Nokia Lumia 1020 Review

October 21, 2013 | Mark Goldstein |


The Nokia Lumia 1020 is a Windows Phone 8 smartphone with a 41-megapixel sensor and a 26mm equivalent Carl Zeiss lens with a fast maximum aperture of f/2.2 and optical image stabilization. Also featuring a 4.5-inch PureMotion HD+ OLED touchscreen with Touch AF, a built-in Xenon flash, geotagging, 32GB/64GB internal storage and built-in wireless charging, the Nokia Lumia 1020 can capture Full 1080p HD videos at 30fps. It can also simultaneously take a high resolution 38 megapixel image and a smaller 5 megapixel picture that is easier to share on social networks. The Nokia Lumia 1020 is available now in yellow, white or black for around £550 / $650. The optional Nokia Camera Grip adds a shutter release and tripod mount and retails for $79.

Ease of Use

The Nokia Lumia 1020 is quite a large and heavy smartphone that just about fits into a trouser or jacket pocket, weighing 158g and measuring 130.4x71.4x10.4mm. It has a solidly built unibody design that feels like it should withstand the odd knock or two. The lens is a 26mm equivalent optic with a fast maximum aperture of f/2.2, above which is a thin lozenge-shaped flash that's not particularly powerful, offering an operating range of 4m.

The Nokia Lumia 1020 offers either 32Gb or 64Gb of built-in memory, with no external memory slot. There's a small physical shutter release button on the side, which can be used to jump straight into the Lumia 1020's camera mode by holding it down for a couple of seconds, speeding up the picture-taking process, although the 2 second start-up time is a little slow. Not as slow as the shot-to-shot time, though, which at 4 seconds is too slow by modern standards, leading to a frustrating wait and some missed opportunities.

The combination of the wide-angle lens, f/2.2 aperture, very effective built-in image stabilizer and maximum ISO speed of 4000 makes this smartphone better suited to hand-held low-light photography than most other comparable devices. The Lumia 1020 offers a built-in, lens-based image stabilisation system that Nokia claims offers a 3-stop advantage compared to smartphones with no anti-shake. In practice we could hand-hold the Lumia 1020 in fairly dark conditions and still get sharp results for both stills and video without resorting to using the rather ineffective built-in flash.

Nokia Lumia 1020 Nokia Lumia 1020
Front Camera

You can digitally zoom the lens by 3x by swiping up and down on the screen - we'd recommend that you forget this feature, though, as zooming in does degrade the picture quality slightly, despite the claims that it's a lossless zoom, and its also only applied to the image at 5 megapixels, rather than the highest resolution of 38 megapixels. The lens has a minimum focus range of 15cm, not bad, but not really good enough for macro shots.

There's no means of gripping the Nokia Lumia 1020 the front or rear, making it a little difficult to get to grips with, especially since its unibody design is very smooth. The lens is close to the center of the body's width, so you don't have to be too careful not to let your left forefinger stray into the frame.

By default the Nokia Lumia 1020 uses the Auto shooting mode. The other available modes are Close-up, Night, Night Portrait, Sports and Backlight. All of the modes provide the full range of camera options, allowing you to change settings which include the ISP speed (Auto, 100-3200), Exposure Value (+2EV to -2EV), White Balance (Auto, Cloudy, Daylight, Flourescent, Incandescent), Aspect Ratio (16:9, 4:3), and the Focus Assist Light (On, Off).

Nokia Lumia 1020 Nokia Lumia 1020
Image Displayed Playback Menu

In addition, the Nokia Lumia 1020 offers the Nokia Pro Camera app for more experienced photographers. Although it doesn't offer any more settings options than the regular Camera app, it does at least provide a useful horizontal row of icons across the top of the screen which provides easy access to flash, white balance, focus, ISO, shutter speed and exposure compensation. Although we're puzzled by the inability to set the aperture, being able to choose the shutter speed, only available in the Nokia Pro Camera app, does at least allow for more creativity.

Other apps of note inclue the Nokia Smart Cam, which takes a sequence of photos and allows you to combine them into one image,choose the best one from the sequence, remove unwanted objects, make a strobe effect to emphasize motion and even choose the best faces for great group shots. The Panorama app automatically stitches up to 5 images into a wide-angle shot, with an on-screen guide helping the composition of the panorama.

You can take a photo on the Nokia Lumia 1020 either by half-pressing the conventional shutter button to focus then full-pressing it to fire the shutter, or by simply tapping on the LCD screen, which quickly focuses and takes the photo with a single tap. The 41 megapixel JPEG images are quickly committed to memory in a single second, the screen momentarily blanking out and then displaying the captured image before the user can go on to take a second shot. Note that you can't take a burst of images on the Lumia 1020, just a single-shot.

Nokia Lumia 1020 Nokia Lumia 1020
Photo Settings Menu Video Settings Menu

The Nokia Lumia 1020 can shoot High Definition video clips at full 1080p or 720p HD at 30fps in the MP4 format, complete with with stereo sound with the ability to change the white balance (Cloudy, Fluorescent, Incandescent, Automatic, Daylight) and continuous focus mode. You can also zoom in by 6x if you wish. Note that you can't take a still image during video recording.

The small icon in the top-left corner is for playing back your images. You can browse through your photos by flicking them from side-to-side, view them as thumbnails in the Camera Roll, by date or in albums, share, delete and favourite images, and rotate, crop, change the aspect ration and optimise each image.

Despite being a flagship product, the Nokia Lumia 1020 offers a rather restricted array of camera options by compact camera standards, but it is a responsive device with a well-implemented touch-screen interface. Now let's take a closer look at its image quality...