Nokia Lumia 1020: A Great Camera in a Real Phone (Updating)

By Kyle Wagner on at

Cameras in phones are so good now. Sort of. They're good when you compare their output to the smudgy, iffy images we put up with so many years, but an S95 can still blow them out of the skies. Maybe that changes with the Nokia Lumia 1020, which we'll meet today.

The camera is 41 megapixels, and according to leaked photos found on Flickr it'll have a f/2.2 aperture. That's down from f/2.4 on the PureView 808, which was the first Nokia camera with a 41MP camera. It shoots in 16:9 or 4:3. Like the PureView 808, it simultaneously saves a 5MP oversampled image that will be super sharp. The 1020 takes the oversampling tech to video, too.

Nokia's making a big deal about zoom, so here's a quick explanation of how its tech works. Because it shoots so many pixels on the 41MP sensor, it doesn't have to lose any actual "pixels" when it zooms in, it can go to 6x zoom by just cropping down on the original image taken (sort of like how the D4's 1080p crop mode works).

The way to think of it is that the full, unzoomed images actually throw out a bunch of data. You know how Apple's retina method sends 4 pixels to populate what used to be one pixel? The PureView sensor, more or less, does the same thing, so it's sending that "retina" packet to a non-retina screen. But that data's all there, and so you can "zoom" in and access the data that would have been lost otherwise. The 1020 saves the "oversampled", smaller image (which has lost some data), but also saves the full file so you can zoom all around the image and zoom wherever you want later on.

The 41MP sensor also has the optical image stabilization of the 920 and 925, which required totally retooling the stabilisation rig. It uses a series of ball bearings around the sensor now.

The phone is styled the same as other Lumia phones, in coloured polycarbonate, but it's got a large, circular area on the back that houses the camera. It looks fine looking at it up on the screen, actually, but we'll see what it looks like in person soon.

Nokia Lumia 1020: A Great Camera in a Real Phone

There's also a new camera app, called Nokia Pro Camera. It gives you easier access to manual settings, like manual focus, exposure, ISO, shutter speed, and other controls. There's a dial on the right side that you can set to any setting, and slide with your thumb. It looks pretty awesome in the demo. You can even do stuff like set a long exposure and light paint with a phone—a trick that's typically more of a thing you'd associate with a DSLR.

There's a new SDK to make lens apps for Lumias too. Early ones include CNN, Vyclone, Yelp, Foursquare, Pinterest, Hipstamatic, and other stuff.

Nokia Lumia 1020: A Great Camera in a Real Phone

The original PureView 808, despite running Cretaceous era Symbian software, has amassed a fiercely loyal following, just from having a damn good camera in a (mostly) reasonably sized and stoutly built phone. Seriously, it's one of the most popular camera phones on Flickr, which demonstrates that, 1. it's that well loved, and 2. people who care enough about photos to put phone pics on Flickr use this thing. The 1020 should be just as good, with a slight improvement to the lens, and the optical image stabilisation of the Lumia 920. So really, it's a DBZ fusion dance phone of the Lumia 920 and the PureView 808, both of which we like quite a bit.

Here's what else we think we know about today's announcement. The Lumia 1020, which runs Windows Phone 8, will reportedly have a 4.5-inch AMOLED screen at 1280x768 resolution (same as the Lumia 920). Hopefully it'll have the crisper screen found on the 925, which sort of blows away the 920, even though they've got the same specs.

Other rumoured specs include a 1.5GHz dual core Snapdragon chip, 2GB of RAM, and 32GB of storage. There's also supposed to be a snap-on "camera grip" case that doubles as an external battery pack. The flash for still images is reportedly the same wonderful Xenon flash we saw on the 928 in the US.

We're at the launch event live, so we'll have more details as they're announced.