Nokia Lumia 1020 review

A new unmatched camera phone?

Nokia Lumia 1020 review

We've been looking forward to this moment for a long time. As early as February 2012 to be precise. That's when the 808 PureView with its almost ridiculously large 41 megapixel sensor was announced. The world was amazed.

In 2012 Nokia had already switched to Windows Phone, but unfortunately the 808 PureView was still running under Symbian. There was no mystery about a Windows Phone version and now it's finally on our test bench. Of course we're talking about the Lumia "ten-twenty", which we think sounds better than "one thousand and twenty".

In the meantime, several Nokia PureView phones have already reached us. But never before with a 'full-fledged' 41 megapixel sensor. Critics will say that 41 megapixels are nonsense. Why that does not apply here, we will explain in this review. After all, more pixels has also yielded something for phone screens, think of Apple's Retina screen.

We tested the Lumia 1020 which is standard equipped with the Amber software in the white version. Besides white, the Lumia 1020 is also available in black and yellow. In practice, the Lumia 1020 will mainly compete with the Sony Xperia Z1 and the Samsung Galaxy S4 Zoom.

If you're not interested in things like 'call quality' and 'menu layout' then go straight to our camera results.

What's with the device?

The Lumia 1020 comes in an oblong box with a retro textile tab. There is a flyer in the box on which the most important properties of the device are shown. Learn these by heart. If you're new to Lumia phones, there's also a quick start guide. Furthermore we find a separate data cable, a plug and headphones with integrated microphone in the same color as the device. These are earplugs of the in-ear type. Finally, you will find a metal pin with which you can open the SIM card slot.


Luckily Nokia has not transferred the 808 PureView one-on-one to Windows Phone, there is a whole new phone in the shop with modern(er) components and materials. The Lumia 1020 is thinner and goes unnoticed in the Lumia family. Its appearance is most reminiscent of a Lumia 920. On the front a large screen with rounded corners. At the top of the glass is the microphone and on the right below you will find the video calling camera. At the bottom is the touch-sensitive and traditional Windows Phone control. It's a nice minimalistic layout that fits the current trend.


However, more important is the back of the Lumia 1020. Nokia also says that the back is the new front. The large camera module immediately catches the eye. A round black module containing a xenon flash, a focus light and the camera itself. To leave nothing to chance, it says "41 megapixel PureView Zeiss" on it. The module protrudes a few millimeters so it doesn't want to lie flat on the table. During our test week, it was never in the way, either during use or in the pocket. There are also two metal contact points for the wireless charging cover supplied in the Netherlands. On the right side we find the volume buttons, the on/off button and the camera button in vertical order. The left side is virgin empty as far as the buttons are concerned.


In contrast to the Lumia 925, both the top and bottom of the Lumia 1020 are flat. So you can place it upright on your desk. No idea why you would want to do that, but you can. On top is the sim lock which you have to open with a special toothpick. In the middle is the 3.5mm audio jack connector and on the right is a tiny hole for the second microphone. At the bottom on the left is a mounting point for a wristband, the microUSB connector and the relatively large speaker.


All in all, the Lumia 1020 has remained fairly compact, especially when you consider that it contains a 41 megapixel camera with a Xenon flash. The housing of our test model did crack a bit at the sides. We hope for a one-time production error.


The Lumia 1020 is a Windows Phone and they handle the battery quite well. Of course there are some settings that can help you with that. You can turn on the battery saver yourself or only when the battery drops below a certain level. It all seems very lean in terms of functionality but it works quite well in practice. We usually made the day with another 30 percent of power left. We use the phone mainly for picking up mail, checking Facebook and Twitter and a sporadic photo.


If you want to shoot a lot of pictures, possibly in combination with the energy guzzling Xenon flash, the phone is really empty after a picture or 100. If you want more, we recommend the Camera Grip accessory. It provides your Lumia 1020 with 1020 mAh of extra energy and also has a 1/4 inch tripod connection.

Nokia Camera Grip

Call quality

It should come as no surprise that the call quality of this Nokia is good. However, sometimes we have problems 'finding' the speaker. It is small and cannot be felt. If you don't have it right in front of your ear, logically you won't hear anything.


Thanks to the Amber software, you can silence an incoming call by placing the device on the screen. If you change your mind, you can always take the call. A trick made possible by Nokia's Amber update.


The screen of the Lumia 1020 is 4.5 inches large and does it with a WXGA resolution (1280 x 768 pixels). It's enough in practice, even though we would have preferred Full HD at such a technological height. Unfortunately, Windows Phone 8 can't handle that yet. Fortunately, the screen is very sensitive to touch. So sensitive even that you can operate it with gloves on. Handy for the approaching cold.


In addition to setting the brightness, the Amber software has added a few more settings. This way you can improve the readability outdoors and the colour profile can also be adjusted. The latter can be useful because the Lumia 1020 has an AMOLED display. These tend to exaggerate colours. You can opt for a more natural display that is more in tune with reality.


The Lumia 1020 comes standard with the Amber software, which means Nokia has added very welcome features to Windows Phone 8. Think of 'Glance Screen' that adds a clock to the standby screen. It is a simple function that is actually very useful. We would have liked Glance to also show notifications such as missed calls and received WhatsApp messages, but something like that seems to be on its way.


Furthermore, we can be brief about the menu, which has not changed compared to previous Windows Phone versions. Those who are familiar with Windows Phone will be able to start right away. Those who are not will learn the Tiles system in no time. Moreover, the number of available apps is growing and their quality is also increasing. However, most apps are lagging behind Android and iOS in terms of functionality and speed. That's the downside if your platform is third, you get less priority from developers.


Having a 41-megapixel phone doesn't mean you want to call once in a while. Looking up a number with the Lumia 1020 is child's play thanks to the simplistic but effective contact list.


A handy advantage of Windows Phone is that you can also show the People Hub messages from registered social networks such as Facebook and LinkedIn from all your contacts. We continue to think this is brilliant. Anyway, the integration with such social networks is very good.


The mobile phone has grown big with SMS. We now mainly do WhatsApp, but that doesn't mean that you want to text every now and then. This is of course possible with the Lumia 1020 and the handy thing is that a conversation you have started can also change medium. Starting with a text message to a specific number and switching to Facebook chat, it's no problem. You may not always use it but you do wonder why other platforms have not implemented it as well?



The Lumia 1020 has no lack of connection possibilities. In addition to the usual WiFi and Bluetooth, you also have access to 4G and NFC. Nokia calls the latter Taps & Send. This allows you to share photos, websites and contacts with other phones that support it, simply by holding the two together. It sometimes has some difficulty finding the other one, but it works.


The Lumia 1020 relies on Internet Explorer for the use of the Internet. This is not exactly the most favourite browser outside the office. Still, IE10 works quite nicely on the device. The address bar is at the bottom, which is actually quite a logical place. Close to your thumb. You can also download the Nokia Xpress Browser from the Store. It is Nokia's own Opera Mini. In other words, it's a browser that saves data and reduces the time it takes to reach your data limit. Convenient though it may have some difficulty displaying pages correctly.


There is another possibility to save data thanks to Data Sense. With this app you can set a data limit. You can also limit data retrieval in the background when that limit is almost reached. In addition, the app has a well-stocked list of public WiFi networks nearby.


And then the part that is by far the most important; the camera. And not just any one, a 41 megapixel variant. Of course, 41 megapixels is no good at all, unless you want to print a photo the size of a wall. And because no one does that, 5 to 8 megapixels is enough. Those 41 megapixels are mainly there to zoom in. Digital 'losless' zooming in to be precise. Before you declare us crazy because we promote digital zooming here, you can cut a picture of 5 megapixels from 41 megapixels to be able to zoom in without loss of quality. Hmmm, zooming in with a phone without a thick lens horn? Do we have your attention? Beautiful!


If you take photos with the Nokia Pro Camera, it takes two versions; one 38 megapixel and one 5 megapixel. The latter is an oversampled version that you use to view on your phone, your PC and share with friends. This raw 38 megapixel version is only used in the background for when you want to zoom in on the photo later on. If you use the 16:9 ratio instead of a 4:3 ratio then the original is 36 megapixel. From that original you can zoom in up to 3x, for videos 4x in Full HD and 6x in HD. Zooming in does not necessarily have to take place later, you can also zoom in while shooting or filming by swiping up or down on the screen. Videos are also recorded with CD-quality stereo sound. Something Nokia calls 'Rich Recording'. Basically, you can even record concerts without distortion.

Besides 41 megapixels there is more to tell about the camera. Just like with the Lumia 920 optical image stabilization, something that the original 808 PureView had to miss. You can even hear the image stabilization's ball bearings when you shake the camera. So that's normal. The sensor may be slightly smaller in area than the 808 PureView; 1/1.5-inch with a pixel size of 1.1 micron against 1/1.2-inch and 1.4 micron pixels. Still, the Lumia 1020 is more light-sensitive thanks to the Back Illuminated Sensor. The aperture is also slightly larger at f/2.2 against f/2.4. Carl Zeiss also bagged no less than 6 lenses, 5 of plastic and one of glass. All in all quite some improvements.

But of course it's all about how well the Lumia 1020 shoots. Words fall short of how good this camera is. It's point-and-shoot quality in a compact mobile phone. Where Samsung takes the easy way by placing optical zoom in a phone, Nokia puts blood, sweat and tears into a new innovative technique that we can only appreciate. Still, we want to be critical. The camera has difficulty focusing in some situations, especially in macro mode and in very dark conditions. Anyway, it is not possible to take photos from very close range, zooming in is the advice. Shooting photos in quick succession (burst mode) with the Pro Cam app is also impossible. Soon there will be a count and a half between two photos anyway. If you want to take photos in quick succession, you will have to use the Smart Camera app.

Forget the standard camera app, Nokia provides a separate camera program that you should only work with. Nokia Pro Camera is a program that appeals to both the beginner, the advanced amateur and the professional. In terms of operation, it all looks simple, but you can still set settings such as ISO and shutter speeds. You can even bracketing if you want to create your own HDR photo at home. What's more, it only zooms in later with this app.

Nokia Lumia 1020 camera samples

Existing programs

In addition to a good camera, Nokia also gives you free music and navigation with the Lumia 1020. With Nokia Music you can create unlimited free music mixes that you can even download for offline use. You can also find concerts nearby with the app. If you prefer to let others compile music for you, you can always listen to the radio. Something that has only recently become possible with Windows Phone 8.


We told you, you also get free navigation. And not just any one. Nokia's HERE suite is available and provides voice navigation as well as public transport advice. New to Here Drive+ is 'My Route'. The app keeps track of routes you drive frequently. Combined with real-time traffic information, it gives you alternative routes. With the app you can still download maps from all over the world and do almost every conceivable setting that other navigation systems also have.



The Nokia Lumia 1020 looks like a phone without compromises. That's not entirely true. Although the camera is its strongest feature, the monitor and processor are not entirely in line with modern flagships. The screen is not Full HD and the dualcore Snapdragon S4 Plus processor is a whole generation behind. By the way, this is mainly due to Microsoft lagging behind with Windows Phone 8, but the Nokia Lumia 1020 does suffer from this. You can ask yourself whether this is a problem in practice. The screen is sharp enough in that size and despite the older processor, the device is fast and responsive. Moreover, you buy this phone because of its camera.

And we can be brief about that; the Lumia 1020 is the best camera phone at the moment. It leaves the competition at an appropriate distance. That 41 megapixel, in combination with smart software, optical image stabilization and good lighting, delivers beautiful snapshots. If this is the quality we can expect from future camera phones then this is the end of point-and-shoot cameras.

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