You can sum up the Nokia Lumia 1020 in three words: 41-megapixel camera.
It's the Lumia 1020's high-octane shooter — along with Nokia's custom camera app — that defines this next marquee Windows Phone 8 device and that gives mobile photographers a reason to salivate. In the 1020, Nokia pushes the smartphone camera envelope, with a combination of raw image-capturing prowess and close-cropping capability that make it one of the most artistically able smartphone cameras we've tested.
Would we ditch our point-and-shoot cameras and rely on the Lumia 1020 instead? For day-to-day and weekend events, absolutely; the 1020 is the ultimate in convenience and approaches point-and-shoot quality. However, based on our tests so far, Nokia still has a ways to go before it can completely supplant the need for a higher-level stand-alone camera.
The Lumia 1020 is a niche device. Casual users may not venture from automatic settings and may not notice much difference in image quality, unless they frequently crop photos tightly. Of course, the S4 Zoom's optical zoom element gives the 1020 a run for its money where that's concerned. However, overall, the 1020 offers often technically better images in a much more portable chassis.
The Lumia 1020 has launched with Telstra, Optus and major retailers as of 17 September at a retail price of AU$899. Optus is selling the Lumia 1020 outright for AU$799.
Design and build
The first thing you're probably asking yourself is if owning the Lumia 1020 is like carrying a bulky point-and-shoot camera in your pocket. Blessedly, it is not.
In fact, the Lumia 1020 seems only slightly thicker than the Lumia 920 and 928, both of which it physically resembles.
Dimensions of 130.4x71.4mm are pretty standard, and the 1020 measures 10.4mm thick throughout most of its body. It's that large camera module on the back that protrudes further from the phone's face.
That means the phone won't lie flat on its back, which is, surprisingly, sometimes helpful when the face tilts towards you as if on a stand. Amazingly, you can carry the phone around in your back pocket for long stretches without noticing it too much. At 158g, the matte yellow, white or black 1020 is hefty, sturdy and undeniably solid.
The 1020's 4.5-inch display features a 1280x768-pixel resolution (WXGA) and a pixel density of 334ppi. Its AMOLED screen is also supersensitive, which means you can operate it with fingernails or gloved fingertips. Gorilla Glass 3 helps resist cracks, though smash any screen hard enough, or often enough, and it'll break.
In keeping with the Lumia design philosophy, you'll find oblong volume, power/lock and camera shutter buttons on the right spine and the headset jack and micro-SIM card slot up top. In addition to the front-facing camera, there are three capacitive navigation buttons on the front, and the micro-USB charging port is down on the bottom edge. On the back, the massive camera module includes a wide xenon flash and a six-lens Carl Zeiss lens, plus an LED sidekick that's mainly used for focus.
A completely sealed unibody device, the Lumia 1020 doesn't have a removable battery or microSD card storage, which may make avid photographers jittery about storage limits, especially with large photo files.
The Lumia 1020 definitely won't sit flat.
(Credit: Sarah Tew/CNET)
Understanding the camera
The most important thing to know is that the Lumia 1020's 41-megapixel shooter doesn't actually give you 41-megapixel pictures. In fact, not much about the camera, or its software, is particularly straightforward.
Here's what's essential:
The Pro Cam app creates 5-megapixel photos. In addition, it also saves a high-resolution image of each one. If you crop in tightly, your photo looks even more detailed
By default, the Lumia 1020 takes photos using Nokia's Pro Cam app. Not to be confused with Nokia Smart Cam, Pro Cam gets you sliding controls for flash, exposure, ISO and focus, among other settings. Nokia Pro Cam is technically a "lens" — a separate camera app that supplants the native camera. You can only capture the higher-resolution images using Pro Cam.
OS and features
The Lumia 2010 runs a version of Windows Phone 8 that's been slightly modified to accommodate the phone's enormous 41-megapixel camera.
You won't notice any difference on the front end, though, which looks and behaves like any other Nokia Windows phone. The usual complement of Nokia apps includes Nokia Music, Here-branded maps and driving apps and a couple of extra photo tools in Nokia Pro Cam (of course), Nokia Smart Cam, Panorama and Cinemagraph.
Other key features include (near-field communication) (NFC) for Tap and Send and Bluetooth 3.0 (which could soon turn into 4.0). There's no integrated wireless charging on the 1020, but you can buy an aftermarket back cover if that's your jam.
Shutterbugs will more likely seek out other camera accessories, like a tripod case or the camera grip case that really does convert your 1020 into a point-and-shoot camera, hand grip included.
Call quality and overall performance
We tested the Lumia 1020's call quality using the Telstra network in Sydney. Sound from our end seemed fine, if a little flat, but we had complaints that we sounded "robotic" from the other end.
Speakerphone was impressive on our end when tested with the phone both on a table and held in the hand. Voice was clear through the speaker and the call recipient had no issue understanding us.
Once again, we used Telstra's 4G network to test the Lumia 1020 around the Sydney CBD. The results were completely in keeping with what we've come to expect from Telstra long-term evolution (LTE). Our max download speed during testing was 36.37Mbps, but we mostly saw speeds between 25Mbps-35Mbps.
On the upload side of things, we were happy with results, mostly between 12Mbps-16Mbps.
Like other Lumias, the 1020 has a 1.5GHz dual-core Qualcomm Snapdragon S4 processor. Although it isn't as fast as Qualcomm's quad-core processor, this is as speedy as you get in a Windows Phone, and it's a plenty quick chipset.
Web pages and apps loaded quickly and browsing was silky smooth. In all, the experience, in terms of speed, was as good as we've had on one of the Nokia Windows range.
The Lumia 1020's 2000mAh battery has a rated talk time of 13.3 hours over 3G. We'll conduct independent battery drain tests as well. This is the same battery capacity as the Lumia 920 line, and just like those phones, this one should continuously last a full workday before needing a charge. Keep in mind that batteries do degrade over time.
There's 32GB of storage on the Lumia 1020, which is enough for most people. The Nokia Pro Cam's large-photo format will suck up more space than others so that might make some jittery. Still, I took and kept dozens of shots without running close to the barrier. The 1020 does come with 7GB of free SkyDrive cloud storage, though, with an option to upgrade to more. The 1020 has 2GB of RAM, rather than the other Lumias' 1GB of RAM.
(Credit: Sarah Tew/CNET)
Buy it or skip it?
The 1020's larger sensor, image stabilisation, incredible lossless cropping and low-light performance make it stand out from the crowd. However, for casual users, there may be more camera — and bulk and price — than necessary, especially when smartphones like the Nokia Lumia 920 models, the iPhone 5, the Samsung Galaxy S4 and the HTC One produce some good-enough snaps to upload and share.
For purists, the Lumia 1020's sensor size may be smaller than Nokia's Symbian-running 808 PureView antecedent but that helps it achieve a pocket friendliness it may not otherwise have had. We have some complaints about the Pro Cam app's look and layout, but these are ultimately minor issues.
It may be the best smartphone camera on the market, but we can't see it tempting avid photographers away from their stand-alone cameras for the best-quality images.
Buy the Lumia 1020 if you:
Want better-than-average smartphone photos
Are willing to invest in a pricier device
Crave precise control over exposure and other settings.
Skip the Lumia 1020 if you:
Are looking for a slim or budget smartphone
Prefer preset scenarios to help photograph a scene
Highly value fast shot-to-shot times
Are happy with your current smartphone camera
Dislike Windows Phone OS.