Nokia Lumia 1020 Review: 20/20 Vision

Nokia Lumia 1020 Review - Dialaphone

    We Liked

  • Powerful camera
  • Ergonomic form factor
  • We Disliked

  • Poor battery life
  • Rating

  • 3.5 out of 5 3.5 out of 5 3.5 out of 5 3.5 out of 5 3.5 out of 5

Nokia is furthering its already impressive camera phone range with the Lumia 1020, a high-end device that features an incredible 41 megapixel camera. Few smartphones have ever seen photographic power like this before, so we’re taking a look at how the device shapes up and finding out if its performance matches up to its headline grabbing specs.

Nokia Lumia 1020 Back Top

Key Features

  • 1.5GHz dual-core processor
  • 4.5-inch AMOLED display
  • 32GB internal storage
  • 41MP camera
  • 10.4mm thick
  • 158g weight
  • Windows Phone 8
  • 2000mAh battery

Design and Build

Following a familiar design theme to recent Lumia handsets, the Nokia mixes rounded edges with square corners to create a stylish frame. While feeling noticeably wide in the hand, the Lumia 1020 isn’t uncomfortable to hold and offers a good platform for taking photos, with the physical shutter button being well-placed on the side of the handset.

Nokia Lumia 1020 UI

Screen Performance

The 4.5-inch AMOLED display performs very well, showing the vibrant colours of the Windows Phone Live Tiles interface with the clarity and contrast that they deserve. A camera-focussed device needs a high-quality display to show off the images captured with it and the Lumia 1020 doesn’t disappoint in this area at all. It provides an excellent viewing platform that shows up detail in photos while also having a good balance of colour and contrast.

Under the Hood

Similarly, making photography a major feature of a smartphone demands some serious processing power in order to render the large image files created by that 41-megapixel camera. While the dual-core 1.5GHZ chip of the Lumia 1020 may not sound like much at all, being the standard for high-end Windows Phone 8 handsets, it is more than enough to make short work of processing big pictures.

We were expecting something of a delay after capturing a photo with Nokia’s handset, especially since the final, highest-quality images weigh-in at around 11MB, but there is only a delay of a second or two after pressing the shutter button. This didn’t get in the way at all when taking a series of photos one after another and was no worse than the performance of many other high-end devices.

Nokia Lumia 1020 Back Corner

Battery Performance

However, we did find that the heavy work that the handset’s photographic prowess puts on the handset has an effect on battery life. Since anyone buying this device is likely to want to take a lot of photos with it, its well worth noting that just a couple of hours of camera use drains the battery very close to the red.

The Lumia will need to be charged several times in one day if lots photos are to be taken. In fact we took a fully charged Lumia 1020 out for around two hours, capturing in the region of 40 photos, and found that its battery was down to less than half of its capacity afterwards.

Operating System and User Interface

There are few additions that Nokia has made to the detailed and feature-packed Windows Phone 8 software, save for the inclusion of the Nokia Pro Cam app that we’ll take a look at later. In terms of photography, there’s the Creative Studio and Smart Cam apps seen on earlier Lumias, for image editing. Users can add effects to their pictures and explore a variety of multi-shot modes for capturing action as it happens.

Nokia Lumia 1020 Lens Close

Camera and Video

On to the camera, which is far and away the stand out feature of this device and pushes the envelope of smartphone photography further than what has been seen before. There is little that compares to the Lumia 1020 under regular daylight conditions, with the camera producing incredibly sharp, clear images with real depth and clarity to them.

While we found some problems when shooting in the direction of bright sunlight, with hazing occurring around the edges of photos, the camera generally handles light sources well. There is little of the light bleeding around the edges of windows that you often get when shooting towards them.

Nokia Lumia 1020 Tree Bark ThumbnailNokia Lumia 1020 Cannon ThumbnailNokia Lumia 1020 Red Plant Thumbnail

Nokia Lumia 1020 Owl Thumbnail


Nokia Lumia 1020 No Parking Thumbnail

Nokia Lumia 1020 Window Thumbnail

Nokia Lumia 1020 Elmo Thumbnail

Nokia Lumia 1020 Light Back Thumbnail

Nokia Lumia 1020 camera samples – click thumbnails to see full size images

However, Nokia’s camera prowess really comes to the fore when shooting in low light, with the Lumia being able to capture in very dark conditions. In indoor situations the handset is second to none, with only the slightest distortion and noise appearing in even the darkest settings. The only problems we found with shooting in low light is that lining up a photo on a display that is almost totally black can be very difficult indeed.

As for the Pro Cam app, it offers a fantastic array of detailed controls that allow you to adjust the technical areas covered by photography, such as ISO, shutter speed and white balance. These controls appear in a wheel-like interface that pulls out across the display and are all very easy to adjust accurately.

Also included is a manual focus option, a real rarity on smartphones where touch focus is normally the only such choice. This is especially useful when lining up close-up shots, allowing you to bring even the smallest object into focus for shooting.

Nokia Lumia 1020 Front Bottom Corner

Performance and Verdict

Anyone looking at this handset will likely be considering it on the strength of its camera, which is clearly Nokia’s intention. Aside from its photographic capabilities there is little that distinguishes the Lumia 1020 from recent devices like the Lumia 920 and Lumia 925.

But that enormous, 41-megapixel sensor is a major strength, and something that will appeal to those who are serious about smartphone photography. Nokia’s camera prowess has been demonstrated several times over with its most recent Lumia handsets and this tradition continues with the Lumia 1020, an incredibly powerful and versatile camera phone.

Leave a Reply