Nokia Lumia 1020 review: A photographer's smartphone

Nokia Lumia 1020 review: A photographer's smartphone

Summary: The Lumia 1020 has a truly impressive 41-megapixel camera and a high-quality 4.5-inch AMOLED screen, but many Windows Phone fans might do better with the 920 and a good dedicated camera.

  • Editors' rating:
  • User rating:
  • RRP:


  • Solid construction
  • Best-in-class smartphone camera
  • Big, clear screen
  • Plenty of internal storage


  • Poor battery life
  • Camera is still no match for standalone devices
  • Expensive

Nokia has a broad range of Windows Phone handsets, covering multiple price points and screen sizes. With the 4.5-inch Lumia 1020, the company has concentrated on appealing to camera enthusiasts, adding a 41-megapixel camera and photography software enhancements to go with it.

Nokia isn't alone in looking to camera technology to add a new dimension to its smartphone portfolio. One of the Samsung Galaxy S4 variants is the Galaxy S4 Zoom, with its 16-megapixel sensor. But at £588 (inc. VAT, SIM-free from Clove Technology), is Nokia's Lumia 1020 a device people will want to buy?


There's no chance of mistaking the Lumia 1020 for any other manufacturer's handset: the blocky chassis and bright yellow colour of our review unit are both giveaways (there are also white and black versions of this handset if you prefer a more muted colour scheme). Note that if you go for yellow, the headphones are colour matched.

The Lumia 1020 has a 4.5-inch AMOLED screen, a 41-megapixel camera and comes in white, black or bright yellow. (Image: Nokia)

The body is made of the usual soft-touch, grippable, scratch-resistant polycarbonate material that Nokia uses for its Lumia range. This phone looks and feels like a premium product. Oddly, the camera lens is not recessed, so you'll need to take care to keep it free of scratches.

Beneath the 4.5in. screen the usual Windows Phone back and search softkeys are not backlit, and so are not particularly visible. Turn the Lumia 1020 over and the huge, circular surround for the camera lens, Xenon flash and focus light signal that this no ordinary smartphone.

The Lumia 1020's general shape and size makes it a dead ringer for the Lumia 920: the 1020 measures 71.4mm wide by 130.4mm deep by 10.4mm thick, compared to 70.8mm by 130.3mm by 10.7mm for the 920. At 158g, the Lumia 1020 is lighter than the 185g Lumia 920.

It's worth noting that the camera housing protrudes by about 4mm from the back of the casing, which means that the handset won't sit flush on a desk or table. If you like to prod at your phone's screen while it's sitting screen-up on a desk, you may find this wobbliness irritating. We did.

The AMOLED screen on the Lumia 1020 uses a PenTile sub-pixel matrix, but still delivers good text readability. (Image: Nokia)

The Lumia 1020's Gorilla Glass 3-protected screen is large at 4.5 inches across the diagonal, but it looks smaller because of the chassis size. There's a standard-size bezel on the sides, and larger ones top and bottom. Many people will find it difficult to use this phone one handed. The 332ppi (1,280-by-768-pixel) AMOLED display delivers an exceptionally clear and bright image. You won't find a higher-resolution Windows Phone because that's the highest the operating system supports.

The PenTile sub-pixel matrix that Nokia uses (Samsung owns the trademark) on its AMOLED displays is seen by some as producing less sharp definition than an RGB-stripe design — particularly for text. However, text on the Lumia 1020 is perfectly readable in our view.

The Lumia 1020 Camera Grip costs £47.99 (inc. VAT). (Image: Nokia)

Nokia's button design and location is pretty standard on its Lumia handsets: the volume and power buttons are on the right edge, along with a dedicated camera button, while the left edge is clear. There's a Micro-USB slot on the bottom and a headset jack on the top, alongside the housing for the microSIM.

Nokia makes a Camera Grip accessory which retails for a rather hefty £47.99 (inc. VAT). This is available in colours to co-ordinate with the handset, and is made from the same polycarbonate material. The Camera Grip is chunky and increases the handset size considerably, but is intended to help you keep a steady hand while shooting. It incorporates a second (1,020mAh) battery and a power level indicator, and also has a universal tripod connector. Because it covers up the on-handset camera button, it also has its own camera button.


Nokia has built the Lumia 1020 around a fairly modest dual-core 1.5GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon S4 SoC — the same as used in the Lumia 920 and 820. Those two handsets have 1GB of RAM, but the memory has been boosted to 2GB for the Lumia 1020.

There's a generous 32GB of internal storage as well as 7GB of free SkyDrive storage. This is an important factor as there's no MicroSD card slot for storing media files — including all those photos you'll take with the 1020's fancy high-resolution camera.

This is a top-end handset with a full set of connectivity options, including dual-band Wi-Fi (802.11a/b/g/n), Bluetooth (3.0), pentaband LTE (100Mbps down, 50Mbps up) and NFC. However we expected better from the device's 2,000mAh battery which struggled to keep it going for 24 hours — particularly when we made use of the camera's Xenon flash.

Microsoft does not allow hardware partners to skin its Windows Phone OS or change its appearance in any way. Nevertheless, Nokia has done a good job of adding value to its Windows Phone handsets.

This comes by way of free apps such as the superb Nokia Music, Here Maps for Google Maps-style geolocation and Here Drive+ for point-to-point navigation. The basic camera capabilities of Windows Phone handsets can also be augmented by software, and Nokia takes full advantage of that in the case of the Lumia 1020.

The Lumia 1020 comes with Panorama (a panorama shooting mode), Nokia Cinemagraph (which adds small animated elements to photos), Nokia Smart Cam (which takes burst-mode shots and lets you produce composite images) and Bing Vision (a barcode and QR code scanner).

The Lumia 1020's 41-megapixel camera, which can be used in automatic or manual (Nokia Pro Camera) modes, saves low-resolution (5MP) and high-resolution (34MP) versions of each image. (Image: Nokia)

The camera's 41-megapixel sensor is undoubtedly the Lumia 1020's major selling point. This isn't the first time Nokia has put a high-resolution camera into a handset: last year's 808 PureView also had a 41-megapixel sensor. A Symbian-powered device, the 808 PureView received a mixed reception, although looking back now, its design and camera concept was very much a forerunner of what we see in the Lumia 1020.

Those 41 megapixels aren't, of course, the full story. Other camera features include image stabilisation and 3x (digital) zoom, ISO settings between 100 and 4000, and shutter speeds between 1/16,000 of a second to 4 seconds.

You have two basic shooting modes: Nokia Pro Camera puts you in manual control of the camera settings, while Camera mode makes settings for you automatically. Switching between the two modes requires a visit to the lenses area — achieved either by tapping a button on the camera viewfinder screen, or by making a selection from the handset's main screen. It's a bit of a hassle.

When you take a photo, two images are captured. One is a 5-megapixel version that you can share by email, drop into your SkyDrive allowance or view on the handset. The other is a 34-megapixel image that you can't access until you connect the handset to a computer, at which point it can be copied or moved onto your hard drive. Both images are linked on the handset so that deleting the one you're viewing deletes the other.

Images themselves are undeniably of high quality, and the camera copes well with variable lighting conditions. It isn't good at very close-up shots though: you have to be at least 15cm away from the subject.

It takes the Lumia 1020 a while to process images — at least a couple of seconds. In that time you could easily miss second, third or fourth shots of an exciting scene, which could be exasperating.

The Lumia 1020's camera is very good for a mobile phone, but it can't hold a candle to a decent dedicated digital camera — either in photographic capability or, incidentally, in storage. You can pop memory cards in and out of your standalone camera as much as you like, but the storage capacity on the Nokia 1020 is fixed at 32GB.


The Nokia Lumia 1020 has a truly impressive camera capable of shooting decent photos. However, it's no substitute for a good standalone digital camera, and heavy use seriously depletes the battery. The Lumia 1020 certainly has appeal, but many users might do better with the 920 and a good dedicated camera.


Dimensions (W x H x D) 71.4 x 10.4 x 130.4 cm
Weight 158 kg
OS & software
Operating system Windows Phone 8
Processor & memory
Clock speed 1.5 GHz
Processor model Qualcomm Snapdragon S4
RAM 2048 MB
Internal 32000 MB
Display technology OLED
Display size 4.5 in
Native resolution 768x1280 pixels
Ports Micro-USB 2.0
2G GSM 850, GSM 900, GSM 1800, GSM 1900
Wi-Fi 802.11a, 802.11b, 802.11g, 802.11n
Short range Bluetooth 3.0+HS, NFC
GPS technology
Accuracy enhancement system A-GPS
Antenna built in
GPS receiver plus GLONASS support
Input devices
Keyboard No
Stylus No
Touchscreen Yes
2nd camera front
Flash Yes
Main camera rear
2nd camera resolution 1.2 megapixels
Main camera resolution 41 megapixels
Zoom 3 x
Battery type Li-ion
Removable battery No
Battery capacity 2000 mAh
Claimed battery life 6.7 h
Standby time 384 h
Talk time 13.3 h
Accessories AC adapter


Price AUD 830
Price GBP 490
Price USD 799.99

Topics: Smartphones, Nokia, Reviews, Windows Phone

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  • The 1020 reminds me of the Nokia N8 from years ago ...


    it is a very good camera phone for it's time, but Nokia rested on the N8 and it's camera to try and ride it to success. The Nokia site had articles and articles about photos (editing, taking, landscapes, closeups, etc...) that went on Ad Nauseam. There were only certain numbers of people who were going to buy the phone beacause of it's camera. Unfortunately, it seemed as though Nokia attempted to convince many more that the camera was more to them that it was. Now that Nokia Phones are transitioning to MiCrokia Phones, it will be interesting to see if they can really differentiate themselves or if they keep trying the same old things to try and interest new customers.
  • Perfect phone for on the go


    I had a chance to borrow my friends 1020 for a recent Myrtle Beach vacation. Wow.. what a delight to use.. The camera's shoot first/zoom later feature was fantastic. I did not miss my bulky dslr. Windows phone 8 OS was a joy to use. If windows phone can get a few more apps, I am sold.
  • "... and shutter speeds between 1/16 second to 4 seconds"


    Obviously shutter speeds can be a lot higher than 1/16 seconds, I suppose it's 1/16000s. This kind of speed is basically irrelevant, it would require an huge amount of light combined with high sensitive (read noise). DSLR best cameras reach 1/8000s but they use focal plane mechanical shutters. I wonder if 1020 can reach 1/16000s using the mechanical shutter (yes it has one) or an electronic shutter - and I'm sure it's impossible to achieve those speeds with a leaf shutter.

    Another thing is that the 3x zoom, is digital zoom, very different from optical zoom. They could even announce a zoom of 100x - it's nothing to praise about. Obviously with the amount of pixels 1020 has, digital zoom can be made without ruining the quality too much, but I believe the cheapest point and shot with an optical 3x zoom will easily beat 1020 at max zoom setting.
    If I'm not wrong there was just one phone with an optical zoom - also a Nokia from other era. (unless we call Galaxy S4 Zoom a smartphone).

    Note: my rate is just because i had to do it.

    What are the important things about 1020 as a camera phone - my opinion:
    - Big sensor (huge for a smartphone)
    - Good lenses
    - Optical stabilization
    - Mechanical shutter
    - Xenon flash
    • Shutter speed

      1/16s now corrected to 1/16,000s. Thanks for spotting that...
      Charles McLellan
    • Optical Zoom

      You are overlooking something. Who generally needs an image greater than 8MP? The simple answer is "basically noone". Being realistic, unless you are a pro photographer (where you will be shooting with an SLR), you are not going to be shooting weddings on your phone. Therefore, the Nokia effectively has a 5x optical zoom by simply allowing you to crop an 8MP image out of its 41MP image. That is the whole point of the 41MP sensor; to overcome the lack of (bulky) optical zoom lenses on camera phones.
  • Battery life is 1 day 6 hours on LTE!


    I would like to dispute the poor battery life claim. I have made it 1 day 6 hours on LTE and WiFi (always active) and moderate usage (7 activesync mailbox, facebook messaging, vibration, notification for whatsapp, some photo taking and uploading, 6tag, etc) and another 7 hours from battery grip.

    Total running time was 1 day 14 hours.

    See my battery saver screenshot
  • Nokia Lumia 1020 review: A photographer's smartphone


    Solid phone with a solid camera. Its running Microsoft Windows Phone so that tells you how easy it is to use. The camera is perfect for those times when your out and want to snap a few pictures but not bring extra devices with you.
    • Grammar police

      "... perfect for those times when your out ..."

      your = belonging to you
      you're = short for you are
  • Bad review


    This review is disinformation. I got Nokia Lumia 820 and it's half as good as compact camera when taking close up picture. Lumia 1020 is far better than 820, camera wise and many people on youtube have tested it against stand alone camera with a better results. A keen camera loving person would buy the case that provide extra battery making this reveal myopic.
    • If you like the phone, change your rating!


      Hey JonnyBr, it appears you forgot to select a 10 rating for this phone...
    • Real cameras almost always beat smartphones

      I have an Olympus VG-120, a cheap point and shoot camera with a 5x optical zoom and 14 megapixels. It's got:
      a self-timer
      an exposure adjustment when on auto (+/- 2 stops)
      a macro and super macro facility for taking really close-ups
      a removable battery (I always carry a fully charged spare)
      a removable SD memory card (I always carry an empty spare)
      a lens designed by a company with many decades of lens design experience
      to mention just a few of its facilities.
      I somehow doubt that even the Nokia 1020 can match even those few.
      I might add that this excellent little camera cost the princely sum of 40 GBP (=$62)!
      I also ought to mention that for more serious photography I use my Canon SX1 which has a 20x optical zoom, a hot shoe for an external flash unit, a pivotable screen, (need I go on?)

      My phartsmone is a Samsung Galaxy S3 and whereas it takes very good photos and it's infinitely better than no camera at all, I use its camera facilities infrequently.
      • Do you even know what the Lumia 1020 is capable of?


        Since I have a Lumia 1020 I can answer some of your points...

        a self-timer
        - Yes, it has a self timer
        an exposure adjustment when on auto (+/- 2 stops)
        -There is indeed exposure adjustment (+/- 3 stops) as well as an exposure bracketing feature
        a macro and super macro facility for taking really close-ups
        -As mentioned in the review, the minimum focussing distance is 15cm, but with a 41 MP sensor the post processing editing will allow for a decent amount of zooming in.
        a removable battery (I always carry a fully charged spare)
        -There is the chargeable camera grip which adds an extra 50% of battery life (I was fortunate enough to have got 2 free ones)
        a removable SD memory card (I always carry an empty spare)
        -With O2 I received the 64Gb version... I couldn't imagine a time when that wouldn't be enough storage between visits to my laptop to back up the data
        a lens designed by a company with many decades of lens design experience
        -Your argument for the lens on your camera is somewhat invalid as the lenses in the Lumia 1020 are Zeiss lenses. Who, I believe, have been making optics for well over 100 years and are widely regarded as being the best around
      • What's your point?


        I have several semi-pro DSLRs and thousands invested in lenses. All of my DSLRs will shoot circles around both your point and shoot and the Nokia Lumia 1020. The point is, it doesn't matter how well they shoot if they're at home on a shelf. The best camera is the one you have with you. Thanks to Photoshop, even a camera phone photo can be massaged into something passable if you pay attention to the lighting.

        That said, I only gave the Nokia 1020 a 5 because they stupidly crippled an otherwise amazing camera phone by only including 32GB of storage with no expansion. That's just crazy.
  • Wow - What a nonsense review


    The phone has an astonishing camera better than the majority of small dedicated devices - and I haven't seen a review yet that didn't say that. To say its no substitute for a dedicated camera is utter nonsense.
    How does it get to have such a low rating as well with low scores of 1 star coming from people who don't even have the phone.
    • I guess jonnybr gave it a 1 star out of protest


      so, here is my 10 star rating to offset his. I don't own 1020 either
      • I think Johnny thought that he was rating the article.


        Can't rag on him too much though, it wasn't explicit as to what you are rating.
  • The best smartphone!!!


    This is a beautiful smartphone; sleek and cool design with a superb camera. Windows Phone OS and Nokia goodies complement the package perfectly.

    When it comes to storage; in the U. S. you get 50gb from AT&T Locker. In some parts of Europe, the phone comes with 64 gb of storage.

    I got the wireless charging cover and have a wireless charger at work and on the car (Nokia's phone holder for cars that includes wireless charging). I use the camera and Here maps all the time and keep the phone on the chargers whenever I can. And I have to say that is the way I have always used smartphones since they came out with a lot of features the drain the battery. There is no phone out there that lets you use all the goodies and still lasts all day long on one charge. If you use the GPS and the camera, plus you listen to music, send texts, email and browse the internet and watch videos; you are going to need extra battery chargers at work, car or wherever you are during the day so you can replenish the battery.

    This is the best smartphone out there!!!
  • Battery Life- Regional?


    I played with one of these things at the store and the camera was incredible, but with the new procam app I am pretty damn happy with my 920 which I paid about $700 for. Gonna keep that thing until it breaks.

    Also, a big point I want to make is this- I notice different sim cards cause different battery life. One region I was in with 3g gave me about 2 days of life, but other areas with blocked internet give me 5-7 hours max on 3g. I think the phones try pushing through the government blockers, or some frequencies are harder on the phone. I still can't figure it out, but maybe its not the phone but the network software and/or carrier that affect battery life. Maybe someone can do an article on this.
    Sam Diamond
    • some carrier with weak signal lowers battery life


      I have tested with some local carrier that has busy traffic and they didn't upgrade their infrastructure, and do notice that the phone drains battery much faster and much hotter than usual.
    • Sam you are right


      rating is for the phone, NOT the "review"

      I lend my 820 (my previous phone) to some people just to get used to the WP8 eco system (wifi only) before they actually made the decision to do it. They praised the battery life, they never had a smart phone with so much days without a recharge.

      What they did not realize is that they only were connected via WIFI, 3g, 4g and 4g lte are power hungry... it's just the way it is but with my 925 on 4g lte I get 12-15 hours easily and I am a power user. I have nothing to complain about battery life