Testing the Nokia Lumia 1020's 41-megapixel shooter (pictures)

Nokia's ultimate camera phone can take some dazzling shots, even if you're more of a casual photographer. Here are some examples of what it can do, and what we found didn't work so well.

Jessica Dolcourt
Jessica Dolcourt is a passionate content strategist and veteran leader of CNET coverage. As Senior Director of Commerce & Content Operations, she leads a number of teams, including Commerce, How-To and Performance Optimization. Her CNET career began in 2006, testing desktop and mobile software for Download.com and CNET, including the first iPhone and Android apps and operating systems. She continued to review, report on and write a wide range of commentary and analysis on all things phones, with an emphasis on iPhone and Samsung. Jessica was one of the first people in the world to test, review and report on foldable phones and 5G wireless speeds. Jessica began leading CNET's How-To section for tips and FAQs in 2019, guiding coverage of topics ranging from personal finance to phones and home. She holds an MA with Distinction from the University of Warwick (UK).
Jessica Dolcourt
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Putting the Lumia 1020's 41-megapixel camera to the test

Most smartphone cameras these days claim 8- or 13-megapixel cameras, which is why Nokia's 41-megapixel claim for the Lumia 1020 sounds so grand, and so impossible.

These shots were all taken with the Nokia Pro Cam app. Unless specified, they were shot in automatic mode and have been resized. Check out our camera shootout for comparison photos with other smartphones.

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Om nom nom

This kid loves his snacks.

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Good enough to eat

This taco platter looks sharp, focused, and delicious.

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Close crop

I cropped into the original image very closely to reveal the detail captured in the leaves and separate blades of grass.

5 of 32 Joshua Goldman/CNET

Low light

You see rice grains and the table's texture in this low-light shot, which isn't washed out or overly lit with flash.

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Not as good

Another low-light shot, but this time the saffron sauce surrounding the squash isn't as sharp as it should be.

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Into the fire pit

Playing with the ISO and exposure mode got me this flame; taking the same photo with automatic modes in the native camera app just gave me a big, hazy, bright fireball with no depth or definition.

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En fuego

The same goes for this majestic fountain of flame.

9 of 32 Jessica Dolcourt/CNET

Sharper than it looks

I shot this photo of a storefront because I liked the juxtaposition of the mural and the dress. Only afterward did I notice the bag reading "Good grammar is sexy."

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Crop in a little

To test the lossless zooming, I cropped in from a picture similar to the previous one (I used a slightly different angle to take in the T-shirts to the left of the bag).

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Even closer

Then, I cropped even more. The original photo captured so much detail, you can see the jagged edges of the bag's stitched lettering.

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Between shoots

This quickly snapped candid shot takes in the scene perfectly, but I expected faces to come out a little sharper.

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In full bloom

Fine detail and bright, saturated color make this photo a winner. The camera autoenhanced this picture to boost color richness and contrast, which is a good thing in this case. An overcast day like today eliminates shadows that can help tease out how good a camera is at dealing with more difficult (but common) conditions.

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More flowers

It's nice to see the variegated petal colors come through.

15 of 32 Kristina Rosa/CNET

Fun with focus

We tested out the 1020's agility in hopping between two focus points. Here, I'm in focus.

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Fun with focus, Part 2

Now, my ice cream takes center stage.

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The Lumia 1020 captured the moment when I shot this landscape scene, but it's so far away, the features all blend together.

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Front-facing shots

I was happy with the color and evenness in this front-facing photo, taken outdoors in front of a local San Francisco food truck.

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And now inside

Working and snacking while assessing the front-facing shooter.

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The hot summer sun threw sharp shadows. You can almost feel the heat through this pic.

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Zoom, zoom, baby

Ready for another demonstration of the Lumia 1020's cropping skills? Here's the original photo.

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Now we get closer.

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Not done yet

And closer still...

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The closest crop is a little grainy, but it's still easy to make out sharp edges and detail.

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Group shot

The 1020 overemphasized amber tones in this indoor photo of CNET's crew, and some faces weren't as distinct as others.

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Not bad

This photo was shot using full Auto settings. You can clearly see both the sky and the house, as well as the texture of the clouds.

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This photo was shot with a 1.7 exposure compensation. It's brighter, but at the expense of cloud detail.

28 of 32 James Martin/CNET

Warm flash

Camera flash often blues out an image. The light here is warm, even if skin looks a little jaundiced in spots.

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Texture king

Gorgeous texture in the sculpture makes this photo feel very true-to-life.

30 of 32 James Martin/CNET

Light versus dark

This stress test shows how the 1020 balances the bright outside light and the room's dark interior. Instead of exposing for the light and making the interior really dark, it kept the inside of the room the right tones while keeping the outside lit. The camera gets points for avoiding extremes.

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Studio shot

Here, the Lumia 1020 goes through the same camera test as a typical standalone CNET camera. There's excellent detail and noise control.

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Near and far

CNET camera editor Joshua Goldman photographed this New York skyscraper to test two things: the 1020's proficiency with landscapes, and how much noise it creates when you zoom close in on the focal point.

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