The Lumia 1020 features the best camera we have seen on any smartphone.
Nokia has been betting big on smartphone photography for the past year now, but the Lumia 1020 may be its boldest move yet.
Unlike other smartphones on the market that typically feature 8-megapixel cameras, the Finnish phone maker has outfitted the Lumia 1020 with a 41-megapixel sensor. That means the Nokia device can take much larger pictures than its rivals and grasp more detail.
The pictures aren't exactly 41-megapixels big. They're actually saved as 34- or 38-megapixel images, depending on the ratio you choose. The phone also creates a duplicate, 5-megapixal image that users can quickly share on social networks like Facebook without eating up too much of the user's cellular data plan.
Either way, you'll be taking photos that you can zoom in on without losing picture quality -- something you wouldn't be able to do on other smartphones.
The advantage there is that if you see something photo worthy, you can quickly whip out the Lumia 1020 and snap a shot. You can worry about zooming in and cropping afterward.
At one point, I took a picture at a busy mall, and afterward, I was able to zoom in and check out all the different areas of the mall. The level of detail was stunning. In the photo, I noticed one man far off in the picture wearing a shirt with an astronaut graphic that was clearly visible in the photo. Later that day at a restaurant , I recognized him by the picture of the astronaut that I had seen in detail in the photo.
But it's not just the hardware that makes the Lumia 1020's camera standout. Its software is also robust and easy to use.
Users can quickly and easily adjust camera settings from within the Nokia Pro Cam, the default camera app for the Lumia 1020. You can change your exposure levels, ISO, shutter speed and white balance with ease.
With all the adjustments you can make, plus a strong Xenon flash, it's easy to modify the Lumia 1020 enough to make sure you get a picture exactly as you want it. That applies for day and night time shots. When I used the camera in a dimly lit room at night, the photos still looked perfectly bright.
The smartphone includes a useful app that is featured in other Nokia phones, the Nokia Smart Cam. The app allows you to take a series of photos that you can stitch together to make a single action shot. Users can add a motion blur effect to enhance the action photo. Its also handy for getting the best shot out of a moving subject.
I used Smart Cam to take pictures of my toddler cousin. She wouldn't sit still long for a single photo, but Smart Cam was able to take a series of images, one or two of which was good enough to save.
It's perfect for taking pictures with your smartphone, but it doesn't have some of the more popular photo-sharing apps, such as Instagram and Snapchat. You're essentially limited to Facebook and Twitter when it comes to sharing photos. That's no fault of Nokia. The phone runs on Microsoft's Windows Phone 8 operating system, which doesn't have as many available apps as Android or iOS.
As for the device itself, the Lumia 1020 works as well as any other top-of-the-line smartphone. It runs fast using a dual-core 1.5GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon S4 processor and it has plenty of room to store pictures thanks to its 32-gigabytes of internal storage. That should be enough to store about 1,700 photos, even at the maximum 38-megapixal resolution. It has no slot for a micro-SD card.
The Nokia Lumia 1020 is available from AT&T for $300 with a two-year contract. You can also pick it up from the Microsoft Store, which will give you the Nokia Camera Grip for free.
The grip is a handy attachment for the Lumia 1020 that makes it easier to hold the device, gives it extra battery power and allows it to attach to a tripod. The grip normally costs $79. It will make the Lumia 1020 a little taller and bulkier, but essentially it serves as a camera case and its size didn't bother me.
I recommend the Nokia Lumia 1020 for users who love taking pictures with their smartphone and want to make sure their device has the best phone camera available.