With a 41-megapixel sensor and a dedicated camera grip, is the Nokia Lumia 1020 able to deliver an exciting camera experience?
Below are a number of different photos taken with the 1020 and its Pro Camera app, designed specifically for use with this handset. The app delivers control over ISO, white balance, shutter speed, focus and exposure compensation.
Unless otherwise stated, these images were resized for web from the original high-resolution image, either 34 megapixels (16:9) or 38 megapixels (4:3). When using the Pro Camera app, the 1020 also saves a 5-megapixel oversampled version of each photo, as well as the original. We have provided the 5-megapixel version for your pixel-peeping benefit, with the photo samples below. For a full rundown of the camera functionality and our review, read the camera review here.
What is the advantage of a 41-megapixel sensor in a practical sense? The ability to simulate the effect of optical zoom without having an actual optical zoom. Rather than interpolating or "guessing" the missing information when digital zoom is applied, having almost three times as many megapixels on the sensor as a regular smartphone camera means that you can crop into a photo without losing detail, effectively acting like a zoom.
On sunny days, the 1020 pumps up contrast and saturation quite a lot to produce very pleasing images. While shutter lag with autofocus turned on measures approximately 0.8 second in ample light, with manual focus activated, this time is reduced significantly to 0.02 second, which means spontaneous shots like this can be captured.
The advantage of a very high-resolution output image is that you can crop it without losing detail. Take, for example, the photo above. The horizon is not straight and the Opera House is much smaller in the frame than we would like. In the playback mode of the Pro Camera app, select the edit function to reframe and rotate the image, resulting in the photo on the next page.
Like other Nokia Lumia cameras, we found that underexposing ever so slightly using the exposure compensation slider gets the best out of the sensor. This means that more detail is retained in the sky and other bright areas.
The lens on the 1020 can resolve a lot of detail. That said, the camera does blow out highlights on high-contrast areas, like the image above. Unfortunately, there is no built-in HDR mode to help merge exposures, though you are able to do this yourself by using the built-in bracketing option. This takes three or five photos in succession (+/-0.5 to 2 EV), though you do need to hold the camera very steady in between each shot — or use a tripod.
The 1020 does a great job of capturing shallow depth-of-field effects. The combination of a large sensor and a fast maximum aperture means that bokeh is actually possible on a smartphone camera. Focusing on a point at the front or rear of the frame, rather than relying on the automatic centre focus point, produces the best results.
The Smart Cam app doesn't use the high-resolution capability of the sensor but does let photographers achieve some interesting effects. One of these is motion focus, which simulates the effect of panning, keeping a subject in crisp focus while blurring the surrounds.
The results do depend on the subject in question. Smart Cam correctly identified that both the boat and the waves in the foreground were moving subjects, but it didn't want to let us isolate just the boat. We've cropped out most of the error in the photo above, but you can see how it has tried to keep the foreground waves static in the image linked below.
The 1020 really lends itself to experimentation and playfulness. The camera grip means you can hold the handset with just one hand, while the screen is always easy to see in bright and direct sunlight, so you can shoot directly into the sun (if you so desire).