This is why you want a 41-megapixel sensor in a phone. As we noted in our Nokia Lumia 1020 review, as well as in our Samsung Galaxy S4 Zoom face-off, this smartphone's camera is best-in-class. In fact, this Windows Phone blows away every other handset on the market under most conditions, and it gives you an impressive amount of creative control. But how does the Lumia 1020 fare in the hands of a pro? We took the 1020 all around New York to capture images in a variety of settings. Here are our photos and impressions.
From the 86th floor of the Empire State building, I took a photo of the New York City skyline looking north. I then used the recompose and crop function in the Lumia 1020 to create a zoomed in image highlighting the Chrysler building. Given the intricacies of the lighting, Nokia's camera does a nice job of exposing for all of the components. For example, the skyscapers aren't underexposed, and the clouds in the sky aren't blown out.
I was interested to see how well the Lumia 1020 handles depth of field, i.e. having the foreground in focus and the background out of focus. At the 9/11 Memorial, I took a shot of a person's name and a rose (placed in honor of individuals whose birthday would have been on that day). The Lumia 1020 performed well, but the shot was a little too dark. Using the phone's built-in editing tools, I was able to adjust the brightness and saturation to my satisfaction.
When walking around Times Square at night, I wanted to see how the Lumia 1020's camera would handle the relatively dark setting and the bright billboards at the same time. If you expose for the billboards, the people will be dark; if you expose for the people, the billboards turn white. In the end I took control of the exposure with the manual control tools and decided to split the difference. I got a decently exposed scene with only the brightest billboards blown out.
At a Yankees game, I took a wide shot with the Lumia 1020 that had nearly all of the outfield in the frame (seen here in the upper right-hand corner). Using the recompose and crop features, I was able to create a nicely composed shot of the Yankee Stadium sign. I was surprised at how well the camera was able to retain the details in the shot, given that the cropped image is a third of the original full-size image.
On overcast days, camera phones tend to expose for the highlights, so I wanted to see how see how good the 1020 would be at not blowing out the sky. Overall, the phone did an above average job of keeping the sky from going white and keeping the subject from getting too dark in the same shot. The buildings could use a little adjusting, but all the information is there.
Most camera phones have trouble in low light, with objects either being fuzzy or background objects being under-exposed to the point of having the subject and just black around it. The Lumia 1020 did a great job of exposing for the background as well as the primary subject. I was also pleasantly surprised at how well it kept focus on low-light images where I hand-held the camera.
The tiled ceiling was the only shot where I used the Lumia 1020's flash. The camera did a great job of using the flash as a source of fill light and not washing out the scene. The tiles are well exposed, but not over exposed and have good color. I was pleased by how well the color and exposure came out.
The Imagine mosaic at Strawberry Fields in Central Park is perhaps one of its business attractions, so getting a chance to get in close enough to shoot what I wanted was out of the question. As I had done for the Yankee Stadium photo, I took a wide shot (the insert in the lower left), then recomposed and saved a tight image that was in focus, with good exposure and composition.
When taking photos of the city at night, I was blown away by what the Lumia 1020 can do with no flash and no light. I knew the flash would be ineffective for the shot I was trying to get, so I manually set the ISO and brightness. The results are both artistic and awe inspiring. The image isn't as sharp as some people would want, but it's the best that can be expected of a shot in almost total darkness while hand-holding the camera. I also tried taking this shot with an advanced point-and-shoot and the iPhone 5, but neither came close to the shot I got with the 1020.
I found the Nokia Lumia 1020 did an excellent job overall in most situations. Colors looked good and true to the scenes. Exposure is a little dark on the High Res setting, but I assume Nokia did that to expose for the highlights knowing people would make some adjustments later on. However, high res images are JPEGs, not TIFF or Raw files, which means there will be some quality and color information lost in order to accommodate the smaller file size. Overall, though, the Nokia Lumia 1020 has the best camera in a phone I've seen yet. Plus, this device offers the best options for getting creative with images while not affecting the original capture.