Author Topic: The new Nokia Lumia 1020 - A technical comparison to Nokia 808 and Lumia 920  (Read 11418 times)

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Offline Jonas

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  • 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:
    Hands-On Video
    Promo Video

    Video Recording

    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.


    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.

    Offline Olivier

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    Nokia announced everything I was hoping for and more. I wanted manuel focus and exposure time control and I got it !

    It bothers me though that the sensor in the new 1020 has apparently some less good specifications than the 808's. I understand that the 1020 sensor has nothing to do with the 808's and that it's a new generation one. Still, some specs as sensor size are different. They're close compared to the 920's but the 808 still has the bigger one. What does it imply ? Will the 808 still be better in some cases ? They probably put a smaller one to keep a thin design.

    The Xenon flash will be a bit smaller on the 1020 too.

    The F number are different but, if I understand correctly, it doesn't mean better or worse to have a higher/lower number. It just gives a different result. The lower the number, the more light gets in the sensor but it compromises the depth of field. Is it because the 808 has a higher f number that the minimum distance to focus is 20cm ? It the 1020 has a lower f number, it will be better in low light but won't produce bokeh effect as good as the 808 ?

    The 1020 thanks to the BSI sensor and the OIS will be way better and easier in low light than the 808. The 808 can capture amazing low light shots but it needs a tripod, preparation and messing with the settings. It will be more point and shoot with the 1020, even if real low light and long exposure shots will still need a tripod.

    Regarding the OIS, I don't know if it's thanks to the firmware or a technical improvement but it seems better on the 925 than on the 920 (920 with an older firmware, around march).

    I saw on Twitter, you were wondering about the ND Filter, which won't be available on the 1020. Would you like some example shots ?

    Offline theOne1893

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    Great article Jonas! :Thumbs

    The Lumia 1020 looks really nice, just whish it had a microSD card slot, HDMI and Qi wireless chargin built-in.
    But in my opinion it's still the best Lumia so far.

    The 808 still has some hardware features, which none of the WP Lumia's offer at the moment...
    Maybe the next generation of Lumia/Windows Phone will be able to completly replace my 808 :)

    My mobile subscription is running out at the end of this year, if I get a good price on the 1020, I may give it a try.

    Offline Jonas

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  • @Olivier

    The fact the sensor is smaller is not that important. In fact, it's still a huge sensor for a smartphone and in a size that is more comparable with the Nokia 808 than the Lumia 920 (or any other smartphone). So I don't think there is a great compromise there. Of course, including the fact that the pixels are larger on 808 (1.1 micron on Lumia 1020 against 1.4 microns on 808), he still might have some advantages. Only real tests will confirm this.

    Regarding the Aperture, the F number measures the opening of the lens. Here's an illustration of it.

    Now, as you can understand, more close (lower) is the aperture (higher F number), less light will enter to the lens. So, considering everything is the same (lens, sensor, etc) and in same situation, with a higher F number you will need a higher exposure time. For example, in a low light scene, a F2.4 will require (for example) 1/4 second of exposure while a F2.0 will require a 1/30 seconds to get a similar exposed photo. So a large aperture might make a handheld photo possible in low light on more situations. This also applies to daylight scenes as for example sports. While shooting sports, the advisable exposure is 1/250 seconds and, depending on the light available, you are more likely to get it with a lower F number.

    Now, the Aperture also implies with the depth of field. A larger Aperture (lower F number) turns the range of focus shorter, making impossible to have everything within focus for objects at different distances. If you want to make a nice bokeh, the low F is perfect. If you are taking landscape photos, this can be problematic. Here's an illustrations of the Aperture vs Depth of Field:

    This also implies another thing: lower F number makes more probable to miss the right focus (or to obtain the desirable one) since the range of focus is shorter, the obtained focus must be more precise.

    So, answering your question, the Lumia 1020 is more likely to obtain nice bokehs with his lower F2.2 against the F2.4 of the 808.

    In conlcusion:
    Higher F = Smaller Aperture = Larger Depth of Field = More Light Needed (more exposure time)
    Lower F = Larger Aperture = Smaller Depth of Field = Less Light Needed (less exposure time)

    When you have a digital camera, you are likely to control the Aperture that you want to use, accordingly to the situation that you are photographing. On fixed aperture lens, you don't have a choice. Now you might understand why I talk about a compromise and why a F2.2 is a more balanced choice by Nokia than the F2.0 of the Lumia 920 or the F2.4 of the Nokia 808.

    Regarding the low light photos, the BSI sensor + OIS + Lower F Number of the Lumia 1020, will make it easier to take handheld night photos. Still, in every camera (even pro cameras with OIS too), every photo with an exposure time higher to 1/30 seconds are bound to be blurred due to camera movement. The Lumia 1020 can go up to 4 seconds of exposure so a tripod is still a must to have.

    I have seen many mentions to the ND filter of the 808. I'm still yet to fully understand how it works tho. Some explanations and examples would be welcome.  :)

    Thanks! Glad that you liked the article. I think we all want to give the Lumia 1020 a try.   ;)

    Offline PureView1000

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    Thank you Jonas, for this great article and explanation. Absolutely worth a read. I'm a technical guy too, and i like to read stuff like this a lot. I'm absolutely looking forward to the Lumia 1020 as i have the 808 and 920 (hope i keep them instead of selling :)...) i'm really curious to see the difference. And it's about time to post some picture here again!

    C ya


    p.s. My Nick-Name almost matched the 1020... i must buy it anyway  lol
    Be good, do something good...start the day with a smile.


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