Nokia has shot to the top in the race to create the greatest smartphone camera with its new Windows Phone 8-powered Lumia 1020. The $299 handset for AT&T, which will be available in black, white and yellow, packs a whopping 41-megapixel sensor. But it’s not just about the sensor. The Lumia 1020’s camera also sports an incredible 6 lenses and oversampling technology, allowing users to zoom in and out of photos after they’re taken. Nokia has also thrown in a handful of interesting camera specific features that will leave shutterbugs drooling.
The first thing you notice about the Lumia 1020 is just how large its rear camera is. Jutting out from the handset’s backpanel, this monster is in a class all its own. Despite the camera’s size, the 1020 still manages to feel relatively light and slim. Measuring 5.1 x 2.8 x 0.41 inches and weighing 5.6 ounces, the Lumia 1020 is thinner and lighter than the Samsung Galaxy S4 Zoom, 0.6 inches and 7.1 ounces. The camera doesn’t feel obtrusive either, and should fit nicely in your pocket without being too noticeable. The earlier Lumia 920 weighed a heftier 6.5 ounces.
The real fun happens when you fire up the Nokia Pro Camera app and put the Lumia’s 1020’s camera through its paces. Using the app, we were able to manually adjust any number of photo settings including exposure, white balance and ISO on the fly. Better still, the app gives you a live preview of what those settings will do to your photo directly on the handset’s display. It was rather impressive to see in person, and even more so when you consider all of these adjustments were made in real-time. Similar adjustments can be made to videos, as well.
Nokia is also touting the Lumia 1020’s ability to allow users to zoom out of images after they’ve taken a photo. During our hands-on, we zoomed in on and captured an image of a photo hanging in a gallery. After taking the picture, we opened it, pressed a reframe button and were immediately able to zoom out, revealing far more of the image than we initially shot. Nokia says this capability is a result of the Lumia 1020’s oversampling technology.
The Smart Camera app is another great feature, giving you a lot of the same great capabilities of the Galaxy S4 under one roof. After taking a sequence of photos, you can choose Best Faces, compose a sequence shot, and erase photobombers from your photos. You can even set the Lumia 1020 to open the Smart Camera by default when you unlock the device.
Beyond its camera, the Lumia 1020 sports a 4.5-inch 1280 x 768 AMOLED display with 334 pixels per inch that helps make photos pop. Under the hood is a 1.5-GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon S4 processor with 2GB of RAM and 32GB of onboard storage. Users also get an additional 7GB of cloud storage via Microsoft’s SkyDrive service. Overall performance was buttery smooth, especially the camera app, which ran without a hiccup.
We also managed to get our hands on the Nokia Camera Grip that will be available for the Lumia 1020. Priced at $79, the Grip features an additional battery pack that will help extend the handset’s battery life. A tripod dock built into the Grip’s base allows users to set down the Lumia 1020 for stable shots.
Overall, we really like what we see from the Lumia 1020. Nokia clearly wants the best smartphone camera on the market and it seems to have succeeded. The only thing that could keep the 1020 from being a true mainstream winner is its $299 price tag. We’ll have more on the Lumia 1020 when we perform our full review in the coming weeks.