Remember that day when you put aside your handycam / digital camera, and hoped that a phone would come along which would be better? Nokia has the answer in the Lumia 1020. Nokia truly pushes the boundaries as a Windows OEM, and has really brought forth a phone that appeals to the casual-clicker, and the serious-photographer looking to click photographs without his/her DSLR, and still be able to revel in the quality. It is probably the top-Windows Phone out there, and could stand to be an off-the-charts seller when the app ecosystem improves. It clears as a mid-range smartphone, but is likely the best camera-phone out there.
The new Lumia 1020 is the most anticipated mobile Nokia has churned out in a long time. The Lumia 1020 sports a 41 MP camera, and while that may seem as ridiculous at first, read on to discover the imaging giant that is the Lumia 1020. There’s a lot more that goes on behind the blunt 41 MegaPixel revelation. ”41 megapixels is just a number,” said a Nokia Engineer. “That doesn’t tell you what it’s like to look at.”. In all truth, the 1020 is better described as a new-age camera, gift-wrapped with Windows 8, great in-phone editing software, and specs to boot. At it’s core, it was built to be the best camera phone today, and has almost surely accomplished that.
Form factor and feel
The Lumia 1020 has a 4.5 inch 720p screen. It weighs in at around 160 grams, which is considerably lower than the 920′s 185 grams. From the front it looks like a regular Lumia phone. But head over to the back, and you discover the famed 41-MP camera. It makes the phone noticeable, and will take some adjusting for anyone used to a flat backed phone, but it’s not overly obtrusive.
Behind the new camera
The Nokia 1020 takes it’s image quality roots from the Lumia 808 and the 920 PureView Phones. The 920 was the first phone to use Optical Image Stabilization ( OIS ) and Back Side Illuminated Sensor ( BSI ). The 1020 takes these features, improves them , and integrates it with shiny Windows 8.
Let’s deal with the 41 MP revelation first. Many things go into achieving such a high resolution, from the kind of lens, to sensors, to image-processing algorithms. The Nokia 1020 uses 6 lenses. The outermost is a high precision glass from Carl Zeiss, and the inner 5 high performance plastic. The lenses themselves are mounted with small motors and magnets, which respond to motion and hand-shake. This is Nokia’s latest attempt to deshakeify images and video. By moving the entire lens setup as the phone jerks, by the right amount, they are able to minimize image clarity loss, and ensure that even novice photographers can make use of this phone.
The 41MP camera, coupled with the BSI sensor, can give out images 34 MP and 38 MP for 16:9 and 4:3 ratios respectively. Also every image taken is automatically converted to 5 MP also.
5MP is the sweet spot for images. They are small enough to be uploaded, and have decent clarity. The 1020′s 5MP images are unique, in the sense they are oversampled. As opposed to a normal camera, which captures 5MP and then filters out noise, the 1020 is able to seed out noise at a higher resolution, and then take advantage of the many surrounding pixels to create a sharp quality image, much better than a regular 5 MP image. The images taken also have a special kind of zoom, which we’ll get to next.
The unique notion of oversampling then scaling to 5 MP, lets us zoom without considerable loss in quality. Zooming in, for most other cameras, means trying to scale the image beyond what the resolution allows, and cropping out the rest. This upscaling can only lead to a loss in clarity. On the 1020, We can zoom upto around 3x without losing any quality on a 5MP image, 4x on a 1080p video, and 6x for 720p.
Also, with any other camera the macro distance changes on zooming, and the aperture changes too. That means one needs to move around to get a macro shot, and that zoomed in images lack clarity, due to lack of exposure. The Lumia 1020 maintains a constant f2.2 aperture. Also, here they always use the center part of the lens, where any ill-effects are smallest, ensuring best images all-around, irrespective of zoom.
From darkness into the light
Another benchmark for most cameras is how they capture low-light images. Here too, the 1020 shines like a beacon. They use a modern method of pixel connection, called Back-Side Illumination ( BSI ), ensuring that the wires don’t come in the way of pixels getting maximal light. The exposure time is adjustable to 4s, letting us take great night shots, and maybe even images from a moving vehicle. They use a Xenon flash, timed to go off right before the shutter giving around 3m of illumination, which avoids the blinking and eye-shutting that occurs when taking an image in the night on mobiles with regular flash.
One great advantage of building a smartphone into this camera (well, it is a camera), is that we have some great software for inbuilt control of the camera. This is where Nokia ProCam shines. It makes full utility of the awesome camera to give some never before seen features here.
One cool feature here, is that we can re-position zoomed-in images after capture. What actually happens is that the phone captures a full 41 MP image, but only renders and shows a 5 MP one to click. So we can always un-zoom out of the image, and rezoom to a position we like better. We can effectively say good-bye to tilted images or cropped-heads by doing this. All this maintains seamless quality (until a certain point – 3X zoom)
ProCam also lets you manually tweak all the settings – Shutter Speed, ISO, Focus, White Balance, and Exposure, with a few swipes, and can restore to automatic with another. This will probably have photographers salivating, and it is a brilliant example of the power of making great software for great hardware. The camera also has an add-on which adds some of the comforting buttons and dials for seasoned photographers.
There is also really good quality audio recording – Nokia RichRecording in here. By default, it negates low-frequencies ( < 200Hz ). This can really help avoid the bass vibration, while recording videos in-concert.
Software, Specs, and the other things that make it a phone.
Of course when talking about the Lumia 1020, we also need to mention that which makes it a smartphone. The Lumia 1020 has a 4.5 inch 1280 X 768 display. It comes with a Qualcomm Snapdragon S4 dual-core processor, clocked at 1.5 Ghz, 2 GB of RAM, and 32 GB of internal storage. It comes with a 2000 mAh battery, and the other bells & whistles. This may not be the highest spec we’ve ever seen with a phone, and borders on mid-range, but the camera keeps users intrigued enough to give it a shot.
Windows 8 is another amazing feature of this handset. One frequent lament is the lack of great 3rd party apps on the Windows Store. YouTube and Facebook may be present, but it is not as great as users would like. Also, several prominent apps like Instagram have yet to find their way to WP8, which hopefully gets remedied soon.
The phone is priced at $300 on an AT&T contract in the U.S., and is rumored to be upwards of $650 for a carrier free version. In India, the device is set to launch at around Rs. 33,000. Nokia has been known to launch devices quickly on a global stage, so we should see the Lumia 1020 in the Indian market by next month.