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Samsung Galaxy S4 Zoom versus Nokia Lumia 1020

These photography big shots are almost more camera than smartphone. We match up their specs and strengths.

Samsung Galaxy S4 Zoom, Nokia Lumia 1020
The Samsung Galaxy S4 Zoom, left, and Nokia Lumia 1020 duke it out for smartphone camera greatness.
Josh Miller/CNET

With their focus on photography, Nokia's Lumia 1020 and Samsung's Galaxy S4 Zoom are the smartphone industry's camera big shots.

While both strive for smartphone imaging prowess, these two devices are really very different. It's best to think of the Lumia 1020 as a smartphone with a good camera, and of the S4 Zoom as a point-and-shoot that can make calls.

In addition, each camera phone has different lenses, resolutions, and focal lengths that makes the photo comparison a little trickier. The following assessment combines my experience with that of CNET camera editor Joshua Goldman, who also thoroughly tested both camera phones.

Camera resolution
The Lumia 1020 has a 41-megapixel resolution, which is a bit of a misnomer because photos resolve to 5 megapixels by default. You can peel off the full resolution images manually, through the computer.

Most of the time, the higher-resolution information goes into a href="" >lossless cropping, though it is still possible to get the full-resolution image if you really, really want it.

Samsung's Zoom uses the the same 16MP BSI CMOS sensor found in Samsung's higher-end compacts, which is what helps make its image quality roughly on par with this type of point-and-shoot. The Zoom takes 16-megapixel shots, and has a smaller sensor than the Lumia 1020. It is easier, however, to get to the full-resolution output.

Phone Nokia Lumia 1020 Samsung Galaxy S4 Zoom
OS Windows Phone 8 Android 4.2 Jelly Bean
U.S. carrier AT&T TBA
Camera 41 megapixels 16 megapixels
Zoom 3x digital 10x optical
Sensor size 1/1.5-inch
Aperture F 2.2 F 3.1-F 6.3
Focal range 26mm 24-240mm
Front-facing camera 1.2-megapixels 1.9-megapixels
Video recording 1080p HD rear;
720p HD front
1080p HD rear;
720p HD front
Processor 1.5GHz dual-core
Qualcomm Snapdragon S4
1.5GHz dual-core
Pega-Dual +XMM6262
Screen 4.5-inch AMOLED 4.3-inch Super AMOLED
Resolution 1,280x768; 331ppi 960x540; 256ppi
Dimensions (inches) 5.1x2.8x0.5* 5x2.5x0.61*
Weight (ounces) 5.6 7.3
Battery 2,000mAh, embedded 2,330mAh, removable
Internal storage 32GB 8GB
Expansion slot No Yes, up to 64GB
RAM 2GB Not listed
Bluetooth version 3.0 4.0
NFC Yes Yes
*At their slimmest points. The Lumia's camera mount extends 0.5 inch; the Zoom's is 2 inches away from the face.

Image quality
When it comes to images with the highest detail, lowest noise, and best low light performance, the Lumia 1020 steps up above and beyond the Galaxy S4 Zoom. That isn't to say that the Zoom's photos are poor; they're not. But the 1020's larger camera sensor and stabilizing ball bearings do their work well.

You can also tease some terrific images from both cameras using manual settings, though the Zoom's optical zooming lens and horde of presets makes it the far more flexible camera of the two. The Zoom also surpasses the 1020 at macro mode and close-ups.

For a photo comparison and analysis, check out Josh Goldman's photo shootout.

Zoom in on it
When it comes to cropping and close-ups, the Zoom has all the advantage with a 10x optical zoom that handily smashes the Lumia 1020's 3x digital zoom.

The Zoom's optical lens gets you much closer to objects, especially at distances you wouldn't otherwise be able to practically reach, like the top of a tree or across a river.

Nokia's 1020, however, has excellent lossless cropping if you take photos within the Pro Cam app. I was able to continually zoom in on an item until I could see individual stitches in a textile and blades of grass in a field. Of course, editing photos after the fact isn't as simple as taking them close up to begin with.

Settings and controls
Apart from high-resolution images and the larger sensor size, Nokia's manual camera controls are a high point. -- at least in theory. In practice, using them is a little complex, and sometimes frustrating because they're more limited than you'd expect.

The Lumia 1020 is bereft of preset modes in the default Nokia Pro Cam app, which isn't great (you have to switch camera apps or add lenses,) and the camera doesn't handle extreme close-ups well in automatic settings. However, the sliding controls are convenient for creative snaps, if incomplete. There's no way to adjust the aperture, for instance.

Now playing: Watch this: Lumia 1020: Calling all photogs

Samsung has more manual controls, which you access through an Expert mode. That's a small part of the setup, though, since you can also turn on presets like night mode, action shot, landscape, and -- one of my favorites -- food mode.

On-screen settings and icons also make it simpler to toggle the Zoom's front-facing camera; Nokia's Pro Cam app makes you go to the settings for a selfie.

One area where the Lumia 1020 excels is in loading up the camera in the first place. Press and hold the shutter button and it'll snap open the camera app, even if the phone is locked and asleep.

Not so with the Zoom. You'll have to go through the unlocking process before pressing the shutter button to wake the app, though you can set shortcuts on the home screen to unlock to the camera app. Another setting will open the camera when you power up the phone.

Although both phones have physical buttons to open the shutter, you can also turn on the camera app through respective software icons.

Portability and design
The Zoom's upper hand with its optical lens comes at a cost. Its shape as a point-and-shoot poorly masquerading as a cellie makes it the most outrageously awkward smartphone I've ever tried to carry around.

Now playing: Watch this: Hands-on with the crazy Galaxy S4 Zoom

If you're seriously thinking of using it as your primary device, invest in an excellent Bluetooth headset now.

Nokia's Lumia 1020 isn't the most svelte device I've ever pocketed, but it's a slip of a thing compared to the Zoom, and much more practical for every day use.

The cost quotient
Apart from image quality and portability, cost is going to be a huge deciding factor for serious mobile photographers. The Lumia 1020 is a hefty $300 on-contract with AT&T, and even more if you're buying a global model of the phone unsubsidized.

In the U.K., the Zoom costs 440 British pounds, or about $675. There's been no official U.S. announcement yet, but given the ambitiousness of this cellular-ready camera, I'd expect a carrier to pick it up eventually.

Are they really all that?
These handsets are large, and don't quite deliver on their promise -- the Lumia 1020 because its software is a little limited and confusing to use, and the Zoom because the avid photographers I quizzed would still rather carry a separate point-and-shoot.

The image quality in each, while definitely better than the average high-end smartphone, still isn't perhaps as obviously or astoundingly different to make the switch from, say, the Galaxy S4 or iPhone 5 to a 1020 or Zoom.

Smartphone cameras have come a tremendous way since their VGA beginnings, and even if you'd never want to own either of these phones, they at least deserve our admiration for pushing the boundaries.

However, I believe that each phone will improve on its second iteration in all categories: slimmer builds (Zoom,) more flexible controls (Lumia 1020,) and the way they will continue to process images with high quantities of detail and low amounts of noise.

For even more on each of these phones, read our hands-on with the Zoom, and my full review of the Nokia Lumia 1020.

Now playing: Watch this: Best smartphone cameras

Article updated 7/26 at 10:40am PT with corrections.