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Nokia Lumia 1020 Review: Windows Phone with 41 Megapixel Camera

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Yesterday afternoon, Nokia announced their latest smartphone: the Lumia 1020. With a 41-megapixel camera, Nokia claims the device will revolutionise smartphone photography. We take a look at the new device and see how it compares against the iPhone 5 and Galaxy S4.


41 Megapixel PureView Camera: Clearer Images & Lossless Zoom


Lumia 1020.jpgThe headline feature of the Lumia 1020 is its 41-megapixel PureView camera. Featuring a sensor that’s almost 4 times bigger than rival devices, the Lumia 1020 can capture photos at a resolution of up to 38 megapixels. For most people, this is a little overkill and for good reason: 5 megapixels is already enough for a good-quality A4-sized print. A 38 megapixel photo will also use large amounts of storage unnecessarily.


Instead of using full-resolution photos, Nokia believes the majority of people will use 5 megapixel photos. On the Lumia 1020, there are two ways of producing a 5-megapixel photo:


  1. Super Sampling. By capturing photos at 38 megapixels and later reducing the resolution to 5 megapixels, noise can be reduced substantially through a process called super sampling.

    The following diagram illustrates the benefits of super sampling. Cameras are affected by noise – there’s small fluctuations causing each pixel to slightly differ from its true value. By sampling across a larger number of pixels, groups of pixels can later be combined and averaged across. The resulting data will be less noisy – you’ll get clearer photos, better sharpness and fewer grainy effects.

    An example of how super sampling gives less noisy images. Source: Nokia.

    On the Lumia 1020, seven pixels are combined to produce each “super pixel”. This gives a resulting photo at the resolution of 5 megapixels.

  2. Lossless Zoom. Most smartphones have a digital zoom feature. When we zoom in on part of the image, the original image gets cropped and the selected region is enlarged. During this process, details are lost and sharpness is reduced. This is because digital zoom creates new pixels by interpolating the pixels around them.

    On the Lumia 1020, the high-resolution sensor means it isn’t necessary to interpolate. Whenever zoom is used, the handset takes data from a smaller part of the sensor. For a 5-megapixel photo, you can zoom in 3x without losing any data. For full HD video (1080p), lossless zoom of 4x is possible. At 720p, it’s possible to obtain lossless zoom of 6x.

    Loseless Zoom.jpg
    Lossless zoom works by selecting data from part of the sensor. No interpolation is necessary. With standard digital zoom, quality is lost due to interpolation. Source: Nokia.

For every photo you take, the Lumia 1020 will store two versions: a full-resolution photo at 38 megapixels and a super-sampled photo at 5 megapixels. If you choose to crop, straighten or re-frame a photo, this is performed on the full-resolution photo. The resulting image is then super-sampled back to 5 megapixels. This ensures minimum loss of quality.


Other notable features on the Lumia 1020’s camera include:


  • Large 2/3” sensor. The Lumia 1020 has a 2/3” sensor. With a sensor area of 58mm2, there’s much more space to collect light. Compared to other high-end smartphones like the iPhone 5 and the Galaxy S4, the Lumia 1020 has almost four times the sensor area. This means it should give better photos in low-light conditions.
    Sensor Size Comparison.jpg
    To scale comparison: Sensor sizes on an entry-level smartphone, a high-end smartphone (e.g. iPhone 5 & Galaxy S4), a point-and-shoot camera and the Nokia Lumia 1020.

  • Back from Side.jpgOptical Image Stabilisation (OIS). The lens on the Lumia 1020 sits on an optically-stabilised assembly. The stabilisation system works by detecting camera shake. If movement is detected, the device compensates for this by moving the lens in the opposite direction. By stabilising the camera, blurring can be reduced in photos. You’ll see the most significant impact when taking long-exposure photos in dark conditions. Optical image stabilisation will also reduce camera shake in recorded videos. For more information, see our article on the Lumia 920 which first introduced OIS.

  • Xenon Flash. The Lumia 1020 has a xenon flash. Compared to LED flash (which is found on most other smartphones), xenon flash is brighter and faster. It can emit a thousand times more light in the space of 1 millisecond. This means the flash can reach further – you can still take a good photo from 3m away. The quick flash can also freeze action within a photo.

  • LED Flash. Xenon flash is not suitable for continuous operation (e.g. whilst recording video). For this reason, the Lumia 1020 also features a LED flash.

Nokia Pro Camera: Camera Application with Advanced Settings


As well as a larger sensor, the Lumia 1020 introduces a revamped camera application. This is called “Nokia Pro Camera” and it replaces the default camera application from Windows Phone 8. Casual photographers can leave everything on auto – just point and shoot and use the application as before.


For advanced users and professional photographers, Nokia Pro Camera offers a range of advanced controls. These allow you to adjust image composition in various ways:


  • Nokia Pro Camera.jpgWhite Balance. Allows you to adjust the photograph to have warmer or cooler tones.

  • Focus. Most smartphones have a “tap to focus” feature. The Lumia 1020 adds extra flexibility with a manual focus feature. This can be used for artistic effect (e.g. for capturing bokeh photographs).

  • ISO. You can manually adjust the ISO between 100 and 3200.

  • Shutter Speed. The exposure time can be increased to as long as 4 seconds. A long exposure time allows you to capture light trails at night. It also allows you to take night-time photographs without a flash.

  • Exposure Level. You can manually adjust the exposure value (EV).

The controls are presented as a series of dials. It works in much the same way as on the Samsung Galaxy Camera. Most other smartphones don’t have the capability to adjust these settings. For this reason, the functionality is likely to be welcomed amongst professionals and enthusiasts.


Design & Form Factor


Lumia 1020 - Back.jpgThe Lumia 1020 looks much like its predecessor, the Lumia 920. Housed in a polycarbonate unibody, the Lumia 1020 has a clean and sleek design. The polycarbonate materials feel good in the hand but they’re not quite as premium as the metallic materials on the iPhone 5 and the HTC One.


There’s one major design change on the Lumia 1020 - that’s the camera bulge on the back of the device. As the Lumia 1020 has a much larger camera sensor, the thickness of the camera component has increased to accommodate it. Camera components are housed in a black circle. The circle is slightly raised and props up the back of the device.


Form Factor.jpg
There’s a slight bulge on the back of the device: this houses the camera and the xenon & LED flash bulbs.


The Lumia 1020 will be available in a choice of three colours: yellow, white and black.


If you’re looking for an alternative that’s lighter and thinner, consider the Lumia 925. It lacks the 41-megapixel sensor but most of the other specifications remain the same.


Camera Grip Accessory


If you’re a frequent photographer, the Lumia 1020 has an optional “camera grip” accessory. This snaps on to your phone and boosts the battery capacity from 2,000mAh to 3,020mAh. It also provides a tripod slot and a larger shutter button.


Camera Grip.jpg
The Lumia 1020 has an optional camera grip accessory (available at extra cost).


Nokia Lumia 1020: Comparison to iPhone 5 & Galaxy S4


The Lumia 1020 compares as follows to the iPhone 5 and the Galaxy S4:



Nokia Lumia 1020
Lumia 1020.jpg

Apple iPhone 5

iPhone 5 Front.jpg 

Samsung Galaxy S4

End of Article.jpg 


1.5GHz dual-core

1.3GHz dual-core

1.9GHz quad-core


4.5-inch AMOLED (organic LED) display

4.0-inch TFT display

5.0-inch AMOLED (organic LED) display

Screen Resolution

1280x768 pixels

1136x640 pixels

1920x1080 pixels

Pixel Density

332 pixels per inch (326 ppi)

326 pixels per inch (326 ppi)

441 pixels per inch (441 ppi)

Operating System

Microsoft Windows Phone 8

Apple iOS 6

Google Android 4.2 Jelly Bean







16GB, 32GB or 64GB

16GB, 32GB or 64GB

MicroSD Expansion



Up to 64GB

Cloud Storage

7GB (Microsoft SkyDrive)

5GB (Apple iCloud)

50GB (Dropbox)


41 megapixels with xenon & LED flash

8 megapixels with LED flash

13 megapixels with LED flash

Camera Aperture




Video recording

1080p, 30 frames per second

1080p, 30 frames per second

1080p, 30 frames per second


2,000mAh (non-removable, 13.3 hours talk time)

1,440mAh (non-removable, 8 hours talk time)

2,600mAh (removable, 17 hours talk time)









Text Input

On-Screen Keyboard

On-Screen Keyboard

On-Screen Keyboard

Approx. Price




SIM Card Size

Micro SIM

Nano SIM

Micro SIM


All three devices are compatible with giffgaff. You can benefit from some great savings when you buy the device SIM-free and use a giffgaff goodybag.


Nokia Lumia 1020: UK Release Date


According to Nokia, the Lumia 1020 will launch in the UK during Q3. This means we should see it before the end of September. In the US, it’ll be available from July 26th. Hopefully we won’t have to wait too long until it arrives on our shores.


Your Thoughts…


In this article, we’ve looked at the new Nokia Lumia 1020. Featuring a 41-megapixel PureView sensor, the Lumia 1020 takes smartphone photography to the next level.


Were you impressed by the Lumia 1020? Are you a fan of the PureView camera functionality? Do you think Nokia have done enough or are they being held back by the Windows Phone operating system? We’d love to hear your thoughts… please drop us a comment below and let us know what you think!


Ken Lo writes about mobile technology and the mobile industry at Ken's Tech Tips.


41 megapixelsSmiley Surprised i really have to wonder why!

Interesting read, thanks.

Top phone. Love to have one.

I wish they did an Android version...

Impressive technology. Can't see it selling in huge numbers though.

Someone famous once said that the best camera is the camera you have with you. And as mobile phones are basically now ubiquitous, having a phone that doubles as a decent pocket camera is a pretty great thing. I think a lot of amateur photographers, and probably some pro ones, are going to be interested in this "phone" Smiley Happy


Thanks for the review. Looks like a nice phone, but still think overall I would pick the Samsung Galaxy S4 (I currently have the S3, and am not looking to upgrade), but if I had to at the moment it would be the S4 for features as well as functionality. I do like the Windows 8 OS though, but prefer Android a little bit more. Smiley Tongue

great post very informative


Excellent post Ken - thanks!


As descender says above this handset is likely to appeal to those who are serious about their photography.


Another thing to note is the “Nokia Pro Camera” app is being rolled-out to other Nokia Lumias so those with the cheaper 920 will benefit from this. Smiley Wink


Amazing tech squeezed into this baby! Smiley Happy



looks nice although don't think its a phone im intrested in getting

I would love this for the camera, but the lack of storage would put me off. There would be nowhere to store photos once I had loaded my music.