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Nokia Lumia 1020: Unmatched camera experience in a growing Windows Phone market

There is no argument that the Lumia 1020 is the best camera in a modern phone, but you are going to have to decide if you are willing to trade size for such power.

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Topic: Mobility
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1 of 28 Matthew Miller/ZDNet

Whether or not you like Windows Phone 8 as a smartphone OS, there is absolutely no doubt that the Nokia Lumia 1020 offers the best camera experience in a modern smartphone. I have been using one for four days and while that is not yet enough time to test every aspect, my clearly shows that the Lumia 1020 is the device to get if you want a camera with a phone strapped on the back.

At the we never even heard anything about the smartphone part of the device until near the end of the announcement. Nokia is focusing on the advanced imaging technology of the 1020 and for good reason. I own a and take it out when I know I will be going somewhere and have a desire to capture fantastic quality photos. Even though Symbian is a powerful OS, there are too many missing apps and user experiences for me to use it regularly. The Lumia 1020 offers an amazing camera experience with a solid Windows Phone 8 experience that gets better on a weekly basis.

Retail package and out-of-box impressions

I was sent an AT&T retail packaged matte white Nokia Lumia 1020 to evaluate and it comes in a fairly typical AT&T box. Inside you will find the Lumia 1020, USB cable, SIM door key, leather wrist strap, USB A/C adapter, and Quick Start Guide. There is also a NFC card that provides you with a tutorial to help you improve your camera skills. The Lumia 1020 is $299.99 with a two year contract or $659.99 with no contract. It is locked to AT&T and will be as long as it is an exclusive in the US.

We don't often see wrist straps in US retail packages, but I did have one with my 808 PureView and honestly haven't removed it since the first day. With a device focused on the camera experience, having a solid wrist strap solution can be quite useful and functional.

I am used to the rather heavy Nokia Lumia 920 and expected the same first impression when I took out the 1020. The front looks a lot like the 920, but when I picked it up I immediately felt it was lighter and thinner than the 920. The matte finish is great and I personally prefer it over the glossy finish seen on many of the other Lumia models.

The white 1020 with the black camera module and buttons looks awesome IMHO and is even more of a Stormtrooper phone than my Lumia 900 was. The black camera module is large and the phone sits up at an angle on the table, but I think you can see in my image gallery that the size is worth it for great photos.

The 41 megapixel camera experience

The camera is the focal point of the Lumia 1020 and you should only buy the device if you will be using the camera a lot and want the best photos ever on a phone. If you just want a great Windows Phone 8 device with solid camera you can save money and size by going with a 920 or a number of the other lower end devices. There are also options for other carriers and I am really enjoying my Nokia Lumia 925.

You will find three primary camera software options on the Nokia Lumia 1020: the default Windows Phone camera software, (seen first on the Lumia 925), and the new Nokia Pro Camera application. The default camera looks to be the quickest way to capture a photo and can be set as the default for a press and hold of the physical camera button. You can reassign this button to any of these three apps.

I discussed the Nokia Smart Camera application a bit in my and enjoy the advanced editing experience found in that software. Smart Camera lets you capture photos in burst mode and then have quick access to different editing tools.

Nokia Pro Camera looks to be useful for camera enthusiasts and if you are buying the Lumia 1020 you are likely one of those people. Like most people who take photos with the phones, I live in the world of Auto and rarely venture out since I just don't know enough about photography to feel comfortable messing around. Nokia Pro Camera was actually setup to help people like me with an integrated tutorial that shows you samples, provides detailed explanations, and launches a session focused on the technique you just read about.

In that regard, Nokia Pro Camera has the potential to educate people and make many of us better photographers. I look forward to seeing the application launch on my Lumia 925 too. Topics covered in detail include:

  • Exposure
  • Shutter speed
  • Low light
  • White balance
  • Basic photography
  • Videos

The cool thing about the Nokia Pro Camera software is that as you change the different settings the resulting effect appears live right on the display before you even capture the image. You can control the settings for the topics listed above by tapping on the main icon and then tapping or scrolling along the half-circle appearing on the right side of the display.

Capture modes with Nokia Pro Camera include 5 megapixel JPG or 5 megapixel along with 34 megapixel. There are no options in the default WP camera app, all images are 5 megapixel images. You can only share the 5 megapixel images directly from the phone and need to connect and transfer large resolution images off of the phone to a computer. I found typical 5 megapixel images were about 2 MB in size while the 34 megapixel ones were in the 8.5 to 15 MB range. I accidentally grabbed just the 5 megapixel ones for Flickr and have to go look for the other to put in my Flickr set.

One thing to remember with Nokia Pro Camera is that you can reframe image after the fact and then save parts of the larger image as its own high quality image. I understand you can do this with the 808 too, but no one really cares about that device. This is very slick and something I just started discovering after a couple of days of taking photos.

When you view the photos in the gallery you will note there are hyperlinks below images captured with Nokia Smart Camera and Pro Camera that will then open up those images in those apps to allow for advanced editing. These tools include Best Shot, Action Shot, Motion Focus, Change Faces, Removing Objects, and reframing parts of images.

Hardware and specifications

The specifications of the Nokia Lumia 1020 include:

  • Qualcomm Snapdragon S4 dual-core 1.5 GHz processor
  • 4.5 inch 1280x768 pixel resolution PureMotion HD+ display
  • 41 megapixel camera with Xenon flash and Zeiss optics, OIS
  • 2GB RAM
  • 32GB integrated storage
  • 802.11 a/b/g/n WiFi, Bluetooth 3.0, NFC
  • 2000 mAh battery
  • Dimensions of 130.4 x 71.4 x 10.4 mm (5.13 x 2.81 x 0.41 inches) and 158 grams (5.56 ounces)

As I have stated a number of times, specifications of Windows Phone devices can't really be compared to iOS, Android, or BlackBerry 10 because each OS is optimized differently and Windows Phone 8 doesn't require the same specs as an Android device. I found the Lumia 1020 to perform as well as all other Windows Phones I have tested, with the exception of a bit of slow down due to some advanced image processing as you use the camera.

You can purchase a battery/camera adapter accessory and Qi charging cover as well. I haven't seen either accessory so cannot comment on their functionality or design.

Nokia software

You won't just find all the great HERE Maps, Nokia Music, and other software, but even a couple new ones not yet available on other Lumia devices. Nokia Video Trimmer allows you to trim down a video and then share that to a selected service. I use this all the time on my iPhone and Android device to share short clips of events to Facebook and was hoping someone would finally develop the tool for Windows Phone.

Another Lumia 1020 exclusive is YouTube Upload, also from Nokia, that lets you upload videos to YouTube. Windows Phone already supports video upload to Facebook, but it is nice to have this option as well.

The Lumia 1020, like the Lumia 925, comes with the Nokia Amber update. This update includes great features like the double tap to unlock, Glance screen, color profile adjustments, and more.

AT&T software

Like just about every phone on AT&T, they load it up with their bloatware to get you to buy their additional services. Thankfully, with Windows Phone 8 you can remove as much as you want to have a clean device.

AT&T apps and software include AT&T Address Book, AT&T Family Map, AT&T Locker (useful utility that gives you 50GB of online storage), AT&T Navigator, AT&T Radio, Mobile TV, myAT&T, and YPmobile.

Windows Phone 8 software

There isn't much to say that I haven't already covered when it comes to Windows Phone 8. There is nothing core to the OS that is new in the 1020 as the focus is on imaging and the Nokia experience. It is disappointing that you can't play the new Halo: Spartan Assault game even on the newest Lumia and I am not a fan of that exclusivity decision.

Nokia Lumia US flagship lineup

Verizon now has the Lumia 928, T-Mobile the 925, and AT&T the 1020 and 920. Nokia now has flagship devices on three of the four major carriers and I think we will continue to see growth in Windows Phone. The internals of each are all about the same, but the Lumia 925 only has 16GB of integrated storage.

The Nokia Lumia 925 and Lumia 1020 require wireless charging shells, while the 920 and 928 have integrated wireless charging support.

To be evaluated

As I stated, I have only been using the Lumia 1020 for four days so I can't judge the battery life, stability, advanced camera editing functions, performance, or connectivity. I hope to continue testing the Lumia 1020 for a couple more weeks to test these topics.

I did experience complete lock-up of the phone while using the camera once this past weekend and only by pressing and holding the power button for an extended period of time was I able to get it to turn off.

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Basics in the retail package

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Lumia 1020 looks like other Lumias from the front

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Lumia 925, Lumia 1020, 808 PureView, and Lumia 928

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Front of Lumia 925, Lumia 1020, 808 PureView, and Lumia 928

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Matte white finish on Nokia Lumia 1020

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Glorious 41 megapixel camera module in matte black

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Black right side buttons

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Top of the Lumia 1020

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Bottom of the 1020, note the lanyard opening

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Close up of lanyard opening

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Lumia 1020 in hand

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Lumia 1020 Start screen

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More of the Start screen

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AT&T preinstalled apps

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App launcher with AT&T apps

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Nokia HERE software is present

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Camera Pro tutorial, exposure

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Camera Pro tutorial, shutter speed

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Camera Pro tutorial, low light

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Camera Pro tutorial

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Pro camera interface

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Pro Camera options

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Changing Pro Camera settings

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Moving around the Pro Camera utility

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See changes as you rotate the dial

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Another setting you can control

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Smart Camera app is included too

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