IN PHOTOS: A month with the Nokia Lumia 1020
MANILA, Philippines - Several years ago I embarked on a 365 photo project. The parameters were simple - take one photo every day for a year. But completing the project entailed much more: creativity, tenacity, and a camera bag that got heavier as the year progressed. Camera body, two lenses, a flash and a range of camera accessories became my daily travel companions.
But like any traveler, bulk and weight are things that I would much rather do without. As smartphone cameras got better I began leaving my DLSR at home, relying more on my smartphone for photos. Unfortunately, if capturing moments are a priority, this isn’t always the best decision. I’ve had my fair share of lousy photos from once-in-a-lifetime encounters.
The good news though is that smartphone cameras continue to get better. 2013 saw a flurry of 13 megapixel shooters as the standard. But one similarly sized smartphone packs a 41 megapixel camera and a slightly larger image sensor - the Nokia Lumia 1020.
Theoretically the phone has all the right parts to make it the best camera in a smartphone this year. But beyond the spec sheet, real world performance is what matters. And so, last November 2013, I took the Nokia Lumia 1020 on a month-long trip to find out if could take my DSLR's place for good.
I took these photos shortly after I unboxed the phone. While the focusing distance on the Lumia 1020 isn't so great, with a bit of in-camera zoom and sufficient lighting I was able to manage this pseudo-macro (see photo of the keys below).
Because of its 1/1.5-inch sensor, which is larger than what is in most smartphone cameras today, depth of field was superb on the phone's f/2.2 lens.
During my 3-week trip to the US I took my Nikon D90 DSLR, the Lumia 1020 and 4 other smartphones with me. While I was impressed by the Lumia 1020's DSLR-like image quality, it wasn't as snappy as my other smartphones.
The Lumia 1020 shines outdoors, although at times has the tendency to go heavy on the contrast. I enjoyed how it always brought out the rich blues of the sky that not even my DSLR could manage.
This photo from the Korean War Memorial (below), while nicely saturated, could have benefited from less contrast and maybe a little more highlights. The Lumia 1020 will slightly oversaturate most photos making colors pop. Some prefer this, but others who demand more color accuracy may not.
Dynamic range on this shot of downtown DC was pretty impressive. Notice how it didn't blow out the sky but kept the buildings in the foreground properly lit.
Another attempt at some depth-of-field but under dim museum lighting.
By the time I got to Arizona I was confident enough to leave the DSLR at the hotel. I took only the Lumia 1020 and an S4 Zoom with me on a trip to the Grand Canyon. I liked that both phones have tripod mounts, although the Lumia 1020 requires the optional battery case-camera grip for that functionality.
Again the Lumia 1020 took superb shots outdoors. Colors were vibrant, and highlights weren't overblown. My friend Katherine (girl in photo) seemed pretty happy about it too.
It also did really well indoors. This one was hand held but still came out pretty sharp. The camera bumped up the ISO to 640 but managed to avoid producing much noise.
While in Pensacola, Florida we went on a dolphin cruise but I don't have much to show for it. The Lumia 1020 let me down here big time. It was just too slow for action shots. Even tried its Smart Cam app that is supposed to take a series of shots and present you with the best one. My friends using iPhones all had pictures of the dolphins.
Colors didn't pop as much during my afternoon visit to Central Park, possibly because of the weather.
By default, the Lumia 1020 creates two files every time you take a photo. A downsampled 5MP file for sharing and a larger 38MP high-res version that is about 10-12MB in size. If you use the phone's in-camera zoom however, the high-res shot will still end up zoomed out. Below is the high-res shot.
And this is the how I composed the shot, with in-camera zoom.
The Pacquiao vs Rios fight in Macau was a great opportunity to test the low-light abilities of the Lumia 1020. The night market at San Malo was a photographer's paradise and the 1020 didn't disappoint.
These indoor shots turned out great also, although it could be a factor of the lighting inside the Cotai Arena. I used some photos from the Lumia 1020 on Rappler's liveblog but they were mostly mood shots and some shots, willingly posed for by members of Pacquiao's family.
The 1020 was too slow to take any action shots. It takes about 3 seconds to start the Lumia 1020's camera and another 3 seconds in between shots. During the fight I used my Samsung Galaxy S4 Zoom to shoot action shots of Pacquiao from about 25 meters away. Nokia claims that because it shoots at 41MP you can just zoom in afterwards but nothing beats optical zoom.
Had Nokia kept the image sensor size but gone with less megapixels say 16 to 20MP it would have been an even better smartphone camera.
I like how clear this came out considering how dark it was in the part of the arena where we were seated. Noise is a little more visible at ISO800 when viewing at original resolution, but still pretty impressive. Also a factor of the built-in Optical Image Stabilization.
The creamy depth of field produced by the 1020 makes it great for food selfies too.
So can you leave the DSLR at home and take the Lumia 1020 instead? If you're just sightseeing and have time to compose your shots, the Lumia 1020 is a good alternative and will surely lessen the weight of your backpack. For more flexibility and speed however, lug your DSLR with you or invest in a compact mirrorless camera so you can take great photos sans the weight and bulk. - Rappler.com
All photos in this series were shot using Nokia Pro Cam app with all settings set to auto. Photo buffs will want to dive into the Lumia 1020's manual controls. You can manually adjust white balance, ISO, shutter speed and exposure. These photos were not, in any way altered, except for the Rappler watermark and resizing to fit the dimensions of this page. You can view high-res version of these photos on Flickr.