The so much anticipated Nokia Lumia 1020 is out! Since the Nokia 808, the huge 41Mpixels camera phone that surprised the world and amazed the lovers of mobile photography, came out that a new phone featuring this camera and the Windows Phone OS was expected.
Today it was announced! The question that so many may ask is: What and how it differs from the Nokia 808 and Lumia 920?
The truth is that Nokia, after launching 2 Pureview phones with 2 different innovations, a big 41Mp sensor that allows to shot 5Mp and 8P and zoom digitally without any quality loss and the first phone featuring Optical Image Stabilization, decided to bring these together to produce the ultimate camera phone. But it's more than a simple combination of techs. Let's get into the details.The sensor
Both Nokia Lumia 1020 and Nokia 808 have a sensor of 41 Mpixels and the similarities ends there. The sensor size of the Nokia 808 is 1/1.2" against the 1/1.5" of the Lumia 1020, meaning that Nokia 808 has still a slightly bigger sensor. Of course, when comparing to the 1/3.2" sensor size of the Lumia 920, you realize that we are discussing which monster is the biggest. The redesign of the sensor of the Lumia 1020 also allow true 16:9 and 4:3 image resolutions.
Other big difference is the type of sensor. The Nokia 808 uses a FSI sensor (Front Side Illumination) while the Lumia 1020, as well the Lumia 920, use a BSI sensor (Back Side Illumination). The FSI are the most conventional type of sensor but there is a recent tendency to go with the new technology of the BSI sensors. Here's an explanation from Omnivision, one of the biggest manufacturer of BSI sensors:
OmniBSI technology involves turning the image sensor upside down and applying color filters and micro lenses to the backside of the pixel so that light is collected through the backside of the sensor. It effectively reverses the arrangement of layers so that metal and dielectric layers reside below the sensor array, providing the most direct path for light to travel into the pixel, which optimizes the fill factor to deliver best-in-class low-light sensitivity, image quality and color reproduction.
And an illustration of a BSI and FSI type of sensor:
So, BSI sensors are known for great low-light photos and Lumia 920 have already proved it. So you can hope for some great night shots if you are getting the Lumia 1020. Just for curiosity, iPhone5 as well the iPhone4S uses BSI type of sensors.The Lenses
The first difference is the Aperture (F number of the lenses). The Nokia 808 features a F2.4, the Lumia 920 a F2.0 while the new Lumia 1020 a F2.2 lenses. I must say that I'm really pleased with the choice of Nokia for the new Lumia. Knowing that as low as F goes, better illumination you get (allowing better performance with less light, which doesn't mean night shots only, could be sports for example), you also compromise the DoF (depth of field). The lower the F goes, shorter is the range of things that will be focused on your photo.
The F2.0 of Lumia 920 allows great low light photos and great bokeh effects but, in my opinion, is not a balanced option. I think the F2.2 lenses on the Lumia 1020 will fit most of their future users and will cover better all kinds of shots users will want to make. Of course, having a variable aperture like Nokia had with the Nokia N86, would be the best... Well, at least, we have still things to hope for in the future.
One thing I noticed is that the new Lumia 1020 lenses is a 6 elements lenses while both Lumia 920 and Nokia 808 have a 5 elements lenses. What are these elements? Well, lenses are not a single bit of glass/plastic but are made of more than one (usually in groups) . In the Lumia 1020 there is an extra one which really doesn't mean it's better or worse. The elements of the lenses are used to correct the final photo in terms of distortion, spherical aberration, chromatic aberration, etc but this doesn't mean that more elements equals a more perfect photo since elements can also produce undesired results like less sharpness and contrast, flares on strong direct lights, etc. More elements, more layers the light has to travel to reach the sensor. So there is no straight conclusion here. Don't think that 5 or 6 elements are too much, professional lenses can go up to 17 elements.The Optical Image Stabilization (OIS)
There is not much to say here, both Lumia's benefice from the known OIS, that was first released with the Lumia 920, and that the Nokia 808 is obviously missing. The white paper of Lumia 1020 does talk about a "new type of barrel shift actuator which enables moving a heavy and complex full lens assembly". Not sure how different it can be from the one on Lumia 920.The Flash
The new Lumia 1020 features a Xenon flash, just like the Nokia 808 while the Lumia 920 has a "short pulse high power dual LED". Xenon flash should give an advantage for being brighter than Leds, even if, by self-experience, the Lumia 920 has a really powerful flash. On the side of Led type of flash is that you can use it for night videos or just as a flashlight and here the Lumia 1020 has a nice feature that is a Video LED light (not sure if it can be used as a flashlight too). Once again, the Lumia 1020 bringing the best of the two worlds. The User Interface and controls
Many must have not given the deserved importance for the fact that some controls have been added to Lumia 1020 that I haven't seen in any other phone till date: the Exposure Time (known by photographers as Shutter Speed) and Manual Focus. Both are, in my opinion, very important and give users a whole new world of possibilities.
Till date, and I have complaint about it before, users had to play with the settings like ISO, EV and Modes to manipulate the camera to force it to act as intended (like reducing or increasing the exposure time). The Exposure time on the Lumia 1020 can be set from a minimum of 1/16000 seconds to a maximum of 4 seconds. The Nokia 808 could get a maximum exposure of 3 seconds while in the Lumia 920 was 1 second.
The Manual Focus allow you to focus right where you want. Touching the screen usually did the trick but not always resulted and you had no control on the time to take the shot as it immediately took it once focus was reached (sometimes it even failed to focus and took the shot anyway). This is a fantastic introduction to mobile photography by Nokia that I really appreciate.
Regarding the UI, I also had design a new UI
that would allow users to quickly set their settings to the ones pretended (so far there are too much steps) and also those settings would be visible at all time (so you wouldn't be using some undesirable setting that you missed to change). The new Lumia 1020 Camera UI is just what I pretended and I think it's fantastic!
You can see the new UI in action on this videos:
The video recording also benefices from the 41Mpixel camera and, like the Nokia 808, you can use zoom without compromising the video quality. If you are recording in 1080p (Full HD) you can zoom 4x while you can zoom up to 6x if you are recording in 720p. While recording videos, you have control on the video light, the white balance and lock focus, just like on the Lumia 920.
The Lumia 1020 also features the amazing Rich Recording that have made Nokia 808 and Lumia 920 famous for their recording, specially on concerts. If you have missed it, you can check Olivier playing his guitar
or me playing the piano
as well my recordings from an Orchestral concert
as amateur samples of what you can also record.Conclusion
Overall, I think the new Nokia Lumia 1020 takes mobile photography to a next step and, regardless for many being just a combination of two existing technologies, I think it introduces Pureview to a 3rd generation with the new Exposure Time and Manual Focus improvements, giving to the photographer more power and control over his photos.
If you are a mobile photographer fan, this will be a device to have!
I hope this article helped you to, not only see the differences between the three generations of Pureview, but also understand a bit better the technology that is behind. Feel free to add any information you think it's relevant or ask any question that you still have about the cameras on these phones.