We check out the simply astounding camera on the new Lumia 1020… but does it forgive Windows Phone 8?

There's no doubt that Nokia knows how to make a phone, and with the 41MP sensor on the Lumia 1020, we're pretty excited.

There's a new level of RAM inside, a decent 32GB of memory (with larger sizes on the way) and the whole device has been slimmed down to an almost impossible level when you consider how much technology has been packed in.

There's the obvious elephant in the room: it's still running Windows Phone 8, which many will see as a negative, thanks to a lack of apps and power compared to its counterparts.

It's a notion that's a little unfair, given that while it does have a processor that graced handsets from last year, Nokia and Microsoft have put a lot of effort into making an OS that plays well with a CPU without requiring the heavy lifting of a quad core option.

It still struggles when taking pictures and saving them instantly, but the time isn't horrendous and seems in keeping with what you'd expect when making photos of around 15MB.

The design of the Nokia Lumia 1020 is something of a marvel when considered in context. It's a lot thinner than last year's 808 Pureview, yet does that while packing in more technology, thanks to the addition of optical image stabilisation.

This new OIS actually uses ball bearings and little motors to keep things all shapely, which Nokia claims you can hear working when you wiggle the phone around when taking pictures.

Beyond that, it's mostly a Lumia 920 / Lumia 925 with a large sensor bolted onto the back. It's got a large and bulbous rear, as you might expect given the large sensor and lens elements needed for Pureview, but it's not bad when lobbed in the pocket. As you can see by this picture, the fingers do cover the sensor when you're using the phone normally, which does feel a little uncomfortable and may lead to smudges, but it's not terrible thanks to the thinner overall dimensions of the phone.

It's as impressive a piece of kit as anything else in the Lumia range - that Puremotion HD+ screen is OK, but at WXGA resolution it's a long way from Full HD, which is one of the few easily demonstrable areas where Android's HTC One and Samsung Galaxy S4 excel. The screen is good in outside light and such, but we'd still rather see something sharper here.

The camera functionality is something we'd have trouble saying too much about, as there's simply so much excellence under the hood when you quickly snap a photo or two. We'll talk about a few of the negatives: for instance, the camera app is curiously sliced up into three. You've got the standard Windows Phone 8 app, the new Nokia Smart Camera, and the even more nascent Nokia Pro Camera, all of which have very different functions.

You've also got the issue of speed of snappery: the Lumia 1020 does take a while to take and process a picture, but given we're looking at options that top out at 15MB with an incredible level of detail, the pace of photography doesn't feel too bad.

There's a whole world to play with in the Pro Camera app, and most of it is easy to use and understand. The manual focus element was our favourite, allowing you to set the focal length of the Lumia 1020 with a simple wiggle of the finger. You can easily open up all these options by sliding the camera button to the right, which was a rather neat trick.

The picture quality is just bamboozling. On stage CEO Stephen Elop showed off some pictures taken from a helicopter, and zooming in to show fine levels of detail. These came out looking rather noisy and blurry at full zoom, which we encountered when playing with photos on the device itself.

However, it's only when you get REALLY close up does this effect show itself, and most of the time you can easily zoom in most of the way on a picture and see more information with pin-sharp clarity. You also get the option of reframing the picture when you've taken it, so whether you want to change the aspect ratio, move the image around or just rotate you can do so to get a new snap.

Want to try again? Even after saving you can head back in and re-open the original image, with all the information stored right there. The oversampling technique is really effective, and we really like that you can take 5MP snaps from the full 38MP option for Facebook sharing and the like. It's odd you can't seem to save the photos you've re-framed, but it's still a nice feature, and you might be able to log your crops somewhere else in the phone.

Video quality deserves a nod here, as it's simply awesome. The same oversampling technique has been used to good effect, and a video of some bees which was zoomed into during the filming was simply mind-blowing - the image below is from about a foot and a half away, which shows just how much detail can be captures.

While we're in love with the Pro Camera functionality, Nokia appears to be persisting with this idea of putting the name of the app, be it Pro Camera, Smart Camera or Cinemgraph under each photo to allow you to open the app. It seems a bit too much to ask people to do this, as it's not an intuitive gesture and doesn't seem to be overly obvious.

It would be far more useful as a menu option, or just grouping all these app together under one program, although Nokia hinted to TechRadar that this was a technical limitation rather than anything else.

We did notice one nice little touch though: your most recent snap, when using the camera in Pro mode, is shown in a little 'Chat Heads' style circle in the top left-hand side of the screen, next to the icon to look through all your gallery at once. It's always good to review your snaps on the go, and this provides an easy way to do so.

Nokia Lumia 1020 vs the Samsung Galaxy S4 Zoom vs Nokia 808 Pureview

We managed to get our hands on the Samsung Galaxy S4 Zoom while playing with the Lumia 1020, and the differences between the two were startling. From the ugly design of the Zoom to the lower-power innards, there was no doubt the Lumia 1020 was head and shoulders above Samsung's favourite cameraphone. It's not a strictly fair fight, as the Zoom is a lot cheaper than the new Nokia flagship, but its decision to go with an optical zoom has ruined it in the design stakes.

The Nokia Lumia 808 Pureview, on the other hand, was a lot more impressive when compared to the new device. If you've used a Pureview in the past, we suggest you go back and pick it up again - we remember it being a lot more chunky in the hand.

It's still shown up by the svelte Lumia 1020, which also doesn't have the problem of being forced to run on Symbian, and there's no doubt that the power of the camera in the new Lumia is a real winner compared to last year's technology.


There were two options on offer when it comes to accessorising your Nokia Lumia 1020, and the first is one we can see most people purchasing to get the most out of their new device.

The battery and grip for the Lumia 1020 is something that adds a huge amount of heft to the device, but at least brings the battery up from a paltry 2000mAh to 3020mAh, and will be a must-have for the power user.

It's a fairly cheap-feeling chassis cover, but when snapped on offers a real amount of grip, and the cheap feeling translates into a lower weight than you'd expect. It's being sold for $79 (around £50) which is a lot for a piece of plastic and battery, but like we said: worth it.

The other accessory is the wireless cover, which we're a little confused by. Does Nokia like wireless charging or not? Like the Lumia 925 before it, there's no inbuilt use of the technology, so you have to plop on a lightweight cover. It's snug and brings an element of colour to proceedings, although there are black, white and yellow options to match your device.

Beyond that, the rest is very much the same fare we're used to seeing from Nokia on its devices. There was a noticeable uptick in the speed with which web pages loaded, which we put down to an upgraded amount of RAM. However, the rest of the phone was still as snappy as ever, the animations making it hard to move from one app to another, but that's a limitation of Microsoft's OS, not Nokia's.

The Here functionality, which allows you to get transport info, sat nav tracking, commute information and a huge mapping application that is only bettered by Google Maps, and is a real USP at the lower end of the Lumia range. For a device that could be rather costly, we'd expect such a thing, but there's no doubt that it works well.

Early verdict

We really, really like the Lumia 1020 as a device. Yes, it's more camera than phone, but the balance is a lot more even than before, and it will really appeal to all of those who want to make sure they get the best out of their everyday memories. It's going to irk all of those that bought the Nokia Lumia 925, as that phone was being sold on its camera credentials too, and now this is a much better version with more RAM - albeit with a larger rear section.

But talking about it in those terms does it a disservice, as the Nokia Lumia 1020 is a phone that makes you want to go out there and start snapping as many things as you can find - which was the same way we felt about the HTC One and its Ultrapixel camera.

This is the other end of the scale, taking massive technology and shrinking it right down to make something really unique on the market. There's no doubt it would have benefited from a memory card slot (the 808 had one Nokia, so your argument that it's not needed reeks of covering for Microsoft which doesn't want them on its phones so people will use SkyDrive).

The Lumia 1020 is a phone that will give people pause in their phone shop before deciding which handset to get... they may not buy one, but it's a move in the right direction for Nokia and it needs all the help it can get in growing its brand back to the high times of before. This just may be the phone to start that shift properly.