Nokia have unveiled their latest flagship Windows Phone, the Lumia 1020, packing a whopping 41 megapixel camera as the lines between smartphones and point and click cameras continue to blur. At the New York press event Nokia CEO Steven Elop finally revealed the heavily leaked device, which builds upon the widely acclaimed camera technology found in Nokia’s 808 Symbian device. The 41-megapixel Pureview sensor includes optical image stabilization (a feature lacking in the 808), 6-lens Carl Zeiss optics and a xenon flash, making it the centrepiece for the rear of the phone and prompting Elop to claim “We’ve … made the back the new front.”
As many camera enthusiasts will often tell you, companies have long used megapixel counts in meaningless ways, trying to get one over on each other with a bigger number while the reality is that it often makes little difference. However, with the Lumia 1020 it really does matter; the phone captures stills at 38 megapixels as well as at an oversampled 5 megapixels, reducing noise, and allowing you to zoom in on details in the image. Nokia claim that this will forever change the concept of taking photos with a smartphone and users will be able to capture “details never thought possible from a smartphone.”
Nokias focus at the event was on the concept of zooming in after the photo has been taken, demonstrating the ability to zoom in and reframe photos without worrying about the image quality suffering as a result. The same concept has been applied to videos on the device; the Lumia 1020 supports 4x lossless zoom when capturing 1080p video and up to 6x lossless at 720p. The technology is undoubtedly impressive and in the live tests demonstrated it appeared to work very well in practice.
Pivotal to the camera technology is the new software Nokia are shipping with the 1020 group collaboration software. The Pro camera app opens when you hit the shutter button and gives budding photographers the ability to manually adjust focus (including focal point), ISO settings, white balance, shutter speed, and exposure. These will all adjust in real time on the phones screen, giving you instant feedback on your setting changes and it seems pretty responsive, thanks no doubt to the inclusion of 2GB RAM.
The aesthetics of the phone remain true to previous models of the Lumia line, featuring unibody polycarbonate construction in vibrant yellow as well as the more standard black and white. The size of the lens in the 1020 means that there is a hump on the rear of the device, but the removal of wireless charging means that it is slimmer and lighter than its 920 sibling which is still quite an accomplishment given the camera. The rest of the internals are a standard Windows Phone affair with a 1.5 Ghz dual-core S4 processor, 32GB hard drive and a 4.5 inch AMOLED screen. Some may lament the lack of SD card expansion given that 38 megapixel photos are bound to fill up the storage space at a rapid rate, however, signs already point to the availability of a 64GB version at some point.
In New York, Nokia also demonstrated a clip on camera grip accessory that makes the 1020 more like a traditional point and shoot. This clip on provides extra battery life, a dedicated shutter button and a tripod mount fitting. Whether this will signal the demise of compact digital cameras remains to be seen, but it will certainly be a strong contender for anyone looking to take good photos with a small device.
The Lumia 1020 is the most expensive Windows Phone yet, starting at $299 on a two year contract with AT&T and Nokia have firmly positioned this as a flagship device. It will be interesting to see if the buzz of having the best camera on the market can generate momentum for the Windows Phone brand and Nokias other Lumia products. It will be available on July 26th in the US with other markets to follow this quarter.