The Nokia Lumia 1020 – when will Android smartphones come close?

July 12, 2013
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The Nokia Lumia 1020 is an amazing piece of engineering. With a 41MP camera, Optical Image Stabilization and Xenon Flash. So it's unfortunate that it runs Windows Phone. So when will Android smartphones come close?
Lumia 1020

Image credit: Nokia

The Nokia Lumia 1020 can be categorically defined as having the best camera on any smartphone. There, I said it. The Galaxy S4 Zoom, the HTC One, even the upcoming Sony Honami can’t touch the Lumia 1020 and there is a very good reason for this.

41 MP is just a number. That doesn't tell you what it is to look at.

A lot of people will point to the 41-megapixel number and tell you that is the reason the Lumia 1020 will have the best camera, but it’s more than that. As one Nokia engineer put it, “41-megapixels is just a number. That doesn’t tell you what it’s like to look at.” Indeed, what makes the Lumia 1020’s camera brilliant is more than just the words “41-megapixel” and “PureView Zeiss” etched on the back, it’s a collective piece of brilliant engineering.

How the Nokia Lumia 1020’s camera works

Now some of you would’ve looked at the 41-megapixel camera and collectively screamed “OH NOES, MY PRECIOUS STORAGE SPACE!” Calm down people, Nokia has thought about this and uses something called oversampling.

In a nutshell, what the Lumia 1020 does is take a 5MP picture with seven pixels crammed into a single pixel so that it contains all of the detail of a full-resolution image. Nokia calls this over-sampling of the pixels a “Super-Pixel”, and that means that the Lumia 1020 can condense the image into a much smaller file size.

The Lumia 1020 offers full manual settings. Image credit: Nokia

The Lumia 1020 offers full manual settings. Image credit: Nokia

While the Lumia 1020 doesn’t have an Optical Zoom, it does have the best digital zooming on a smartphone, this is also thanks to the oversampling technique explained above. Although a little bit of data is lost, it’s still a lot better than any other smartphone camera and if you’d like to, you can also choose to save a full-resolution image for further editing later on.

Nokia has also redesigned its Optical Image Stabilization to work with the six-element Zeiss lens, using ball bearings, small motors and a gyroscope inside the lens, to move the lens and counteract movement. Add in the Xenon flash, f/2.2 aperture, full manual controls, and a massive 1/1.5” sensor and you get the point that this is a seriously capable camera.

How does the Lumia 1020 compare with the Android competition

 
Nokia Lumia 1020
Samsung Galaxy S4 Zoom
HTC One
Samsung Galaxy S4
Megapixel count:41MP16MP4MP (UltraPixels)13MP
Sensor size:1/1.5"1/2.33"1/3"
Image stabilization:OpticalOpticalOpticalDigital
Aperture:f/2.2f/3.1f/2.2f/2.2
Flash: Xenon + LEDXenon + LEDLEDLED

Pulling out the specs sheet provides an obvious result. The Lumia 1020 destroys the competition in almost every category. The Samsung Galaxy S4 Zoom does have 10x Optical Zoom, but the Lumia 1020 has its oversampling technology to back it up. Comparing the Lumia 1020 to other high-end smartphones like the Samsung Galaxy S4 and HTC One simply isn’t fair.

The Lumia 1020 has a massive sensor, at 1/1.5”, it’s a little smaller than the one found in the old Nokia Pureview 808, but it’s double the size of the sensor in the HTC One. Suffice to say that low-light performance will be amazing.

While the Galaxy S4 Zoom looks and feels like a camera with phone capabilities chucked on the back, the Lumia 1020 looks more like a smartphone. Case in point, the Galaxy S4 Zoom is 15.4mm thick (without expanding the lens) and weighs 208 grams, while the Lumia 1020 is only 10.4 mm at its thickest point (the hump for the camera lens) and weighs 158 grams.

Galaxy S4 Zoom

The Galaxy S4 Zoom looks and feels like a camera first, phone second. Image Credit: Samsung

It’s not as if the Lumia 1020 is a horrible smartphone either. It has a dual-core Snapdragon S4 clocked at 1.5Ghz, 2GB of RAM, 32GB internal storage, a 4.5-inch AMOLED display at a resolution of 1280 x 768 and a respectable 2000 mAh battery. Perfectly respectable specifications for a Windows Phone 8 device.

When will Android smartphones catch up?

It’s hard to give a definitive time frame since no Android manufacturer has put enough emphasis to make a camera-based smartphone other than Samsung (and Samsung’s attempt was lazy, at best).

Every OEM except for HTC seems to be running around trying to slap the biggest megapixel number on the back of their smartphones, and without making the sensor bigger, they aren’t improving picture quality. It will be interesting to see the second generation UltraPixels from HTC, and whether HTC will be able to increase the megapixel count to at least 8-megapixels.

htc one google play edition aa back profile

Samsung could also take its refresh of the Galaxy S4 Zoom next year a little more seriously in the face of new competition. Sony has the upcoming Sony Honami, with a 20 MP camera, but unless Sony brings some technology behind its higher number, it won’t prove to make a difference. Nikon has also hinted at bringing a smartphone out, in the face of added competition from smartphones.

Wrap up

The Lumia 1020 justifies Windows Phone 8 as an operating system.

Nokia and Windows Phone needed the Lumia 1020 for one major reason. It gives consumers a reason to buy a Windows Phone 8 device. There isn’t a lot going for Windows Phone. Android has the customizability and the choice, iOS has simplicity and apps, but Windows Phone doesn’t have that one major reason as to why you should buy it.

iOS is just as smooth, and Android can mimic the Tiles set up with a launcher or ROM. Now however, the Lumia 1020 justifies Windows Phone as an operating system and gives people a reason to buy it. Windows Phone is now the proud owner landlord of the best camera phone on the market.

What do you think of the Lumia 1020?

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