cam is technically a "lens," a separate camera app that supplants the native camera. You can only capture the higher-resolution images using Pro Cam.
Choose resolution and aspect ratio in the Pro Cam app settings. Making matters more confusing, the size of the high-resolution photo you shoot depends on your camera settings. Pick a 16:9 aspect ratio, and the phone saves a 34-megapixel shot in addition to the 5-megapixel picture you eventually see and share. A 4:3 aspect ratio gives you a 38-megapixel file in addition to the smaller snap. You won't see these choices, or any resolution options, when using the native camera app. You'll only be able to upload and share the smaller file size from the 1020; if you want all 34 or 38 megapixels, you can access the raw files through a computer connection.
In some cases, the 1020's creative settings are no big deal. Most smartphone cameras have many of these within submenus. The difference here is that surfacing them on the app's top layer makes them a lot quicker to access, set up and change from shot to shot. One setting is conspicuously absent for serious photographers, and that's the power to manually change the depth of field. It also threw CNET's photographers that the "live preview" of manual controls that you see on the screen before taking a picture often didn't represent the actual image once it was captured.
In the menu, you can switch to the front-facing camera, go to settings, and launch the tutorial. Unlike the Galaxy S4 Zoom, there aren't mode presets for night shots, sports, or other common scenarios, so it helps to know what you're doing, or have the patience to play around. There is no onscreen control for the front-facing camera; digging into the menu just seems like an unnecessary step. It's also a little strange that there are two buttons for reviewing your photos. One reviews the last shot you took, the other lets you get at your whole photo stream. Unfortunately, you can't swipe to the left as you can in the phone's native app to access your camera roll.
There are cursory editing tools you can access when you review a photo, including rotation and a sort of cropping tool that changes the aspect ratio to 4:3, 3:2, 1:1, and 16:9. Nokia might had included a more robust suite of editing features here. Instead, you'll have to swap to a different editing app if you want to crop or auto fix. Luckily, the 1020 makes this fairly easy to do from the settings when you access photos through the review strip.
Sliding controls let you adjust exposure, ISO, brightness, and white balance. To test how well the Lumia 1020 backs up its claims, shot dozens of pictures with both the Pro Cam app and the native app, using a combination of automatic modes and fancier settings. Full disclosure: photos represent the perspective of an average user. For the more-artistic shots, take the help of CNET photographer James Martin and CNET camera editor Joshua Goldman, who independently called the Lumia 1020 a "really good smartphone camera" after taking their own rounds of test shots. Many pictures would look fantastic in terms of color, contrast, and detail, especially fine detail like a visible background cobweb. When an image was focused correctly, the camera's lossless digital zoom also produced terrific detail. Even good cameras can take the odd bad picture if conditions are off. Sometimes, another high-end smartphone couldn't have taken the photo just as well. Edges usually appear but then some centers sometimes lacked shadows, detail, and depth.
The 1020 seems to color-correct a couple of seconds after taking a picture. When using the flash, photo color also grew warmer, yellower, which can be a little weird. Then again, yellow is better than the blue cast you sometimes get when taking photos with a flash. Since the Pro Cam app saves pictures in one small and one large resolution, the camera takes longer to reload. Instead of shot-to-shot times about 2.5 seconds apart, it's about a 6-second wait before the Lumia 1020 is ready for the next round.