My time with the Nokia Lumia 1020

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The Nokia Lumia 1020 is an amazing camera, that in the right hands can take some truly stunning photos and it can easily replace your point and shoot. But at what cost? Does Windows Phone support the Lumia 1020 enough? From the day I first saw the leak of what the Lumia 1020 was going to look like I knew I was going to have to get hold of one to play with. It is currently at the pinnacle of Windows Phone hardware and it is arguably at the pinnacle of mobile photography hardware as well.
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I’ve been using the Nokia Lumia 1020 for about a month now, carrying it around when I would normally have took a normal camera with me. I even took it to a device launch to see how it would cope in place of my normal camera. As Dan reviewed the Lumia 1020 a few weeks ago this article is basically a roundup of the good and bad points and some sample photos.

First of all if you’ve been living under a rock for the last few months here is what the Lumia 1020 looks like, I’ve placed it next to my Lumia 925 for size purposes:

The phone part of the Lumia 1020

Firstly I want to talk about the phone itself and Windows Phone in general. The Lumia 1020 is currently the highest spec Windows Phone device, with more RAM than all the rest and a camera miles ahead of the closest competitor. I always felt that Nokia pushed the release of the Lumia 1020 to compete against the 2013 lineup of Android and iOS devices. I always felt that what comes next will truly be the Windows Phone device to beat the competition.

So what am I talking about?

Well, for months we have been hearing how the next Windows Phone update (update 3) will enable quad core processors and 1080p screens. Well can you for a second imagine that Nokia won’t release a newer version of the Lumia 1020 when the update is publicly available? With a 5″ screen and with a better processor the updated Lumia 1020 would be a force to be reckoned with.

Back in the real world though, it’s my imagination of what will come next that held me back from actually buying one. Yes you should live life for the day and expect the unexpected, but for the money that is being asked for the Lumia 1020 I wanted more.

Windows Phone has matured quite a bit over the last year, a lot of apps have been released for the OS and a lot of third party apps have been released to cover the big name apps that haven’t been released. It all makes it quite fiddly, take Cloud storage for instance, I have accounts with Dropbox, Google Drive, SkyDrive, Box and Sugarsync. Of those only two have official apps, only one supports auto upload of photos and that’s SkyDrive. It’s great for Windows Phone, but try and use it on another platform and you’ll pull all of your hair out. If I wanted to say use a third party Dropbox app instead I’m hindered by the limitations of the app, due to API restrictions in the OS.

This example exists across the whole Windows Phone OS, you want to do something and the solution usually exists, but it is normally a compromise. I’m sick of compromising with Windows Phone, I just want things to work the way I want, not how Microsoft or Nokia want.

The camera part of the Lumia 1020

The camera on the Lumia 1020 at first seems amazing, then you learn how to use the default camera app “Nokia Pro Cam”. Shortly after it becomes annoying, you play about using the normal Windows Phone camera and “Nokia Smart Cam” then you get annoyed with them both. Then you settle back into using Nokia Pro Cam again and you start to like the whole set up.

I found the Nokia Lumia 1020 to be great at landscape shots, great at detailed pictures, awkward at taking Macro shots, great at low light and pretty damn good at everything else. I’m used to the camera in the Nokia Lumia 925 where I know I can quickly get it out and get the shot I want quickly and with a minimum of fuss. With the Lumia 1020 you can have as much or as little fuss as you want. I guess it depends on what sort of photographer you are, if you’re used to setting up a DSLR then you’ll not mind a little faffing with the 1020.

The Nokia Pro Cam app is quite a powerful app, allowing you to change various settings before capturing the moment.
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You can adjust exposure time, ISO, Focus, White Balance, Shutter delay and Exposure. Which truly does allow you to create an image that’s special, I only really scratched the surface of what is possible in terms of decent pictures. The 1020 takes a high res original and then creates two versions, a 5 MP version that you can access and also the original that’s sort of hidden away in the background. When viewing the 5 MP shot you can tap the “Captured with Nokia Pro Cam” text and it will load you into the original high res shot, allowing you to reframe the image and save it, the new saved image replaces the previous image in the Photo Hub. It’s a bit fiddly but you soon work out what’s what.
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The original high resolution version of the image file isn’t accessible via the photo hub. So if you want to backup, view or email the picture you need to connect the phone to your PC. I get why Nokia have done this, but I always had the feeling that something special was always hidden away. Another slightly annoying thing with the Pro Cam is the ever so slight delay between taking pictures. It’s a couple of seconds at most, so if you’re wanting quick fire photos consider the Smart Cam or the normal Windows Phone Camera app.

The Nokia Smart Cam allows you to take burst mode photos, whereby the camera takes a load of photos in quick succession in a lower resolution and it allows you to create some really unique pictures. As shown below with the demo image bundled with Smart Cam. It functions similarly to Pro Cam, in that you can go back and change the image at a later date.
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Here are some sample images I’ve taken on my daily wandering around. No fancy settings were used in the taking of these, just using the Pro Cam and auto focus.

Conclusion

I’ll end this article in the same way as I started it, the Nokia Lumia 1020 is an amazing camera. See what I did there? As good as the Nokia supplied software is I do feel like it could be so much better.

It’s only me being picky with the OS and the inner workings that limit my excitement about the Lumia 1020. For a photography enthusiast that wants to take some great pictures on the move then this will be an ideal phone, combine it with the camera grip and a tripod and they’ll be happy.

Personally I think I’m going to see what Nokia release in a few months as the Lumia 1020s successor, the prospect of a higher resolution screen and a better CPU makes me reluctant about the 1020.