In this article we’ll take a closer look at the Nokia Lumia 1020 and see how it compared to other phone cameras, including the rear-facing camera on the Nokia Lumia 925, Lumia 920, 808 PureView, Samsung Galaxy S4 Zoom, iPhone 5 and HTC One UltaPixel camera. The Lumia 1020 brings some new innovative features that put the PureView brand name back on the track, helping Nokia refreshing refreshing its Windows 8 phone lineup with yet another excellent camera-oriented smartphone.
Many people do base their buying decision based on the camera specifications and capabilities. This is the most used hardware part of the smartphone, and not everyone needs top-end processing power or 5-inch full HD display. Nokia made a very smart move focusing on the camera capabilities and marketing this phone first as a camera phone. HTC followed a quite similar path with the HTC One UltraPixel camera; Samsung did the same with the Galaxy S4 Zoom. It seems that this emphasize on the phone’s camera functionality and innovation really pays off eventually.
Nokia needs to differentiate itself from the competition in order to promote its Windows 8 smartphones. As of the time of writing, Nokia hasn’t manufactured Android-base Smartphone, at least not yet. Nokia saw an opportunity in this market and decided to focus its efforts on developing more advanced cameras in its Lumia phones, revitalizing the PureView brand name and continue the success of the 808 PureView.
Specs Side by Side Comparison
Before we jump talking about all those camera phones in-depth (and we have quite a long list of smartphones here), let’s take a look at a side by side comparison table which compare the rear-camera specs of the Nokia Lumia 1020 versus Lumia 925, Lumia 920, 808 PureView, Samsung Galaxy S4 Zoom and HTC One. This will give you a good basic understanding of the fundamental differences between those six smartphone cameras.
|808 PureView||S4 Zoom||HTC One||iPhone 5|
8.80 x 6.6 mm
4.80 x 3.60 mm
4.80 x 3.60 mm
4.80 x 3.60 mm
10.67 x 8 mm
6.17mm x 4.55mm
4.80 x 3.60 mm
4.54 x 3.42 mm
|Sensor Pixel Size||1.12 µm||1.4 µm||1.4 µm||1.4 µm||1.4 µm||1.34 µm||2.0 µm||1.4 µm|
3264 x 2448 pixels
3264 x 2448 pixels
3264 x 2448 pixels
4608 x 3456 pixels
2688 x 1520 pixels
3264 x 2448 pixels
|ISO||100 - 3200||100 - 3200||100 - 800||100 - 800||50 - 1600||100 - 3200||100 - 1600||50 - 3200|
|Carl Zeiss 26mm Tessar f/2.2|
|Carl Zeiss Tessar 26mm f/2.0||Carl Zeiss Tessar 26mm f/2.0||Carl Zeiss Tessar 26mm f/2.0||Carl Zeiss Tessar 28mm f/2.4|
|Largan Precision Optics 24-240mm f/3.1-6.3||28mm f/2.0||33mm f/2.4|
|Image Stabilization||Yes, Optical|
Floating lens assembly
Floating lens assembly
(only digital IS)
|Focus Range||15cm – Infinity||8.0cm – Infinity||8.0cm – Infinity||8.0cm – Infinity||15cm – Infinity||10.0cm – Infinity||8.0cm – Infinity||6.1cm – Infinity|
|Flash||• Xenon Flash (with flat capacitor technology)|
|Dual LED (3m)|
|Dual LED (3m range)||• Xenon Flash|
|Xenon Flash (4m range)||• Xenon Flash (6m range)|
|Shutter Speed||4 - 1/16,000 sec||1/3 - 1/15152 sec (?)|
(1 sec in night scene mode)
|1/3 - [No data]|
(1 in night scene mode)
|[No data]||2.7 - 1/2747 sec||16 - 1/2000 sec|
(2.7 sec in night scene mode)
|[No data]||[No data]|
Lumia 1020 vs 808 PureView
The above comparison table gives us a good overview of the differences between the Nokia Lumia 1020 camera and the other phone cameras. As you can see, the Lumia 1020 camera employs a sensor which is 32% smaller than the 808 PureView one. This result is smaller pixels (1.12 microns vs 1.4 microns). A larger pixel means more light photons can be collected in each photosite / photodiode. Theoretically, this leads to improved low-light performance, higher dynamic range and better color reproduction.
Nokia Lumia 1020: 2/3″ (same as 1/1.5″) | 58.10 mm2 Area | 3.93 crop factor
Nokia 808 PureView: 1/1.2″ | 76.85 mm2 Area | 3.24 crop factor
I assume that Nokia made this compromise to reduce the phone’s profile size, make it slimmer and make the lens hump smaller too. There is a noticeable difference when you view both phones from the side (see image below).
There are other differences between the Lumia 1020 sensor and the 808 PureView sensor. The Lumia 1020 is based on a Back-illuminated technology, 808 PureView uses a Front-illuminated sensor. Back-side illumination doubles the sensor sensitivity to light, helping the camera perform much better in low-light. In BSI sensors, the wiring is moved behind the light-receiving surface of the sensor. In a front-illuminated sensors (FSI), those wires are on top of the light-receiving surface, therefore allows less light to be received by that surface. In general, a 1.4µm on BSI compares roughly to 1.75µm FSI.
Both Lumia 1020 and 808 PureView have a 41-megapixel sensor resolution (38-megapixel effective resolution). However, the idea behind the PureView camera is that when you shoot a picture in a lower resolution, let’s say 8-megapixel, the camera will utilize a technology known as ‘pixel-grouping’ or ‘pixel oversampling’. This means that the camera will utilize the information of one pixel and four adjacent to reconstruct a single pixel for a higher quality image. Of course the image file size will be also much smaller.
A new feature that was introduced on the Nokia Lumia 1020, allows the camera to capture two identical images when the user presses the shutter button. The first is a full resolution image, the second is an oversampled 5MP image. This means that you can keep the full-res image to make large prints and for photo editing, and use the lower resolution (5MP) for sharing on Facebook, Twitter and other online photo sharing / storage services and social networks.
The Lumia 1020 also offers a higher ISO speed limit of ISO 3200 compared to ISO 1600 on the 808 PureView. This gives the camera more freedom to tweak the exposure when shooting in low-light. Other improvements include a wider (26mm vs 28mm) and faster (F2.2 vs F2.4) lens and optical image stabilization.
A few words on that new optical image stabilization. This is a 3-axis optical image stabilization that utilizes a floating lens assembly. This is a second generation OIS that was first introduced on the Lumia 920. The optical image stabilization mechanism uses ball bearings instead of stabilizing springs in order for this mechanism to consume less space. The Lumia 1020 image stabilization will help you capture sharp and crystal clear photos and videos, and also improve the camera low-light capabilities when shooting static subject, as you can shoot at slower shutter speeds and still get a non-blurry photo. This new OIS is super useful when shooting videos — time to say goodbye to those shaky videos.
The Lumia 1020 also has a 6 lens elements for the lens, compare to only 5 on the 808 PureView. This allows better precision that improved the lens optical performance, resulting in a sharper image. Nokia also improved the Xenon flash with a flat capacitor technology to make it more powerful yet to consume less power, and an additional LED light to illuminate the subject when recording video clips.
The Lumia 1020 can also shoot at faster and slower shutter speeds, from 4 seconds up to 1/16,000 sec. This gives the photographer much better flexibility, and in Auto mode gives the camera mode freedom for peaking the right exposure for an optimal image quality.
So although the sensor is smaller than the 808 PureView, overall the 1020 is the better camera. The only thing needed to be tested is the high ISO performance, to see which one performs better and whether the pixel size has any affect on the high ISO performance between the two phone cameras (sensor technology counts too, not just the pixel size).
Lumia 1020 vs Lumis 925, 920 and 928
Both Luima 925, Lumia 920 and Lumia 928 cameras are great all-around performers. All have the same sensor size and all use a back-side illuminated sensor technology. The Nokia Lumia 1020 sensor is much larger, yet due to the difference in resolution, the Lumia 1020 pixels are therefore smaller (1.12 µm vs 1.4 µm)
Lumia 1020 and PureView 808 utilize the oversampling technology. Because the Lumia 920, 925 and Lumia 928 use the PureView brand name, doesn’t mean that they have access to the same technologies found on the 808 PureView or Lumia 1020, and in fact they don’t use the same technology. The Lumia 1020 camera use oversampling an offers lossless zoom due to its high resolution sensor. This allows the camera to do two things: use part of the sensor area and provide a lossless zoom but at the cost of reduced resolution, and user pixel grouping to improve the camera’s image quality in low light.
The 808 PureView was the first to come with Nokia’s PureView technology, and the first to offer a the revolutionary zoom experience and pixel oversampling technology. Nokia 920 uses PureView phase two technologies, which is different than what you get with #1020 and #808. This time Nokia has decided to use a lower resolution sensor (8.7MP). As PureView Phase 1 focused on image and/video sharpness and lossless zoom for still in videos, PureView Phase 2 focuses on low light performance and Steady video.
The Lumia 920 pixels are larger (1.4 micron pixels) and it uses a fast f/2.0 aperture lens. The Lumia 920 also utilizes Nokia image processing technology and next generation high power/short pulse Dual LED Flash. The optical image stabilization mechanism has been improved (500 movements per second, 3-stop compensation and Barrel shift type) . The combination of both bigger pixels, advanced OIS, faster lens, BSI sensor and Carl Zeiss optics, all gives the Lumia 920 the performance it needs to capture gorgeous low light photos.
So the Lumia 920, 928 and 925 lack the lossless zoom and oversampling technologies that the 1020 has, but makes the best of the camera hardware features the camera to capture very high quality image, in emphasize on low-light shooting.
The Lumia 1020 was designed from the ground up to host the latest technology innovation from Nokia’s imaging department. It offers a huge improvements over the 808 PureView, and even improved upon the feature that you find on the Lumia 925 and Lumia 920, including and improved optical image stabilization, 6 lens elements (same as Lumia 925), same wide focal length (same as in all the three Lumias) and super fast shutter speed (added 4 sec minimum shutter speed). The Lumia 1020 is a step forwards from the Lumia 928, 925 and 920.
Lumia 1020 vs Galaxy S4 Zoom
I have to admit that I was very excited when Samsung has released the GALAXY S4 Zoom. The S4 Zoom does have a sensor larger than the Lumia 925 / 920 / 928, but smaller than the Lumia 1020. The best feature about the S4 Zoom is its 10x optical zoom lens. This is how you make ‘zoom’ work the easy way, just use an optical zoom lens – no need to invest in new technologies.
It’s great to have a 10x optical zoom lens, but this comes at the cost of a very thick profile as you can see from the image above. This can get even bigger when the lens sticks out when you zoom in .
So what are the Samsung Galaxy S4 Zoom advantages you ask?
- 10x Optical zoom at Full Resolution
Lumia 1020 doesn’t have optical zoom, you get a lossless 3x lossless digital zoom for stills at the cost of reduced resolution, 6x for 1080p videos and 6x for 720p video. The Lumia 1020 maintains very high image quality due to the use of oversampling technology that uses neighbor pixels to create one super pixel. S4 Zoom also offers smoother zooming experience as you can smoothly zoom from 24 to 240 mm.
With the Lumia 1020 you get a lower resolution image that is equivalent to 81mm – Galaxy S4 Zoom can zoom up to 240 mm (35mm equivalent)
- Larger pixels
The S4 Zoom has a smaller sensor, but boasts a much lower resolution
- Closest focusing distance (10cm vs 15cm)
- Super AMOLED display
- MicroSD card slot
- Bluetooth 4.0
The Lumia 1020 Advantage:
- Larger screen with higher resolution (4.5 inch 768 x 1280 pixels vs 4.3 inch 540 x 960 pixel)
- Faster lens
- Higher resolution
- Pixel sampling technology
- More advanced OIS
- More lens elements
- Next Generation Xenon flash
- Faster shutter speed
- More compact
- Higher capacity (32GB vs 8GB)
- Lighter (158 g vs 208 g)
- Lens doesn’t extend
- Prime lens
- Carl Zeiss optics
The Samsung Galaxy S4 Zoom brings better zoom flexibility, but lacks the oversampling technology (when you reduced the resolution the camera doesn’t take advantage of adjacent pixels) and doesn’t enjoy the wide range of pros that I mentioned above. I do think that the S4 Zoom is a great camera, but I think that many people will stay away from it due to its size. It’s elegant for a camera, but not for a smartphone, especially in these days where all the phone manufacturers are trying to beat each other with which one has the slimmest phone.
Lumia 1020 vs HTC One
When HTC first announced the HTC One and when I’ve read about its UltraPixel camera I was really excited. I got less excited when I saw the sample images. Then HTC released a new firmware that vastly improved the image quality and I was excited again about the HTC One main camera.
The HTC One features a 1/3″ sensor, although not as big as the Lumia 1020, the UltraPixel camera uses ‘only’ 4.3MP. So HTC took a completely different approach than the other companies, kind of a risky path I have to say. Each pixel on the HTC One measured 2 micrrons, much larger than the Lumia 1020 pixels and larger than all the sensor on all the camera phone in this comparison (see specs table above). Those super fat pixels can absorb more light and therefore improve the low-light performance of the UltraPixel camear by a large margin compare to other smartphone cameras.
Added to this is a very fast f/2.0 aperture lens and optical image stabilization. The HTC One doesn’t enjoy the oversalmping technology, but instead relies on a bigger pixels to render a high quality image.
As you can see from the image above, the different in image resolution is significant. This means that no matter how big the HTC One pixel are, the camera just can’t resolve the same amount of details that the Lumia 1020, Galaxy S4 Zoom, or any other of the Lumia phones can resolve. This is one of the biggest disadvantages, and something that you should be aware about.
This is in fact what makes the Lumia 1020 so attractive. You can shoot an image at the highest resolution, but at the same time shoot a low-res image using oversampling. So for example, if you shoot a 5MP image, the camera will use the data of 7 pixels to construct the final image. So it’s like you are shooting with a sensor that has (7 x 1.12 microns) 7.84 microns pixel size and vastly improved the camera low light performance.
Apple iPhone 5 also take advantage of the oversampling technology. The sensor than uses 4 pixels to construct a single pixel in the final image, creating an additional 2 f-stop sensitivity advantge. The iPhone 5 quad-pixel oversampling result in a 4MP image, instead of 8MP image.
The Nokia Lumia 1020 camera is currently, in my opinion, the best camera phone on the market. Nokia wants to repeast the 808 PureView success and it worked hard to improved what needed to improve. The image quality is superb and you can get a nice shallow depth of field if you are getting closer to your subject.
I really liked the 41MP / 5MP simultensouls image recording, Xenon flash is great to light up the scene, the lens is tack sharp and you get full manual control over the White Balance, ISO and exposure. Feature like a Level indicator, Zoom in to focus and Nokia camear grip (+extra battery) snapon cover are all welcomed features. The Lumia 1020 AMOLED screen is super sensitive and responsive. Soon more developers will download the new Nokia SDL and will develop new apps that take advantage of the Lumia 1020 camera capabilities.
It’s easy to get excited about this camera, and although it’s not cheap ($699 of contract), you really get what you paid for. This is a great device that will help Nokia sell more devices, and for Windows 8 to reach more pockets. I really hope that Nokia nejoy success with this phone, it really deserves it. If you are searching for the best phone camera on the market, don’t overlook the Nokia Lumia 1020, even if you favor Android – maybe the Lumia 1020 features will convince you to switch (just saying).
Some of the data in the specs table is still missing. If you have update information or know the exact specs details, you can help me out by posting those in the comment section below and I will feel them out. Thanks.
Part 2 of the comparison will be posted soon so stay tuned! (user interface, display, battery, high ISO image quality comparison, etc.)