Nokia Connnects were kind enough to send me a Nokia Lumia 1020 for a trial with an extended period of one month. As I expected, the performance of the Windows Phone was excellent, always smooth and responsive, with the great Nokia Camera manual controls.
In this post I will share my experiences with the Nokia Lumia 1020 camera trying to point out all his strengths but also his weaknesses. Before explaining my personal opinion on the camera, I must clear out that, apart from anything I will say next, this is, by far, the best camera I ever tested on a phone.
One note, the photos on this article have not been edited apart from resizing to demonstrate the results out from the camera.
_____________________________________The 41 MegaPixel camera concept as I see it
Since Nokia released the 41 MPixel camera, I've seen many people posting blurred distant objects (or even the moon) that can be seen on the photos taken with the Lumia 1020 when it's full zoomed. I can also confirm that it's possible.
Apart from the fact that it's really remarkable the details you can see when you zoom in the photos, I don't see this as something useful or even an advantage. I prefer to point out that a non-zoomed photo has such a big amount of detail that, seen as it is, it is just stunning! Without any use of other specific feature, the photo quality of the Lumia 1020 is on par with other compact or even professional cameras. The photos are crisp, sharp look with a good and balanced exposure and color temperature.
My usage of the 41 MegaPixels sensor were mainly to obtain sharp 5 MPixel photos and re-arrange some photos with a moderate zoom in, line up the skyline, etc.
The performance of the Nokia Lumia 1020 is really close to perfect. The photos look great, well exposed and with vivid colors but still with a natural look (the contrast and color saturation applied on the post processing aren't too aggressive). For the more demanding photographers, there is always the DNG option where you have the final word on what post-processing to apply. For those that don't want to use the DNG feature, the final results are great as they are.
As an amateur photographer I got used to always set some settings on manual. On the Lumia 1020, it wasn't an exception and I took most of my photos with the setting of ISO 100 and all other settings to Auto.
While during daylight (and with good conditions) the difference between manual mode and auto are not that significant. Is at night that the manual commands really make the big difference.Auto Mode
(settings the auto mode choose: ISO 2500, 1/3 Seconds of Exposure Time- Tripod Used)Manual Mode
(ISO 100, 4 Seconds Exposure Time - Tripod Used)
The differences are notorious. I don't consider the photo in the Auto Mode bad as with a ISO 2500 it managed to control the noise (some compact cameras have more noise on ISO 800) and an exposure time of 1/3 almost allowed an handheld photo. The colors are still there and the noise reduction level was moderated.
Of course, for long exposure photos I have used always a tripod (like on both of the above photos) as OIS, for good as it might be, is never enough when you take photos with a exposure time bigger than 1/30. Anything below that, is bound to get blurred by the camera movement/shake. Another simple technique that I've used on all photos is setting the timer to 2 seconds to avoid any initial shake from pressing the shutter button (or touch screen).
I'm a fan of night photography and I must say that I really enjoy taking photos at night. So, here a couple more:
I think the photos speak for themselves. The quality achieved by the Lumia 1020 is really impressive!
I did noticed one annoying problem while shooting at night. Every bright spotlight can and usually creates a reflex on the lenses that results on white dots. They can be visible even seeing on smaller scales.
The solution can pass by playing the alignment of the photo with those lights, some digital post-processing for removing it or maybe the use of an extra lenses (haven't tried this solution).
Another problem is that these same sources of strong lights are hard to control on the Lumia 1020 as it tend to create blank and/or purple rays on the photo.
The Lumia 1020 is not the best phone for macros for the fact that has a minimum distance of about 15cm to focus or at least, the results could be more impressive. Still, when compared with other phones, the Lumia 1020 has the great advantage of the massive resolution which allows you to crop the image to a point where macros can still be impressive.
Here are some macros with the help of the crop.
I think they look great so I'm pretty satisfied with it beside the 15cm minimum distance to focus. I can't stop thinking that with a reduced distance to focus the results would be stunning.
I must confess that I use almost in all my photos the ISO set to 100 (minimum as possible) to reduce the noise from the photo. Still, in some circumstances where the light is not as strong and you need a faster shutter speed (less exposure time), due to movement objects or because you don't have a tripod to use at the moment, the Lumia 1020 can perform still really well at ISO levels of 200 and 400. From there, the noise on the photos become too much visible and, in JGP mode, the noise reduction gets too aggressive so you get a mixture of noise and blur.
I compiled some tests using all ISO levels available on the Lumia 1020 that goes from 100 to 4000 and you can see it on the following short video.
In more detail, I selected a part of the photos to show the behavior of the camera on the different ISO levels and you can see it here:
As you can see, higher the ISO, higher the noise and more aggressive is the noise reduction applied. Also, the balance of the colors tends to be gone on higher ISOs. Still, with different exposure times, the color can still be seen. Here's the one photo from same place, also with ISO 4000 but with the exposure time of 1/2 Second.
Regarding the ISO, I think if you have the ability to choose a Low ISO, then go for it. The best results come from there and use only higher levels of ISO when strictly necessary.
While most videos look great, I noticed some artifacts on some I made, specially while moving and on bright sunny days. The artifacts are more due to the type of sensors used on the Nokia Lumia 1020 and are usual on CMOS sensor types. This is something known on the photography field and it's called Rolling Effect or Propeller Distortion. If you curious about it, just search on YouTube for "CMOS Sensor" and one of the terms I pointed and you will get plenty of info on it.
You can check some videos I made on the final video in the end of this article.
______________________________________________Things I would like to see in the next Nokia Camera App
Apart from my desires on the Hardware part for the next Pureview Camera generation (introducing a variable Aperture like on Nokia N86 was my favorite new feature), I think there are still things that can be done on the software side. Without developing much, here are some features that I would like to see on the Nokia Camera app.
- More Automatic Modes (like Macro, Night Portrait - Being aperture fixed, Landscape and Portrait mode don't apply)
- On the manual focus, the indication of the focal distance (in cm/meters)
- A zoomed square at the center while manually focusing (to guarantee perfect focus)
- Focus Bracketing
- First/Second curtain Flash option
- Independent Focus and Exposure points
- RAW Video format
This are only some points. I might develop these ideas on an own topic.
The photo quality of the Lumia 1020 is a reference on the market, only rivaled by his predecessor, the Nokia 808. Even if I think there are still some ground for improvements to develop more features and to correct some issues the photo quality achieved by this phone can make you rely on it for most of the circumstances, allowing you to let your digital camera at home. Resuming on some Pros and Cons here are my thoughts on the Nokia Lumia 1020 camera:
- Stunning Photo Quality
- Great night photography performance
- High Resolution zoom
- Excellent resize/adjust photo options on Nokia Camera (setting the photo as pretended without losing the original)
- Good Video record performance
- Manual Controls
- Bright lights (sun or at night) tend to cause purple flares
- Spot lights at night cause reflexes on the lenses, making dots appear on the photo
- Focusing and CMOS problems (Rolling shutter effect) while video recording in movement
- Slow shot-to-shot time while using 34MP (JPG or DNG)
So, if you are looking for the best camera phone on the market right now, don't look further. This is the one. Did I get convinced with the Lumia 1020? Let's just say that I bought one that arrived just a couple of days before returning the trial one.
And now, for the resume of my all experience with the Nokia Lumia 1020, I leave here a video that I hope you will enjoy.
Have some questions that you would like to clarify? Feel free to post them here and I will be glad to answer them.