Nokia Lumia 1020

Nokia Lumia 1020 review: All snapped up

Nathan Spendelow Chris Finnamore
27 Sep 2016
Our Rating 
Price when reviewed 
inc VAT

The Nokia Lumia 1020 was the ultimate cameraphone, but does it still hold up?

Top of the range camera
Decent display
Windows Phone OS


Windows Phone 8, 4.5in 1,280x720 display

The final advantage of the huge sensor is that it negates many of the problems associated with a digital zoom. Unlike an optical zoom, where physical lenses change the focal length, digital zooms crop into the sensor; using a digital zoom is the same process as cropping into an image in a photo editor and then enlarging the image, with the same corresponding loss of quality.

The Lumia 1020 also employs a digital zoom, but having so many pixels to play with negates much of the quality loss. It also helps when recording video; you can zoom in to the image, and still be recording Full HD video.

We were expecting to be impressed by the Lumia 1020's image quality and weren't disappointed. Outdoor shots taken on a sunny day had vibrant colours and a huge amount of detail; they were significantly sharper than photos taken at the same time on a Sony Xperia Z1, which itself has a huge 20.7-megapixel sensor. The amount of detail the sensor captures is really shown when you zoom in, too; we found we could zoom in to 250% and still read road signs. Exposure was well-judged, too, with no bleaching out of light areas, even on a sunny day.

Nokia Lumia 1020 daylight

^ The best outdoor cameraphone shots we've ever seen

Sony Xperia Z1 daylight

The 1020 even sees off stiff competition from Sony's Xperia Z1

We were also happy with our handheld video footage. This had little noise and the optical image stabilisation coped well when fully zoomed in. As we expected, detail levels were maintained even when we used the digital zoom when recording video, letting us read car number plates over 50 metres away.

Steady video and detail levels are maintained even when you zoom - best viewed full-screen at 1080p

The image stabilisation coped well with a boat trip - best viewed full-screen at 1080p

In very low light, where most smartphone cameras can capture almost no detail at all, we saw passable photos from the Lumia 1020. The large xenon flash helps, too, illuminating an entire scene where LED flashes tend to just light up someone's face, looming out of the gloom.

Nokia Lumia 1020 dark

You don't need a flash in a very dark pub with the Lumia 1020

RAZR i dark

A standard smartphone (Motorola RAZR i) really struggled in the same dark pub

We performed our standard photo tests of a static scene holding the camera rather than mounted on a tripod, as we usually do, to test the Lumia 1020's image stabilisation. It certainly helped here; the dimly-lit scene was bright and sharp, with surprisingly little noise and no visible camera shake. When compared side by side with the Lumia 1020, the Sony Xperia Z1's shots were much darker and with more noise.

Nokia Lumia 1020 handheld

Little noise or camera shake from the Lumia 1020

Sony Xperia Z1 handheld

The 1020 makes the Sony Xperia Z1's images look gloomy by comparison

The Lumia 1020's Pro Cam app can certainly teach a beginner plenty about photography. The current photo settings are displayed at the top of the screen: flash status, white balance, focus, ISO, shutter speed and aperture. Touching each one brings up a semicircle around the shutter button on the right of the display, which you can drag around to easily adjust settings, complete with on-screen live preview.

Nokia Lumia 1020 Pro Cam

The camera app makes it easy to change settings and preview the results

You can even go a step further, dragging the shutter icon slightly to the left to display all the settings on-screen at once. As so much of photography involves balancing various settings to get the right shot, this is a great way to tweak several settings at once and see the results. It all works beautifully, but we noticed a bug where the camera got stuck in portrait mode, and would only switch back after we restarted the phone. This only happened once during our testing, though.

The Lumia 1020 also comes with Nokia's Smart Cam app, which gives you access to several fun effects such as Action Shot and Motion Focus - see our Lumia 630 review for details. Unfortunately, if you use Smart Cam rather than Pro Cam, you can only take 5-megapixel rather than 38-megapixel snaps, but we feel Smart Cam's effects are more suited to Facebook than A3 printing anyway.

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