Nokia Lumia 1020 Windows Phone

The Lumia 1020 is best camera phone you'll ever use, full stop

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Nokia Lumia 1020
  • Nokia Lumia 1020
  • Nokia Lumia 1020
  • Nokia Lumia 1020

Pros

  • Truly outstanding camera
  • Excellent build quality & display
  • Reasonable battery life

Cons

  • Thick and bulky
  • Limited third-party app ecosystem
  • Camera app can be a little slow

Bottom Line

Provided you can live with a thick design and a limited app ecosystem, Nokia's Lumia 1020 will give you a truly superb camera that takes outstanding photos, offering the best imaging experience you'll ever get on a smartphone. This is the only Windows Phone you should consider buying.

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Nokia has a new flagship Windows Phone and it's all about imaging. The Lumia 1020 comes with a 41-megapixel PureView camera, building on the technology first seen on last year's widely lauded but never seen in Australia 808 PureView. The Lumia 1020 has a truly superb camera that takes outstanding photos, and offers the best imaging experience you'll ever get on a smartphone. You'll need to live with a thick design and a limited app ecosystem, but the trade-offs are definitely worth it if you want a great camera phone.

Bright, bold and chunky

You'll really need to get used to this design.

Let's get this out of the way first: the Nokia Lumia 1020 is a very large smartphone. While it falls in line with the bigger is better trend that seems to be populating the high-end of the market, it's still larger than most of its competitors.

The main aspect you'll need to get used to is the thickness, largely a result of the camera lens that protrudes from the back. The main annoyance of the lens is the fact it sits right where your finger rests when holding the phone single-handedly. You'll really need to get used to this design, especially if you're coming from a slimmer handset.

None

The thickness does result in some positives. Firstly, the Lumia 1020 feels superbly constructed. The single block of polycarbonate feels as solid as a rock and the matte yellow model we reviewed is bold, attractive and immediately noticeable among a sea of black and white slabs. For those who prefer more traditional colours, the Lumia 1020 also comes in black and white.

The single block of polycarbonate feels as solid as a rock.

Unlike the Lumia 925, there's no gap between the screen. Further, the attention to detail in aspects like the bottom speaker holes, and the centrally positioned headphone jack on top, is definitely appreciated. Nokia has always built superb quality hardware, and the Lumia 1020 only reinforces that view.

The protruding camera lens on the back means the Lumia 1020 doesn't sit flat on a desk or table. The upside to this is the angle of the screen makes it easy to read if you're glancing at the phone. However, it also means that the device rocks from side to side every time you tap on the screen, which quickly becomes annoying.

The standard array of Windows Phone keys — a volume rocker, a power/lock screen key and a dedicated camera button — are well positioned on the left side and provide good tactility. The camera button is a particular highlight and is a feature that we feel should be included on more smartphones.

You'll really need to get used to the thick design, especially if you're coming from a slim handset.
You'll really need to get used to the thick design, especially if you're coming from a slim handset.

The Nokia Lumia 1020 has a 4.5in AMOLED screen with a resolution of 1280x768. Despite the resolution not being full HD, the screen is excellent. It offers good colour reproduction, above average viewing angles and performs extremely well in direct sunlight. In fact, its performance outdoors in direct sunlight is one of the highlights of the device — it's much better than most other smartphones on the market.

The Lumia 1020's screen is very responsive to touch and can be used even if you're wearing gloves. One minor complaint is that text can often appear jagged in the Internet Explorer browser, so you'll need to get used to zooming in on large blocks of text when surfing the Web.

The Lumia 1020's 4.5in screen is excellent.
The Lumia 1020's 4.5in screen is excellent.

An outstanding PureView camera

The Nokia Lumia 1020 might be a phone but that's clearly its secondary function: it's all about photography. The camera uses Carl Zeiss optics, comes with a Xenon flash for still photography, has an LED flash for video recording, and uses a 41-megapixel "PureView" sensor.

To better understand the Lumia 1020's camera, there's a few things you should be aware of. You can't actually capture a full 41-megapixel image, so you're limited to a maximum of 38 or 34-megapixels, depending on whether you choose a 4:3 or a 16:9 aspect ratio for your photos. You also can't access these full size images unless you plug the Lumia 1020 into a computer and physically drag them off the internal storage. Although they're too big to share on social media, it would have been nice to have easier access to the high resolution photos.

41-megapixels.
41-megapixels.

Shoot first, zoom later. It's hard to argue with this logic.

The "dual capture mode" in Nokia's default Pro Cam app captures two pictures every time you take a photo. A 34-megapixel or 38-megapixel full resolution image is stored for editing, while a 5-megapixel image is available for sharing. Each time you edit or crop your original photo, a new 5-megapixel image is saved to the phone's camera roll.

The real benefit of the Lumia 1020's huge 41-megapixel sensor is the ability to zoom in up to 6x without losing any detail. Nokia says the phone allows you to "shoot first, zoom later" and having experienced it for ourselves, it's hard to argue with this logic. The PureView system means you can zoom and crop images without sacrificing image resolution. Then, when capturing basic 5-megapixel shots, the Lumia 1020 uses what's called oversampling to combine up to seven pixels into one "pure" pixel. In other words, it uses all the detail from the 34/38-megapixel shot to improve the 5-megapixel image.

The Lumia 1020 produces outstanding photos.
The Lumia 1020 produces outstanding photos.

Photos we captured with the Lumia 1020 were consistently outstanding.

The results are seriously impressive. Photos we captured with the Lumia 1020 were consistently outstanding, with more detail than any camera phone we've reviewed. Minimal image noise, excellent colour reproduction and accurate detail are highlights. You can see some sample images we captured here. Most photos were taken using the standard auto mode, which automatically adjusts the exposure to optimise colour and brightness, though we did experiment slightly with some of the manual settings.

The ability to adjust manual settings is the highlight of the Lumia 1020's new default camera app, called Nokia Pro Cam. Sliding the on-screen capture button to the left brings up on screen controls where you can manually adjust settings like exposure level, white balance, shutter speed and ISO and even focus. Conveniently, you can immediately see the effect the settings will have on the image as they are being adjusted.

The Nokia Pro Cam app offers a range of manual controls and is pretty intuitive to use.
The Nokia Pro Cam app offers a range of manual controls and is pretty intuitive to use.

Speed is the one and only downside to the Lumia 1020's camera.

The Pro cam app also offers access to Nokia's multiple camera modes, which it calls lenses. There's a panorama lens, a cinemagraph mode that captures movement and turns still shots into a GIF file, and a Glam Me lens that enhances selfies captured with the front-facing camera. You can also use seperate lenses within the Nokia Smart Cam app to capture a best individual shot (Best Shot), combine multiple images and/or fade selected images (Action Shot), and select one or more items in your shot and blur everything else (Motion Focus). The app also allows you to change faces, and remove objects from photos. Some of these features are very impressive, though switching between all the available modes can be a little sluggish.

Speaking of speed, it's the one and only real downside to the Lumia 1020's camera. The Pro Cam app can often take up to five seconds to launch from the lock screen, and we also experienced lag when adjusting some manual settings. It's also an annoyance that the option to switch to the front-facing camera is buried in the settings menu.

A photo we captured with the Lumia 1020. (click to enlarge)
A photo we captured with the Lumia 1020. (click to enlarge)

Along with impressive still photos, the Lumia 1020's camera also doubles as a full HD 1080p video recorder with 4x zoom, or 6x zoom if you opt to shoot at the slightly lesser 720p quality. The optical image stabilisation works reasonably well for videos, and effectively eliminates video shake from unstable hands when recording.

A very familiar Windows Phone experience

Camera and design aside, the Lumia 1020 functions almost identically to the Lumia 925. It has 2GB of RAM instead of 1GB to cater for the extra photography features and the Pro Cam application, and comes with 32GB of internal memory rather than 16GB, but all other internals are almost identical. Like most Lumia phones, the Lumia 1020 lacks a microSD card slot, so the on-board memory can't be expanded.

As the user experience is largely the same, you can read our Lumia 925 review for an overview on the software and the Windows Phone operating system that powers the Lumia 1020. The user experience is virtually identical, so most of the qualms we had with the 925 also apply to the 1020, as do the positive aspects. On that note, if you already own a Lumia 925, it's really not worth upgrading to the 1020, unless your number one priority on a smartphone is the camera.

Camera aside, the Lumia 1020 works similar to most other Windows Phones on the market.
Camera aside, the Lumia 1020 works similar to most other Windows Phones on the market.

There are genuine alternatives, you just have to look harder for them.

One of our biggest complaints with Windows Phone is the lack of popular third-party apps, as many apps we use on a daily basis on iOS and Android simply aren't available on Windows Phone. A few examples include Dropbox, Pocket, Instagram, Pinterest, Flipboard, Snapchat and Any.Do — none of these apps are officially available on the platform.

The situation is improving, however. The excellent 6tag app is a great Instagram client that will serve any Windows Phone user well. Dropbox is easily accessible by using the mobile site in the Internet Explorer browser, and most Windows Phone users will be happy enough with SkyDrive, anyway. The official YouTube app is an awful abomination, but MetroTube is a very good alternative, albeit for a small price. There's definitely a lack quality third-party apps on Windows Phone, and in many cases this will prevent users from switching to the platform. However, there are genuine alternatives: you just have to look harder for them.

Solid battery life, no native wireless charging

The Lumia 1020 offers reasonably good battery life.

The Nokia Lumia 1020 offers reasonably good battery life compared to other 4G phones we've tested, though using the camera for long periods does drain the battery fairly quickly. On most occasions, we managed a full day of use before our review unit required a recharge, averaging between 14 and 16 hours. Heavy users will still need to reach for the charger before the end of the day.

The Lumia 1020 is capable of wireless charging but only with an optional wireless charging cover which clips to the back of the phone (AU$39.95, NZ RRP pending). The wireless charging cover is available in black and white colours and will work with a number of accessories including a wireless charging pillow by Fatboy, a Nokia-branded wireless charging plate and a JBL speaker that will charge the phone and enable one-touch Bluetooth pairing using NFC.

The Lumia 1020's camera grip accessory will sell for $89.95 in Australia.
The Lumia 1020's camera grip accessory will sell for $89.95 in Australia.

Nokia also sells a Camera Grip accessory for the Lumia 1020 in Australia for $89.95 (NZ RRP pending). It clips to the phone and comes with its own 1020mAh battery, a shutter button, and a tripod mount. Nokia says the accessory will give users up to 55 minutes more shoot time and it's available in black, white and yellow colour variants to match the phone. The built-in battery is a real plus and the camera grip itself makes the Lumia 1020 feel much more like a regular point and shoot camera.

The Nokia Lumia 1020 is available through Telstra from Tuesday, 17 September, and through Optus from Tuesday, 1 October. The phone will also be sold for $899 outright through "major retailers" across Australia including Harvey Norman, Dick Smith, and Allphones.

In New Zealand, the Nokia Lumia 1020 is available through Telecom for NZ$1,149 outright, or $149 on a 24-month term, $139/month plan. Vodafone NZ or 2degrees have not announced the 1020.

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Jeff

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